Spring training performances can be misleading, especially early in camp when hitters often face Double A and Triple A pitchers or hurlers who haven’t yet fine-tuned their secondary pitches and command.
However, evaluators understand how to assess players in this environment and account for spring factors. They focus more on how a hitter performs against the best pitches in the toughest locations rather than the actual results of a play. Ultimately, they’re able to get a good read on which performances are legit and which should be viewed with more skepticism or further patience.
So, which young players have stood out this spring in Florida in Arizona? Here are some of the notable names making the strongest impressions on front-office executives and scouts throughout the league. (Scouts were granted anonymity so they could speak freely.) I’ve highlighted 10 spring standouts, along with quotes on each player from their president of baseball operations, general manager and/or manager.
1. Jordan Walker, LF, Cardinals
- Age: 20
- B: R T: R
- Height: 6-5 Weight: 220
- Spring stats: AB: 33 AVG: .424 HR: 3 RBI: 7 SB: 1
Jordan Walker began spring training knowing that he had to learn a new position, left field, and had a roadblock of outfielders ahead of him — Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson and Lars Nootbaar — all of whom deserved the first shot at the Cardinals’ starting outfield positions. But Walker has the biggest upside of the group, so much so that I ranked him as the top prospect in the sport last August. What differentiates Walker is that he doesn’t have any holes in the strike zone despite his 6-foot-5 frame, which is difficult to do. He has electric bat speed that generates loud sweet-spot contact and exceptional exit velocity. He has line-drive and lofting power, with great backspin. Light towers across the majors are in serious danger once Walker arrives; he’ll be smashing light bulbs thanks to his prodigious power. However, he’s a hitter first and uses the whole field. Last August, I predicted he would be the National League Rookie of the Year this season. I stand by that prediction, whether he makes the Cardinals’ 26-man roster out of spring training or not.
Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak: “Jordan is making a strong impression on our entire staff — not surprised. Because of the (World Baseball Classic) this year, he is getting more opportunities than in a normal spring training and is taking advantage of that. From the offensive side of the ball, he is showing plate discipline and making hard contact, which has produced impressive offensive numbers. The next few weeks will be fun to watch play out.”
2. Brett Baty, 3B, Mets
- Age: 23
- B: L T: R
- Height: 6-3 Weight: 210
- Spring stats: AB: 26 AVG: .423 HR: 1 RBI: 5 SB: 2
Brett Baty is not expected to make the big-league team out of spring training; instead, he’ll probably start the season at Triple A. However, one could argue he is already a better overall hitter than Eduardo Escobar, and it won’t be long before Baty moves Escobar to a utility role. Baty consistently hits the ball hard, with exit velocity in the 90th percentile. He doesn’t chase out of the strike zone, which makes me believe he’s major-league-ready. His glove continues to improve, and his range and arm strength are above average. The Mets have put an emphasis on defense, which is the main reason Baty probably doesn’t make the team out of camp.
Mets GM Billy Eppler: “Brett has demonstrated an advanced approach at the plate throughout spring training. It’s clear that he worked hard at his craft on both sides of the ball this offseason and has brought a professional mentality into camp.”