Bleacher Report's All-Spring Training Team Through Two Weeks of Play

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2014

Bleacher Report's All-Spring Training Team Through Two Weeks of Play

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    It's true—no player in the history of baseball landed a lucrative, multiyear contract based upon their play during spring training action.

    As a matter of fact, chances are that in less than a month, nobody will be talking about, much less remember, how good or bad a specific player performed during the exhibition season.

    But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't celebrate those players who have been hot while taking over ballparks in Arizona and Florida, far away from the snow and bitter cold that has plagued most of the country for the past few months.

    So join me on a tour of the diamond as we recognize those players who have performed admirably this spring and put together Bleacher Report's All-Spring Training Team.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all spring training statistics courtesy of MLB.com.

    All other statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.

Catcher: Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats

    GBAOBPSLGOPSXBH (HR)RBIBB/K
    6.563.563.8751.4383 (1)90/0

     

    That Wilson Ramos is tearing up the Grapefruit League should come as no surprise to anyone—the 26-year-old has always been insanely talented, but injuries have robbed him of consistent playing time over the course of his four-year career.

    Case in point: Limited to only 14 games over the first three months of the 2013 season due to a hamstring injury, Ramos hit .276 with 14 home runs, 53 RBI and a .784 OPS over 64 games to end the season.

    He spent the winter fine-tuning his approach at the plate as a designated hitter in his native Venezuela, an experience that Ramos recently told The Washington Post's James Wagner has been a major reason for his early-spring success:

    Those at-bats help me to concentrate a little bit more at the plate and be patient and in the strike zone. I wanted to come here and take good at-bats and swing at strikes. Right now, I’m working on that, working on the strike zone. That help me to hit the ball well.

    Confident, healthy and already one of the better defensive catchers in the game, 2014 could be the season that Ramos breaks out, finally joining the upper echelon of major league catchers.

     

    Honorable Mention: Russell Martin (PIT), Salvador Perez (KC), Stephen Vogt (OAK)

First Base: Tommy Medica, San Diego Padres

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Spring Training Stats

    GBAOBPSLGOPSXBH (HR)RBIBB/K
    11.520.556.8401.3964 (2)62/1

     

    Recently, MLB.com's Corey Brock took it upon himself to ask—and answer—whether or not prospect Tommy Medica could make the Padres lineup this season. 

    This spring, Medica leads all of baseball in batting average, on-base percentage and hits (13) while ranking third in OPS. That's not bad for a guy who hit only .111 in Arizona Fall League action and, as Brock notes, only has 79 plate appearances above Double-A.

    What Brock fails to mention is that they came with the Padres last September and that Medica performed admirably, hitting .290 with three home runs and 10 RBI as San Diego's starting first baseman down the stretch.

    Blocked at the position by Yonder Alonso, Medica's future probably lies in a corner outfield spot. When asked about Medica's ability to make the position switch by U-T San Diego's Dennis Lim, Padres manager Bud Black was an optimistic realist:

    We will see, but he’s athletic, he runs well. This guy was a catcher, so the hands work pretty well. Then you have to look at breaks, routes, jumps. Those are the things that really come harder for a guy who’s never played the outfield.

    I think his arm continues to get stronger, which will help the transition ... for him to project as an outfielder in the major leagues, there’s still a lot of work to do.

     

    Honorable Mention: Chris Davis (BAL), Justin Smoak (SEA), Neftali Soto (CIN)

Second Base: Yangervis Solarte, New York Yankees

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats

    GBAOBPSLGOPSXBH (HR)RBIBB/K
    9.588.632.9411.5732 (2)62/2

     

    It was easy for Yangervis Solarte to fly under the radar when he decided to sign a minor-league deal with the New York Yankees, given the big names and multitude of moves that the Yankees were involved in this winter.

    But the 26-year-old isn't flying under anyone's radar now, leading the Yankees in nearly every major offensive category. He's been so good that manager Joe Girardi wouldn't rule out Solarte as a possibility for his Opening Day roster, as he explained to MLB.com's Bryan Hoch:

    I've said, if you have a uniform on and you can play different positions, you have a chance. He's going to get a good look. He's got some versatility. We're looking for versatility, because of our infield situation, and he has that.

    Motivated by what he perceived as a major slight by his former team, the Texas Rangers, which failed to promote him last September despite a solid season with Triple-A Round Rock (.276, 12 HR, 75 RBI), Solarte is doing anything he possibly can to avoid the minor-league grind once again:

    I'm tired of the Minors. I feel that I have done everything I could do. I love playing baseball, I have worked so hard, I have met every goal that I had. Now I feel that the next challenge is the Major Leagues.

