Welp, we're basically 2 weeks into the minor league season. Time for some dramatic knee jerk reactions to small sample sizes. So lets get started:
A couple of big names are struggling. You know who they are, but in case you don't, I'll tell you that Mike Olt and Cody Buckel could both use a hug. Olt is batting .102 and has struck out 24 times in 54 plate appearances. He's only drawn 5 walks which surprises me just as much as the strike out total. Mike's been a slow starter before, but I'm hoping he starts picking the ball up sooner and begins to make contact with some of the hard swings he's been taking. Buckel is another story. I've now seen his last two starts in person and...it...ain't...purrty. Kid had a decent first inning last night, got a couple of guys on in the second, gave up a 3run bomb, then just seemed to melt. Say what you will about body language from a big league all-star, but it matters in AA. He looks frustrated. I don't blame him. I have spoken with many of the scouts around me after both of his starts and there is no consensus on what's wrong (besides bad body language, which they all mention- and hate). After the homer last night, he walked the bases loaded because his command was off. Pitches he was trying to throw in, were ending up 6" too far in, pitches out 6" too far out, etc. His ERA is 13.50 because 6 of the 15 runs he's allowed in his first 3 starts were unearned. Cody has issued 16 walks in 6 innings pitched. Something's wrong, but he's not broken, he's 20. He threw a pitch in the second inning that was 94 on the stadium gun and anywhere from 95-97 on the 5 or 6 guns around me. He was reaching back for sure, but it's worth noting that those are the highest readings I can recall seeing from him in game action. There's your silver lining. I ran into his father last night on my way out of the stadium. He'd flown in from California because he's a Dad to a 20 year old who's out over his skis far more than nearly all of us were when we were 20. He's a thick, genial man I'd met and spoken with a couple of times last summer. I asked Mr. Buckel how he was doing and told him Cody will get it figured out, then he said to me, "life of a pitcher, huh." Yes sir, life of a pitcher.
Randy Henry would like you to pay attention to him. He may be the secret weapon in Frisco's loaded pen. Or he may be a candidate for a starting job, something he did 11 times last season for Myrtle Beach. He's made 4 appearances totaling 10.1 innings. He's allowed 6 hits, 0 earned runs, given up 0 walks, and has struck out 13 hitters. It's not just the results, it's the stuff. He's got a 4-seam FB that touched 95 last night, but he primarily uses a nasty 90-92 cutter with good run, and what is listed/described as a slider that sits 84 and moves quickly out of the zone and down. He's also shown a nasty sinker/splitter/call-it-whatever-the-hell-you-want-to drop ball that has induced some silly looking swings from over-matched hitters. He's from a town in Oklahoma called Arnett that sits on the far western edge of the state, south of the panhandle. Arnett has 524 people, 1 school, and possibly a big league pitcher.
Roman Mendez got goin' last night like we know he can. Fastball sat 94-96 touching 97 a couple of times. Big, hard slider 84/85 with nice, two-plane movement. It's his out pitch and it's a dandy. He used it to get a swinging K to end the game. Here's some footage of him warming up:
Roman Mendez 4.16.13 (via Tepid Participation)
Ben Rowen is quixotic in the best way. Meaning he gives me a chance to use the word "quixotic" in a positive light. It's so strange to see him toss. His knuckles are literally inches from the dirt on nearly every pitch. The dude is about 6'5" then drops down true submarine-style, it's just something you need to see for yourself. AA is hard and last night his 4th free pass in as many appearances meant he had surpassed his walk total for all of 2012. But overall, he's been effective. It's just like you think it is, fastball 78-82, slider 73-75, and some kind of rising ball-thingy that he doesn't throw very often. He's a deception guy who works around the plate (actually, I agree with a scout I spoke with in that we wouldn't mind seeing the SL get further out of the zone at the end of its run). If he makes a mistake, it's bad news. That was the case when he came in after Buckel loaded the bases, let one get too high in the zone, and the batter deposited it in Prosper for a grand slam. I filmed him last Thursday just for my own research, but I've been asked about him so much, I thought I'd share it with you. It's blurry and I shot it with my iPhone because he was facing Kaleb Cowart, but you'll get an idea of what he looks like. Again, go see him for yourself. He's a nice, engaging kid with an interesting story and a funky motion all the kids will love:
Ben Rowen pitching to Kaleb Cowart 4.11.13 (via Tepid Participation)
Frisco had 18 hits last night, so only Alex Vispoli was kept off base. Jared Hoying continues to hit well(3-4w/5RBI), and Hanser Alberto had his first good game at the plate going 3-5 with a triple and a couple of RBI and runs scored. Hanser is the youngest player in the entire league and arguably has the best hit tool on the Frisco roster. He'll get settled in.
Away from Frisco, Luke Jackson had his second consecutive 5 inning start. He looks good and if he keeps this up, he might be in a Riders jersey before the end of the season. Still walking too many guys, 8 in 14.1 innings, but he's got 17Ks and has only allowed 3 earned runs, good for a 1.88 ERA after 3 starts. Travis Lucian, the Pelicans play-by-play dude, had Luke touching 97 last night in the first inning.
Speaking of youngest players in their league, Roogie Odor (he's the Carolina League's baby) has recorded a hit in every game except one and clubbed his 3rd homerun last night. Unfortunately he appears to have cut down on wearing multiple chains and keeping his sunglasses on for night games, but the kid still has insane swagger. He laughs, he talks, he jokes, and he talks some more, then he hits baseballs all over the place. He's the most fun player in the system for me.
Another name to log is Jose Leclerc. 19 year old in Hickory who skipped both Rookie Ball and Spokane and whose older brother Anyelo is also part of the organization (likely headed to Spokane himself). Jose ain't big, 6'0" and listed at 165. His results haven't stood out, but his stuff has. I saw him throw in Surprise and was impressed. In Hickory, his fastball is touching 97 according to Crawdads beat writer Mark Crawford and play-by-play man Aaron Cox and his slow curve is in the high 60's. Add in a decent changeup that he's used for a couple of strike outs. I expect him to have some crappy outings and to tire as the season wears on, but there is some promise in that kind of pure stuff.
Also, CJ Edwards has been great, Profar is a freak, Font is getting back to being Font, Hickory can hit and strike out, and both Lisalverto Bonilla (despite last night's rough outing) and Josh Lindblom would like to be big leaguers by the end of the year.
That's all for now. See you soon!
Enjoy baseball. Love Ya!