Spring Training is when top prospects get their first big league looks.
Some are trying to win roster spots on the Opening Day roster, and others are just trying to prove themselves to move up levels in the minor leagues. Either way, prospects are usually the big stories of Spring Training, so let’s take a look at how they have been performing so far.
Shohei Ohtani, OF/RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Even with reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton on the trading block, Ohtani was the big story of the off-season. The two way star came to the United States and took a way under market deal to come a year early. His debut on the mound against the Brewers was mostly a matter of him shaking the rust off. He showed flashes of the pitches that make him such an elite pitching prospect, but it’s understandable he didn’t look like his normal self, because he is probably still adjusting. He threw 1 1/3 innings, gave up two runs, walked one and struck out two.
His next outing wasn’t available to watch, but from all reports he was electric. In a “B” game outing, he threw 2 2/3 innings, four hits, two runs, and struck out eight of the 12 batters he faced.
At the plate, Ohtani is 1-for-4 with two walks so far.
Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves
Aunca rose like none other last season, playing across three levels of the minors and shining in all of them. He finished 2017 hitting .325/.374/.522 with 21 homers, and completed the year at Triple-A at just 19-years-old. It would be no surprise if he opened the year on the Braves roster as a 20-year-old, but he could get the Kris Bryant treatment in terms staying in Triple-A to get an extra year of control.
So far in Spring Training, Acuna is hitting .429 with one home run in 24 plate appearances.
At this rate, it will be nearly impossible for the Braves to keep Acuna off of the Opening Day roster, especially if he keeps it up.
Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres
Tatis was a big piece in the deal that sent James Shields to the White Sox, which now looks like a steal for the Padres. Tatis played across two levels, Single-A and Double-A, at the age of 19. He hit .278/.379/.498 with 22 homers and 32 stolen bases. So for this spring he has hit .381 with a homer in his 24 plate appearances.
Of course, he won’t be up for another couple of seasons, but he is an interesting player to watch.
A.J. Puk, LHP, Oakland Athletics
Spring Training isn’t always the best stretch for young pitchers, especially in Arizona.
Puk has pitched five innings, with four strikeouts, a walk, a run, and one hit allowed. It’s tough to judge a pitcher based on their Spring Training outings, especially considering that he hasn’t pitched above Double-A yet.
Puk pitched across two levels last season, High-A and Double-A, and showed his upside as one of the premiere strikeout pitchers in the minors. He threw 125 innings last season, and while his ERA (4.03) and WHIP (1.248) aren’t great, his strikeout numbers are. He struck out 184 batters, leading to a 13.2 K/9.
It’s very likely we could see Puk in the majors this year, especially if he performs well.
Kyle Wright, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Wright was the fifth overall pick in last June’s draft and was solid in Rookie Ball and High-A last season in his 17 innings.
He hasn’t been fantastic this spring, though. In 2 1/3 innings, he’s given up four runs, two earned, walked one and struck out one.
As a four pitch pitcher, sitting mid-to-high 90s with a hard curve, slider, and a changeup, we could see him early next year, if not the end of next year.
Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Kopech is the only player in the minors with an 80 grade fastball. He’s one of the other elite strikeout pitchers in the minors and posted an 11.5 K/9 last season.
So far this spring, he has thrown 4 1/3 innings, an unearned run, one walk and six strikeouts.
He has some walk issues, but those should be fairly easy to cut. He’s widely been considered one of, if not the, best pitching prospect since the trade that sent him and Yoan Moncada to Chicago. He will almost certainly reach the majors this year, and will have a lot of people clamoring over his triple digits fastball.
These prospects could be the future of Major League Baseball and this season will be an intriguing one for these six players.
(Photo Credit: Associated Press)