How do you think you should go about Spring Training Activity? Should it be the end all be all of what a player will do throughout the coming season? I hope you don’t believe such nonsense because in the end, Spring Training numbers have very little to do with what a player can and cannot do throughout the season. Take Ronnie Paulino of the Pittsburgh Pirates as an example. Last year’s Spring Training numbers put Paulino on a ton of fantasy rosters and last year’s April statistics by Paulino took him off those rosters with equal ferocity.
Folks, there comes a time when you just have to trust two basic principles when trying to figure out player projections for the coming season. As you guessed by now, those two principles have absolutely nothing to do with Spring Training.
First and foremost you need to pay close attention to the last half of the player’s statistics from last season. Why? Well, a number of players shine in the second half and if that statistic is not the norm for your favorite fantasy player, you might want to take note of the increase in productivity. Ask yourself why the player out-performed normal expectations? Was he in a contract year? Was he battling for more playing time? Did he suddenly figure things out in the Major Leagues or was it just blind luck? The answer you arrive at will enable you to create an overall solid projection for your player.
A player can also decline in the second half for a number of reasons, but if the injury was a short term and easily corrected problem his stats might be completely underestimated prior to the start of the next season. This could be good for you if you pay attention ahead of time.
The second principle is one that most of you already follow. Players pretty much have a pattern to their style of play. Now this is not a rule that you can always “Draw on your fantasy wall” as one hundred percent accurate, but more often than not it is one you can trust. The pattern I refer to comes in different formats. Some players simply produce similar numbers across the board year after year. Other players have a pattern of one year above average numbers followed by the next year below average numbers. Josh Beckett is one such player who fits that pattern and Alfonso Soriano is another. Look at their stats and see if you see the patterns. Another pattern is based upon any particular moves a player made in the off-season. For example, Santana’s move to the National League should help to increase his K rate. Why, because instead of Santana pitching to a DH power hitter, he now has to face a pitcher. You might also want to take a look at the team a player signed with, and the stadium he will play at for home games. This is where we can be certain that someone like Aaron Rowand will not have as great a season with San Francisco as he did with his previous team. First off the team he now is playing for does not have as much talent and secondly the size of the ballpark must also be a factor. These are the factors that are most important in determining the value of your roster come draft day.
Prospects of course do not have Major League patterns to follow which is why you can never put a prospect as a starter on your active roster. Last season Alex Gordon was supposed to be the end all, be all of rookies and many managers took him over and above tenured players who did a heck of a lot more for other fantasy teams that did not bother with Minor League and or Spring Training hype. Even taking Gordon as a back-up player was harmful. I made that mistake last year and took Alex Gordon over Brandon Phillips. I thought I could get Phillips later on in the draft and I was wrong. My reasoning was based on Phillips only having one solid season so far and I expected him to be underestimated. He was until the second round (round 14 after keepers) and he was grabbed just before my turn in the draft. That one little mistake cost me the championship as I lost by one point. Losing by one point is not an easy thing to live with especially knowing that I could have changed that destiny by not putting as much emphasis on rookie talent. So allow my lessons be yours; without the pain.
In the end, Spring Training activity is only worth while to your fantasy team by noting any significant injuries or major roster moves. Be especially mindful that players who have secured roster positions do not always put forth the greatest effort in Spring Training which is why star players numbers in Spring Training can often project false projections for the upcoming season. Rookies on the other hand are fighting for a roster spot and so they put forth the maximum amount of effort, often skewing their average stats by 20 to 30 points off the norm. Then as soon as they make the team, they lighten up and/or they don’t make any changes to their game while opposing pitcher so and wha-la, instant failed rookie.
Now, with these concerns about Spring Training out of the way, follow Spring Training to your heart’s content, watch the games, and get ready for the start of what should be a wonderful season of baseball.