Alrighty, so we already covered the fact that rain washed out half my trip, so this will be the final desert dispatch from 2023. Stay tuned to Scott Lucas’ feed as he was scheduled to stay a few days longer and of course, the weather is back to being Arizona perfect. In the meantime, let’s take a look at more of what I saw in Surprise.
I didn’t get to see Brock Porter pitch in a game, but I did see him and a pack of coaches have a loooong side session. First impression is that he’s a very big young man. Listed at 6’4” 205lbs and I’d say he’s every bit of that. In shorts and a t-shirt, his massive quads are definitely impressive, but in uniform the striking thing about his appearance is his wide shoulders. “PORTER” goes almost straight across his back, without much of a curve at all. Dude is shaped like the letter “Y”. He’s gonna be a big, athletic-looking fella by his mid-20s. Kid appears to be working hard, and I noticed some of the head whack I saw in a few of his high school videos is already muted and nearly gone. Anyways, here’s the 2022 Gatorade National Player of the Year:
Next up is everybody’s favorite new dude, Anthony Gutierrez. First, I gotta say, the kid has bounce in his step. Off the field he moves like he doesn’t have a care in the world and seldom is seen without a smile. He’s not brash, but isn’t afraid to return a verbal volley in English or Spanish. Between the lines, he’s pretty obviously talented. As in, a baseball casual would easily pick him out after a 9-inning game as being one of, if not THE best player on the field. Even though he’ll be only 18 all season, his talent is THAT obvious. I think he’ll stick in CF and if he doesn’t, he looks to have more than enough arm for RF. He tracks pitches at the dish and stays 100% locked in during not only ABs, but also while in the outfield. He’s really good and seems mature for his age. Texas has a very, VERY interesting player here. Also, sometimes he wears batting gloves, other times he doesn’t. Because he’s 18.
I watched Emiliano Teodo pretty closely and my prevailing thought walking away was that he’s very much a work-in-progress. Lots of video and iPad peeks during his side sessions and the few breaking balls he landed in the zone emitted words of congratulations and joy from nearby coaches. But this is a kid who regularly hit 99mph with his FB last year, so I think he’s very much a dude. A starter dude or a reliever dude? TBD. Long way to go for him as he likely heads to a talented Hickory rotation. He’s listed at 6’1” 165lbs, but as you can see, he sure looks sturdier than 165. Gonna be a fun year to follow him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we know just as little about his ultimate future at the end of the year as we do now. Late-blooming fireballers can be like that sometimes.
New 40-man member, Dustin Harris still has an excessively quick bat. Excessively quick. And he spent most of Spring Training splitting time between LF and 1B. I’ll be very curious to see where he gets most of his defensive action as his season gets underway, presumably at Round Rock. Peep him pull his hands in and sending the lumber screaming through the inner half to rope this 0-2 offering for a double:
If Harris is to make appearances at 1B for Round Rock, those days could result in Blaine Crim moving to DH. (Tsutsugo will likely be there too?) I saw Blaine play 1 game and he turned around 95 on the inner half and sent it 415’. (The video below results in a walk. Saved you a click.) As we’ve discussed before, it seems every team has a prospect like Blaine: easy to root for, but will have to prove himself at every level, including the big leagues if he earns that chance. I really hope he gets there.
Here’s a pretty random look at a couple promising arms: South Grand Prairie’s own Josh Stephan and the best name on the entire farm, Biembenido Brito. I like them both. Stephan will likely head back to Hickory where the 21 year-old will continue to work on adding salty offspeeds to go along with this jumpy low-to-mid 90s FB. Brito, who recently turned 20 is a guy we should all know, not just because his name is kick ass and fun to say, but also because he had 55K in 34.2 innings while surrendering only 2 homers in the Dominican Summer League. I’m not sure if he’s headed for the Complex League or not, but a nod in the Down East rotation wouldn’t surprise me at all. (two bonus tidbits about the video below. 1) you can see new Rangers Special Assistant Dayton Moore in the background. I walked past him and didn’t think anything of it because I’ve seen him often given the team shares the complex with the Royals. Took me a second before I realized, “Oh yeah, he works here now.” 2) that pitching coach you hear/see is talking with Jackson Kelley. See below.)
