This is a fun one since we're not only dealing with small sample sizes, but they're spring training small sample sizes. Regardless of how meaningless the raw stats are at this point, there are some things which help to look for. As far as macro substance, lineup positioning does matter even at the beginning of the spring. In individual performance, the only thing I look at is strikeout-to-walk ratio. This is much more important for pitchers during the spring, but it can be helpful for hitters as well. Other than this, not much else matters unless you're talking about real position battles or guys coming off injuries.
The spring training record books are littered with guys who went on to do close to nothing in the regular season. Of course it's nice to see good performance, but you can ask both Jake Fox (who led last year's ST in HR with 10) and Elliot Johnson (who led last year's ST in SB) how that went. Neither of them came close to even matching their respective HR and SB numbers during the regular season.
The competition for Oakland's third base job came into the year as one of the unsexiest position battles to watch out for -- and got even uglier when incumbent Scott Sizemore was lost for the year with a torn ACL. But rising from the ashes in Phoenix is a 5'10", 185 pound mammoth of a man who proudly wears spectacles. Yes, we're talking about Eric Sogard, who may just be 2012's spring training star. Through 27 at bats, he's hitting .370 with 2 HR, 2 SB and only 3 strikeouts. He came into the spring as the best defensive option at the hot corner, and is clearly outhitting the best "offensive" option once Sizemore went down (former catcher Josh Donaldson).
So who is Eric Sogard, and should AL-only leaguers be paying attention? Well, as you can probably guess (since I'm talking about it in this column), Sogard enters 2012 with shortstop eligibility. His major league track record is sparse as he's only gotten 77 at bats in the show, the majority of which came in 2011 -- and the results are none to impressive (.221/.277/.338 with 2 HR). But looking at his minor league stats show you exactly the type of player Sogard is. In his three minor league seasons between AA and AAA, he's had more walks than strikeouts and at least a .370 OBP in each season. Unfortunately there's not much else there as he's never topped 10 HR (and that was in the Cal League) or 16 SB in a season. It'll be fun to watch, but outside of deep AL-only leagues, he's probably not worth investing in.
Other DPD Notes
* After a full week of spring training, your leader in slugging percentage is no other than Elvis Andrus. There's really nothing to be learned here, as he's only got three extra base hits (and no HR), but it's just pretty funny to see him sitting there with an .857 slugging percentage.
* It's been a week to forget for Tyler Pastornicky. The Braves SS hopeful has three hits in his first 26 spring at bats with no extra base hits and one walk. He's still likely to be the Braves opening day starter at the position, but he really should start showing something more than a .264 OPS if he wants to be taken seriously.
* Jean Segura, the Angels SS prospect who ranked #35 on my top 100 dynasty league prospects, is 5-for-9 so far this spring with an impressive 3-0 BB/K rate. I like him a lot long-term, and although he is unlikely to see the majors in 2012, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could show up late in the summer. Store this name away for 2013 -- he could be a better version of current Angels SS Erick Aybar.
During the regular season, this will be the best and worst performers from the past week in standard 5x5 categories. But for now, we'll have a little fun with it and show the biggest moves in ADP according to Mock Draft Central over the last week to see who the biggest subjects of spring training overreaction have been so far.
1) Tyler Greene (+20.5%, Current ADP: 343, Previous ADP: 414)
2) Ruben Tejada (+17.4%, Current ADP: 333, Previous ADP: 391)
3) Johnny Giavotella (+7.2%, Current ADP: 285, Previous ADP: 306)
4) Clint Barmes (+4.6%, Current ADP: 407, Previous ADP: 426)
5) Hanley Ramirez (+1.5%, Current ADP: 19.9, Previous ADP: 20.2)
1) Yuniesky Betancourt (-34.7%, Current ADP: 435, Previous ADP: 284)
2) Alexi Casilla (-16.9%, Current ADP: 281, Previous ADP: 234)
3) Jason Bartlett (-13.9%, Current ADP: 306, Previous ADP: 264)
4) Eduardo Nunez (-12.1%, Current ADP: 325, Previous ADP: 285)
5) Troy Tulowitzki (-8.8%, Current ADP: 5.7, Previous ADP: 5.2)
Here is where I will keep the unabridged list of bandwagons I am currently on here in the world of middle infielders. The categories show how strongly I feel about them - ranging from "driving!" (a bandwagon I feel super strong about) to "about to jump!" (a bandwagon I'm pretty sure is on fire and requires my swift departure). Nothing will get erased from this list over the course of the season, so the "Evacuated" section will be there to remind us all of the crazy, crazy bandwagons I've supported over the course of the year. All new bandwagons for the current week are starred.
Hanley Ramirez will finish 2012 as a top-10 overall player (driving!)
Derek Jeter will be more valuable in 2012 than Asdrubal Cabrera (firmly on)
J.J. Hardy will hit fewer than 20 HR (driving!)
The Ugly (Evacuated):
None yet. Whew.
Look Out Below!
Notes from future DPD occupants currently residing in the minor leagues. For now I'll just put the names of three guys I'm watching this spring who likely have no chance to make their respective teams in April, but could be in the majors later in the year:
* Steve Lombardozzi, 2B, Washington - He's likely the guy to get the call if either Desmond or Espinosa get hurt or really struggle. Could hit for some average with a few steals if given the opportunity (through 3/11, he's hitting .214 with no XBH and no steals).
* Jordany Valdespin, 2B, New York (NL) - Second base isn't exactly a strength for the Mets and he could see some action this summer. Valdespin is probably a better fantasy player than real-life player as he can steal some bases and has a little pop as well (through 3/11, he's hitting .300 in 10 at bats with one HR and one SB).
* Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle - I fully expect him to get the call up around mid-season and hang onto the job for a number of years. Do you even know who the Mariners starting SS is anyway? If you said Brendan Ryan, you're either a Mariners fan or you're a Mariners fan (through 3/11, he's 1-for-7 with a single).
What to Watch For
I realize that I spent most of this post talking about how spring training stats, by in large, do not matter. But I'll give you an example of a situation where it takes on more meaning. Gordon Beckham is hitting .429 with a HR and 2 RBI in 14 at bats this spring so far (albeit with no walks), and with a new manager in town and his disappointing performance the last two seasons, he could really use a big spring. If he continues to swing the bat well, he could force his way into the upper portion of the lineup -- which would really help his 2012 value. Though it's all for naught unless he can rediscover his 2009 form.