Spring Training Notes

March 14, 2009 at 10:18 pm 5 comments

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Man, I have been slammed. But, I finally got to go to a game and scout some of the players and just relax from a busy schedule. Here are some of the things I noticed along with some surprising numbers from this 2009 Spring Training.

Andrew McCutchen should be in the Majors playing centerfield this year. McCutchen, during the time I saw him, reminds me a lot of B.J. Upton. He has a smooth swing and takes a short path to balls over the plate. He absolutely puts a hurtin’ on a baseball. In his first at-bat he lined a pitch on the inner-half to the left fielder that took about two seconds to reach the glove of the left fielder. He made an out but it was a screaming liner that happened to find a fielder. In his second at-bat he murdered a pitch that he hit out on a line to left-center that had to clear 375 feet. He shows good patience and waits for a pitch he can handle. He struggles on pitches away and needs to have better pitch recognition if he is to become a star. The Pirates were playing him in LF, which is a mistake, but Nate McLouth was in center. McCutchen is a better fielder than McLouth right now and should be in CF with McLouth in LF.

-Speaking of McLouth, he is what he is, a potential 20-20 guy that could approach 30-30. He has a nice swing that produces a lot of line drives as long as he keeps his head down. He has a great approach at the plate showing patience while not letting a good pitch to hit go to waste. He is a lot faster than I thought, too. He hit a ball to left that would be a single for most or a sliding double for some faster players. He turned it into a stand-up double with no problem, showing blazing speed that looked effortless. He showed a lack of reaction in CF but makes up for it with his speed and ends up making “Web Gem” type plays that, with his speed and better recognition, should be a routine and make him a real Gold Glover.

Jeff Salazar is a name that you will not here much but he has some value. He showed a mature approach at the plate. He took everything that was close and never went out of the zone. He fouled off the tough pitches with two strikes and waited for a pitch he could handle. Salazar showed good speed and good instincts on the field. He has plus range but his arm is average. His value is in his eye, his game instincts, and his ability to play above-average defense at all three outfield positions. He should be a very valuable 4th outfielder. Oh, and he has 3 homers and 7 walks in 29 at-bats this spring.

Adam LaRoche cannot hit lefties and he never will. That’s not new news but it became more evident when I was watching flail at breaking balls off the plate away from Quad-A left-handers.

Craig Monroe has 6 homers on the spring as I write this but when I saw him he was the same players as always. He lacks patience and cannot hit righties. He still cannot tell the difference between a fastball and a breaking ball and the pitcher will win everytime if they have a decent breaking ball. He can definitely hit lefties and that is where his value is.

-I got to see Carlos Pena‘s first this spring and he started out a little rough in batting practice before getting his timing. He had two at-bats in the game and he took to pitches to the opposite field, both for doubles. In his first at-bat he took an outside pitch off the top of the wall that happened to bounce back into play. In his second at-bat he took what looked like an outside curveball down the leftfield line that he hustled into a double. He looks to be in great shape and he could be back to his 2007 form this year.

Tim Beckham must have been nervous because he never looked comfortable. During fielding practice (yes, I know, it is only practice) he air-mailed a couple throws to first, one reaching the fans in the stands. He has incredibly soft hands and a strong arm but his footwork and read on balls needs improvement. He struggled during the game too. He waited back on balls when he should have charged them and the only that saved him was his strong arm and a great dig by Chris Richard at first base. Beckham is a lot bigger than I thought and looks more like Adrian Beltre than a typical shortstop. His approach at the plate is very good. He can take the ball to all parts of the field and he shows decent patience, especially for his age. He has the tools to be a star but he is still very raw. Oh yeah, he was also very approachable and seemed humbled to be there. he signed autographs three seperate times before and after the game and talked to the fans the entire time.

-Little known minor leaguer Chris Nowak displayed good fielding skills and an incredibly strong arm. He has played third and first but took some grounders at short and looked pretty decent there (although I doubt he will get any time at short with his size). I didn’t get to see him bat but his stats don’t look like that of a Major League corner infielder.