    Given the current state of New York's infield, one in which the oft-injured Brian Roberts is being relied upon to stay healthy and produce, Solarte could become a vital piece of the puzzle in the Bronx this summer—if he can keep swinging the bat the way he has been so far this spring.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Ryan Flaherty (BAL), Jurickson Profar (TEX)

Third Base: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats

    GBAOBPSLGOPSXBH (HR)RBIBB/K
    9.400.520.9501.4705 (3)104/4

     

    Tied for the spring lead in home runs and first overall in RBI, 25-year-old Mike Moustakas is looking—and producing—like the middle-of-the-order bat many believe he's capable of being, not someone Kansas City needs to try and hide near the bottom of its lineup.

    “The work that he’s done all winter long, it’s paying off, and it’s showing,” manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City Star's Andy McCullough after a recent victory against Arizona. “He had four RBI today off left-handed pitchers. It’s just something we kind of expected from him, to come back and have a good year.”

    If Moustakas can carry what's working for him this spring into the regular season, Kansas City will be happy.

     

    Honorable Mention: Nick Castellanos (DET), Kevin Kouzmanoff (TEX), Pablo Sandoval (SF)

Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats

    GBAOBPSLGOPSXBH (HR)RBIBB/K
    7.333.333.7781.1114 (2)30/3


    When asked by reporters why his shortstop, Ian Desmond, was off to a great start to the spring recently, Washington manager Matt Williams had a simple answer: "He's doing what he wants to do." (h/t The Washington Times)

    Desmond has been doing what he wants to do for the better part of two seasons, establishing himself as one of the premier shortstops in the game after consecutive 20-20 seasons in Washington. He's tied for the MLB lead in runs scored this spring with seven, while his four stolen bases rank fifth overall this spring.

     

     

    Honorable Mention: Pedro Ciriaco (KC), Marwin Gonzalez (HOU), J.J. Hardy (BAL)

Left Field: Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats

    GBAOBPSLGOPSXBH (HR)RBIBB/K
    8.478.500.8701.3706 (1)91/4

     

    It was only two years ago that Dustin Ackley was viewed as one of the bright young second basemen in baseball. But he quickly fell from grace, hitting a combined .236 with a .637 OPS over the past two seasons, bouncing around the field—and lineup—on a frequent basis.

    This spring, Ackley arrived in camp with a new approach at the plate and a retooled swing—and the results so far have been overwhelming, even to Ackley himself, as he explained to MLB.com's Greg Johns:

    Sometimes it's like, 'Well, this could just be early bloomers or whatever." But I feel great. Even in live batting practice when I wasn't doing so good at the start, I still felt like I was seeing the ball great, recognizing pitches. I think that's the most important part.

    If you're seeing the ball right and swinging at good pitches and making good contact, I think that's right where I want to be.

    I'm letting the ball get deep, I'm hitting the pitches where they need to be hit. That's as good a sign as I need right now. I didn't expect to be this far along, but I'm excited about it and am just going to try to keep it going.

    The 26-year-old is among the league leaders in multiple offensive categories this spring, including batting average (second), RBI (third) and fourth in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. All of this could be a precursor to a breakout campaign from Ackley, who has all but locked up the starting job in left field with his play.

     

    Honorable Mention: Corey Dickerson (COL), Alex Gordon (KC), Jerry Sands (TB)

Center Field: A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats

    GBAOBPSLGOPSXBH (HR)RBIBB/K
    11.400.483.7601.2435 (1)53/5

     

    Even after a season that saw him establish himself as one of baseball's premier defensive outfielders and produce enough at the plate for Arizona to trade Adam Eaton to the Chicago White Sox, A.J. Pollock isn't resting on his laurels, as he explained to AZCentral.com's Nick Piecoro:

    You’ve got to do it every day. You’ve got to show your stuff every single day. That’s what I think, but I have a lot of days to prove that. Good or bad, I’ve got to come back at it the next day and start over.

    Pollock has been doing it every day so far this spring, sitting near the top of the spring leaderboard in multiple categories, including extra-base hits and on-base percentage, the latter something that Pollock has rededicated himself to doing more often in 2014:

    “You’ve got to get on base. I want to get on base with Goldy up and Trumbo up. It’s fun to get on base with those guys.”

    One of those guys, perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, can't wait to hit behind Pollock either, as he explained to Piecoro: “Maybe nothing jumps out at you when you just watch him play (just once), but when you see him day in and day out you realize how good he actually is.”

     

    Honorable Mention: Lorenzo Cain (KC), Austin Jackson (DET), Andrew McCutchen (PIT)

Right Field: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats

    GBAOBPSLGOPSXBH (HR)RBIBB/K
    8.400.5201.0001.5206 (3)65/4

     

    After finishing each of the past two seasons on the disabled list, Jose Bautista dedicated himself to getting into the best shape of his career this winter, he explained to The Canadian Press (h/t CBC Sports) shortly after arriving at spring training.

