OK, back from my annual trip to Cleveland where, while I didn't see a lot of baseball, I did take in a couple of minor league games. Here is the report:
Monday, July 24th - Captains game with Brady Aiken pitching -
Brady Aiken - First, you know how at the end of the pitcher's pre-game warmups the umpire may lean over the catcher to see the last couple of pitches? Not a good idea with Aiken! Right now he looks like a somewhat tame version of the Wild Thing. In his pre-game warmups he was all over the place, looking like he would never find the plate and his outing would be short. Once the game started, however, he was, as advertised. Not striking out a lot, walking some and, generally, having a lot of traffic on the bases. Let's just say, with this guy almost everything is a high leverage inning so maybe he has a future as a Andrew Miller-like reliever. He is certainly getting practice in pressure situations and, generally, is really successful. Overall, a very good outing for him.
One thing I saw with him is that he doesn't appear overly athletic. One time he was really slow getting over to first base to cover the bag on a grounder to Tapia (more on that next). Another time there was a dribbler to his left and he fell down on his face trying to field it.
Emmanuel Tapia - I came expecting to see some power from this guy and was not disappointed. He hit his first ball so hard and it got out over the fence in center so fast that it fooled the base umpire who thought it had hit the fence when it really hit the backdrop and bounded back. Eventually the umps changed the call to a HR, which was accurate. He also showed that with two strikes and runners in scoring position he can shorten his stroke and, although he lined out to the shortstop, the fact that he could make that mid-at bat adjustment bodes well for his future. There is some swing-and-miss in his game but he seemed more under control than a guy just swinging from his heels would be.
If that wasn't enough, I also saw something that shocked me. Tapia made not one, not two, but THREE great defensive plays in the game, diving twice to his left and once to his right to rob hitters of hits. He was also otherwise solid around the bag, as well.
This combination of power and defense is not normally seen at low A ball. Those two attributes plus his developing two strike approach mean, to me, that we may really have something in this kid, something that I don't know if anyone really saw coming.
Thursday July 27th - WIlliamport at Mahoning Valley with Zach Plesac on the mound for the Scrappers.
I wrote previously that the combination of last year's draft of HS players, those HS players only moving up one level this year and the large number of college players we drafted this year gives Mahoning Valley a glut of position players. When I was there Ulysses Cantu, Nolan Jones and Hosea Nelson did not play as it was their night to sit as manager Luke Carlin tries to rotate guys in to get everyone some ABs.
Zach Plesac - He looked as advertised, dominating hitters and being the anti-Aiken, keeping traffic off the bases. He was on a pretty strict pitch count and so left after retiring the first batter of the 4th.
Samad Taylor - When your second baseman is hitting 3rd, a guy who normally hits leadoff, it gets your attention. He isn't built like a 3-hole hitter but it is interesting that Carlin thought he could handle that better than other guys who could have batted 3rd. (NOTE: interestingly Taylor was back leading off the next night and went 4-5). The thing that struck me about Taylor is that it appears he has significant swagger to his game. Not that swagger is a bad thing but that level of fire was unexpected for a guy so young. I like him and he is definitely worth watching.
Scrappers bullpen - The college pitchers drafted this year continue to do very well. It looks like the Indians, once again, have found college pitchers who stand a decent chance to develop into ML middle relievers, or more.
All-in-all a good couple of nights of viewing Indians' prospects and, what do you know, I got to see two wins, as well. Now, back to real life or, at least, watching the trading deadline approach.