With Chase Lee in Round Rock and hopefully knocking on the big leagues’ door at some point as a middle-man this season, Texas needed a new funky righty. Enter Jackson Kelley, their 12th round selection last year our of Mercer University. As is often the case with side-armers, he took a minute to get to that release point and spent all 4 years in college. I’m bringing him up because, like Lee, he showed pretty impressive command not only in college, but also in this side session. Those strings in front of the catcher are pretty dang close together and this kid was slipping his pitches in between them almost every time he wanted to. Uniquely, you can also see him signal CB at 0:30 and hear a coach off to the side say “Oh baby, over the top” just before Jackson changed it up and did just that: threw a good CB with a pretty normal 3⁄4 arm slot. Between Mercer and the Cape Cod League last year (his first season as a full-time reliever), this kid had 20BB and 107K in 76 innings. I’d never really heard of him, and THAT’S why every year I tell my wife “I’m sorry, but I really do have to go out to Arizona in person.”
Here’s another random darkhorse for ya. Leury Tejada just turned 23 and isn’t an unknown commodity. 27BB/77K in 72.1 ip last season, split between Hickory and Down East. But I bring him up because he’s the type of guy that if he just adds one click in velo to his pitches, he’s a dude. 93-94 with a whippy SL and pretty good command of the FB. Is it likely a kid like him adds 2-3 more mph? Not really. It’s probably more likely he stays the same or even loses a mph or two. But he knows what he’s doing up there and just a lil’ more ‘umph makes him a lot more interesting. We’ll keep an eye on ya, Leury.
I also watched Ricky Vanasco pitch. I expect him to open the season in Frisco’s rotation and that could be exciting. I’d heard about a velo drop, but in his first inning, it was not to be seen as he was sitting 95 and T 97. In Ricky’s second inning of work, it was 93 and came in around 92 in the 3rd inning he was out there. The secondaries looked pretty good and he was throwing both breaking balls and a CH with confidence. Looking forward to getting a better read on him as the season wears on off The Tollway.
Joe Palumbo still throws a mean CB. His FB was 91-93 and the yakker was 78mph at an elite 2900 rpms. He hasn’t pitched much over the last 3 years as he’s battled injuries and health issues, but he looked happy and healthy and I expect he’ll provide some depth in Round Rock this year.
Had a lovely quick chat with a smiling and happy-as-hell-to-be-here Alex Speas. After spending last year coaching high school ball and all but retired, he found the fire again and decided to give it one last go. So far, I’ve heard it’s been more of the same. Still athletic, still not sure where his pitches are going, still throws incredibly hard. How hard? Glad you asked, because so did I. “He threw two sliders that registered 94mph on Trackman the other day.” That’s how hard. Lol.
I saw big lefty Lucas Jacobsen throw as well. Like Speas, he has fun Trackman readings too. The oft-injured hurler wasn’t throwing quite as hard as he was at the beginning of Frisco’s 2022 campaign, but his FB was still 93-96. He throws an 80mph breaking ball that comes in with a pretty standard 2200 rpms, but his money pitch is a nasty, true splitter. That one breaks your brain when the numbers pop up: 90mph, 910 rpm. As far as I know, Luke’s never been to Japan, but you’d be forgiven for thinking he has.
After the backfields rainout was confirmed on Wednesday, I made plans to go watch the big league game. The Rangers beat the White Sox in a breakneck 1 hour and 54 minutes. Dare I say, almost too fast? Anyways, the displeasure of having to watching Mike Clevinger on the mound was offset by getting to see our old pals Elvis Andrus (2B) and Leury Garcia (SS). They were both pulled after the 5th inning and left the field through a gate behind home plate. Elvis gave a huge hug to longtime Rangers Scout/Front Office man Josh Boyd, then spotted a kid in head-to-toe Rangers gear about to ask for his autograph. Rather than sign something (he was in a hurry), Elvis, in a flash, reached into the equipment bag slung over his shoulder and pulled out his game used bat, giving it to the kid without so much as a second thought. The youngster’s entire section looked stunned and started laughing and smiling, yelling “Thank you!” and “Awesome!” to Elvis as he disappeared down the tunnel. A very big H/T to EA for being the same person he’s always been.
That’s it from me this Spring. Wha’dya say we get this party started. Here’s to another season on the farm!
As Always, Enjoy Baseball!