So Sunday night and Monday morning were pretty weird. Strange vibe to be sure. Usually at this time, hope springs eternal. I mean the lineups are basically set, man. At least the one at the top of the food chain is anyway. Texas' would have been too, but the bug came to the land of cacti and Walgreens this year. It's strange and unexpected. Even the most pragmatic of front offices doesn't have a contingency plan for losing two everyday, up-the-middle players...on the same day...a week before the season starts. So the backfields games featuring AA & AAA players were suddenly swarmed with decision makers, all wearing their intense faces. It's not uncommon at all to see a visit from JD or Thad, in fact, it's quite common, but be it perceived or actual, there was gravity to the watching session normally not seen on that side of the complex. It wasn't the usual, "this guy might be able to help us down the road", or "that guy needs to fix that", it was "can this guy swim in the deep water--right now?". I don't envy them, and I didn't bother them. They have to make decisions and roll with the punches. Trying to put a team on the field a week from now when your starting catcher and second baseman won't be there, your shortstop might not be, and your ace could be the latest scratch, isn't a simple task. Add the fact that 3/5 of your expected starting rotation isn't going to be, well, in your starting rotation, and you've got yourself a certified quagmire.
So as a servant of the public, I decided to watch the "big leaguers" take infield and hit BP. Truthfully, the minor leaguers weren't on the fields yet, so I figured, what the hell! In conclusion, Josh Wilson is a better defender than Tanaka and Rosales, that much is apparent. He has soft hands and a very quick release at shortstop. He has a good arm and I later found out he's pitched in 3 big league games! Tanaka gets up on the front leg like many Japanese hitters so power is negligible. Rosales hits the ball the hardest out of all of them, but I'm not sure I'd call what any of the three of them do "hitting". Long story short, wouldn't surprise me if they brought someone in to play 2B for a bit, but gun to my head, I'd take Wilson.
Once the minor leaguers came out, I was able to catch up with a few dudes I hadn't seen since last season finished up. Roogie came over to chat and boy howdy, is he excited about the Magallanes championship ring he'll be receiving later this year. He said he is ready to be a big leaguer right now, and frankly, knowing what you know of him, would you have expected him to say anything else? Luke Jackson and Alec Asher are both happy and healthy and headed to Frisco. Also, Alec told me his father is 6'9" and 400lbs. They call him "Big Bob". If he comes to visit his son in Frisco, you'll know--because of the eclipse. I had really nice conversations with Jimmy Reyes and Randy Henry, a couple guys I think will be big league relievers. Both mentioned how the rosters are still kind of in flux, despite how late it is in camp. It has nothing to do with their performance, but other guys, some with opt-out clauses and injuries. Regardless, I think it's likely both are in Round Rock's bullpen when the season opens.
I had a yucky moment on Monday too. Walked up to a prospect I really like, and asked him how he was doing. I was smiling, he was not. In uniform and holding his glove, I was not expecting what he told me next. Shaking his head, he said, I'm having surgery on Wednesday. "Oh, dang. What kiiiiind of surgery?" I tentatively asked. "Tommy John", he said. Welp, there it is. F this Spring Training. I stood and chatted with him and the truth is, he's not only going to be fine, it is likely he's been playing a bit injured, and he'll return stronger than he was late in the 2013 season. He expressed concerns about the layoff and I can only imagine what it's like staring down the barrel of not doing the only thing you've consistently done for the first 2 decades of your life. I made dumb jokes about how great Arizona is and how insane indefatigable rehab coordinator Keith Comstock is, but the strain on this young man's psyche was evident. He's flying to Arlington for surgery, which only requires an hour or so under the knife and a single night's admittance, then home for a bit, then back to Arizona in late April to start a yearlong rehab process. Again, he's going to be fine, probably better than fine, but it won't be easy. He and I were standing a few feet from a warming Martin Perez and I told him many people think guys like Martin just "show up" in the big leagues. But they don't. There isn't a straight line. Trout, Harper, and damn near no one else, just "shows up" in the bigs and does well. All the journeys are pocked with divots. About an hour later he was back, briefly, on the fields. This time he was in street clothes, aviator sunglasses on, saying goodbye to guys who've been his teammates for the last couple of years, and who'll be his teammates again next season...but not this season. This one is lost.
