Somebody find out which way the wind is blowing, because we're about to throw some caution into it and draw conclusions from the early portion of Major League Baseball's spring training season.
We sought to play a game of "Buy or Sell" with some of the more surprising—both pleasantly and, well, less than pleasantly—individual stat lines and team records coming out of Florida's Grapefruit League and Arizona's Cactus League. Do they actually portend anything for the 2023 season? Or is it all just burger made of nothing?
If you're expecting to read anything about Jordan Walker, Corbin Carroll, Zac Veen and other standout prospects, you can stop right now. That discussion will happen, but it's one for another day.
Let's touch on eight individual players before wrapping up with four teams.
Is Jarred Kelenic Ready for a Post-Hype Breakout?
- Age: 23
- 2022 Stats: 54 G, 181 PA, 7 HR, 5 SB, .141 AVG, .221 OBP, .313 SLG
- 2023 Spring Stats: 6 G, 17 PA, 4 HR, 0 SB, .412 AVG, .412 OBP, 1.118 SLG
The zenith of Jarred Kelenic's rapid rise through the minor leagues was precisely two years ago. He went into the 2021 season ranked by MLB.com as the fourth-best prospect in baseball, even ahead of Julio Rodríguez.
Chances are you have some idea of how that panned out. Or, more accurately, didn't pan. Kelenic has gotten into 147 games with the Seattle Mariners over the last two seasons only to produce a Jason Heyward-ian 66 OPS+.
To go from that to leading the spring in home runs makes for quite the reversal of fortune for the Wisconsin native. And the notion that it's being fueled by adjustments to his swing mechanics has merit. He's made some truly loud contact in compiling his numbers, including on the most recent of his four long balls:
You'll also notice that Kelenic hit that moonshot off Devin Williams, the star closer for the Milwaukee Brewers. That speaks to the kind the competition Kelenic has faced this spring, for which Baseball Reference puts the "Opponent Quality" score on the high end of 8.4. The median for hitters who've taken at least 15 plate appearances is 7.4.
Is Alec Bohm a Power Hitter Now?
- Age: 26
- 2022 Stats: 152 G, 631 PA, 13 HR, 2 SB, .280 AVG, .315 OBP, .398 SLG
- 2023 Spring Stats: 7 G, 21 PA, 3 HR, 0 SB, .350 AVG, .381 OBP, .850 SLG
It's not as if he's Myles Straw or anything, but power hasn't big as big a part of Alec Bohm's game as it is for most guys in his position. Among 21 third basemen who've taken at least 1,000 plate appearances since 2020, he ranks 18th in slugging.
Well, don't look now, but the Philadelphia Phillies youngster seems determined to change that in 2023. Thanks mostly to those three home runs, Bohm's 17 total bases for the spring tie him for sixth with Freddie Freeman and Andre Lipcius.
Bohm put up an expected slugging percentage in the 73rd percentile last season, so the potential for power was there even as he hit just 13 home runs. And after an offseason spent putting on additional bulk, he's now even more solidly built than his listed size of 6'5", 218 pounds indicates.
And yet, hitting for power is as much about a hitter's approach. That's where Bohm has been held back in the past, as he's preferred to use the whole field with a batted ball profile that's been heavier on ground balls and line drives than on fly balls. This only makes it easier to believe him when he says he's not about to start trying to "pull the ball and hit homers."