We asked ESPN MLB Insiders Jerry Crasnick, Sam Miller and David Schoenfield what they're hearing out of spring training and what impact that's having on their assessments for the 2017 season as opening day approaches.
Christina Kahrl: To lead off, Jerry, you've spent the most time at camps this spring. What are some of the things you've seen and heard while there?
Jerry Crasnick: One quick story from Dodgers camp. I went to Glendale to see Eric Gagne, and I happened to be in the clubhouse when Clayton Kershaw was doing the seeding for the team pingpong tournament. I was standing there with a team beat writer, and I said, "Corey Seager is really good at pingpong, right?'' Kershaw, who's a good dude, shot me a cold stare (probably just half-serious). And the beat writer told me, "Kershaw is in this thing to win, and he probably didn't like it that you gave a shoutout to Seager.''
The lesson I took: Clayton Kershaw wants to be the best at everything, even pingpong. And if anybody doubts him because of his injuries last season, watch how he comes back this year. He's having an amazing spring, just two hits allowed in 10 innings. So much for easing into it. I think it just shows the competitiveness of a guy like that. Great athletes don't have an "off'' switch. Michael Jordan was probably the classic example.
David Schoenfield: I was in Dodgers camp a couple of years back when Kershaw was active at the pingpong table. My thought was, "Do I really want to see the best pitcher in baseball whipping forehand smashes with his pitching hand?"
Sam Miller: A 1.96 ERA last spring, 1.61 the spring before that. Of course, 9.21 the year before that, but my rule for spring training fun facts is to only go back two years if it's convenient.
Crasnick: My point on Kershaw is that he's out to prove he's back. And everything in L.A. stems from him.
Schoenfield: The big news from Dodgers camp so far is what they're going to do or not do with Julio Urias, that they might start him in the minors.
Crasnick: The Dodgers have so many pitchers they're spending a lot of money on. Scott Kazmir, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy. They probably have to wade through all those guys first, right? After Kershaw, Shawn Hill and Kenta Maeda, they have to figure out those last two spots. And they also have Alex Wood. It's kind of a glut back there.
Schoenfield: I was just looking at spring stats and saw Bradley Zimmer is hitting .344 with a couple of bombs. A good sign? Not necessarily. Studies have shown the most important spring stats to pay attention to are strikeout and walk rates, and Zimmer is still struggling in that area, with eight K's and two walks. I still think he needs more time, maybe an entire season, in Triple-A.
Crasnick: I think so. He's a really tall kid, and I wonder how he's going to handle lefties. I get the sense the Indians want to be patient with him. I was at Indians camp the day Bradley Zimmer hit a long home run with his grandmother in the stands, which was kind of cool.
Miller: I imagine there's more pressure on him now that Cleveland has dealt so much of its prospect depth. The Indians obviously need to develop young talent semi-regularly, and there's a lot more riding on Zimmer turning into a big leaguer now. And while he's still a very good prospect, he's not as good a prospect as he was one year ago. There's been some research done that shows prospect trajectory really matters, that a guy who goes from no. 30 to no. 80 might actually be worse than that.
Dave and I might end up in a race to prove how skeptical of spring stats we are. But to his point about spring stats, Zimmer is especially interesting because he has that long swing and still has to prove he can hit upper-, upper-tier competition.
Kahrl: Sam, you spent some time in the Indians' camp. Should Indians fans be worried about Andrew Miller?