I know, I know.
After beating the “Spring Training results don’t matter” drum loudly and daily, you’re probably looking at the title of this article like … really?
But you shouldn’t! Just because we shouldn’t ever get overly excited/worried about any one player’s Spring Training performance, doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun pouring over the stats.
Like, right now.
Among many other places, you can check in on the Cubs’ Spring Training statistics at Cubs.com. There, the sortable stats tool will help you pinpoint the exact player/numbers for which you’re looking. I obviously can’t cover everyone in Cubs Camp here today, so feel free to peruse the data at your convenience.
Let’s start with the offense. In order to artificially limit the sample, I’m going to look solely at players with at least 15 at-bats on the Spring. Notably, this excludes John Andreoli, Tommy La Stella, and a dozen or so other prospects.
If you were to guess who had the most chances at the plate this Spring, would you guess Jeimer Candelario and Ian Happ? I suppose it makes some sense to see them both at the top of the board, considering their relative proximity to the Major Leagues. One (and more likely: both) will be up with the Chicago Cubs this season, and those are going to be some quality bench reinforcements. The Cubs, then, need to know what they’ve got.
Candelario, for example, may not be having as hot of a Spring as he did last season, but he’s still hitting well-ish: .270/.308/.740. And to be certain, I’m fairly confident that his switch-hitting bat will play at the Major League level, the real question is if he can expand his versatility enough to move out of the corner infield.
Happ, on the other hand, well, he’s absolutely crushing it: .467/.867/1.351. Considering players with at least 15 plate appearances, Happ is leading the Cubs in average and slugging, and ranks second in on-base percentage behind only Anthony Rizzo. He also leads the team in home runs (3) and is tied for first in doubles (3). He’s even got a stolen base to his name! He can do it all!
As a switch-hitter than can play in both the infield and outfield, Happ is going to play a role in the Cubs’ future. That role may not yet be defined, but he’ll be there.
Happ isn’t the only one doing well at the plate so far though. Willson Contreras, the Cubs’ starting catcher in 2017, has been crushing it as well. Over 22 at-bats, Contreras is slashing .318/.423/.682 with two home runs, two doubles, and only one less walk (3) than strike out (4). His offensive potential is often taken for granted, but don’t sleep on a huge season behind and at the dish from Contreras.
And finally – because how can I not – the Cubs’ twenty-year-old top prospect, Eloy Jimenez, is also having a huge Spring. Through 27 at-bats (T-4th most), Jimenez has hit for average (.333), gotten on-base (.367), and slugged (.630) his way to a near 1.000 OPS. He’s not quite ready for the Major Leagues just yet, but if he keeps hitting the way he has been, the Cubs might have to make a decision.
From the mound, the Cubs pitchers have been going about their business this Spring, as well. And some of the most interesting names to follow (Eddie Butler, Brian Duensing, Brett Anderson) have gotten in some of the most work.
Of course, that’s simultaneously about lightening the regulars’ load a bit (ahead of what figures to be another long season with more than a handful of games in October) and seeing what some of the lottery ticket types have to offer.
But the problem with Spring Training results is even more severe with pitchers than it is with hitters. Some of these guys, especially ones who are working to transform themselves (like, say, Butler), are working on highly specific things. As a generic example from the past, we’ve once learned that a pitcher was instructed to throw only fastballs over the course of a given start – for whatever reason. It doesn’t really matter. Obviously, however, the results of that fastball diet can’t be counted on or dissected.
So, shrug. I’ll just share a little.
For example, Jake Arrieta (6) and Mike Montgomery (6) are leading the team in strikeouts. Montgomery, however, has earned his number in one less inning and has also allowed one less walk. In fact, Arrieta has allowed the most walks (3) of anyone who will definitely be showing up at the Major League level this season, calling into memory his second-half struggles from last year.
But it’s only three walks and were just at the beginning of the Spring. I’m not the least bit worried.
Moving on in the rotation, Kyle Hendricks is having himself quite a nice start to the Spring. In his five innings of work (T-6th most on the Cubs), Hendricks has a pristine 0.00 ERA. He’s also walked no batters (T-1st), struck out five batters (T-4th), and has allowed just a .125 average and 0.40 WHIP. I know I’m not supposed to care too much, but Hendricks is absolutely killing it.
Moreover, I cannot wait to see which version of Hendricks the Cubs get in 2017. Can you imagine if something close to last year’s Cy Young finalist performance was the new norm (knock on all of the wood).
Some final stray bits from the mound:
- The Cubs’ new closer, Wade Davis, has a 27.00 ERA (sell! sell! sell!)
- Justin Grimm and Carl Edwards have not allowed a hit yet in their combined 5.0 innings of work.
- Koji Uehara also has a 0.00 ERA through his first 3.0 IP (.182 AVG, 1.00 WHIP).
So there you have it. Some Cubs are cruising, some are struggling, but most importantly many Cubs are healthy. We’ll check back in to the numbers after a couple of weeks, but by then the season will be just around the corner!