Spring has definitely sprung in Major League Baseball! Spring training is a few weeks old now, and the 2013 season is just weeks away.
What does the spring mean for our Boys in Blue thus far? What can be gleaned from the Los Angeles Dodgers and their performance out in Arizona? Here are some observations from a lifelong fan of the blue about what has caught my eye from Camelback Ranch:
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• Yasiel Puig will soon be bringing his power to L.A. – Most folks thought the Los Angeles Dodgers overpaid for the 22-year-old Cuban outfielder last year. However, Puig is forcing manager Don Mattingly to ponder what this powder keg of a bat would look like in left field at Dodger Stadium. Especially after Carl Crawford’s tender elbow was deemed even “tenderer” this spring, Puig has had his chance to impress Dodgers’ brass. And he hasn’t disappointed! In 26 spring plate appearances, Puig is hitting .423 with a .654 slugging percentage. Puig leads the team with six RBIs and 11 hits, but he also has seven strikeouts. How tempting would it be to stick the youngster in left to start the season and see what happens? Mattingly and GM Ned Colletti won’t do that, but I’m sure the thought has crossed their minds.
• Guess who is leading the Dodgers at the plate this spring … go on … keep guessing – If you said “Brian Barden,” then you’re either a liar or you cheated and looked up the answer! Who in the H-E-hockey stick-hockey stick is Barden, and why have we never heard of him before? The 31-year-old third baseman has played in 10 spring games for the Dodgers and his batting .579 with a .636 on-base percentage. Barden is with his fifth team in his seven-year MLB career, and has never done anything significant in the bigs. This is a guy who was a member of the 2008 USA Olympic team and won the Rookie of the Month award in April of 2009 with the St. Louis Cardinals. Barden is also a career .375 MLB hitter in more than 200 at-bats. So riddle me this: Why hasn’t Barden stuck around with one team? If you can answer that, then maybe you can also tell me why MLB makes decrepit, out-of-shape managers wear tight baseball uniforms in the dugout!
• Which Dodgers starting pitcher has looked the best this spring? – Perhaps you guessed one of the two Cy Young hurlers on the team? No and No! Clayton Kershaw has looked very human this spring, and Zack Greinke has been relatively unimpressive. The starter who has looked dominant is the old man in the rotation – Josh Beckett. The soon-to-be 33-year-old Beckett has tossed five spring innings in two games and hasn’t allowed a run. He has also struck out six batters in those five innings with only one walk.
• Who has averaged the most strikeouts per inning for the Dodgers this spring? – Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Matt Magill, that’s who! I know, you’ve never heard of Magill … join the club! In four spring innings, Magill has sent eight hitters to the dugout with their bat between their legs and hasn’t allowed an earned run. Who the heck is Magill, and where did he come from? The 23-year-old righty was drafted by the Dodgers in the 31st round of the MLB amateur draft in 2008 out of Royal High School in Simi Valley, Calif. Over the past two seasons at single-A and double-A in the Dodgers’ farm system, Magill has won 22 games as a starting pitcher. Over those 284 minor league innings, Magill has struck out 294 hitters. It’s safe to say that Magill is definitely on the Dodgers’ radar.
• How have our back-end starter candidates looked this spring? – Umm, can we move on to the next question? Please? If you say “Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang” to me, the first word that pops into my head is “putrid.” So far this spring, Billingsley is “leading” this trio with a 7.04 ERA. Capuano is sporting an ERA of 10.80, while Harang is solidifying his starting spot with an ERA of 18.00. Billingsley has allowed 12 hits and six earned runs in his 7.2 spring innings. Ted Lilly, Magill and Stephen Fife have never looked so good!