With one week of Spring Training games in the books, our appetites for the baseball season have surely been whet. Names familiar and unfamiliar have gotten in some work and some interesting storylines have emerged, though the sample sizes are far too small to make any adequate judgments. Thus, in the true spirit of internet sportswriting, letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hand out some superlatives for completely unsustainable exceptional performance in this opening slate of games:
Most Likely Reason People are Already Calling for Marlon Byrd to be Benched: Brennan Boesch has supplied the power for the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ offense when heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been in the lineup so far, belting two homers in his 11 at-bats. The once-promising Tiger turned journeyman outfielder has likely endeared himself to some pundits by knocking in five runs in such limited action, because we all know how important that statistic is.
While Boesch has been a real spark plug when heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been in the lineup, his four hits have come against Bryan Price, Michael Roth, Brian Schlitter, and Louis Coleman so who knows if this actually means he can hit MLB pitching on a consistent basis. Still, the power has been nice to see, especially on his opposite-field bomb off Schlitter. Boesch is a non-roster invitee, so his is an uphill battle to make the team but to this point heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s done a lot to see plenty of playing time in the coming weeks. Certainly, for some he represents a welcome alternative to Skip Schumaker as the primary bench bat.
Most Intriguing Ã¢â‚¬Å“WhereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d He Come From?Ã¢â‚¬Â Hitter: A draftee of the San Francisco Giants (after being previously drafted by the Rangers and Rockies), Chris Dominguez has the makings of a future role player in the majors, particularly as a bench bat for a National League team. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s played third most of his professional career, though the majority of the major league action heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seen came in left field for the Giants last season (33 of his 36 innings). HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seen a little bit of time at first base for the Reds this spring, in addition to playing third.
Dominguez has started hot, largely thanks to the aggressiveness that comes with competing for attention early in Spring Training. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d collected five hits in ten at-bats before yesterday’s 0-for-3 performance, two of which were doubles. This is very much in line with his minor league track record, where heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s generally maintained a slugging percentage over .400 while swinging at anything within the same zip code (his walk-to-strikeout ratio in the minors has hovered around 0.15 ever since he initially graduated from rookie ball in 2009).
With the two names above in mind, letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s play a quick game of Sample Size Stickler. The first two stat lines are Boesch and DominguezÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s AVG/SLG/OPS, respectively, with the three below being notable 11-to-13 at-bat starts in recent springs:
(11 ABs) .455/1.000/1.455
(13 ABs) .385/.538/.923
(11 ABs) .500/.583/1.146
(12 ABs) .500/.833/1.517
(11 ABs) .455/.727/1.182
Those last three? In order, Skip Schumaker in 2014, Roger Bernadina in 2014, and Dave Sappelt in 2011. Just a friendly reminder that this article is an exercise in taking these performances with a chunk of rock salt.
The Steve Parris Award for Surprising Excellence from a Veteran Starter: Like his forefathers in RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Spring Training history, Jason Marquis has come into camp as a veteran competing with far more interesting names for a possible job in Cincinnati. Unlike Jeff Francis or Kip Wells, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s started a quiet debate (perhaps more like some idle musing) on whether he should get some consideration for making the rotation out of camp.
His first five innings of work have yielded a very un-Marquis stat line of 0 H, 0 R, 6 K, and a WHIP of 0.40 with his most recent appearance against the Mariners involving retiring the likes of Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, and Austin Jackson. Now, no rational person is clamoring for Marquis to break camp as the fifth starter based on this, but this could soothe some fears about having to dip into the Louisville rotation if any injuries may arise. Plus, Dylan Axelrod and David Holmberg may be able to learn a thing or two from him in AAA.
An honorable mention is deserved to Keyvius Sampson (though heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a veteran) for his five innings of scoreless work so far, as well. The waiver-wire pickup from the Padres has a good fastball and a decent slider which he has used effectively in the minors to rack up some serious strikeout totals, but his command has always been the biggest drawback. At just 24, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s young enough to hope for improvement on that front and the potential to be useful spot-starter in the future.
Again, all of this is based in nothing more than these gentlemen starting a barely-begun spring on the right foot. We wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know anything substantial until a couple weeks from now, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worth enjoying some unexpected names doing well and hoping at least one of them can provide quality depth to this roster for the long haul of the regular season.