by John Dewan

Spring Training statistics have been the subject of many debates in baseball circles. On one hand, teams are making roster decisions based on how players have performed this spring. On the other hand, hitters are working into shape and working on their swings while pitchers are building up strength and refining new pitches. Especially early in March, raw minor league prospects play as much as major league veterans, so the quality of competition is hardly consistent.

However, our past research has shown that in certain cases Spring Training stats can predict breakout seasons. We found that players who beat their career slugging percentage by more than 200 points in Spring Training have over a 60 percent chance at beating their career slugging percentage. The most recent example was Jose Bautista, who topped our 2010 list with a phenomenal spring and followed up with 97 homers over two seasons. Melky Cabrera and Alex Gordon were two names on last year’s list who had career years in 2011.

Here’s the list of 2012 breakout candidates (minimum 200 regular season at-bats and 40 spring training at-bats through April 1, 2012):

Slugging Percentages of Top Breakout Candidates

Hitter, Team

Spring

Career

Difference

Andre Ethier, Dodgers

.896

.479

.417

Cody Ross, Red Sox

.860

.456

.404

Carlos Ruiz, Phillies

.795

.393

.402

Alex Gonzalez, Brewers

.780

.399

.381

Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers

.729

.366

.363

Chris Johnson, Astros

.737

.417

.320

Joe Mather, Cubs

.694

.384

.310

Darwin Barney, Cubs

.647

.345

.302

Chris Young, Diamondbacks

.737

.437

.300

Luke Hughes, Twins

.644

.347

.297

Delmon Young, Tigers

.714

.428

.286

Ryan Raburn, Tigers

.735

.456

.279

Howard Kendrick, Angels

.698

.434

.264

Ian Kinsler, Rangers

.729

.469

.260

Alfonso Soriano, Cubs

.765

.506

.259

Albert Pujols, Angels

.870

.617

.253

Eric Hosmer, Royals

.714

.465

.249

Jeremy Hermida, Padres

.660

.415

.245

Tyler Colvin, Rockies

.661

.422

.239

A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox

.660

.422

.239

Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals

.711

.479

.232

Jemile Weeks, Athletics

.636

.415

.221

Melky Cabrera, Giants

.617

.398

.219

Curtis Granderson, Yankees

.711

.493

.218

Billy Butler, Royals

.672

.458

.214

Alex Gordon, Royals

.646

.434

.212

Chris Snyder, Astros

.600

.394

.206

Austin Kearns, Marlins

.622

.417

.205

Travis Snider, Blue Jays

.625

.423

.202

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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