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Let's pretend spring training stats matter

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"Coming up to bat is starting right fielder for the Cleveland Indians, Chaaaaad Hufffmaaaaan"

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We are currently in the dark ages of spring training -- too late in the process for it to be exciting that baseball is back, but not far enough that we are tantalizingly close to real baseball  Unless you are Collin Cowgill and you play so bad that the Cleveland Indians sign another player to replace you, spring training does not mean a lot, no matter which segment of it we are in.

Just doing well in March does not mean the team will start you in the regular season (sorry, Giovanny Urshela). But what if it did?

What if, for five years in a row, Indians manager Terry Francona* woke up on Openig Day after a month-long popsicle bender and he needed to trim the roster down to 25 players and quickly sort out a lineup. While fighting off a sugar-induced hangover, he quickly goes to his computer, finds that springs' stats, sorts by OPS and goes with whoever was the best at any given position. He's also pressed for time so the DH will be just be the best hitter at a duplicate position (ie: if two RFs are the best two hitters in spring, the second-best one will be named DH). Oh, and the players also have to at least 20 at-bats. We have standards.

Let's see what those hypothetical teams would look like.

2015
  • C: Brett Hayes (9-27, 3 HR, 1.110 OPS)
  • 1B: Jesus Aguilar (16-42, 1 HR, .928 OPS)
  • 2B: Ryan Rohlinger (11-38, 3 HR, .983 OPS)
  • 3B: Lonnie Chisenhall (18-55, 0 HR, .892 OPS)
  • SS: Francisco Lindor (11-37, 2 HR, .902 OPS)
  • LF: Michael Brantley (16-44, 1 HR, .859 OPS)
  • CF: Michael Bourn (20-57, 1 HR, .833 OPS)
  • RF: Brandon Moss (12-46, 5 HR, .987 OPS)
  • DH: Roberto Perez (10-28, 1 HR, .1022 OPS)
Sure, missing out on Jason Kipnis' brilliant 2015 season would have been downer and he probably would not have been too thrilled riding the bench of playing in Columbus, but Ryan Rohlinger, y'all! Maybe the 32-year-old second baseman would have cracked a big-league roster for the first time since 2011 and be the hitting equivalent of Corey Kluber.

Worth noting: This is probably the closest Jesus Aguilar will ever get to being a starter out of spring training.

And, obviously, since Michael Bourn did so well in spring training he went on to have a great 2015 season and lead the Indians to the World Ser... er... let's move on.
2014
  • C: Yan Gomes (14-56, 3 HR, .746 OPS
  • 1B: Nick Swisher (16-54, 3 HR, .906)
  • 2B: Jason Kipnis (20-56, 2 HR, 1.000 OPS)
  • 3B: Lonnie Chisenhall (19-62, 3 HR, .918 OPS)
  • SS: Justin Sellers (9-20, 0 HR, 1.142 OPS)
  • LF: Michael Brantley (25-50, 0 HR, 1.292 OPS)
  • CF: Nyjer Morgan (12-20, 0 HR, .625 OPS)
  • RF: Matt Carson (12-44, 3 HR, .905 OPS)
  • DH: Elliot Johnson (20-58, 2 HR, .973 OPS)
Starting Justin Sellers -- who has a career .198/.280/.294 slash in 99 games -- over Asdrubal Cabrera is a bold move here. But, I mean, the guy had a 1.142 OPS in spring training; obviously, that performance would translate into regular season awesomeness, that's how it works.
2013
  • C: Yan Gomes (11-27, 1 HR, 1.170 OPS)
  • 1B: Nick Swisher (21-54, 3 HR, 1.050 OPS)
  • 2B: Ryan Raburn (15-44, 5 HR, 1.258 OPS)
  • 3B: Lonnie Chisenhall (24-60, 4 HR, 1.123 OPS)
  • SS: Asdrubal Cabrera (9-33, 1 HR, .900 OPS)
  • LF: Ben Francisco (8-20, 0 HR, 1.220 OPS)
  • CF: Michael Bourn (15-64, 1 HR, .618 OPS)
  • RF: Matt Carson (12-48, 5 HR, .931)
  • DH: Cord Phelps (18-48, 3 HR, 1.142 OPS)
For what it's worth, the real Matt Carson was actually awesome in his limited role in 2013. He was 7-for-13 with a home run. Maybe in this case spring training was totally predictive of a good season from a breakout player and I should continue to use it a measuring stick for how a player is going to do in the regular season. Or maybe it's just a lone outlier and a product of small sample size.

Nah, I'm gonna go with the first one.
2012
  • C: Lou Marson (9-15, 0 HR, .786 OPS)
  • 1B: Casey Kotchman (11-41, 0 HR, .689)
  • 2B: Jose Lopez (17-52, 2 HR, .902 OPS)
  • 3B: Andy LaRoche (10-26, 0 HR, .945 OPS)
  • SS: Asdrubal Cabrera (12-57, 1 HR, .604)
  • LF: Michael Brantley (12-42, 2 HR, .939 OPS)
  • CF: Ezequiel Carrera (5-22, 0 HR, .519)
  • RF: Shin-Soo Choo (16-59, 2 HR, .824 OPS)
  • DH: Travis Hafner (16-51, 3 HR, .955 OPS)
Raise your hand if you still remembered that Lou Marson exists. Now put your hand down and apologize to your grandmother for lying to someone on the Internet. The real 2012 Indians were terrible and finished 68-94 so they could have put this lineup out and had just about the same result, anyway. It was probably Adam LaRoche's son's fault.
2011
Trigger Warning: Matt LaPorta
  • C: Carlos Santana (15-50, 2 HR, .957 OPS)
  • 1B: Matt LaPorta (9-59, 2 HR, .571 OPS)
  • 2B: Luis Valbuena (13-50, 4 HR, .882 OPS)
  • 3B: Lonnie Chisenhall (13-26, 2 HR, 1.451 OPS)
  • SS: Asdrubal Cabrera (20-55, 3 HR, 1.026 OPS)
  • LF: Travis Buck (22-56, 4 HR, 1.165 OPS)
  • CF: Ezekiel Carrera (12-42, 1 HR, .815 OPS)
  • RF: Chad Huffman (14-42, 3 HR, 1.111 OPS)
  • DH: Shin-Soo Choo (19-59, 3 HR, 1.005 OPS)
This was the last season Matt LaPorta got an honest shot at sticking on the team in real life, but he had just a 98 OPS+ in 385 plate appearances. He was not much better in spring, either, but the Indians had no other listed first basemen do anything better in March.

Career minor leaguer Chad Huffman hit well enough to beat out Shin-Soo Choo for the right field job, which is why he probably would have went on to have a Hall of Fame career if only the Indians had listened to his spring stats.




*I know Terry Francona has only been the team's manager since 2013, but I wanted to go back far enough to make that sweet Chad Huffman reference, so let's also pretend he's been the manager since 2011. It's far from the dumbest thing in this post, let's be honest.