Welp, this was a big day comin'. Official rosters dropped in the afternoon, though if you were one of the dozen or so folks standing on the wind-whipped backfields, they were all but apparent before that. The North Star of Lone Star Ball, Mr. Morris has laid out the rosters here: http://www.lonestarball.com/2014/3/26/5552022/texas-rangers-minor-league-rosters-texas-affiliates-name-their. It was fun to get to see the guys groovin' with their squads. The backfield games of the day featured a big chunk of the AA roster, including a lineup we'll likely see on next Thursday's Opening Night, and a AAA roster that needed a third baseman so they borrowed Myrtle Beach's Giant Gallo. A couple notable tidbits about today; it was really windy- like Lubbock windy. No sign of tumbleweeds or Coach Cool, but it had that vibe in the desert today. Second, the flying ninjas from nearby Luke Air Force Base were out in full force today. I'm no aviation expert, so I'm not sure what model of gorgeous fixed wing fighter jet was repeatedly flying in multiple formations over the fields today, but whatever it(they) was was awesome. It never gets old, and it never ceases to bring out the 10 year-old Maverick in me, though being honest with how I turned out, it's pretty clear that I'm more the Goose-type. [tucks head] Seriously, at times these guys were flying 4-wide and banking over the complex. If you're ever out here, keep you fingers crossed it's an "aerial exercise day". Now, on to the baseball!
Holy shit, Nick Martinez! A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of jumping on Dallas radio juggernaut The Ticket and joining the fine fellas from The Shake Joint. Sean Bass and Jake Kemp wrapped our segment by asking for a couple names of guys to watch this year, guys who could jump out and make a name for themselves. I mentioned one of my favorite lower level guys, power righty Jose Leclerc, then segued into mentioning Nick Martinez. I noted his ability to throw strikes consistently and work down in the zone and his grasp of proper sequencing. He was a "guy to watch", not a "guy to watch pitch in the big leagues in f-ing April!". Is he ready to be a member of a major league starting rotation? Probably not. Can he contribute 1/a couple decent starts and keep his team in the game? GOOD GRIEF, I REALLY HOPE SO! Apparently he's going to face Tampa Bay and given the questionable hires they've made in their scouting department, I'm guessing he mows them down. Actually, I don't really care to speculate how he'll do in the bigs...this time. It's likely before he's ready and he'll come back to Frisco for some more polishing, but it won't matter. I know Nick a bit, and I know how hard he's worked. This is a kid who pitched 26.1 innings in college or the rough equivalent of 5 starts. He was an 18th round draft pick. A project. A "there could be something there" guy. Three years later, there is enough of something there to make an emergency start at the major league level. That's a scouting and player development success story. You take a shot at a kid with the hopes and dreams that it will roll like Martinez's arc has played out. Again, I don't really care how he does in this start, because I'm genuinely happy for him. For his family, whom I've met and who adore Nick. For his friends and his teammates from Fordham and his fellow Rangers farmhands. This is already a win for them. Chartered flights, chef-created meals, fancy hotels, $100+ per diems, a locker in the big room, and John Blake. Nick's gonna get it all. Buses, chafing dishes, The Hampton Inn, $25 per diems, a folding chair, and Alex Vispoli can wait. See you when we see you, Nick. Enjoy the trip.
BULLET POINT MANIA!:
-Luis Sardinas roped a homer down the left field line to start the AA game. He was hitting right handed and I'm almost certain the 4 homers he's hit in his 4 professional seasons have all been right handed. It was into the left-to-right blowing wind, so if anything, the breeze simply kept the ball fair, but make no mistake it was scorched. Got more than a couple good makeup reports on him lately both from Spring Training and his time in Venezuela this winter. The tools have always been there and the glove looks better than ever. If the mojo and passion for the game are in the bag too, look out for a big year from Sardi Sardi. Here he is, doing his leadoff man thing with an infield single replete with Roogie yelling at him from the on-deck circle:
Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor 3.26.14 (via Tepid Participation)
-Another favorite of mine Ryan Harvey had his hammer slider on display. He's headed to Myrtle's bullpen, but I still want you to remember his name. His FB was 92-93 with some life (he caught too much of the plate a couple times and ended up meeting some barrels), but the SL is the moneymaker. 80-82 with serious bend, and it's a pitch he'll start a hitter off with, and it front doors on lefties sumpin' fierce. I saw him get at least 3 called strikes with it in the first inning he pitched. He needs a bit of refinement and a tweak on the command-ometer, but a FB in the 90s and a good breaking ball he can throw for strikes equals a dude.
