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Raising Arizona V. 2017 Part II

A lonnnnng day in the desert.

Texas Rangers Photo Day
I see you. I saw you.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

9 am ‘til 9 pm. Watchin’ ball. Spring Training is the best. I mean it really is. I don’t know how you roll, but I’d like to once again encourage you to get your butt out here at least once and check this off your list. It’s just the best. I’m wiped clear out of energy at the moment, so let’s cut to the chase. Here’s what I saw today.

I saw Michael Matuella throw a couple rounds of live BP. He worked from the stretch and from the windup. He threw curveballs and fastballs. It was an under-the-radar backfields moment, so there wasn’t a handy speed gun on him that I could see, but it’s easily obvious what makes this kid so tantalizing. The ball jumps out of his hand. He’s got easy mechanics and a downright sexy amount of downhill plane. Hope for health, because if he’s healthy, he’s gonna get guys out.

Jairo Beras has massive raw power. Hasn’t added much weight, but he can absolutely crush BP balls. I still have no idea if he can play, or if his motor runs hot enough to power him day in and day out, but he can hit the snot outta it.

Sam Wolff is back and healthy. I expect him to be a key member of the Frisco bullpen and he went 2ip today. Ran the FB up to 95 and still has a good mid-70s CB. Threw a couple SLs too.

AAA players don’t wear helmets during BP. All the other guys do. Just thought that was funny and you should know.

I got a chance to catch up with Guilder Rodriguez. He’s really excited to be continuing his climb up the coaching ladder stateside this year. He’ll be a coach with the Arizona Rookie League squad and he said he really just hopes that Frisco wins the championship this year. Same ol’ G-Rod. I’d let him hold my wallet or drive my grandmother to the DMV.

Alex Speas spent some time working with roving pitching wizard Jeff Andrews. Speas is wildly talented and has an insanely fast arm. They were working on keeping the rest of his body still. I think striving for mechanical consistency will be a very well marked goal of his upcoming season. Sky’s the limit here. He’s a lotto ticket, and I love, love, love those.

Austin Pettibone is a side-armer who runs it up into the low-90s. He also walked 41 guys in 63.2ip for High Desert last year, but you don’t see many guys with his delivery bring that kind of velo, so his is at least a name to sock away.

Texas really likes the Cuban they gave $1.1 million to, Yanio Perez. I say that because nearly every Rangers employee I ran into said something positive about Yanio. He’s 21 years old and has plenty of junk in the trunk. Moves pretty well for a dude his size, but other scouts I’ve spoken to are less sold on him. Somebody’s gonna be right, and man of man, I hope it’s our guys.

Condor Guzman returned to the backfields and at 6’7” 255lbs, he was hard to miss. Love that kid and really, really hope he gets to live his dreams.

Speaking of big, left handed humans, CD Pelham continues to be a bit intriguing to me. Still learning how to pitch and how to work his levers, Listed at 6’6” and 245lbs, the 22 year-old pitched for Spokane last year and put up a yucky 7.11ERA that included 43 walks in 38 innings pitched. Of course, he also struck out 50 guys in those 38 innings. He sat 94-96 today. So a giant, raw lefty with premium velocity. Another name to sock away.

I finally got a chance to see Josh Morgan catch and to chat with him a bit. I’ll be danged if he’s not a really nice kid too. Exceedingly polite and self-deprecating. Seems a smart kid. He said the plan is to have him catch around 40 games this season. Not sure where he’ll do it, but he looks cool in the gear. Had some trouble with the transfers today, but definitely has the athleticism and agility to become a capable backstop. Just gonna take reps and it sounds like their pretty commited to him getting some this season. Also, he can still really hit and knows what the strike zone is.

