Before I begin telling you about the A-ball standouts, I want to briefly mention something I've been thinking about quite a bit this winter, and even more now that I'm here in person. Being patient sucks. It's hard as a person, it's hard as a fan. But it's required if you want things to go right. I'm saying this because Texas has several potential first division starters in finishing school. I mean these guys are really close. But does really close mean ready? Not always. I happen to have it on good authority that if you cook a pizza 92% of the way, it's still edible, and not half bad. But, if you allow the pie to cook as long as the directions tell you to, and right up to the moment you know it's perfectly ready to eat, you end up with a whole different experience. Being patient sucks, but more often than not, it's worth the wait. I'm not bold enough to call this season a "bridge" year, or something like that, but I will say, I'm bearish on 2015, but bullish on 2016-2020. Now, having said that, sometimes patience isn't necessary and one of these plucky young muckrakers just shoves himself into the team photo. I think Keone Kela's gonna break camp with the big league club. The CH has been more than a show-me pitch. It's been a separating factor between him and some other bullpen candidates. He's getting MLB-ers out and he's pitching with moxie, which surprises no one who is reading this. With cuts looming, cross your fingers for that dude. The team has some tough choices to make with the bullpen and there's more than a few qualified contenders. Kela has been undeniable though. This isn't a fluke; he's really good.
Speaking of guys who are on the brink: watched Alec Asher hurl Saturday and he continues to look the part of an innings-eating starting pitcher. Worked a 4-pitch mix and generally kept the ball down. I think he continues to tweak his command, builds his stamina to 175+ip this season and puts his name in the hat this time next year. Might as well just slide him into Colby's rotation spot. Folks will never know the difference.
Speaking of Asher, I think he'll be in the mix to join Frisco. Gonna be tight because it's a bit crowded in Round Rock. I mean you got at least one of the Nicks, Ohlendorf, Bonilla, Chi Chi, LuJax, who am I missing? Might see a SUPER salty Frisco rotation of Ash, Eickhoff, Thompson, Faulkner, and Leclerc/Payano. Yes please.
Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and daisies. Life never is. I don't expect to see Sam Wolff pitching this year. No, it's not his elbow. Sam is a tough and steely South Dakota man. He'll be back, and will still be a dude. Also, I'm not sure what is wrong with Michael Choice, but he looks to me like someone stole his mojo. He's a laid back cat, and I'm no body language expert, but sheesh. Condor Guzman has questionable bat speed these days. Bummer.
Hey, "Jose Trevino". Just making sure you know the name, Jose Trevino. The Corpus native, whom Texas selected out of Oral Roberts in the 6th round last year, is a catcher, who can hit the ball over the fence. He's good. Watched him catch today and he's got more than enough to stay at the position. Good hands, good feet, good arm. Powerful right handed swing too. Jose Trevino.
Speaking of catchers, holy moly Yohel Pozo. The youngest player in camp was born midway through 1997. The stocky 17 year-old caught the whole Low-A game today and popped consistent 2.02ish times to 2B. He's gonna hit a bit too. A Hickory assignment wouldn't shock me. Did I mention he's 17?
Juremi Profar can really play 3B. He's confident and smooth over there and has more than enough arm. Not gonna unseat Gobbles Gallo anytime soon, but he's gotten better and better at baseball every year.
A David Perez sighting! Still huge and threw strikes today. Not sure of the velo, but he threw strikes.
Travis Demeritte's pull power is legit. Not so sure I love the swing, but lemme tell ya, if he tweaks that thing up a lil' bit and starts using the whole field- look out.
Another name to sock away: righty reliever John Fasola. He was on my list thanks to a lights out season in Spokane. I mean 5 walks and 40Ks in 26.1ip. Fa' reals. 31st rounder out of Kent State last year. All but unhittable today. Seriously. I really like him. My thing with reliever prospects is the only goal (IMO) of a reliever should be to get his team back in the dugout as quickly as possible, and John looked intent on doing that from the moment he took the mound today. Through really good FB command and a nasty breaking ball he front-doored to two righties for a called third strike, he was pitching like a boss. Solid body, a bit of deception from the stretch. Good arm.
