It is kind of funny, every spring training, I tell myself, “Don’t look at spring training numbers! Don’t look at spring training numbers!” What do I do? I look at spring training numbers. Most of the time I don’t really care, but this spring training, I couldn’t help but start talking myself into a couple of post-hype fantasy baseball sleepers.
Domonic Brown is a guy I have always liked and who never has put it all together. I blame the Phillies for all of his troubles. He has changed his swing more times than one could count and each time he has struggled with the change. Until this time. New hitting coach Wally Joyner, has moved the position of Brown’s hands, and it has paid off in a big way. Brown is flat-out raking in spring training. Brown has a .389/.450/.708 with seven home runs (tied for the most), six walks and 10 strikeouts in 80 plate appearances. His opponent quality rating is 9.0 (a cool new stat on baseball reference) which is somewhere in between triple-A and the majors.
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The biggest worry was playing time, and though manager Charlie Manuel has not named Brown the opening-day starter, it his to lose at this point. Brown has the talent and pedigree to deliver 20 homers and 20 steals, which is valuable in any format. If you get a poor man’s B.J. Upton at the end of the draft, you have to be excited.
Brandon Belt is another guy most fantasy baseball owners have taken a shot at one time or another. However, his .433/.460/.900 and seven home runs (tied for the most), three walks and 12 strikeouts in 63 plate appearances with a opponent quality score is 9.2 cannot be ignored. Though he has generally been a better hitter against left-handed pitching, Belt struggled last season, batting .242 against left-handers. This spring, he seems to have rectified his problem, because he has flat out killed left-handed pitching.
Though Belt screams of a big breakout season, fantasy baseball owners should temper expectations. He has looked amazing in spring training in the past, but it has never carried over for when it matters. His SO/BB numbers also temper my belief that he can carry this to the regular season. If you are using a stars and scrubs strategy in fantasy baseball auction drafts, Belt would be a good guy to target, he has the ability to hit 20+ home runs. He should definitely get drafted in any fantasy baseball keeper league and NL-only league. But if you are in a 10 or 12 team mixed league yearly snake draft, I think you pass on Belt.
While spring training numbers have us drooling at the possibility of what some guys are capable of, you must take these stats with a grain of salt. The big number stats always catch our eyes; it’s things like SO/BB I feel are most important in spring training. While Brown and Belt are fantasy baseball “sleepers” now, they could easily be lost and forgotten by mid-April.