Greetings once again from the absurdly sun drenched desert 40 miles outside of Phoenix. The land of retirees and an endless display of American chain retail stores has once again opened up its welcoming arms and cash registers to wave on wave of baseball fanatics. Gotta keep this one a bit short today, but again, I'd like to reiterate that this is just the best. Just. The. Best. It's cheap (the backfields are free for cryin'-out-loud!), the players are right in front of you, the weather is gorgeous, the gang's all here, what more could you ask for? Well, a couple more pitchers for one, but I'll get to that in a second. So, yeah if you've ever thought about coming out here, start planning next year now. The kiddos will freak, every hotel has a pool, and if you're a prospect hound--this is the only time of the year when they're all in one place, so go ahead and book it. See you in '15!
On to what I saw. Crazy day that involved me waking up with the number "6" as the first digit the clock was reading. That's not a good opening for me, but the flight is easy and the fact that the Phoenix Airport's car rental facility is so far away from the gates seems like a pedantic thing to bitch about when you're just going to be watching baseball for a week. Past the "Need Help with Toe Fungus?" billboard, replete with stomach churning photographic illustration of a toe that needs help, I arrive in Surprise to a lazy day on the backfields as the club has begun to get the kid's circadian rhythms fired up by moving the games to the early evening for a couple days. I found out Condor Guzman was set to get another start for the big league club, so I wandered into the big stadium and settled in with Scott Lucas to watch Tommy Hanson pitch. I'm amazed by anyone who gets to the big leagues. No, seriously. They're all so freakin' good. And for someone to have had success at that level, even if it was just for a few years, is amazing. All of that is a not-trying-to-be-a-dick-here segue into telling you I don't think Tommy Hanson has big league stuff anymore. A flat FB ran 89-92 and appeared as though hitters could pick it up as soon as Tommy nodded affirmatively to the catcher. There were a few good breaking balls snapped off, and the pitchability of a big leaguer was definitely present, but it's the stuff, man. Also, Michael Choice hit another homer. He's a big leaguer who has changed his swing and his setup and has made adjustments all through his journey and now it's going to pay off. Welcome to the good life, Michael. Now get ready to make more adjustments.
BACK FIELD BULLET POINTS:
-Nick Williams was 4.02 to first. He has plus speed and might end up patrolling centerfield in Myrtle Beach because of it. Speaking of CF, he dove at a ball he shouldn't have and allowed a triple, but the more remarkable display of athleticism was yet to come. Runner on third, tie game, infield and outfield drawn in. Sinking line drive hit to his left, Nick gets a good read on the ball and sprints to the spot. As the ball arrives, Nick's feet come completely out from under him. As he's falling directly onto his butt, in a sitting pose with legs outstretched in front of him, he reaches up and spears the ball as it attempts to travel by. He hops up in a flash and fires a really good throw home that barely misses the tagging runner. The point is, I think his arm is stronger than it was this time last year. And he's playing centerfield.
-Sam Wolff is a starter. Had a chance to chat with the affable South Dakotan before his game and he's very excited to be a starter. Now it's time to learn how to pitch at the professional level. Working 1 inning last night as he prepares for this week's hot-shot prospect showcase, he was 91-93 and snapped off a couple really good CBs that froze hitters for called third strikes. As I tweeted, not sure where he'll start the season(Hick or MB), but it won't be in a bullpen.
-Travis Demeritte has 1st round talent. Scott mentioned to me he'd been impressed with Travis' approach and the kid didn't disappoint in a clutch moment in the low-A game. Runner on third, one out, he went with an outside pitch and chopped it through the right side for an RBI single. He seemed to know he needed to hit it that direction, then had the ability to do it. He's been playing 2B in camp and it sounds like he'll be there for a while. It also sounds like he's ready for a full-season assignment.
-You can't tell the Ledbetter twins apart. Nope. It felt like a scene from The Parent Trap. You'd turn around and there'd be a Ledbetter. Go to another field, another Ledbetter. The same Ledbetter? No, different Ledbetter. Wait, maybe that is the same Ledbetter.
-Eduard Pinto is small, has a powerful chest and can really get the barrel on the ball. He slammed a first pitch, mid-90's, letter high fastball to left field for a single. Not sure what to predict for him, but he can swing it.
-Chris Bostick seems to play a solid 2B. Made a nice backhanded, lunging grab late in the game to keep the bases empty. Very athletic looking dude who wears high pants, socks fully resplendent.
-For what it's worth, which very well might be nothing, Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara were with the low-A team last night while Nick Williams, Joey Gallo, and Jorge Alfaro were with the high-A squad.
-Speaking of Jorge Alfaro- everyone was. He's going to get his own article from me. It's going to take that many words to discuss him. Not anointing him savior, or even saying he's the number one prospect in the system, but there's been growth. I think we're seeing a prospect in ascendency. I'll get back to you with more flowery adjectives later.
So here we go. Off on another adventurous season of minor league flailing, failing, and firing. Sorry if this one seems thrown together, but it was. Just had a few things I had to tell you! More coming in the upcoming days. As always, I'll be sending out a few tweets from the fields as well. OK, gotta go. Love Ya!