Baseball is back! I couldn’t be happier to see baseball back on my television after what seemed like an endless offseason, but here we are. We’ve already seen some performances from some starters, and even some prospects like Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier. Yesterday I saw Torres put on an excellent performance—a couple of doubles and two runs scored, both on wild pitches—and then saw some rumblings on Twitter waxing poetic about him; we saw the same after Aaron Judge’s monster home run two day ago.
I’m not here to put a wet blanket on those enthusiasms. Spring training and the early goings of the season are such an exciting but also a gut-wrenching and uncertain time; on one hand, we’re all so overjoyed that baseball is back that everything is magnified. That diving stop makes your hair stand up in the spring, when back in October a similar play that isn’t made is a massive disappointment. Every home run carries with it the possible power potential of a full year.
That’s what makes baseball so beautiful, and so heartbreaking. As far as spring goes, that boundless potential is often smoke and mirrors, and those brief glimpses of greatness are often a mirage, as are massive spring disappointments.
One scenario that comes to mind is Jackie Bradley Jr. When he tried out for the 2013 Red Sox during spring training, he actually made the team and was the Opening Day left fielder. But despite putting up an incredible 1.120 OPS that spring, he hit just .189/.280/.337 that season and did not become a viable big leaguer for another two years. As is often the case with baseball prospects, progress is not linear.
We’ve seen this many times as Yankees fans. Rob Refsnyder had a great spring in 2015, but he could never crack the roster after defensive troubles and an inability to take the next step offensively. We saw Yangervis Solarte perform well before 2014 and that actually bore fruit, and in 2013, Kevin Youkilis put up an .800 SLG only to be out of the league by the end of the year.
That doesn’t mean it’s all useless. You can see actual adjustments out of the gate that may have an impact—Luis Severino’s and Aaron Judge’s new mechanics immediately come to mind. There are also times where that performance does carry over, like with Solarte, or how last year’s poor spring for Chase Headley bled over until May.
That’s where I am in regards to Torres and Frazier, and I really am a big fan of both. There’s a whole lot of recency bias with Torres after winning the AFL MVP, so for many of us he was the last baseball thing we remember from last year. Frazier, on the other hand, is just a level way so this feels more like a tryout proper, even though it’s guaranteed that even if the Yankees love him this spring, they’ll still wait until the super two deadline before calling him up.
This applies to the non-prospects and recent prospects too, like Judge, Greg Bird, and Severino. Are they healthy? Are they at least passable? These are pretty much the only things I’ll be asking myself, because that’s really all that matters as of now. With baseball now a daily occurrence but still before it actually matters, I’m just soaking it in, taking in every play as it comes. In time, all of these story lines will play themselves out.