On Tuesday, I had yet another choice to make. The Royals were playing the Indians at 6:00 and the Royals minor leaguers would be playing at 6:30. I figured that I would be able to see the big club play 162 times starting in about a week, so I would primarily focus on seeing the prospects.
I started at the main stadium to catch some batting practice at the cages, which are a very cool feature, because they are right inside the stadium and the guys are about 3 feet away taking BP. I wanted to get a look at Ankiels ankle to see if he would be ready to go. I am certainly no doctor, however he looked like he was fine to me. He was taking full swings and not easing up at all. I watched his ankle closely and when he turns to rotate his body, he rolls up on the outside of his foot. I don’t know if that is how he injured his ankle, but it looks like It would certainly cause some stress.
The Major League Game
I grabbed my seat for the start of the game so I could watch at least the first inning or so before heading off to the back fields. I guess the Royals were intent on helping me out, since they scored 5 runs in the first and let me see everything I wanted to see.
The first thing I noticed was that I was seeing the battle of 5th starters. Talbot for the Indians and Davies for the Royals. Every single team is “concerned” about their 5th starter, but I was reminded that it could be worse. Davies had his fastball hitting 93 consistently and an off sped pitch at 82. Talbot was sitting at 89 and 83 respectively. Both guys didn’t command the ball particularly well, but Talbot was all over the place walking 3 Royals, which in itself is quite a feat. The bottom line is that Davies looked better than Talbot and is a perfectly fine 5th starter regardless of some of the chatter you hear.
I also wanted to get a look at Aviles and Kila. Aviles absolutely crushed a ball to the wall with Dejesus on second and Podsednik at first. Dejesus scored and Podsednik was hustling right behind Dejesus, he was looking to get a sign from the third base coach and wasn’t getting one. He was clearly motioning to the coach asking whether he should score or not and finally stopped at third. It would have been a close play for Podsednik at home, and stopping him in Spring Training is probably the right call, but it was just odd that the coach was not decisive in the situation and made Podsednik ask for the sign. I wanted to see Kila hit, but it was kind of perfect to watch him walk. Kila also saved a double play by picking a throw from Yuniesky out of the dirt. Brayan Pena’s home run was a bomb and afer him came Yuniesky Betancourt, time to hit the minor league camp.
Minor League Camp
The Royals and Rangers minor leaguers were playing a rare night game and had four simultaneous games going on. The games weren’t posted, so big thanks to Adam Foster at Project Prospect for giving me the details about the games. The first thing I saw was a huge crowd at one of the fields. I moved over and realized Neftali Feliz was pitching for the Rangers. He had pitched the previous day in the Rangers v Rockies games, so I was pretty shocked to see him. I got to see Ernesto Mejia face off against Neftali which was extremely entertaining. Mejia is a big dude and really held his own versus one of the best pitching prospects in the MLB. He ended up striking out, but he fouled off some of Feliz’s sick curve balls and probably saw 10 pitches in the AB.
I moved over to the field that the A ball team was on and saw Tim Mehlville pitching. I moved in behind Adam Foster and jotted down the radar gun readings for Mehlville. His fastball was 89 or 91 mph pretty consistently and he occasionally hit 93 and 94. However, his command was less than spectacular. I don’t recall seeing a single ground ball hit off of him, while there were plenty of fly balls due to leaving the fastball up. His curveball on the other hand was extremely good and he commanded it better than his fastball. He seemed to change speeds with the curve quite a bit as well going anywhere from 72 to 79 mph. Mehlville is still young and can certainly improve. I was impressed with what I saw, but he will need to work on his fastball command to become an elite pitcher.*
*Special thanks to Adam Foster for pointing some of these things out to me and letting me use his radar gun. www.projectprospect.com is a great site. Check it out.
Earlier in the day I had a chance to see Cheslor Cuthbert take fielding practice with Buck Coats, Kurt Mertins and Malcom Culver. Cuthbert seemed to be the best fielder in that group. He didn’t miss a single ball, while all the other guys did. He exhibited very good range and good instincts. It was only one practice, but I was impressed with his fielding.
Hosmer didn’t get on the field at all in the games I saw and there was some talk that he is maybe coming off of a slight injury. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him or confirm this. He was the bat boy in the A ball game and seemed to be moving around fine, so if he is injured it doesn’t seem serious.
There was one other player who impressed me: Patrick Norris. He played CF for the A ball team and showed great speed on the bases, threw a guy out at home and played with some good range in the outfield. He is a switch hitter who pulled the ball with a quick bat from the left side and poked one the opposite way from the right side. It is of course a small sample size but I liked him a lot. He doesn’t get much love around the prospect rankings, and that is probably for a good reason. But I will be keeping my eye on him this year.
Nick hosts a podcast about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and welcomes feedback via Twitter (@brokenbatsingle) and e-mail (brokenbatsingle [AT] gmail [DOT] com)