The games don’t count. The numbers won’t make the back of any baseball cards. But in camps across the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues, what happens now — for players like Yankees first baseman Greg Bird — could make all the difference.
It doesn’t really matter that the Angels have a team OPS of .872 in spring training, and no one should care that Max Scherzer has an ERA of 5.93, or that postseason hero Steve Pearce is still looking for his first exhibition hit. Exhibition numbers don’t carry much weight.
For some players, spring results can be important — despite being generated in small samples, in the skewed and generally hitter-friendly conditions of the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues. Exhibition performance can represent one final element to consider for the talent evaluators who shape rosters, like that last letter of recommendation for a high school senior rounding out a college application. It probably doesn’t matter, in the end, but it could matter.
Here are some players for whom spring numbers might matter in 2019: