Everyone except sportswriters knows that spring training statistics are pretty useless. Breaking balls don’t break in Arizona, games are basically played in swamps in Florida. Pitchers don’t throw all their pitches. Half the players are career minor leaguers.
But really, those stats are only mostly useless. John Dewan of Baseball Info Solutions has been quoted as saying that about three quarters of players who slug one hundred (or two hundred) points above their career averages in spring training do significantly better than their career averages. It’s not a very strong statement, but it’s what we have.
At this point, with all the hitters on the Cubs roster finally set today, who are the players (with more than 30 ABs) who are slugging more than 200 points above their career averages? There are three. The biggest difference belongs to Milton Bradley, who owns a .457 career slugging, but has a .929 spring SLG. I don’t know if I’d call him a breakout candidate, exactly, but I’d happily believe Bradley will have one of his better seasons as a Cub.
The next biggest difference belongs to Jake Fox, who is also not a breakout candidate in part because he won’t play for the Cubs until September. His .633 spring SLG is nice, but his major league career consists of a handful of ABs where he slugged .286.
There’s one more on the list – Koyie Hill, the Cubs’ new backup catcher. Hill has, in his career, been a terrible batter. He’s got a career .190/.257/.281 line in 230 major-league ABs, and a .279/.346/.411 line in the minors, which isn’t exactly amazing either. But this spring he’s slugging .543, better than most of the Cubs regulars. I wouldn’t count on a “breakout” season from him either, but I’d assume in a season where he figures to get a couple hundred PAs he might actually get on base close to 30% of the time, so I guess that would be improvement.
I will say an honorable mention here goes to Ryan Theriot. He’s not over the 200-point mark, but he’s slugging .536, putting him at .169 over. As someone over at Another Cubs Blog pointed out, he’s changed his stance at the plate this year. I don’t know whether to believe he’ll actually get a little more power out of it, but I might have to stop complaining about him if he can edge up his regular-season slugging a little bit. No idea if he will, but it’s nice to think there’s a chance.