My colleague, Al Melchior, spent a lot of time this offseason tracking pitchers that either added a pitch or tweaked a pitch in their repertoire. I took the flipside approach and was intrigued with hitters that changed their approach at the plate in the offseason.
Three players who fit this profile that I've been tracking this spring are Braves outfielder B.J. Upton, Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson and Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. Here are some spring stats from all three players:
- Upton: .278/.352/.702, 1 3B, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R, 4 SB, 6 BB, 19 SO in 18 games
- Jackson: .457/.761/1.251, 2 3B, 2 HR, 4 2B, 12 RBI, 16 R, 3 SB, 3 BB, 5 SO in 15 games
- Arenado: .364/.705/1.121, 1 3B, 3 HR, 4 2B, 7 RBI, 5 R, 3 BB, 7 SO in 17 games
I always had an elevated opinion on Arenado coming into the spring and he's one of my favorite sleepers, but I've really jumped on the Jackson bandwagon after seeing the numbers he's posted. I know you have to take spring numbers with a grain of salt, but sometimes you have to buy into the hype, especially if you can trace a link between A (changes) and B (results).
As for Upton, his numbers aren't as strong as the other two, but he was quoted recently by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as saying eliminating some of the excessive movement he accumulated in recent years has helped him to start hitting to all fields again. Maybe this will lead to Upton looking more like the player he was in his heyday and not the guy that hit .184 last season.