-Oh, man, are you gonna love this one. There might be a fella comin' from way way way off the map to make a little thunder this season. Martire Garcia. No idea how his first name is pronounced. Listed at 5'11" 150lbs, he's heavier than 150, and he just turned 24 a couple weeks ago. Last played in the Twins system, was released after the 2011 season and ended up in the equivalent of the Japanese minor leagues for Hiroshima Carp. Texas signed him this winter after a workout in his native Dominican Republic and now he's a left handed reliever in Frisco's bullpen who features a lively 91-95mph FB and an inconsistent, but sometimes wipeout SL. Again, hasn't pitched stateside since 2011 and is immediately put in the AA bullpen. That shows you what the club has seen in him and I saw a glimpse of it too. Bring it on, whatever your name is.
-Got a chance to catch up with Brett Nicholas. He's been playing A LOT of catcher this spring and that's good. He's headed to Round Rock and then to the big leagues. Seriously. He looks better than ever behind the plate, he's played a zillion games at 1B, he's left handed, he'll take a walk, and he can hit the ball over the fence from time to time. Guys like that get a shot. We discussed where to live in the Round Rock area and I expressed how cool and fun Austin is, but the traffic can be a bit of a bear. Then he told me he's living with (one of his groomsmen!) Robot Tepesch, so his guess is they'll probably end up about 1 minute from the ballpark.
Brett Nicholas 3.26.14 (via Tepid Participation)
-Matt West looked good. Worked a couple innings, FB was 92-94 with some run, SL was good, and so was the CH. Threw all his pitches for strikes and appeared to be having success deliberately changing the eye levels. Maybe it was accidental, who knows, I didn't ask him. Guys swung and missed, so that was cool. Will he get the closer's nod in Frisco over Wilmer Font? We'll see.
-Gobbles Gallo did not launch a moonshot homer like he did the day before. It might have been the AAA pitcher, but I like to think it was out of respect for the Air Force maneuvers being done in the space his homers usually travel. The kid respects the defenders of America. One of the things that gets lost in the sweet-jeebus-look-at-the-size-of-that-guy hype that surrounds Joey is the fact that he remains a good athlete. Yes, he's built like a modern day tight end, but don't forget he can run like one too. His athleticism is, frankly, the only thing that's kept him at 3B this long. Most other kids his size have already moved to the outfield or 1B (Gallo's Vegas buddy Kris Bryant notwithstanding), but he gets around better than you'd think for a 6'5" 235lb guy. His speed, while obviously not a + tool, will surprise you...just like it did the shortstop in this clip: (windy microphone warning!)
Joey Gallo infield hit 3.26.14 (BEWARE: windy mic) (via Tepid Participation)
-Drew Robinson is headed to Frisco to play...rightfield? That's were he's been the last couple of times I've seen him and he told me on Wednesday that he likes it out there. Ryan Rua plays 3B for Frisco too, but it wouldn't surprise me to see both of these guys move around a bit in 2014. Also, Drew (which coincedentally rhymes with "Choo") gets on base 4 out of 10 times. This is not one of those times:
Drew Robinson 3.26.14 (via Tepid Participation)
-Speaking of Frisco's outfield, is Jake Skole going to be the everyday centerfielder? Could be. Can Jake Skole tear into a ball left over the plate and hit a no-doubter with the wind? Yep:
Jake Skole homers in a Spring Training game. 3.26.14 (via Tepid Participation)
Alrighty folks. I'm headed into the final day of Spring Training. Should be pretty quiet on Thursday with the big leaguers gone and many of the AAA guys not far behind. I'll be on the backfields for one last time in the morning to catch what I can, then it's back to Big D. The minor league season starts in a week and there's exhibitions and stuff between now and then, but mostly it's just a week for players and coaches to get acclimated to their new homes. Jairo Beras and Travis Demeritte need to find the Cracker Barrel in Hickory. Keone Kela and Chi Chi Gonzalez can geo-locate the Chipotle in Myrtle Beach. Alec Asher and Pat Cantwell can ask Roogie where the Frisco Panda Express is, and Jimmy Reyes and Randy Henry can cross South Congress to eat at Guero's Tacos.
Almost there, folks. I promise.
As always, thanks for reading! Enjoy baseball! Love Ya!