When spring stats matter

Brian Matusz must show strong command this spring if he wants to prove he can still succeed in the majors. AP Photo/Nick Wass

When it comes to spring training statistics, there are so many problems with the data -- small samples, inferior competition, hilariously small ballparks -- that the numbers generally are just not worth even looking at. In most cases, March numbers can simply be thrown away without a second thought.

However, there are a few instances where spring training performances might actually tell us something. Most famously, Jose Bautista finished the 2009 season with a surprising burst of power, and he carried over that surge into spring training in 2010. The continuation of his revamped approach and swing in spring training could have helped clue us in to the fact that Bautista had undergone a dramatic transformation.

That doesn't mean you should start reading too much into every player's results over the next few weeks, but there are a few players worth keeping an eye on as the spring training games get under way.

Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

It's a little weird to say that the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year had a performance that raised a lot of red flags, but after he carved up minor league hitters left and right on his way to the big leagues, Hellickson's strikeout rate took a nosedive in the majors. It wasn't even just a struggle adjusting to MLB hitters -- his strikeout rate actually got worse as the season went along, ending the year at just 2.94 K's per 9 in September.