2012 MLB Spring Training: Remembering Some Forgotten Players

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I’ve had enough of Spring Training. At first, there is a certainly excitement in seeing the players, in uniform, playing structured games again. Don’t judge; it’s been a while. But the initial enthusiasm disappears rather quickly.

Three weeks into the exhibition schedule and all everyone wants is to see real baseball get underway. No one’s to blame, there’s only so much stock that can be placed into a Spring Training. How relevant are the records when big league starters, generally, see no more than six innings at a time and get a generous amount of days off. It seems like pre-season is a better barometer of how good any given team’s Double A squad will fare rather than an indication of its major league prospects.

The main purpose, to me, of Spring Training is reintroducing some forgotten players that have either fallen by the wayside because of injury or those flashing former brilliance after a season or seasons of mediocre play. So who’s making headlines so far down South?

Johan Santana

It’s been over a year and a half since the two-time Cy Young winner last graced the mound in a major league game – September 2, 2010 to be exact. He left that start against the Braves with a strained pectoral after only 65 pitches. Two weeks later, it was reveled the south paw needed the second major shoulder surgery of his career. He hadn’t pitched until entering camp this season – and the results have been encouraging. While it’s unlikely that he’ll ever possess the same combination of speed and control he did during his peak, there is no reason to think that he can’t be 90 percent of what he was. Which is pretty damn good. 

So far in Grapefruit League, Santana has made four starts, striking out just eight in 13.1 innings, with a 3.38 ERA, but the stats don’t really matter, it’s his progression on the mound that has been the most encouraging. In his fourth start, the lefty tossed six shutout innings against the Cardinals starters, flashing the knee buckling change up that generated so much success over the last 10 years. There are going to be hiccups along the way. No one returns from arm surgery and never hits a snag, but he’ll pull through. Santana’s not getting the buzz, but don’t be shocked when his name is announced in November as the Comeback Player of the Year.

Hanley Ramirez

If there were a way to have the memory wipe from Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind in reality, there’s probably a good chance Hanley would use it on himself. Heading into 2011, the future was bright for the Marlins shortstop. In his first five major league seasons, Hanley was on pace for Cooperstown.

A power-hitting speedster, playing up the middle of the diamond that only seemed to be getting better. It’s crazy what injuries can do. Hanley was limited to 92 games last year, setting career lows in average, slugging, runs, steals, home runs and RBI. To contextualize all of this: His Win Above Replacement (WAR) ended up at 1.3. His previous low – 4.6. That’s quite the drop off. Fortunate for the Marlins, Hanley has excepted the move from short to third base, which should limit the wear and tear on his body. Plus, he placed an emphasis on his workout routine this offseason, putting on an extra ten pounds of muscle and trimming body fat. Three seasons ago, he was a Top 5 player in baseball, in terms of overall production, now he’s basically an after thought. Don’t expect that to last.

Josh Johnson

There are two things Josh Johnson can do better than almost anyone on earth; throwing a baseball and recovering from injuries that limit his ability to do so. For the fourth time in five seasons, Johnson entered Spring Training coming off a major arm surgery. He’s made five starts this spring and has gradually rebuilt his arm strength.

Last Sunday, he progressed up to five innings, allowing no runs striking out four. The problem? Four walks, which bring his strikeout-to-walk ratio for March at 15 to 9. Not terrible, but not great either. Control is generally the last thing that returns off arm injury so expect an inflated total, it doesn’t mean he can’t be dominant. One of these seasons he’s going to remain healthy through all 35 starts, and if this is the year, anticipate some Cy Young talk.

Pat Mayo was nominated by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for both Golf Writer of the Year and Humor Article of the Year in 2011, but came away empty handed. Either way, don’t let that stop you from listening to him on RotoExperts’ Fantasy War Room, Thursdays at 8pm ET. Have a question? Need to complain? You may contact Pat @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @thepme.