Spring Training Recap 2021: March 26-28

Everything you need to know about yesterday's spring training news and performances.

Welcome to the Spring Training recap for the past weekend, March 26th to the 28th — the final weekend before Opening Day! Every day throughout Spring Training we’ll be providing a rundown of the top news and performances from the previous weekend’s games, as well as highlighting things to watch for in today’s matchups. There was a ton of action so let’s get right to it!

 

News

 

 

Top Hitting Performances

 

Joc Pederson (OF, Chicago Cubs): 2-for-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI (3/26)

Pederson continued his assault on Cactus League pitching, hitting two home runs on Friday and then followed it up with another long ball on Saturday. With a league-leading total of eight blasts this month, the left-handed slugger is more than ready for the regular season — the first time since 2015 in which he’ll be more than a platoon bat.

 

Josh Bell (1B, Washington Nationals): 3-for-4, 2 R, HR, RBI (3/26)

The highlight of Bell’s Friday night was demolishing a high fastball from Robert Gsellman off the top of the left-center field scoreboard for a home run. The switch-hitting first baseman struggled with the Pirates last season but has put together a wonderful spring (.391 AVG, 6 HR) as one of the newest members of the Nationals. Hopefully, the change of scenery can rekindle his 2019 form.

 

Kyle Isbel (OF, Kansas City Royals): 2-for-3, R, 2 RBI, BB, K (3/27)

Prior to this month, Royals’ prospect Kyle Isbel had not reached above High-A ball, so much wasn’t expected from him in the Cactus League this year. However, the outfielder has had a phenomenal spring with the bat, hitting .333/.417/.978 with two home runs, including a couple of hits and RBI’s on Saturday against Milwaukee. With the news of Nicky Lopez being optioned to Triple-A and Whit Merrifield likely moving to second because of it, Isbel might have forced his way onto the big league roster with his stellar play. As a contact-oriented left-handed bat, he looks remarkably similar to current teammate Andrew Benintendi, but we should pump the brakes on expecting that type of production in the short term, especially since he’d be bypassing Double-A and Triple-A.

 

Taylor Trammell (OF, Seattle Mariners): 2-for-2, R, HR, 4 RBI (3/27)

Trammell accounted for four of Seattle’s five runs in a 5-0 win against the Giants, driving in two on a single in his first at-bat, then hit a two-run homer his second time up. Hitting .302/.388/.628 in 43 at-bats this spring, Trammell won the left-field job over Jake Fraley (.262/.415/.405). But if Kyle Lewis were to start the year on the injured list, you could see both making the roster with the former shifting to center. Trammell’s best asset in re-draft leagues is his speed, where he stole a career-high 41 bases in 129 Single-A games (2017).

 

Dominic Smith (1B/OF, New York Mets): 2-for-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI (3/27)

Smith hit a pair of home runs against Houston on Saturday, the first coming as the second of a back-to-back with Pete Alonso while the next one scraped the left-field wall. The Mets’ left-fielder finally became the thunderous bat the Mets envisioned after taking him with the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft, hitting to a .412 wOBA (.390 xwOBA). The only thing that will potentially hold him back is playing time, as Smith is not a very good outfielder (0 DRS, -2 OAA in LF, 2020) so he could be a candidate to be replaced defensively late in games.

 

Freddie Freeman (1B, Atlanta Braves): 2-for-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, K (3/28)

It took till the end of the month, but Freddie Freeman finally hit his first home run of Spring Training. The 2020 NL MVP hasn’t had the best of times in the Grapefruit League, but as one of the most consistent performers in the sport, there isn’t anything to worry about.

 

Jesús Aguilar (1B, Miami Marlins): 3-for-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI (3/28)

Aguilar was perfect at the plate yesterday, notably hitting an RBI double in the first and a home run in the second. The Venezuelan was second in home runs (8) and RBI’s (34) for the surprise 2020 Marlins, and his hot spring (.350/.435/.550) suggests there could be an encore in 2021.

