Breathe it in folks. It’s a new year. And if you’re a fan of Dallas-based sports teams, it’s a welcome purge. DFW was the conjoined mayor of Sucktown Sports in 2012, but the New Year is upon us, and thus, new hope. So what better way to allay your hopes and dreams for 2013 than on the shoulders of a bunch of 18, 19, and 20-year-old knucklehead boys from various parts of the world! It’s a good feeling. The emotion of not only inevitable disappointment, but also the spring of a surprise. A happy accident, a fortunate bounce. I’ve got a few ideas for whom the arrow is headed in one direction or the other, and I thought I’d share them with you. I’ve got arrows up, arrows down, and arrows sideways. These are just a few of the kids I’m thinking of right now. There’ll be others, but these are on my mind now, so they got the crosshairs trained on them for a moment. I presuppose a few level-assignments in these pieces, and these assignments are rather subject to change. We can make a well-educated guess where a kid will ply his trade, but until he’s there, it’s still just a guess. Whatever. Let’s have some fun. Here’s the kids for whom 2013 could be a memorable one.
Luis Sardinas: Healthy and likely headed to Myrtle Beach, the former part of that statement is more important than the latter. When Sardi is healthy, he’s a special prospect. A graceful, lanky specimen, lithely gliding left and right easily scooping up oncoming lasers. He’s a switch hitter capable of putting enough of a sting on the ball to enable his speedy jets to get fired up, sending him catapulting out of the box towards the bases. Stay healthy. Play hard. Everyday.
Roman Mendez: Two plus pitches. It’s that simple. I was going through my charts this week from his late-season appearances in Frisco and there were quite a few more 97s than I had remembered. And everybody knows when his mechanics stay clean, the slider has a lovely two-plane dip that teases hitters into thinking they have a shot at it. He doesn't get the pub of some of his teammates, but he's good, and he's not far from contributing at higher levels. I’ve no idea if they’ll keep him as a starter for the time being, but I know if those two offerings are on, he’ll be able to get guys out with them.
Hanser Alberto: I don’t know if I’m ready to call him a “hitting machine”, but I know I’m ready to call him a “contact machine”. He wore 4 uniforms in 2012 (Hick, MB, Surprise-AFL, Gigantes- DWL) and it’s my hope that he only wears one in 2013, Frisco Rough Riders. Sure, the jump to AA is regarded as one of the most challenging in a player’s development, but Hanser hits, and I think he’ll love hitting in Frisco’s park. The club may dock him in Myrtle for a bit, but I hope not. He’s a mature kid capable of playing on the left side of the infield (plus I’d like Myrtle’s left side to be Sardi & Robinson nearly everyday).
Nomar Mazara: Full disclosure: I originally had Ronald Guzman here 'cause I think he can hit the ball in the gap, take 4 long strides, and be standing on second base. But I'm a sucker for unique minutiae and thanks in part to a late-night chat with Jason Cole, I'm going to say dumb stuff like, "Nomar Mazara will lead Hickory in homers in 2013". Seriously, the kid has worked hard and all but eliminated the high leg kick that you see in the early vids of his BP sessions. He's raw, but powerful. And now for the minutiae. If he is promoted to Hickory, as I hope, he'll begin the season as a 17 year-old. This would give him a good shot at being the youngest player in full-season baseball. I sent my intern out hours ago, but she's yet to return. I had her searching to find out if my thought was correct that this would make the 3rd year in a row when a Texas prospect has held the distinction of being the youngest of the young. I know Roogie was the guy in 2012, as I believe Jurickson was in 2011. All this will be moot if the Royals push wunderkind progeny Adalberto Mondesi to low-A (he turns 18 on July 27th, Nomar turns 18 on April 26th) Regardless, it's freaky-deaky. The right fielder was born in 1995.
And finally, Jorge Alfaro: lots will be made about the vaunted Hickory Crawdads of 2013, but I’m keenly interested in Myrtle Beach’s likely 2014 backstop. Everybody knows, the tools are there, blah, blah, blah. We’ve seen the flashes. I’ve seen the triples, and the arm, oh, my, what an arm. We’ve seen the oppo drives and thought, “what happens when his pitch recognition and approach allow him to turn on those balls and put his butt into cranking them to left field?” But he’s got to do it everyday now. I’m shooting from the hip here, but my thought is that if you’re going to be a catcher, High-A is the level at which you should start being a near-automatic in the lineup. I realize, believe me—I realize, catcher development can be glacial, but in 3 years of professional baseball, Jorge has caught 91 games. I’d like to see him catch 91 games in 2013 alone. Again, it’s a good thing I’m not in charge, because that could be, like the worst possible idea, I’m not sure. But I know thanks in part to a wonky hamstring, he only caught 29 of the 74 games he played in 2012. He tweaked some stuff again and had an abbreviated and disappointing stay with Ponce in the Puerto Rican winter league too. Still a baby (turns 20 in June) and a catching neophyte, I guess I’m probably over-anxious, but I think 2013 is a big year for him. Not the biggest, but a big year. Stay healthy, catch often, make magic. I think he does it.
Obviously, these aren’t the only kids for whom I think 2013 will be a positive turn of the calendar, but they’re the ones I’m thinking of now and there’s a couple of high profile names in this batch. After what we just experienced, we need a little light, a little hope. So having said that, tune in tomorrow when I lay down some predictions for youngsters I think will deal with some adversity and hurdles in 2013. It’s peaks and valleys people, peaks and valleys.