HEY HEY HEY HEY! It's that time of year again. I'm in the desert staring down cactus', or cacti, or whatever the hell they're called when there's 100 million of them. This is the best. Just the damn best, I tell ya. Watched an obscene amount of ball over the last couple of days and got a chance to see some fresh faces and fresh names. Been burning it at both ends a bit as there's herds of scouts here in town who all like to dine out into the wee hours and enjoy an adult beverage or two. So until I can get my feet under me and greet my pillow for more than a few hours at a time, let's just cut to the chase with some news and notes compiled over the last couple of days.
Lulu Ortiz tells me he is happy and healthy and ready for a big season. Spent the entire offseason working out back home with Matt Garza, which I think is a great idea. Similar backgrounds, same job, but one of them has already maximized his potential and made $50million for himself and his family. Speaking of family, Lulu became a father this offseason, which I hear can be kind of a big deal. He pitched Sunday afternoon and looked pretty good. Seemed to be working on FB command and was hot and heavy with the heater. 93-95 and only threw a few CHs in the single inning he pitched. Gave up a homer and got a lovely K-looking with a 93mph FB that painted the outside bottom part of the plate. He's a big dude. I think it's fine, he's just a big dude. Here, see for yourself:
Connor Sadzeck threw well. Gave up some hits, and was mostly working 93-95. Seemed dialed back a bit and to be working on repeating his mechanics. This'll be a fun year for the big fella. Very curious to see if they continue to let him start or shove him in Frisco/Round Rock's pen somewhere in anticipation of using him sooner rather than later.
Jose Leclerc flashed his absurd arm speed and some good offspeed stuff. He's another one of the curious cases for 2016. Frankly, I'd be more inclined to keep letting him start in hopes of finding a rhythm where he can consistently throw strikes. We'll see.
Speaking of kids for whom 2016 is a big year, Travis Demeritte flashed some good leather at SS yesterday. I'm not thinking he's a SS, but he looked passable there and made some plays to both his left and right. Struggled a bit at the plate, as has been the case for a bit. You'd like to think that a 21 year-old 1st rounder from 3 years ago has made it past A-ball, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a really good year from Travis.
Cuban import Andy Ibanez is a thicker dude than I imagined. Made a couple of solid if unspectacular plays at 2B and I think that's what he is. Seems like a fairly affable chap and like he's still getting his feet under him. He's had a wild year most of us can barely imagine. I'm not sure he'll have much pop, but his swing looks to be a doubles producer and he has a good idea what he's doing up there. No idea where he'll start the season, but I'd guess somewhere in the A-ball level.
Michael De Leon has added weight. Looks to be good weight and hopefully it'll allow him to hit the ball harder. The glove is still the glove at shortstop and he turned in the play of the day ranging deeeeeep behind the bag at second and pulling a full 360 degree pirouette while whipping a chest-high throw to the first baseman. He hits- he's got a shot at a regular SS gig. He hits less- he's a utility guy. He hits not-at-all- he's a minor leaguer with a really salty glove.
Sam Stafford briefly retired last year. Then he had shoulder surgery and now he's throwing 90-92 and touching 96. He's still left-handed and still has a good curveball. Not sure he's a prospect, but it's a cool story and a name to keep an eye on. Hook 'em.
Speaking of names to remember, clear a tiny corner spot on your bulletin board for CD Pelham. 6'6" lefty taken in the 33rd round last year. Just turned 21 and was hurling a 91-93 T94mph FB, a ~72mph CB and showing feel for a 82-84mph CH. He's apparently tweaked his arm slot a bit since being drafted and might be a dude. 6'6" lefty with 3 pitches= you got a chance.
Cody Buckel was 90-92 and walked 2 of the first 3 batters he faced. Threw a few nice CTs and was able to get himself out of trouble by inducing some grounders.
LeDarious Clark looks everybit the part of a freakishly good athlete. His waist is about half the width of his shoulders and if you have a toddler you're trying to teach the letter "Y", you could just show them a pic of LeDarious from the back. Still working on the baseball skills though. Had some trouble catching up to velocity, then fooled badly on an offspeed pitch. Helluva athlete though, so if he's able to put it together...
Reliever John Fasola was sharp, using a 92-94mph FB and a frisbee whip 86-88mph SL to get some ground outs. Not a flashy name, but a guy who might be in the big leagues someday.
Ti'Quan Forbes has added really good weight and looks like he could suit up as a wide receiver for a top-flight D1 program. Haven't seem much action from him at 3B, but he's hitting the ball much harder than he did this time last year and seems to have a lot more pep in his step. Also, I asked and it's "TIE-kwan".
I'd heard some scuttlebutt after instructionals about 5th rounder Chad Smith having a live bat. Pretty weird for a minor leaguer to keep live bats, I thought, before I realized it just meant he hits the ball kinda hard. Turns out, he does! One of those toolsy Georgia high schoolers Texas loves despite less-than-stellar results, Chad's still looking for his position, but there is some life in the stick...which means he's got a chance!
You've been really well behaved and you've read a lot of stuff about some really young kids who might not ever make it to AAA, so here's nearly 4 minutes of swings from 4 kids who are almost certainly will:
AND ON THE THE MAIN EVENT!!!
You guys, seriously, yeah, seriously: I love Eric Jenkins. He's shaped like a greyhound, can run like a deer, and yet somehow was putting some of the loudest charges into the ball during BP. Rangy centerfielder with luhhhhgit big time speed. He singled in the game against the Royals kiddos...then stole second base on the 1st pitch and third base on the very next pitch. And I have no idea how he does it, other than a lightning quick stick, but he's got decent pop and more than decent pop for a kid his size who looks like he can play centerfield. He's never going to be a power hitter, on account of him currently weighing as much as a catcher's gear bag, but I think he's gonna have enough oooomph to put the ball into the gaps and turn loose the NOS boosters he keeps in his cleats. It's gonna be an absolute blast watching him develop his skills and to see his body fill out over the next couple of years. He's a dude, for sure.
And after several rounds of BP, I'm ready to declare Leody Taveras a guy who could demand as much as $2.1million. What's that? He already got that much moola? Well then he better be good...and I think he is. Switch hitter who hits the ball harder than his body looks like it should. He's 17 and sent a few over the fence rather quickly. It's gonna sound like blasphemy now, but he reminds me of a 17 year-old Mazara. Doesn't look like he'll end up quite as big as Maz, but Leody is almost certainly a better athlete and has a similar, kinda noisy swing that produces good results. He's gonna be in refinement school for the next few years, but the tools are very, very loud. I'm holding out hope he plays stateside this summer.
So there's a taste. Just a sampling of the goods out here. I've got my young padawan Kevin Carter in tow and he's been soaking up the scene like a hungry sponge. If sponges could be "hungry". And he's gonna write about it too, because I'm gonna make him. And he's posting some cool vids @kevinwc7 on Twitter. Anyway...until tomorrow!!!!
As Always, Enjoy Baseball!