The first weekend of Spring Training action is in the books! Strikeouts, home runs, double plays, and all our favorite baseball action were back in full swing in Florida and Arizona. Each day throughout the spring, we’re giving you a rundown of all the news and performances you’ll want to know about from previous days. This past weekend was full of things you need to know – let’s get to it.
- The Carlos Correa sweepstakes finally came to an end as the star shortstop surprised the baseball world by signing a three-year, $105.3 million contract with the Minnesota Twins. Correa’s $35.1 million AAV is the highest ever for an infielder. A short-term deal wasn’t expected for the two-time All-Star, but it includes opts out after both the first and second year, meaning Correa may be testing the free agent market again soon.
- Trevor Story is taking his talents to Boston, agreeing to a six-year, $140 million deal with the Red Sox. With Xander Bogaerts entrenched at shortstop, the Sox seem likely to ask Story to shift across the diamond to second base. Story will serve as great insurance in case Bogaerts exercises his opt-out after the 2022 season. Much concern has been expressed about how Story will perform outside of Coors Field, but Fenway Park is about as good a landing place as any for the 29-year-old. Over the past three seasons, Statcast data shows Coors easily boosting right-handed hitters offense the most, but Fenway is also good for righty hitters in its own regard, having the fourth-best park factor over those three years.
- The Phillies added another big bat to their lineup over the weekend, inking Nick Castellanos to a five-year, $100 million contract. Castellanos is coming off the best season of his career – he hit .309/.362/.576 with 34 home runs and 100 RBI in 2021. The Castellanos signing came just days after the team brought in another big bat in Kyle Schwarber. Those two will join Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins to create one of baseball’s most fearsome lineups, but also one of the league’s worst fielding defenses.
- Kenley Jansen said goodbye to his long-time home in the back of the Dodgers bullpen by moving across the country to sign with defending champion Atlanta Braves. His contract is for one year and $16 million. Jansen will immediately be thrown into the closer role, allowing Will Smith to be used as a late-inning option or lefty specialist.
- Last year’s World Series MVP Jorge Soler is joining the Miami Marlins. He signed a three-year, $36 million deal on Saturday night. In 2022, Soler struggled mightily in Kansas City before being dealt to the Braves at the trade deadline. He played a huge role for the Braves down the stretch, hitting .269/.358/.524 with 14 home runs. He’ll likely serve as the primary right fielder for the Marlins while also getting some run at DH.
- Red Sox manager Alex Cora confirmed on Saturday that right-hander Tanner Houck will open the season in Boston’s starting rotation. Houck posted a 3.52 ERA over 69 innings in 2021.
- Cincinnati reliever Lucas Sims will not be ready for Opening Day. Sims is reportedly not injured, but with the shortened Spring Training he won’t have enough time to ramp up before the season begins. Sims was one of the favorites to begin the season as the team’s closer.
- Luis Urías had to leave the Brewers’ Cactus League game on Saturday with a left quad injury. Additional testing revealed that the injury isn’t a significant long-term concern, but it sounds like he’ll need at least two weeks of recovery time, putting his status for Opening Day in question.
- Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi hasn’t yet ruled out Zack Wheeler for Opening Day. Although he’s behind the rest of the Phillies’ staff in getting ready, he may start the season on the roster with a strict pitch count. If that’s the case, Girardi said Wheeler could be used to piggyback with another pitcher until he’s ready for a full workload.
- Raisel Iglesias will be used in only a one-inning role this season according to Angels manager Joe Maddon. The 31-year-old closer had 15 appearances last season in which he pitched more than one inning. Iglesias signed a four-year, $58 million extension with Los Angeles in December, so this is a decision likely being made to protect his long-term health as well as keep him fresh for a hopeful playoff run.
- St. Louis Cardinals reliever Alex Reyes was diagnosed with a frayed labrum in his right shoulder and will be shut down from throwing for at least two weeks. Reyes was the Cardinals’ primary closer in 2021 before losing his job late in the season. He was in contention for earning the closer role out of camp, so this injury should boost Giovanny Gallegos‘ chance at winning the job.
Top Hitting Performances
One of baseball’s top prospects is showing everyone he’s deserving of that pedigree. CJ Abrams put on a show over the weekend, blasting a home run on Saturday against the Cubs and going deep again on Sunday versus the Brewers. Abrams likely won’t see much time at the MLB level this year, but he’ll be exciting to watch whenever his time comes.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) March 20, 2022
The Yankees didn’t make a splashy addition in free agency this offseason, but they still managed to find a new shortstop in Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The 26-year-old utility man started his tenure in pinstripes red hot, going 3-for-5 during his playing time in Friday’s and Sunday’s games. Kiner-Falefa posted just an 85 wRC+ over his four years in Texas, so he’s looking to make some improvements at the plate as a member of the Yankees.
Dylan Carlson is making Cardinals fans dream of a breakout season after his big performance against the Mets on Sunday. The right-hander was perfect at the plate, getting three hits including a home run. Carlson is looking to build off of a promising 2021 in which he hit .266/.343/.437 and finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting.