On to the stars of the day. Josh Morgan, Ti'Quan Forbes, and Yeyson Yrizarri are all players. Jose Almonte isn't far behind them. You're gonna love Morgan; opposing pitchers, not so much. The rumors 'bout this kid's makeup and approach are verified. He played SS today and I expect him to see quite a bit of action there in what could be a loaded infield for Hickory. And good grief does he have a plan every time he steps up to the plate? Yep. He's gonna barrel all kinds of pitches in all kinds of counts and hit the ball all kinds of all over the place. And don't worry about the lack of power. I think it'll improve a bit. If he can hit double digits in homers that'll be nice because he might do so while hitting .315. Here's a good example of what I'm talkin' bout. I think in a few years, this F7 goes over the fence. Turn up the volume on this one:
OK, here's another example of why you should love J-Mo (didn't make that name up. it was coming from the dugout all day.) Gets behind in the count, steps out- earning a slight reprimand from the umpire about the new rules, thinks about what's coming from a pitcher who has two strikes on a batter, then keeps his hands back on a loopy breaking ball driving it to LF for a single. He's a dude.
Howsabout with a runner in scoring position? Why not jump on the first pitch against a guy who has been struggling who you know just wants to throw a strike. Watch Morgan drive in a run, stick around for his buddy Yeyson Yrizarri:
He made an out in that AB, but you like the fact that Yrizarri can already go the opposite way? Yessir. He has an arm-cannon that was on display on the tail-half of a 6-4-3 started by a diving Morgan. Yeyson (YAY-sun ee-rizz-ARE-ee) is very athletic and could probably play SS as well. Definitely has the arm and the actions for 3B, but Ti'Quan was over there playing well today (we'll get to him in a minute). All this means, I'm not sure where Yey Yey ultimately goes. Maybe Hickory rolls out Fobes 5, Morgan 6, Yey Yey 4 like they did today. While not as quick, per se, as Morgan, Yey can scoot a bit. Here's a 4.37 down the line from the right side. Not bad. If he loses some speed as he fills out, put him at 3B and tell him to just keep trying to hit the ball as hard as he can. I still think he has one of the strongest arms in the system. It's a hose.
Ti'Quan Forbes looks so athletic it hurts. The dude just oozes smooth. Matter of fact, I think I'm just gonna call him "Smooth" Forbes. He played 3B today and made a lot of stuff look much easier than it is. Routine grounders were gobbled up and he even stayed back on a weird in between hop before quickly unleashing the best throw of the day to beat a streaking left handed runner by a half-step. He's got a stick too. Not sure the stick won't lag behind the glove for a little while, but he's got tools on tools and just needs reps on reps. Also, wanna see one of the reasons a CH in the lower levels is like using a cheat code?
Our final lottery-ticket-kid of the day is Jose Almonte. Texas gave the now 18 year-old Dominican a lot of scratch in 2013, $1.8million to be exact, and they're beginning to see some of the results they hoped they'd bought. He looks to have flattened out his swing quite a bit and it's shorter and more direct than I remember it being last Spring. He's a big, powerful kid who looks like he's got a chance to develop into a powerful hitter. At 6'4" and about 220lbs, he's ain't an infielder. Good arm makes him a solid candidate to patrol a corner outfield spot, but power and becoming a threat with the stick will be his calling card. Peep this short, loud stroke:
Jose's got the makings of a strong dude. Love the wide base and the hands being quick to load. You can hear one of the Texas coaches imploring him to use those hands in the swing. He starts getting those things through the zone quickly and his natural strength and the strength he's likely to add could make him a dude sooner rather than later.
First pitch single. Keeps that front side quiet and just explodes through the ball. We're watchin' you kid.
Finally, just for funsies, I took a foul ball to the head today, and you're gonna love the results.
Got another day with the A-ballers on Monday. Gonna try to see some fresh arms and watch Jose Trevino bat. Actual goal: do not get hit in the head.
As Always, Enjoy Baseball. Love Ya!