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Raising Arizona, Part IV

The Grown Ups Are Back, Sort Of

That's a Rangers Hat!
That's a Rangers Hat!
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Remember yesterday, when I began by telling you some days there just isn't that much buzz on the backfields? Well, today wasn't one of those days. Ohhhh, mama. Started off with a Gallo BP session. Which is a nice way to start any day. Big fella looked loose and was enjoying shooting the shit with Trever Adams and Drew Robinson. Professional autograph hounds stalk and track his every move, but between the lines and in the cage, he looks loose and happy. Prolly pretty damn ready for the season to start. Like everyone. Enjoy.

-Andrew Faulkner got the start in the AAA game and he scuffled a bit early, but battled. I've asked around, and don't expect to see the splitter this season as he focuses on the SL and CH, as well as refining his FB command. He's likely headed for Frisco and the lefty slinger's bound to turn some more heads this season.

-On the other diamond, another potential Frisco lefty, Victor Payano, got the start. Vic will tempt you, for sure. A 6'5" 200lb 22 year-old southpaw, Vic had 90 walks in 125.2ip last season for Myrtle Beach. 90 walks. 125.2 innings. But the raw stuff will flash delicious. For a few pitches at a time, he's showing you easy mid-90s velocity and excellent velo separation courtesy of a bendy, high-70s curveball. Threw a few CHs that were firm, a few that were pretty good. He's got a big year ahead of him and will get a heapin' dose of advanced coaching, hoping he can put it all together and at least become a potential bullpen arm and at most, something much more. Big ol' gap between his ceiling and his floor right now, and I can't wait to see how he looks as the season progresses. There's so much good, but sometimes, it's disguising a secret "bad". Like a tootsie roll with a garlic center. Oh well, just one of those kids; if he puts it all together, it could be big league mojo. It's there, now go get it, Vic.

-Had a chance to catch up with Luke Jackson to discuss, amongst his winter travel plans and European sojourns, his new mechanics. Not so much "new" mechanics as much as they are "slowed down" mechanics. Luke had a tendency to rush his delivery a bit, both as he tired and when he was too amped up. The club is trying to get him to slow it all down a bit without taking anything off his pitches. He pitched well today. Ran his FB up to 95 for a few innings, spun off a few nice offerings of his new SL, pushed over a few good changeups, and of course, the curveball. Generally he got good results with good stuff. LuJax is gonna have a good year. It's in the stars, man.

-Speaking of pitchers, the most exciting one of the day was without question, Jose Leclerc. My goodness gracious the kid has pure stuff. FB 94-95, CB 73-77, CH 83-85. The conversion road to starter is littered with the bodies and ulnar collateral ligaments of those who have tempted the fate of elongated outings one too many times. I have no idea if Jose will succeed, but I do know he's got the stuff to start. The CH is truly one of the most unique pitches I've ever seen. Ever. I asked pitching coordinator Danny Clark if he's ever seen anything like it, and he said "no". It's a CH that cuts. Danny mentioned Jose grips it with a traditional circle-CH grip, throws it like a FB, and it cuts. If that description sounds weird, wait until you see it. The velocity and movement separation amongst his pitches is unparalleled in the Rangers system. Nobody else routinely dances low-70s, mid 80's, mid-90s. He's not a big dude by any measure. 'Bout 6'0 180lbs, but he's strong. Ain't much too him, but there's magic in that right arm. This seems like a good time to mention, you don't pronounce the last "c" in his surname. It's "luh-CLURR" and he's coming to Frisco...with a cutting CH. As I mentioned in an earlier piece, he'll likely have to learn to fade his CH as well, because if he threw it to a lefty and they sat on it, it would likely cut right into their wheelhouse. Peep this sequence shot by the great Steve Fiorindo of Prospect Pipeline. (had lunch with Steve, check out his site, and his YouTube page. He's the goods. Prospect Pipeline)

I'm not always in favor of reliever-starter or starter-reliever conversions. This one, I'm now COMPLETELY on board with. Not sure it will work, no one is, but you have a kid with three potentially really good pitches and a desire to try it out. This is what the minor leagues are for. Viva Leclerc!!!

-Caught up with Connor Sadzeck. Everything is clicking along in his Tommy John recovery. He threw 35 pitches off a mound this week and was stoked. Keep your fingers crossed for a mid-to-late-May return to competitive, affiliated action for the big fella.

-I think Brenham, Texas native, Seth Spivey's got a lil' sumpthin' sumpthin'. Made a sweet diving catch to his right on a smoked liner while playing 3B. Last year's 10th round pick outta Abilene Christian gots the arm and the actions to be good over there. Talked to a scout who saw him at 2B a few times for Spokane and liked him there too. Not sure the Texan has the quick-twitch fibers to play SS at the highest level, but third, second, maybe a little OF while swinging a solid stick from the left side? Yeah, there's room for that. Hustles and has a good approach at the plate. Might be a little long in the swing, but generates some good wood when he's there. Good kid to keep tabs on. Also, he's a Texan. Not sure I'd mentioned that.

Good balance on this swing, and he gets the bat in position to drive the ball to all fields.

-Preston Beck was in RF today after having played lots of 1B last season in Myrtle. That's fine by me because his hose is probably the best overall yanker in the whole system. He has awesome throwing mechanics too. Gets behind the ball, catches with two hands and transfers to the gun's launch chamber in about a nanosecond. Likely bound for Frisco, could see time at 1B, OF, and DH. He too, as you know, is from Texas. So you have to root for him. And Wilie Nelson.

This is my pick to click this season. Maybe, just because I really want it for him and the club, maybe because I think he's actually figuring how to play the game as a professional. Regardless, gimme Lewis Brinson. Turns out, any team can buy a version of Lewis via the internet: Lewis Brinson Photo

I'm like Bruce Hornsby, I'm savin' the best for last. So without further ado, or dated references anyone under 30 won't get, here's your new hero, Nomar Mazara, hitting a homer off the end of the bat that cleared the fence just to the left of the CF batters eye. Air support courtesy the amazing folks at Luke Air Force Base, Glendale, Arizona.

Let's talk about that for a second. One of the lesser discussed ancillary benefits to being at Spring Training is the bursts of jet noise from the fighter planes practicing maneuvers, and practicing being overall badasses. Fortunately for me and all my loved ones, I'm never serenaded with this particular symphony in the friendly village I call "Dallas". That would mean something went wrong and these folks out here launch 125 sorties a day, about 400 flights, to help insure nothing goes wrong. It is awesome and awe inspiring and never gets old watching them fly in formation over the ball fields time and time again. It also engenders a new found respect for Kenny Loggins' music and his contribution to pop culture, more specifically the dreams of every 10 year-old in America in 1986. Hats off to the fine people at Luke Air Force base. Your jets are completely awesome.

GROUP SHOT! Ryan Cordell, Kellin Deglan, and Nomar Mazara doing baseball stuff:

Here's a big, long video starring full plate appearances by Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, and Jose Trevino. Watch Maz tracking the ball into the mitt, peep Brinson's speed down the line, spy on Nick AS HE TAKES A WALK, and check out Trevino's pretty backspin-generating swing go to the opposite wall. It's 9 minutes, and if this doesn't convince you to make some reservations to come out here next year, nothing will.

Got one more full day for me, should see some more of the AA and AAA action and hopefully some salty upper-level arms.

As Always, Enjoy Baseball! Love Ya!