    I know that both injuries that I've had — the ones that have actually took me out of the lineup for an extended period of time — were from impact plays or just a freak accident with the wrist.

    It's not because I was neglecting my training regimen or anything like that. But it is disappointing and it is upsetting that I don't get to go out there and finish the season with the team and finish strong.

    So far this spring, Bautista has looked like he's in midseason form, leading all of baseball in slugging percentage and OPS while drawing walks and flashing the power that saw him win back-to-back home-run crowns in 2010 and 2011.

    He's also opened eyes with his defense, something that wasn't lost on Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, who noted that Bautista has one of the better arms in MLB. 

    Bautista looks to be in midseason form is great news for Toronto, a team that can't afford to get off to a slow start in a highly competitive and deep AL East. 

     

    Honorable Mention: Bryce Brentz (BOS), Marlon Byrd (PHI), David Lough (BAL)

Left-Handed Starter: Hector Santiago, Los Angeles Angels

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Spring Training Stats

    GSW-LERAWHIPIPHBBK
    20-10.000.606.2228

     

    A change of scenery seems to be exactly what Hector Santiago needed to take the next step in his development.

    Acquired from the Chicago White Sox as part of the three-team trade that saw Los Angeles trade Mark Trumbo to Arizona, the 26-year-old left-hander is being counted on to bring some stability to an Angels rotation that needs it.

    He's done just that in his two spring training starts, the latest of which was a dominating, scoreless, four-inning, 42-pitch outing against the Chicago Cubs. Santiago spoke with Mike DiGiovana of the Los Angeles Times following that game, explaining the differences between 2013 and the present:

    "Last year, I was usually close to 40 pitches in the second inning. Being efficient like that is nice. I can get ahead of guys and make them chase."

    What batters are chasing is his screwball, a pitch that Santiago has shied away from throwing in the past, but one that looks like a legitimate out pitch for him this spring:

    "Last year, I didn't have any confidence in it. This year, they said to throw it how I want to throw it. Now, I'm able to throw it for a strike and throw it out of the zone when I want to."

    While there's plenty of baseball left to be played before we reach Opening Day, Santiago has been a standout performer so far this spring—and he looks like he could be a legitimate difference-maker at the back of Los Angeles' rotation.

     

    Honorable Mention: Wade Miley (ARI)

Right-Handed Starter: Brandon McCarthy, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Spring Training Stats

    GSW-LERAWHIPIPHBBBB/K
    31-01.931.0714.01322/6

     

    Brandon McCarthy wasn't about to let his latest outing this spring, one in which he allowed six hits and two earned runs over five innings of work against the Chicago White Sox, damper his outlook on the regular season, as he told MLB.com's Scott Merkin following the game:

    Not as sharp as my first couple times out, but I was able to get some rhythm back [in the last inning]. Overall it was good. Just a spring day.

    Everybody knows what I do; there's no creating new things. It's just emphasizing getting my rhythm, getting my command there, making sure my delivery's where I want it to be and then the results should follow.

    The 30-year-old McCarthy battled injury and ineffectiveness in 2013, his first season with the Diamondbacks, going 5-11 with a 4.53 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. But advanced metrics—a 3.75 FIP and 3.77 xFIP—say that McCarthy was better than his numbers indicate.

    While health will always be a concern when it comes to McCarthy, that he's been able to go deep in each of his first three starts this spring—a four-inning start followed by a pair of five-inning outings—is an excellent sign that he's healthy and, perhaps, poised to make more than 25 starts for the first time in his career.

     

    Honorable Mention: R.A. Dickey (TOR), Kris Medlen (ATL), Erasmo Ramirez (SEA)

Closer: Josh Collmenter, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Spring Training Stats

    GW-LERAWHIPIPHBB/KSV
    50-00.000.437.021/43-of-3

     

    While he's not Arizona's regular-season closer—that title belongs to Addison Reed—Josh Collmenter has been outstanding in the role this spring, going a perfect 3-for-3 in save opportunities.

    More impressive is that he's allowed only three baserunners over seven scoreless innings of relief, something that no other reliever who has thrown at least six innings out of the bullpen this spring can claim as their own.

    Arizona has used the versatile Collmenter in a number of different roles in recent years, whether it be as a long reliever out of the bullpen, a right-handed specialist or a spot starter. With his performance at the end of games this spring, perhaps we'll see him take the ball from manager Kirk Gibson in the ninth inning of a regular-season game should Reed be unavailable for any reason.

     

    Honorable Mention: Jean Machi (SF)