JUPITER, Fl. (KMOV.com) -- As the rising daily temperatures and lengthening evening shadows signal camp’s end, it’s time to take stock of spring performances.
The overall tenor of the time in Jupiter is positive; there have been far more good camps for players than bad ones.
But the past two months have, for a handful of players, been revelatory. In part two of a two-part breakdown, we look at three players whose spring didn’t go as planned.
1. Luke Weaver
Weaver’s rise to the majors last season was somewhat overshadowed by the arrival of Alex Reyes four days ahead of him. Still, the 23-year-old showcased enough in his early starts to titillate observers, especially since the 3.21 ERA he put up in his first 33.1 innings was achieved by a guy who essentially came straight from Double-A.
When Reyes was lost for the season in February, Weaver appeared poised to be the sixth starter; the first name on the phone tree should the MLB rotation need a substitute.
But after back tightness shortened his second spring outing, Weaver started losing ground. When he returned, he never had the stuff that made him a compelling option in 2016. He logged just five innings, allowed seven earned runs and finished with an opponent batting average of .333 (ERA 12.60). In a spring ripe with opportunity, Weaver was unable to pluck even a modest piece of fruit for himself.
He was sent to minor league camp on March 17, and will likely begin the season in Triple-A. He’s still just a phone call away from an MLB return, but he may need a few people to not pick up before he hears a ring.
2. Kolten Wong
Let’s start by saying this: Wong’s camp hasn’t been calamitous, he’s just been unable to assuage concerns coming into spring. The Hawaiian was anointed the second baseman by the franchise in the offseason, but notion was commitment would breed consistency. Wong’s high risk, high reward play was expected to level out and his mercurial nature at the plate needed to improve, lest the lineup be forced to absorb a .220 average in the name of superb defense. With Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia available to step in for him, such a compromise seems unlikely
Wong has again thrilled with his mitt, but his .190 average this spring failed to demonstrated the settled, comfortable batsman he seeks to become. He has a double, a triple and four RBIs, but he also has 10 strikeouts in 42 at bats. He’s stolen a bag but been caught thrice. He’s legged out extra bases by being fearless, but was picked off second base by the opposing catcher when a Cardinal pitcher was at the plate. With two outs.
This is all to say Kolten Wong is still very much Kolten Wong. That comes with tremendous upside, but carries the risk of erraticism. Having lacked predictable offensive performance throughout March, he now finds himself at risk of becoming a platoon player in 2017.
3. Stephen Piscotty
Piscotty is almost certainly fine. He is a studied and disciplined hitter, and after some reflection, set out to tweak his swing again this year. He wanted to eliminate early commitment, to give himself time to see the ball better. This is something the 26-year-old has done before. Two years ago he reworked his positioning and swing to get better arm extension in order to unlock his power. That too took time before results started to show. He hit just .229 in his first 40 games at Memphis in 2015, but hit .311 and slugged .510 over his next 40.
In his first full MLB season, the results were permanent. He hit 22 homers, 35 doubles and hit .273.
So, again, it takes time. That said, he’s hitting .146 in 41 at bats. Piscotty isn’t measuring his progress by batting average, he’s looking at quality at bats, but the numbers mean he’s not yet where he wants to be. Couple that with a .195 slugging percentage and it’s fair to wonder if the early months of the season will be frustrating for the Cardinals’ young right fielder.
Change comes slowly- significant change more so- but as far as camp results go, he’d certainly prefer to be trending in the opposite direction heading into the season opener with the Cubs.