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Raising Arizona V. 2018

Notes from the Surprise backfields

Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers
Baseball’s Back Baby!
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Hellllooooooooo! It’s your intrepid Spring Training reporter here, with boots on the ground once again in lovely Arizona. This is the part where I tell you if you’ve never done a Spring Training trip, you gotta do a Spring Training trip. I mean, it’s nirvana, but without the Grohl. Don’t get me wrong, Arizona’s still a weird place. It has millions of residents, yet still feels abandoned. That’s hard to do. Kinda like how you feel alone in New York City, despite being surrounded by other people. Anyway, Arizona this time of year is simply the bee’s knees. Teams share complexes and most of them are within a 20-30 minute drive of each other. So that’s where me and my pal and yours, Scott Lucas, began today: on the road. We skipped Surprise and headed straight over to Goodyear and the Reds complex cuz that’s where the Rangers youngest of youngs were set to roll. And here’s what I saw:

Got a good look at AJ Alexy. Listen, the kid is 19, and I kinda forgot that at times last season. There’s enough to dream on with the 6’4” righty, and he comfortably sat in the low 90s and touched 95. The CB is sllllowwww and if it gets too loopy it looks scary, but he’s got the arm and the slot to have an effective SL if he wants to go that route as well. The biggest thing was that he threw strikes. Not always a calling card in previous outings, I’m told he’s throwing strikes this spring, and that’s a good thing. He does have some deception and he generates swings and misses even without mega-velo. When he kept the ball down and finished his pitches, he looked very effective. After slinging over a couple really good low-90s FBs about knee high on the outer half, the onlooking Rangers coaches smiled. One Rangers coach spoke from experience. Colby Lewis, in uniform as a “Special Assistant”, looked around, grinning, and said “You can make a lot of money down there.”

I slowed that clip down so you can see the whippy motion of Alexy’s arm, and so you can spend more time marveling at the young mass of young man that is young Sam Huff. He too spent all of last season as a 19 year-old and will hopefully be ready for a full-season assignment outta the chute this year. Best way to ascertain the most likely future for a catcher is to ask a pitching coach. They’re not always fond of young catchers. “Is he a catcher?” I said. “All the way up?” “Yeah. Oh yeah”, was the reply. So, that’s cool. Here’s Sam’s wiggly, moving setup/load that looks a bit quirky, but generates legit, loud contact.

Pedro Gonzalez looks like a Div-I shooting guard. He’s tall and athletic and long and it was windy today so he looked like a Div-I shooting guard on some twisty balls hit his way in centerfield. Long levers at the plate give me pause, but he moves well up there so you’re well within your rights to dream big on this kiddo. He’s gonna hit some bombs and swing and miss at some benders, but the growth pattern is seldom straight. Everyday MLB outfielder? Mayyyybeee.

I think Melvin Novoa is gonna hit. He was the DH today, so I didn’t see him catch this afternoon, but I did see him spit (a couple times) on the same breaking ball that ate up Petey Gonzalez. He saw the pitch in the on-deck circle and was ready for it. Also, he’s shaped like a catcher.

Alex Speas threw. He throws hard and his arm moves real, real fast. His delivery is very simplified and I’m fairly certain he threw at least 1 good CH. He also met some barrels and was 93-96.

My main man CD Pelham hurled on Monday as well. He really looks the part. 6’6”, oxen strong and very left-handed. He goes mid-90s and there very well could be more in the tank. Multiple Rangers employees mentioned how far his SL has come along this spring. He’ll likely never have impeccable command, but if he has control and throws strikes, he’ll make it to the bigs. Notice here how he sets up on the far 3B side of the rubber, but look how his plant foot lands well to the 1B side of the rubber. To a lefty, his pitches basically start behind them.

Leody homered today, because he can. He’s filled out a bit since last season and remains a calm and cool cat. I know I’ve said it before, but he’s chill. Not an emotional, loud fella. He’s The Little Chill. And sometimes he strikes out when I’m filming him.

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but Scott Williams continues to look like a dude to me. The 24 year-old righty doesn’t light up the radar gun or have a ++ offspeed pitch. He doesn’t stand 6’6” and scare the other team jogging in from the ‘pen. But if he stays healthy, I think he’ll pitch in the big leagues. Wait. I can put my finger on it. I’ve seen guys like Scott enough times to know the formula. He throws in the low 90s and touches 95. He has a good breaking ball. He throws strikes. He doesn’t walk guys. He takes the easy outs and challenges the hitters with every pitch. ‘Member that name.

I went to the big league game tonight and saw Steve Delabar and Kevin Jepsen pitch in a Rangers uniform. I think before the summer is over, you could see Steve Delabar and Kevin Jepsen pitch in a Rangers uniform too. So you got that goin’ for ya.

Juan Centeno is a good defender. He’s light and quiet back there, then makes himself into a good target. Lightning quick out of his crouch as well, and with great instincts. No idea if he’s gonna be the backup catcher because he can’t hit, but I gotta figure the pitchers and the rest of the defense feel good about him being out there a couple days a week.

Jake Diekman was 90-91, but the physical transformation he’s made in the last 6-8 months is remarkable. Dude is ripped. I’m not terribly worried about that velo band from him in March. Check with me again in June.

I first noticed the Yeezy 350s sitting next to me at the Rangers night game, but when I followed them all the way up past his neck, I noticed the face too. It was White Sox prospect and former Texas High School dominator, Michael Kopech. I introduced myself and told him I saw him pitch in high school. He was very polite to this weird Rangers blogger and told me a funny story about how much better big league hitters are than every minor league hitter. Said he felt good about the CH grip he’d been using until his first live BP versus the major leaguers and immediately was told his arm was slowing down and he needed to scrap it and start over. I neglected to tell him about my plot to kidnap him, dye his hair and put him in a Rangers uniform under the name “Olmos James Edwards”. Anyway, I’m just telling you a story about a famous prospect from another team sitting in the stands watching a night game because I want you to understand that this is baseball heaven and this time of year anything can, and does, happen in Arizona. Until tomorrow!!!

As Always, Enjoy Baseball!

Love Ya!