Yasmany Tomas has started spring by going 0-for-17 in Cactus League play. It’s not very good. But as a reality check, he hit over .400 last spring, and that didn’t exactly last either. I thought it might be worth looking back at previous springs to see who sucked hardest, and how they did once the games started to matter. MLB.com holds stats going back to 2006. For each pre-season, I’ve dug out the pitcher with the worst ERA (min 10 IP) and hitter with the worst OPS (min 50 PA) - those numbers were chosen to give us about 25 qualifying players per year. For each, I’ve also checked to see how they did in the regular season. All WAR is bWAR.
Brad Halsey: 9.00 ERA - Started the season in the bullpen, made 7 starts and 45 relief appearances. Had an okay 95 ERA+, 0.4 WAR. [Note: his spring just edged out Russ Ortiz’s 8.46 ERA!]
Shawn Green: .566 OPS - Below replacement level (-0.8 WAR), mostly because his defense sucked. At the plate, he hit .283/.348/.429 before we miraculously off-loaded him to the Mets.
Livan Hernandez: 13.05 ERA -
It’s Livan Hernandez. Of course he sucked in spring. But he went 11-11 with a 96 ERA+ and 1.4 WAR in the regular season, then smothered the Cubs in their sleep, as we won the NL Division Series at Wrigley.
Chris Snyder: .594 OPS - This was actually close to Snyde’s best season for the D-backs, worth 1.8 WAR in 110 games. He batted .252/.342/.433, and was still being paid league minimum salary.
Dustin Nippert: 14.40 ERA -
He was traded to the Texas Rangers at the end of spring training, for pitcher Jose Marte, who never reached the major league. Nippert made six starts and 14 relief appearances for them, with a 70 ERA+ (-0.6 WAR).
Robby Hammock: .575 OPS -
Didn’t see much of Hammock that year for AZ - just 18 games and 48 PA - but he batted .190 and had a .506 OPS, not too dissimilar from the spring numbers. He was below replacement over (-0.3 WAR)
Juan Gutierrez: 8.03 ERA -
Despite the shaky spring, he was actually a mainstay of the bullpen that year, appearing a team-high 65 times, with a 110 ERA+ and even picked up nine saves, mostly after we lost closer Chad Qualls to injury.
Conor Jackson: .526 OPS -
That spring is quite possibly when he caught valley fever. :( He was never the same thereafter: Jackson had an .810 career MLB OPS before, only .635 the rest of his career, and retired at age 30. This year: -0.6 WAR
Billy Buckner: 10.13 ERA -
This is among the most accurate predictions. For Bucker started three games for the 2010 D-backs, and went 0-3 with an 11.08 ERA, within 10% of his horrid spring numbers. At -0.8 WAR, he didn’t pitch for Arizona again.
Gerardo Parra: .539 OPS -
This was Parra’s sophomore season, and there was a bit of an offensive downturn for him that year, his OPS+ dropping from 88 to 79. But his defense went the other way, and his overall value was 0.5 WAR.
Joe Saunders: 12.46 ERA -
Saunders was really the #4 starter on the Diamondbacks’ championship-winning team that year, but given this, I’d take his ERA+ of 107 and 1.5 WAR produced. Certainly much better than his spring.
Miguel Montero: .646 OPS -
Miggy was even less the issue on the team, batting .282 with 18 homers, and his 4.1 WAR trailed only Justin Upton and Chris Young among position players on the D-backs that year.
Josh Collmenter: 9.95 ERA -
He rebounded from this spring with a typically Collmenter-esque season: 11 starts, 17 relief appearances and a 111 ERA+ (1.3 WAR). He initially flopped in the rotation, was moved to the bullpen and was great thereafter.
Willie Bloomquist: .491 OPS -
I probably had forgotten that Bloomquist had not one, but two .300 seasons with the D-backs, batting .307 over 488 PA in 2012-13. But here, it still wasn’t enough, for his defense dragged him down to -0.1 WAR.
Matt Reynolds: 8.74 ERA -
Reynolds had a 1.98 ERA in the regular season, the best by any left-hander (min 15+ IP) for the D-backs. But he was part of the Tommy John epidemic, and his season was done after June 9, at 0.7 WAR.
Martin Prado: .517 OPS -
The first spring after “that” trade did not go well for Prado, as he hit .214 with two doubles in 20 games. But come Opening Day, he returned to form, and was worth 2.4 WAR that year, batting .282 with 14 home-runs.
Trevor Cahill: 6.95 ERA -
Perhaps this spring was a precursor of Cahill’s struggles to come. He had a 3.87 ERA over his first two seasons for Arizona, but that went to 5.61 in 2014, and a whopping 1.5 wins below replacement level.
Tony Campana: .581 OPS -
Despite this poor preseason line, Campana and his blazing speed made the Opening Day roster. But after batting .160 for April, he was sent down, and dealt to Anaheim on July 5. Total value: -0.2 WAR.
Allen Webster: 8.18 -
Went to the minors, but rapidly placed on the Triple-A disabled list with shoulder fatigue. He made four starts in June, and got some work in September, ending with a 5.81 ERA and -0.9 WAR.
Aaron Hill: .454 OPS -
Hill’s career took a sharp downturn here, worth only -1.2 WAR, after putting up 6.1 over 2013-14. It ended up being the end of his time in Arizona, being dealt to Milwaukee the next winter.
Josh Collmenter: 9.69 ERA -
May have been hampered by a shoulder issue, and was DL’d out of the Cactus League before Opening Day. He missed almost two months, and while Josh didn’t pitch badly (0.2 WAR), was released in August.
Jason Bourgeois: .625 OPS -
Didn’t make Opening Day - indeed, is the only one on the list never to appear for the D-backs outside spring training! For in May, he was sold to the White Sox, but didn’t appear for them either in 2016.
As you’d expect, it’s all over the place: some pre-season flops have bloomed in the rest of the campaign, while for others, those struggles foreshadowed problems to come. But particularly in the last three years, I do note that those right at the extreme end of underperformance have not ended up being very useful for the team once the regular season comes around. You have to go back to Prado and Reynolds in 2013 to find players who genuinely turned it around after a poor spring campaign.