Opening Day Approaching Fast; Analyzing Spring Stats

The Cincinnati Reds will open the 2012 season on Thursday, April 5, which is just 15 days away. The Reds – who now have 19 spring training games under their belt (8-11) – will host the Miami Marlins on “Opening Day” at 4:05 p.m. ET. (It’s too bad MLB has allowed the tradition of beginning each season in Cincinnati to be diminished more with each passing year, but that’s a topic for a different day.)

Usually, spring training stats aren’t something I pay too much attention to, but I’ve found myself keeping a closer eye on them this season. Let’s take a quick look at some of the notable names and numbers:

Zack Cozart: The 26-year-old rookie shortstop likely won’t just be the everyday starter for the Reds; he’ll probably bat in the two-hole. However, he needed a good spring to prove he belonged there, especially coming off the season-ending elbow injury last year.

Well, so far so good to say the least. In 31 at-bats, Cozart is batting .419 with 6 RBIs, and has an OPS of 1.115. He doesn’t have any home runs, but has clubbed four doubles and two triples. I’m concerned he doesn’t walk more (only 1 BB this spring) but at least he only has four strikeouts.

The bottom line is that Cozart is healthy and swinging the bat well. He’s also known as a solid – yet not spectacular – defensive SS. Basically, the spring is going about as well as the Reds could hope as far as the former second-round pick is concerned.

Juan Francisco/Todd Frazier: The battle to be Scott Rolen’s backup at third base is quickly becoming a TKO in Todd Frazier’s favor. Juan Francisco is having a terrible spring (29 at-bats, .172 BA, 1 HR, 3 RBIs), while Frazier is having a very good one. In 32 at-bats (which ties for the team high with Chris Heisey, Brandon Phillips and Denis Phipps) Frazier has mashed a team-high four home runs. In fact, only one other player on the roster has more than one long ball this spring – that being first baseman Donald Lutz with two, and he’s slated to begin the season in high-A ball.

So, Frazier is showing impressive power this spring, which is exactly what he did last year when he had a combined total of 21 homers during the regular season (15 at triple-A Louisville and six with the Reds). Also, Frazier can play a multitude of positions, which just increases his value. Look for Frazier to make the Reds’ 25-man roster and for Francisco spend another year in Louisville.

Chris Heisey: The 27-year-old Heisey is expected to take over as the Reds’ starting left fielder this season – or at the very least be in a platoon situation along with Ryan Ludwick – but the third-year veteran is having a rough spring. He’s hitting just .156, has no home runs and leads the team with 13 strikeouts. However, before anyone tries to hand the job to Ludwick, the free-agent acquisition is batting just .241 this spring and hasn’t homered in 29 at-bats.

I maintain Heisey/Ludwick will be a solid platoon for the Reds in left. Also, Frazier can play out there if need be.

Jose Arredondo: The middle reliever is having a fantastic spring from a strikeout-to-walk ratio standpoint. In seven innings, Arredondo has fanned 11 and walked just two. If he’s able to harness his control, he could be a big weapon for the Reds out of the ‘pen this year. However, the 28-year-old does have a 6.43 ERA this spring, so it’s not like he’s been good overall. His K-BB ratio is very encouraging, but nine hits in seven innings is too many.

And yes, I just spent way too much time analyzing meaningless spring training stats. Can you tell I’m looking forward to Opening Day getting here? (And not the one in Japan. Or Miami. The real one.)

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