Generally speaking, spring training numbers don't mean anything. The competition varies so much -- a hitter could face a Cy Young winner in his first at-bat and a kid ticketed for Single-A in his second -- and the sample sizes are so small that it's hard to believe anything. Spring training is full of lies.

Except sometimes spring training does tell us the truth, or at least offer kernels of truth. Read between the lines and you can pick up on trends that do mean something. A new pitch or a new bat path are the kinds of things we can see in camp that can change a player's outlook. With that in mind, here are four spring training trends worth knowing with Opening Day two weeks away.

1. Strider's new pitch

Spencer Strider
ATL • SP • #99
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That new pitch is a curveball, but it's not a new new pitch. Spencer Strider threw a curveball in college, shelved it after having Tommy John surgery, and now he's bringing it back. He's been a two-pitch pitcher in his major-league career -- Strider threw 94% fastballs and sliders from 2022-23 -- and a very successful one. From 2022-23, Strider had a 3.36 ERA and ranked first in strikeouts despite ranking 36th in innings.

Here is Strider's curveball in action this spring. It's an 11-to-5 curve with some sweep more than a true 12-to-6 breaker:

"(The curveball) is just something I wish I had been throwing," Strider told MLB.com recently. "It just fits my strengths and the way I pitch. Not only philosophically, but mechanically. I spent a lot of time working on it in the offseason, and it's definitely more comfortable than I thought it would be this early."

More than anything, the curveball will serve as a change of pace pitch. Strider's a hard thrower -- his fastball averaged 97 mph last year and his slider 86 mph -- and the curveball is sitting in the 80 mph neighborhood this spring. The curve gives hitters a different look in terms of break (north-south rather than east-west like the slider) and forces them to cover a wider velocity range.

Spring training is when pitchers work on new pitches and not all of them stick. They're spring experiments and nothing more. In this case, Strider and the Braves seem committed to the curveball, and adding to an arsenal that could use some variety. It's a very good arsenal, obviously, but it is limited. The curveball sticking as a third pitch could make Strider an even more ferocious strikeout artist.

"He stopped throwing (the curve) to learn the slider. It's an easier transition for him because he's already been there. It's not like a brand new pitch for him," Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz told MLB.com. "... You can't just rely on the same stuff over and over again. So he's making an adjustment with his arsenal. Hopefully, it will continue to progress the way we think it will."

2. Rizzo looks healthy

Anthony Rizzo
NYY • 1B • #48
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For many reasons, the Yankees had their worst season in three decades last year, going 82-80 and finishing in fourth place in the AL East. Among those reasons: Anthony Rizzo's concussion. He collided with Fernando Tatis Jr. at first base on May 28, when an errant pickoff throw from the catcher took him into Tatis' path. The before and after numbers are startling:


Before collision




After collision




Rizzo went from being excellent the first two months to being arguably the worst hitter in baseball the next two months. From the date of the collision (May 28) through the date he finally went on the injured list (Aug. 3), Rizzo ranked last in batting average, last in slugging percentage, and last in OPS among the 211 players with at least 150 plate appearances.

Why Rizzo played through post-concussion symptoms for two months remains unclear, but what's done is done, and it contributed to New York's disappointing season. Fast forward to spring training and Rizzo now looks healthy, and he is 9 for 20 with two doubles, two homers, and one strikeout during Grapefruit League play. Earlier this month, he had a two-homer game after hitting one home run in two months after the collision.

"Not that I'm a superhero, but I feel like I've got some superpowers back," Rizzo told MLB.com following the two-homer game. "I can see the ball the right way again and feel like I can do damage."

The Yankees have said Rizzo was ready to play at the end of last season, but they opted not to activate him because they were out of the race. He had a normal offseason, reported to spring training early, and looks like his old self. Rizzo is expected to hit cleanup behind Juan Soto and Aaron Judge. He's a key cog in the lineup, and Rizzo being healthy is a welcome sight for the Yankees.

"I know who's hitting in front of me," Rizzo told MLB.com. "... It's very, very comfortable. I've hit behind Judge pretty much since I've been here, so there's a comfort hitting behind him. Now with Soto in front of him, it's just a whole other layer of an at-bat."