Bullet Point Corporate Presentation-Style Minutiae:
-Spent the day chatting with the great Jim Callis. Look for some good insight and good quotes on his Rangers preview on MLB.com coming (hopefully) Wednesday. Very nice guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of the game.
-Watched all 6 inning Martin Perez threw. Scuffled at times by leaving the FB up and met some barrels accordingly. Zach Zaneski had his number with a long 2-R homer on a 85mph CH and a oppo double. Marty allowed 9h, but got some good double plays and pitched much better the final three frames. Sat 91-93 and threw the CH, SL, and CB too. Still has no fear of bringing the CH in on lefties, which is good, unless it misses, then it's not good. 102 pitches.
-The big names in last year's draft/international signing period really jump out. Yeyson Yrizarri makes loud contact and is very quick through the zone. Michael De Leon looks like he's going to be an excellent shortstop. The ball seems to be destined for the pocket of his glove. De Leon is a skinny switch hitter who is going to add weight and become a very good prospect. Also, HE WAS BORN IN 1997! Yrizarri is going to become a hot talent too. Much thicker and meatier than De Leon, Yeah Yeah (just gave him that nickname 5 seconds ago) isn't as smooth at SS and may move off that position, but it looks like he can hit. Also, I'm not in the business of giving grades to arms, but his throws from SS have really good carry and zip straight into the first baseman's glove. A 3B in the future? Could be.
-Do you like drop the back shoulder and swing, Dominican kids? Well, then you will like Jose Almonte. Tremendous bat speed from this kid, but not the most fundamentally sound swing. Big 17 year-old looks every bit of 6'3" 200+lbs. I did get to see his best tool tonight when he uncorked a bullet from RF. It's a plus arm, but everything else is Sashimi raw.
-Travis Demeritte appears to be a second baseman for the time being. He also appears to be a kid who knows what the hell he is doing in the batters box.
-Saw my man Kevin Pucetas droppin' knucklers. Most were 65-68 with weird float, he did throw one that was 58mph and he got a very late swing on a regular grip 85mph FB.
-Wilmer Font was 93-97 and threw SL and CH too. Same ol' Wilmer. Still not sure where they're all going. Started Chris Grayson off with a really nice front-door 76 mph breaking ball, then tried the same pitch with 2 strikes, left it up, and Grayson drilled it down the line for a 2-run, stand up triple.
-Randy Henry worked a 1-2-3 inning on 7 pitches, 6 of which were cutters and 6 of which were strikes. It is a nasty pitch. He struck out the first hitter, swinging, on 3 pitches, broke the second hitter's bat with a cutter (6-3), and induced a lazy 7UA on the first pitch to the 3rd hitter. The pitch has very late cut, so they think they can hit it, and they can, but not very hard.
Here's some footage of Randy warming up. Got a little windy, so turn off the volume unless you're a masochist. Note the armspeed. (Also note the other warming pitcher is recently converted outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin! He threw a bunch of 87 mph fastballs, but whatever, last year he was a frickin' AAA outfielder for the Astros!)
Randy Henry 3.24.14 (via Tepid Participation)
-Jason Knapp sat 93 in one inning of work. Very big dude. The oft-injured former fireballer had spotty command, but the velocity is getting there, and his shoulder didn't appear to be shredding under his jersey, so we might want to keep his name in the back of our minds.
Some advanced hit tools:
Luis Sardinas, Nick Williams, Brett Nicholas, Roogie Odor. 3.24.14 (via Tepid Participation)
Some less advanced hit tools, but some holy moly power:
Condor Guzman, Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro, Lewis Brinson. 3.24.14 (via Tepid Participation)
Til' next time, y'all.
Enjoy Baseball! Love Ya!