With spring training over and baseball season mercifully, finally underway, let's bid adieu to the boys of February and March with the best performances from, what one former colleague often called, “practice baseball.” Now, don't go to Las Vegas and bet on some of these names being the stars of 2012, but it's certainly an interesting look at who performed when the manager and GM were watching closely:
AL MVP: Albert Pujols, Angels
If the year ended and Pujols was the AL MVP, it would not be a shocker. And surely everyone will point to his spring training numbers as a predictor of what was to come. His 1.287 on-base plus slugging percentage was the highest among qualified batters. He hit .383 with a .437 on-base percentage and .850 slugging percentage (the highest). His seven home runs were tied for most. He also had 20 RBIs and struck out just four times in 60 at-bats.
Best Yankee: Curtis Granderson, who hit .383 with a .500 OBP and .723 SLG. He had a 1.223 OPS and two home runs. Granderson also walked (11) more than he struck out (6).
NL MVP: Chris Young, Diamondbacks
Young has always had power, but his high strikeout totals and low walk numbers have been the knock against him. This spring he hit .400 with a .494 OBP and .738 SLG. That's a 1.232 OPS. He also hit five home runs in 65 at-bats and added three stolen bases.
Best Met: Lucas Duda is being projected by many as a breakout candidate for fantasy baseball. If he keeps hitting like he did this spring, he'll fulfill plenty of Mets fans' fantasies. Duda hit .300 with a .386 OBP and .583 SLG. He cranked out four home runs in 60 at-bats as he posted a .969 OPS.
AL Cy Young: Luis Mendoza, Royals
Mendoza's numbers are eye-popping. He was 4-0 in six games, the four wins tied for first in all of MLB. In 19.1 innings he allowed just four runs, only one of which was earned. He struck out more hitters (21) than innings pitched, held batters to a .203 average, had a WHIP of just 1.03 and posted an absurd ERA of 0.47.
Best Yankee: Hiroki Kuroda's success in the NL should translate well to the AL east if he keeps this up. He was 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA, striking out 17 in 24.2 innings. He allowed just 23 hits and posted a 1.09 WHIP.
NL Cy Young: Wade LeBlanc, Marlins
So opening night wasn't great for the Marlins. But LeBlanc sure was in the spring. He was 2-1 with an NL-leading 1.31 ERA. He gave up just 10 hits and two walks in 20.2 innings, while striking out 19. His WHIP was an insane 0.58.
Best Met: This one was tough, since no Mets starting pitcher had a great spring (admittedly, just like with the real Cy Young voting, there's some reliever bias here, otherwise Bobby Parnell's name would be right here). But the nod goes to R.A. Dickey. His 3.63 ERA wasn't the lowest on the team, but that's not the end-all be-all stat anyway. Dickey wins here because he has the lowest WHIP of any Mets starter at 0.92. He walked just four hitters and gave up only 12 hits in 17.1 innings, while striking out 12.