3. Lee showing impressive pop

All things considered, it has been a good first MLB spring training for new Giants center fielder Jung-Hoo Lee. The former Kiwoom Heroes star in the Korea Baseball Organization signed a six-year, $113 million contract over the winter, and it's easy to understand why San Francisco gave him a nine-figure contract given his credentials. Consider:

  • Lee is only 25. He won't turn 26 until August.
  • He's a career .340/.407/.491 hitter in seven KBO seasons.
  • He hit .349/.421/.575 with 23 homers, 66 walks, and 23 strikeouts in 2022.
  • Lee won Rookie of the Year in 2017 and MVP in 2022.
  • His father, Jong-Beom, is a former KBO MVP, so Lee has great bloodlines.

Despite his impressive resume, there were questions and concerns about Lee during free agency, namely how he would handle high-end velocity, and if he could elevate the ball often enough. I don't mean elevate the ball for home runs either. Lee ran a ground ball rate close to 60% the last few seasons. He has to be able to get the ball over the infielders at minimum.

Lee has performed well this spring (7 for 19) and the most encouraging thing is he showed he can really put a charge with his first home run. He turned around a 94.7 mph fastball from Diamondbacks right-hander Ryne Nelson -- looks like Lee can handle velocity well -- and it left his bat at 109.7 mph. Here's the video:

"I knew it was hard-hit," Lee told MLB.com about the home run. "The ball flew low. It didn't fly high. It got some speed in the air and then it flew away, but I thought it was a double or a triple. That's why I kept on running like that."

Among the players who did not hit a single ball 109.7 mph last year: Cody Bellinger, Alex Bregman, and Marcus Semien. We're oversaturated with exit velocity, I know, but it is a core skill and you can't fake it. You can fake being a .300 hitter for a month. You cannot fake hitting a ball that hard, the same way you can't fake throwing a pitch 100 mph. You can either do it or you can't. 

Lee has already shown us there's real pop in his bat, and that was somewhat in question during his free agency. Will he elevate the ball consistently? That we don't know yet. Lee has answered one question this spring though, and that is if he has the strength to handle big league velocity. We saw it. He can do it. That one home run told us a lot about Lee's ability to impact the baseball.

"Velocity is velocity, but the pitchers here in the Major Leagues are really tall, so their release point is really high," Lee told MLB.com. "That makes the ball look faster. They have different types of movement and travel really differently. What I've been doing all winter is working with all these kinds of stuff. I'm happy that it's coming out as results."

4. Washington's Angels are running

Stolen bases are a bit weird in spring training. Oftentimes veteran players, even veterans who swipe a lot of bases, won't attempt many steals in spring training because it's not worth the injury risk and the wear-and-tear. Meanwhile, rookies or players trying to make the team will run wild because they want to show everyone that hey, I can do this, I can help the team this way.

This spring, no team has stolen more bases than the Angels. They entered play Monday with 30 steals (six more than any other team) in 42 attempts (nine more than any other team), and that's after 22 steals in 32 attempts all last spring. During the 2023 regular season, the Angels ranked 29th in stolen bases, 27th in stolen base attempts, and 30th in success rate. Stealing bases was just not something this team did.

Expect that to change in 2024. The Angels named Ron Washington their new manager, and they also brought in top baserunning instructor Eric Young Jr. to coach third base. The goal isn't just to steal more bases, but to run the bases more aggressively in general. That means going first-to-third on a single, advancing on wild pitches, so on and so forth.

"I want us to be a tremendous baserunning team," Washington told MLB.com earlier this spring. "When you talk about baserunning, when you talk about stolen bases, the guys that can steal will get an opportunity to learn more about stealing. And the guys that can run the bases are going to get more opportunities to run the bases."

Washington of course managed the AL West rival Rangers previously, and during his tenure from 2007-13, stealing bases and running the bases well was a constant. Three times his Rangers teams ranked top five in stolen bases and their average rank was tenth during his tenure, and that's despite ranking 17th and 16th in Washington's first two years on the job.

Of course, the Angels are not a few stolen bases away from contention. There is an advantage to be gained here though, and the Angels do have stolen base threats in Jo Adell, Mickey Moniak, Zach Neto, and perhaps even Mike Trout. Stealing bases is a young player's skill and the 32-year-old Trout hasn't stolen even 10 bases in a season since 2019. Who's to say he can't still do it though?

"I think so. Maybe. You never know," Trout told MLB.com when asked whether he can still run the bases aggressively

Regardless of whether Trout does it, Washington clearly wants the Angels to do it. It's starting right now, in spring training. They lead the league in steals and in this case it's not a spring mirage. It is exactly what Washington wants the team to do in 2024.