Ben Zobrist has played every position other than catcher this spring. He played center when I saw him and had decent range and good reactions but a below-average arm. I saw him field grounders at short (I’ve seen him play short many times) and he has good insticts but just an average arm and his hands seem to be harder than I remember them. Zobrist put on a display from the right-side of the plate in batting practice, taking a couple pitches over the palm tree beyond the left-center field wall.

-I love John Jaso‘s approach at the plate. He has a very low, wide stance that shrinks his strike-zone and allows him to see the ball better. It takes away from some of his power potential but his value is in his ability to get on base and hit for average, which looks like he can do. His swing is smooth and compact and he shows an above-average eye and discipline. He still needs a lot of help if he is going to stay behind the plate. His footwork is below-average and in the game I saw he was trying to throw every runner out that advanced on throws to home when they were obviously safe. Injuries have limited his appeearances behind the plate and playing time is the only thing that can help him improve on his defense. He should be a plus hitter if he can stay at catcher.

****

Surprising spring stats:

Brett Gardner has 3 homers and two doubles.

Jonny Gomes is hitting .384/.400/.864 with 3 homers in 22 at-bats while playing LF, RF, and 1B (a position I’ve always thought he should get some time at). I think Gomes will make the Reds.

Carlos Gomez has 3 homers and 3 walks. I don’t know which one is more surprising.

Chris Shelton is making a case to be Russell Branyan‘s platoon mate at first base. He is hitting .524/.630/1.048 with 3 homers, 2 doubles, and a 6/1 BB/K rate.

Gordon Beckham might be breaking camp as the White Sox starting secondbaseman. He is hitting .375/.423/.833 with 2 homers, 5 doubles, 2 walks, and no strikeouts in 24 at-bats. He should be the starting shortstop and Alexi Ramirez should move to center… but I don’t think that will happen. There will be a lot of hits on the White Sox left-side of the infield in 2009.

Nick Swisher is playing himself out of playing time. He is 2-20 with no extra-base hits. He does have 8 walks and only 3 strikeouts but can’t seem to buy a hit.

Andy LaRoche is hitting .524/.600/.652 with 1 homer and a 5/2 BB/K rate in 23 at-bats. He should get 500 plate appearances this year in Pittsburgh.

Matt Wieters is making hard for the Orioles to not start him at catcher on opening day. He is hitting .440/.462/.680 with 1 homer and 3 doubles in 25 at-bats. Is there any doubt that this kid is going to be star?

-Don’t expect Corey Patterson to make the Nationals crowded outfield. He is hitting .095/.095/.143 (2-21 with no walks) with 1 double and 7 strikeouts and no walks in 21 at-bats.

Jacque Jones is also having trouble and looks to be out of a job. He is hitting .083/.185/.083 (2-24 with no extra-base hits).

Kaz Matsui is 2-30 with zero walks!

Chris Coghlan is a good prospect but he is having a horrible spring going 0-14 at the plate.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell
stats as of games played prior to Sunday 3/15

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2009 Stat Projections – Shortstops Strasburg Should Go Straight to Majors

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Erik  |  March 15, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Nice scouting.

    I’m not sure if you are aware but Adam LaRoche suffers from A.D.D which is why he can’t hit lefties that well it takes him out of his routine.

    I disagree with Andy LaRoche as well he will not get 500ab’s cause well he just fades with real competition. Neil Walker or one of the many 3b prospects the Pirates have will make the jump I would say around July.

    Reply
  • 2. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  March 15, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks!

    I forgot to add Walker. To be honest, before I realized it was him I thought it was a 28 year old Quad-A player. He looks the part of a AAAA player.

    Reply
  • 3. Michael A. Hall  |  March 15, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Tim Beckham is so sexy.

    Or, so I have heard…..

    Reply
  • 4. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  March 16, 2009 at 9:47 am

    I heard the same thing from a drunk 35 year old fake blonde.

    Reply
  • […] the 11th overall pick in the historic 2005 draft, looked like a potential star when I saw him in Spring Training. He hit .286/.365/.471 with an OPS+ of 124, a wOBA of .368, 12 homers, 26 […]

    Reply

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