Daz Cameron lit up the Pirates on Saturday, knocking the ball around the yard with three hits and a home run. As a lower-tier prospect, it’ll be tough for Cameron to break camp with the big league club, but he certainly has a chance if he can use this performance as a launching pad for a strong spring.
Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year is picking up right where he left off. Jonathan India reached base in all three of his plate appearances on Sunday, including a home run to left field. Reds fans don’t have a lot to look forward to this year, but India should be a bright spot.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) March 20, 2022
After an absolutely brutal 2021 season, any sign of hope for Keston Hiura is something to be excited about, and his performance on Sunday against the Padres is exactly what the doctor ordered. He reached base in all three of his plate appearances and blasted a second-inning home run off of Chris Paddack. It was only a couple of years ago that Hiura took the league by storm in his 2019 rookie season, and performances like this remind us of the talent level he’s looking to recapture.
Top Pitching Performances
For the first time since 2020, Justin Verlander took the mound in game action. The former Cy Young Award-winner pitched two hitless innings while striking out two and walking one. Perhaps most importantly, Verlander showed off his usual velocity – his fastball topped out at 95.9 mph, and 12 of his 17 four-seamers were thrown at 94.7 mph or above. His average fastball velocity in 2019 was 94.6 mph. While the velocity looked good, not everyone loved what Verlander had to show. Cameron Grove (@Pitching_Bot on Twitter) graded his Stuff as average or worse. Verlander should be one of the most-watched pitchers throughout Spring Training.
Logan Webb started his spring action with a bang. The Giants’ ace picked up right where he left off last year, dominating the Cubs with five strikeouts over two strong innings. The only blemish on Webb’s stellar performance was a four-pitch walk to Clint Frazier to lead off the second frame, but he recovered incredibly well, striking out the next three hitters on a total of 10 pitches. The 25-year-old righty is looking to build off a stellar 2021 season in which he posted a 3.03 ERA over 146.1 innings.
Although the stats don’t jump off the page, Mitch Keller’s Spring Training debut had a lot to like under the hood. Keller’s fastball averaged 94.1 mph last season, but reports this offseason were that he had worked to get that number up to the upper nineties. He showed that on Saturday against the Tigers. He threw 13 four-seamers, largely staying between 96 to 98 mph. The former top prospect hasn’t had much success through his first three seasons, but some added velocity may unlock a new level for the young right-hander. Will the velocity stick over longer outings? It’s certainly something to watch for over the next few weeks.
The Reds’ exciting young prospect Nick Lodolo had everything working for him in his Spring Training debut on Friday. He didn’t allow a single baserunner through his two perfect innings while striking out four. With the Reds’ total decimation of a once-competitive roster still underway, Lodolo looks primed to contribute at the big league level in 2022, and if this start is any indication, he may be ready to do so now.
It's hard to pitch much better than Nick Lodolo did today: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 18, 2022
Nick Pivetta has always shown flashes of dominance throughout his career, and he did it again on Saturday against the Twins. He finished three perfect innings on 38 pitches while striking out five. He did it against a Twins’ lineup that included nearly all of their regular starters too, so he wasn’t just blowing away inexperienced minor leaguers. The Red Sox could use a big season from Pivetta to propel them in an incredibly tough AL East. Is this just another flash in the pan for Pivetta, or something foretelling a breakout season? Your guess is as good as mine.
It was the most typical way for Aaron Nola to start the season – striking out five while allowing two home runs in two innings. If that isn’t vintage Nola, I don’t know what is. A home run problem has plagued Nola throughout his career, and it reared its ugly head in his Spring Training debut against the Blue Jays on Saturday. In Nola’s defense, one of the home runs came off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., an outcome that even the best pitchers can’t avoid.
Cade Cavalli found himself in an unusual situation on Sunday: closing out a game. The Nationals’ 23-year-old prospect slammed the door on the Astros, dominating the Houston lineup over three innings of one-hit, six-strikeout ball. Cavalli made Double-A hitters look silly in 2021, but struggled in a brief promotion to Triple-A. If Sunday’s outing is any indication, he’ll be ready for those Triple-A hitters this year, and could find himself pitching in the nation’s capital this summer.
Los Angeles Angels fans have to be ecstatic with what they saw out of Reid Detmers on Sunday. The 22-year-old lefty had it all working against the Mariners, striking out five of the seven batters he faced. Detmers struggled mightily when given his cup of coffee at the big league level last year, posting a 7.40 ERA over 20.2 innings. The 10th overall pick in the 2020 draft is looking to turn things around in 2022 and have a big impact on an Angels team that desperately needs pitching help. If Sunday’s outing is any indication, Detmers should be part of the Angels’ rotation soon.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 20, 2022
What to Watch for Today
What to watch from SP on TV today
Alek Manoah – CH alive?
Matt Manning – 95mph? Good #2?
Jameson Taillon – SL/CB = Whiffs?
Zach Thompson – Solid Cutters & CBs?
Yu Darvish – Cutter command?
Alex Wood – ~92 mph? Good CH & SL?
Brady Singer- #3 pitch?
SHOHEI OHTANI IS PITCHING
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) March 21, 2022
Graphic by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter & IG)