Red Sox: How important are spring training performances?

BOSTON, MA - MAY 20: Blake Swihart
BOSTON, MA - MAY 20: Blake Swihart /

Spring training performances can be an illusion for Boston Red Sox fans as players disappoint or outperform expectations.

I look at Boston Red Sox spring training (ST) statistics and don’t fret when Mookie Betts can’t hit a beach ball. Or if a valued pitcher suddenly gets rocked a few times while working against a minor league stacked lineup. Veterans – especially pitchers – are usually working on “stuff” as they round into shape. Secure positional players know the routine and unless someone has an arm that shreds or an Achilles that rips I pay little attention to the spring numbers.

Is ST performance any real indicator for regular season performance? Should we get all giddy about a player or two or three who simply tear up the Florida circuit? For the debilitated coming off an injury-mired or missed campaign the value of ST is most certainly significant.  David Price, Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Tyler Thornburg will be watched to see if their baseball health is improving.

This ST the player of note is former uber-prospect, Blake Swihart.  Through March 9, Swihart has been an offensive force including seven doubles. Swihart may force the Red Sox into a hard decision regarding Sandy Leon and even Brock Holt. But the fact is Swihart could crash and burn once the season commences.

In 2017 ST, one Pablo Sandoval simply tore, ripped, spindled and mutilated the cover off the ball hitting .338 with five home runs and 20 RBI. I don’t think the denizens of Red Sox Nation need a refresher on just how Panda segued into the regular season.

Steve Selsky played his way on to the opening roster in 2017 with a .356 average, four home runs, and 12 RBI. An impressive right-handed bat who played a few games hitting just .111 before being shipped to Pawtucket (AAA).  Selsky is back as a non-roster invitee.

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The surprise pitcher in camp for 2017 was Kyle Kendrick, a veteran right-hander who went 4-0 and a minuscule 2.18 ERA in ST. A strong case was being developed for keeping Kendrick on the staff, but he went to Pawtucket until needed.  Kendrick did little with the PawSox to warrant a call-up, but two starts in Boston were interesting – 8.1 IP, 18 H, 12.96 ERA.

A classic example of a prized prospect forcing the issue is Jackie Bradley in 2013. The 23-year-old hit .419 that spring and decisions had to be made.  Bradley went north and soon played his way south to Pawtucket with a .189 average.

That spring of Bradley’s “success” also saw the continued resurrection of Daniel Nava. Nava was in camp as a 30-year-old outfield reserve possibility and ST job hunting was nothing new to the switch-hitter. Nava earned a roster spot in 2012 with a .429 ST but spent the first month in Pawtucket before being recalled and hitting .243.

Nava was back in 2013 ST and hit .327 and that catapulted Nava to be a regular for the 2013 season.  Nava hit an impressive .303, 12 home runs, and 66 RBI in 134 games. Nava is the poster child for every independent league player since that is exactly where the gritty dirt dog started his Red Sox adventure.

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These are just a few stories, but ST can be an indicator, but one that must be taken with a certain amount of skepticism. It certainly is enjoyable to see a prized prospect, or a fringe veteran make a move towards the opening day roster, but then reality sets in during the season.