Willson Contreras has the bat slip out out of his hands and it comes flying right at me. I ducked and moved my head to the right behind the net and the short cement wall. Unfortunately, this was a heat seeking bat and it hit the iron fencing behind me, richochets, and hits me squarely on the knee anyway. It's a bit sore and bruised, but no big deal. I'm a grinder. I stayed in the game and will be right back in that spot for the next game.
Enough about me, though. On with the players --especially since the game was over early as Surprise thumped Mesa 20-6 (box score)
Let me start off by saying that this was not a good day for pitchers, especially the ones on Mesa. It was a windy day, blowing out early and then blowing in from LF later.
Ryan Etsell started for Mesa and he's a guy with a tall, athletic frame (6'5, 190 lbs), good control and average stuff. He had a 3/4 delivery, was in the 90-92 range but had trouble getting a feel for his curve. Perhaps he had some trouble getting on top of it as it flattened out and had more of a sweeping action, clocking in the 80 mph range. The guess here is the Angels think they can get more out of this kid -- maybe more velocity and a better breaking ball. He looks the part and he appears to have some arm strength, but it did not translate to results on this day.
Sam Wolff was the opposing starter for Surprise. He's a Texas Rangers prospect who missed all of this season with an injury. He was a very different looking pitcher from a physical standpoint. He has about average size (6'1", 190 lbs) and he comes more over the top and showed some good arm strength, pitching in the 94-96 mph range, with an 85-87 mph slider and a mid 70s curve. I liked the velocity on the slider but it had a pretty short break and didn't have much depth. The curve may have better potential, especially with his higher arm slot, especially if he can get the velocity up a tick or two and tighten it up a bit.
- Greg Mahle is an Angels left-hander with a low 90s FB, a solid curve in the 79-81 range, slider, and change. He has a strong, mature build at 6'2", 225 lbs., so there may not be a lot of physical projection there. He's a guy with solid stuff across the board with movement on his pitches, including some sink on his fastball. Simple, repeatable delivery. Throws strikes Probably not a high ceiling but a good bet to be a useful guy in the middle of a bullpen.
- Corey Black had many of the same traits we've seen from him in the past: tremendous arm speed, though it does come with some effort, that can generate mid 90s heat -- he was in the 93-96 range today. The slider was in the mid 80s but it lacked it's usual bite today. Black also struggled a lot with his command, something that plagued him this past season. Just needs to throw strikes because the stuff is MLB quality when it's right.
The Position Players
Lewis Brinson is a lean, athletic OF prospect in the Rangers system. While covering the draft for my Cubs site, he was a player I had some interest in. He was a tough sign with an uncertain hit tool -- a high risk/high reward type. Like many fast players, he'd grown accustomed to chopping down on the ball to get it on the ground so he can leg out hits. He holds his hands up high in his stance but brings them down as he gets ready to load and it seems to be paying dividends. He drove the ball well twice today, both toward right-center with the first one being a triple when he showed a nice ability to bring his hands in and get inside the ball. The second was a deep sac fly. He also showed good discipline at the plate, walking 3 times, then showed his speed on the bases and later with a nice catch in CF that he ran down in the gap. This is an exciting player. The sky is the limit with this kid.
Other than hitting me with the bat, Willson Contreras showed he can hit the baseball as well. We've talked about his quick hands and strong wrists/forearms in the past. One of Contreras big improvements this year has been the ability to go the other way and he did that the first time with a line drive single to RF. The other has been in terms of his plate discipline, as he also walked, Then late in the game, after the wind had shifted and started blowing in from LF, Contreras crushed a line drive that cut right through the wind in what was perhaps the loudest contact of the day. We didn't get to see his rapidly improving catching skills as he played 1B.
I didn't know what to expect from Bubba Starling. He has gone from hyped draft prospect to getting perilously to getting the bust label tagged on him and now to a solid player who is once again showing promise. He put his power on display today, launching the deepest HR of the day in his first AB a blast that landed deep on the LF berm, then adding a 2nd HR down the LF line later, Starling also singled through the hole between SS and 3B and walked. I think as fans sometimes we expect too much out of high school players too early -- especially raw ones like Starling. Sometimes they need time to develop. The same is true of IFA signings and Contreras is a good example of that as well.
- I really wasn't planning on talking about Jeimer Candelario for two articles in a row, but how do you ignore a guy who goes 5 for 5? He hit 3 doubles and 2 HRs -- the second one being an opposite field shot against the wind. Everything Candelario hit today was on the screws. He's completely locked in.
- If you were to judge Patrick Wisdom by the results solely on the games I go to, you'd probably think he's the best hitting prospect in baseball. He always seems to hit the ball well when I'm there. Today was no exception. Wisdom tripled (and came around to score on an error) and doubled twice. The tools are evident. Wisdom has raw power though there are still some holes (he can get long, as he did when he popped up later in the game) and some debate about his hit tool. Again, maybe this is a guy who needs some time to develop (though he was a college pick) and that is why he's here. One thing he already does exceptionally well is play defense. He was at 1B today and has soft hands, but he has a cannon arm and profiles at 3B.
- Too many great offensive performances to list today so you'll have to check the box score that is linked at the top of the article. I'll have to save notes on those hitters for another time.