 

Pitching Roundup

 

Here was our list of starters to watch from the past weekend:

Here is how some of them fared:

 

Matthew Boyd (SP, Detroit Tigers): 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 6 K, 2 HB (3/26)

Boyd capped off a nice spring against the Pirates, giving up two runs over five and a third innings while punching out six. The left-hander had his trademark stuff, averaging 91.4 MPH on the four-seamer (38% CSW) — topping at 93 — and got five whiffs on 18 swings against the slider (21% CSW). However, you can’t talk about Boyd without mentioning his recurring home run problem, as by giving up a solo shot to Colin Moran, the 30-year-old has now allowed three home runs in 18.1 innings this month, following a season where he gave up a career-high 2.24 HR/9. Boyd will take the ball on Opening Day against Cleveland.

 

Kenta Maeda (SP, Minnesota Twins): 4 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K (3/26)

Not many times do you see a pitcher get no whiffs on his slider (24% CSW) with only one on his fastball (7% CSW) and have a scoreless outing as Maeda did. One of the few things that made sense was Maeda’s changeup, which did the heavy lifting (41% CSW) here and it was also an important pitch for him last year (.138 wOBA, 26% SwStr). While this start had good results, there are even better ones ahead when his slider delivers at its magnificent level.

 

Tyler Glasnow (SP, Tampa Bay Rays): 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K (3/27)

It’s fairly safe to say that Glasnow is ready for the start of the season, punching out 10 Twins on Saturday. There were no surprises here as the right-hander worked up in the zone with his four-seamer (32% CSW), then unleashing his new slider (37% CSW) — he threw six of 27 for strikes — and curveball (46% CSW). Even with these superb results, Glasnow did throw a number of sliders up in the zone, so if he could get them low in the zone, there’s are even greater heights to be reached.

 

Lucas Giolito (SP, Chicago White Sox): 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K (3/27)

Giolito used his power fastball (45% CSW) en route to striking out nine Rockies hitters. But since his changeup (21% CSW) and slider (20% CSW) were not that effective, the resulting line surely would not have looked the same had his heater not been so good. A start like this proves that Giolito can still dominate even when he could only throw his third pitch — slider — for one called strike out of 20 thrown.

 

Mike Minor (SP, Kansas City Royals): 5 IP, 5 H, ER, 3 BB, 6 K (3/28)

Like Giolito, Minor only needed his fastball to get by. But unlike the former, the southpaw only averaged 91.2 MPH on his four-seamer (37% CSW) yesterday. Without a wipeout secondary offering, Minor can have rough innings like in the bottom of the third where he gave up two runs — though only one was earned on account of an Andrew Benintendi error. As long as Minor has his changeup (.257 wOBA in 2020) working in most of his outings, he should be a dependable option — valuable in a season full of unknowns.

 

Tarik Skubal (SP, Detroit Tigers): 5 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 3 K (3/28)

Skubal was solid across five innings on Sunday, only giving up the lone run while striking out three. The 24-year-old had an interesting point of attack in this one, as with five right-handed hitters in the Blue Jays’ lineup, he only used his changeup — his best swinging strike pitch last season at 15.5% — three times, where he mostly worked with his fastball and slider. Given he only had a 21% CSW, Skubal will need to drastically improve his slider (34% usage and 23% CSW yesterday) if he wants to use it so often.

 

Ross Stripling (SP, Toronto Blue Jays): 5.2 IP, 4 H, ER, 0 BB, 2 K (3/28)

The Blue Jays already have had George Springer, Robbie Ray, Nate Pearson, and Kirby Yates succumb to injury. It means that Ross Stripling, currently the projected number two starter, can’t pitch like he did last year. The former Dodger’s ERA ballooned to 5.84 in 2020, while his strikeout rate dropped precipitously from 25% to 18%. One of the glaring reasons? His curveball’s swinging strike rate plummeted from a solid 13.6% in 2019 to a minuscule 2.6% a year ago. Opposing Skubal yesterday, Stripling’s curveball registered only one whiff on six swings (18 thrown) — not good. With only seven whiffs on 35 swings against all his pitches, Stripling needs his stuff to return before becoming his pre-2020 self.

 

What to Watch for Today

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Jai Correa

Jai Correa is an alumnus of UMass Amherst. He is incredibly passionate about the Red Sox, Indian cricket and economics.

Account / Login
>