Know who else I saw today? Jake Lemoine. Yep. And if the shoulder holds up, he’s a dude. He threw 3 pitches and seemed to have a good idea what he was doing. FB was 91-92, showed some feel for a 85-86 CH and a 82 mph SL. He got a swing and miss on the CH. Threw 2 innings and the most important thing isn’t how he did on Tuesday, it’s how he feels on Wednesday.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know what’s coming next. It was late in the afternoon and the 9th inning of the A-ball game was dragging on. The Royals managers had shown a proclivity for “rolling” innings all afternoon. “Rolling an inning” is the the phrase used when a coaching staff simply decides their guy has had enough and they don’t want him to throw any more pitches, regardless of how many outs he’s gotten or how the other team is hitting. It’s an old school, mutual respect thing. You’ll hear a coach from the bench holler “Roll It!” and both teams just act as though the final out has been recorded and they file into their respective dugouts. Well, Texas loaded up the bases and it was clear the Royals reliever was tiring. I told a Rangers front office guy and a Texas scout, I was gonna be super bummed when the Royals rolled the inning and ended the game with Leody Taveras in the on-deck circle. Wouldn’t have surprised me one bit. Their dude was running on fumes. Well, they didn’t roll it, but Leody ended it. Grand slam, oppo taco, walkoff yard bomb. Doesn’t get much cooler than that.

So riding high on the adrenaline of a Leody walkoff, I decided to go watch the big league baseball game. They’re very big. I ran into some old friends over there. Turns out they’re paid handsomely for their services nowadays. Good for them. I reminded them all I’m writing about their replacements. Life is a flat circle.

Anyway, I had a blast watching all these former dudes. Here’s some observations:

-I am trained to focus on the stuff, but not necessarily the results. Big league games are only about the results. Get guys out, win games, make money. That said, I’m glad I got to watch Hollywood Hamels pitch. His stuff wasn’t good early on, neither was his command, but he battled and found a groove. The FB was 90mph, but once he began to command it in late in the second inning, he looked like Cole Hamels. He was commanding it armside well, but never seemed to get the gloveside location he was searching for. Regardless, he was changing the eye level at will and really shredded some seriously aggressive White Sox hitters. I’ve got no idea about the slightly lower-than normal velo on the FB, but he overcame it and got outs. And at his level, that’s all that matters. He K’d the side in the 4th, all swinging on FB 90, FB 90, and CT 88. I’m perfectly happy to attribute the couple ticks down in velo to the fact that it’s March. Also, having a nasty-ass double-plus CH in your back pocket anytime you need it seems pretty cool.

-Tanner Scheppers was 93-94 mph with the FB.

-Jeremy Jeffress was 91-93 with his heavy 2-seamer. He wasn’t very sharp, but seemed to be settling down as his outing wore on.

-It was my first time to see Tony Barnette from behind the plate. Everything moves. Everything wiggles. Yowza. It’s easy to see how he is effective. It’s certainly not overpowering, but it is confusing.

- Delino DeShields adds an element to the team that is basically entirely lacking if he’s not there. No one else is fast. There are a couple guys who will garner average grades on their speed; notably Odor and Elvis and probably Gomez who are still 50-grade runners. And there are guys who are savvy on the bases- like Ryan Rua, but I can’t think of another “plus” grade runner. A 60, 70 or 80-grade flyer. Just Delino. Everyone else is slow or average. I have no idea how they fit him in, but I can tell you I didn’t see anyone else tonight with anywhere near a similar skill as he has.

-Speaking of speed, or lack thereof. Adrian Beltre took the smallest lead off of first base I’ve ever seen a professional baseball player take. Preserve the body, Zeus. Also, I watched him take BP and I have no idea why any Rangers fan would list any player above him as their favorite. He’s a damn treasure.

Pretty, pretty pitching (notice him hitting the same plant foot spot within about an inch everytime):

So, that’s the end of a 12 hour day of watching live baseball. I saw MLB, AAA, AA, High-A, and Low-A baseball in the same day. Have I mentioned Spring Training is the best?

Until tomorrow!

As Always, Enjoy Baseball! Love Ya!