Here’s a listing/breakdown of the notable total-base leaders from Grapefruit and Cactus league action (stats through Sunday):
1B Brandon Belt, Giants — 36 bases 2B Howard Kendrick, Angels — 36 OF Domonic Brown, Phillies — 35 OF Alex Gordon, Royals — 32 OF Bryce Harper, Nationals — 32 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies — 32 OF Aaron Hicks, Twins — 31 OF Christian Yelich, Marlins — 31 1B Freddie Freeman, Braves — 31 1B Paul Konerko, White Sox — 31 OF Mike Morse, Nationals — 30
OF Kyle Blanks, Padres — 29
3B Juan Francisco, Braves — 29 2B/SS Freddy Galvis, Phillies — 29 C Nick Hundley, Padres — 29 2B Jedd Gyorko, Padres — 28 3B Mike Moustakas, Royals — 28 3B Anthony Rendon, Nationals — 28 1B B.J. Upton, Braves — 28 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians — 27 2B/OF Ryan Raburn, Indians — 27 1B Justin Smoak, Mariners — 27 OF Adam Eaton, Diamondbacks — 26 OF Peter Bourjos, Angels — 25 C Evan Gattis, Braves — 25 SS Tyler Pastornicky, Braves — 25 1B/OF Nick Swisher, Indians — 25 2B/3B Matt Carpenter, Cardinals — 24 1B Adam LaRoche, Nationals — 24
1. I’ll be the most shocked person in the room if Domonic Brown’s Grapefruit success (four HR, nine RBI, .375 BA, .453 OBP, 1.078 OPS) doesn’t carry over to the regular season.
At age 25 and with 147 MLB games under his belt (2010-12), it’s time to step up and lead the Phillies’ outfield for the foreseeable future.
For his past five seasons in the minors (2008-12), Brown exhibited sound plate discipline (200 walks, 313 strikeouts) and evolved into an annual lock for 20-plus doubles and 20-plus steals.
Regarding raw power, look no further than Brown’s moon shot off Tigers ace Justin Verlander from a few springs ago. The kid’s ready to shine.
2. There are two schools of thought on Aaron Hicks:
The fantasy pessimist would point out that, aside from his three-homer, six-RBI, one-steal effort against the Phillies on March 7, the 23-year-old prospect has only one homer, seven RBI and one steal in 40 other Grapefruit at-bats.
They also would cite the hitter-friendly winds blowing out of Bright House Field that particular three-peat afternoon.
The fantasy optimist, in turn, would argue that Hicks (13 HR, 61 RBI, 32 steals, 100 runs last season at Double-A) is ready to explode on the major league scene — and that his power potential has no limits. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, the supremely athletic Hicks has the tools to be an impact performer whenever he earns a big-league promotion (probably Memorial Day).
After all, it takes a special kind of talent to post a career on-base percentage of .379 in pro ball.
3. Heading into his age-25 campaign, Brandon Belt (.404 BA, 1.195 OPS this spring) has a chance to post top-20 numbers, among first basemen, with batting average and runs. But I just don’t see the upside with homers and RBI, two prized categories with corner infielders.
4. Mike Moustakas (20 HR, 73 RBI, 69 runs, five steals, .242 BA last year in the majors) is only three seasons removed from one of the greatest minor league campaigns of the past 15 years: 36 homers, 124 RBI, 94 runs and a .322 average in only 118 games.
Moustakas got off to a torrid start last April, rolling for three homers, 12 RBI, 10 runs and a .315 batting average. The Royals slugger also posted double-digit tallies in runs and RBI for all six months last year.
5. In 2009, his first taste of big-league prominence, San Diego’s Kyle Blanks belted 10 homers in just 148 at-bats, establishing a minimum bar of power expectations down the road. However, because of a litany of injuries, Blanks hit only 10 total homers in the majors for the next three years (2010-12) — essentially grinding his real-world and fantasy momentum to a halt.
Fast forward to the present, as Blanks (two homers, 12 RBI, .395 BA, .491 OBP, 1.165 OPS during the spring) stands to greatly benefit from the moved-in fences at PETCO Park — assuming he gets on the field.
6. Marlins wunderkind Christian Yelich (four homers, 12 RBI, 12 runs, .359 BA, 1.251 OPS in spring training) has all the tools for greatness: rapidly improving plate discipline, a smooth uppercut swing and a lightning-fast bat in the zone — meaning he seldom gets overwhelmed by power pitchers.
If the Marlins were in a rush to promote Yelich (12 HR, 48 RBI, 76 runs, 20 steals, .329 BA in the minors last year), perhaps he would be a viable threat for the Opening Day roster. But that likely won’t wash with a patient franchise that is one Giancarlo Stanton mega-trade away from one of the most comprehensive roster demolitions in recent memory.
7. Ryan Raburn picked the wrong year to make a great first impression with the Indians.
With Cleveland’s logjam in the outfield (Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs, Michael Brantley), a lethal 2B-SS combo (Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera) and three viable options at first base (Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Carlos Santana), Raburn’s grand Cactus numbers (four homers, 11 RBI, .375 BA, 1.344 OPS) essentially serve no sustainable purpose.