Wednesday, March 16, 2016

2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. Day 1: The Doubleheader

Today the Twins had a 7:05 PM game hosting the Boston Red Sox.  At 1PM the Twins' AAA and AA teams hosted the equivalent of the Orioles'.  I spent the afternoon watching the Twins AA team, before moved to Hammond Stadium in the evening for the nightcap. 

I was delighted to see that Tyler Jay was the starter for the AA game.  Jay was ranked as the Twins' number 2 prospect in my off-season 2016 rankings and I have to say that he proved me happy with that ranking.  He pitched for a full 4 innings and featured 4 pitches:  a 93-94 mph FB that topped at 96, an 85-86 mph slider, an 81-83 mph change up and a 77-80 mph curve.  This is a very effective pitch mix for him.  He has a short arm delivery and hides the ball well.  He commands all pitches well and his fastball is definitely his out pitch; sets it up beautifully with the slider and the change up.  He throws his curve low and outside the strike zone to make hitters chase it; and they do.  At this level.  One of the questions about Jay has been the ability to be a started as far as endurance goes.  Today he was not frugal with his pitches, which is something that he would have to learn as he matures as a professional.

His Catcher was 25 year old  Joe Maloney who the Twins signed as a minor league free agent after an MVP season in the Canadian-American Association Independent League Rockland Boulders.  Maloney's problem is that he is not a very good catcher and he showed that today, having a throw sail over the head of the second baseman on a steal attempt and two passed balls.  The second passed ball bounced off Maloney's glove to the home plate umpire's hand to his cup, incapacitating the umpire.   Twins' legend Tom Kelly had to call balls and strikes behind the pitcher for the next half inning before a replacement umpire relieved him:



Another new minor league free agent on display today was Keury De La Cruz.  The 24 year old outfielder has one of the longest swings I have seen with an extremely violent back swing.  After his first PA, I mumbled that someone will get hurt here, and in the 5th inning, it happened to get the Baltimore catcher's head with that backswing.  Some serious coaching needs to happen here.   De La Cruz  provided a bit of a comic relief sliding feet first about 2 feet to the left of where a routine fly ball fell in the second inning.  Will not be surprised in the Twins bite the bullet and cut him soon.

The Twins signed 27 year old RHP Omar Belcomo from the American Association Independent League where he last played for the Wichita Lugnuts, to make 3 starts for the Fort Myers Miracle at the end of their season.   Belcomo last played affiliated ball in 2011 for the Tampa Bay Rays single A team at Bowling Green.  He is an interesting player to keep an eye on, as he is a poor man's Sam Deduno.  He has two pitches:  A fastball that goes from 86 to 91, which he can absolutely not command and goes all over the place, including the head of a Baltimore hitter in his second inning of work.  His second pitch is a 77-81 mph change up that actually is an above average to a plus pitch, and a pitch that he seems to be able to control. 

Raul Fernandez was another of the minor league free agents the Twins signed last off-season.  The 25 year old RHP Dominican was converted from Catcher to Pitcher by the Rockies after his first DSL season and spent last season in the White Sox' AA team.  Long arm motion with 92-93 mph FB with late pop, an 88 mph cutter/2-seamer and a low 80s change up.  Very good ability to mix them and throw them all for strikes and good command.  He seemed to confuse batters.

Brian Gilbert seems to get his fastball up a couple ticks, consistently hitting 94 and 95 with a couple of 96 mph.  He complemented that with an 85-86 mph slider.  Seemed to be effectively wild, but it is the start of the Spring Training.  Just 23, drafted by the Twins in the 7th round in 2013; keep your eye open for him.

Yorman Landa was the last pitcher for the AA Twins, fresh from the MLB side of Spring Training.  I last saw him pitch a couple seasons ago and he is a different pitcher.   He supplemented his excellent high 80s low 90s 2-seamer with a 4-seamer that sit at 93-95 and popped up to 96, but is straight with inconsistent command and control.  Straight FBs at 95 and 96 will get hit hard by good AA hitters and that is what happened to him today.  His 78-81 mph curve was good.  He did not throw a change up today.  Definite potential there, but he needs work. 

Something to keep in mind:  Today watching the Twins' AA pitchers was a Texas Rangers' (who train in AZ) scout.  Not sure that anything is going on, but he was there.

Fast forward a few hrs to the Twins' MLB game at Hammond Stadium against the Red Sox. 

Kyle Gibson was the starter, and he had things really working for him, including his best pitch, a slider, purely made of filth, dancing at 84-86 mph and striking out Red Sox who were either looking at it with open eyes or swinging and missing wildly.   That today was a FranKKKKKKKKKKKKKie Liriano slider in his prime, Ladies and Gentlemen.  Four seamer 92-95, two seamer high 80s, and a changeup at 79-81 was the rest of Gibson's repertoire tonight. Gibson was in mid-season form.

Another player who was in mid-season form was Miguel Sano, who punished a Bucholtz breaking ball deeply off the Centerfield wall for a double, and even more importantly made a solid catch in RF and threw a pea that would had thrown the tagging runner out at third if Trevor Plouffe did not bobble the ball.

Back to pitching.  One of the greatest mysteries this spring has been Glen Perkins' velocity, so I charted all of his pitches.  Here they are:

FB 90, FB 89, FB 91, FB 86, FB 89, SL 78, FB 91, FB 88, SL 78, SL 79, SL 81, FL 89, FB 89, FB 90, SL 81, FB 89.

86-91 mph FB and 78-81 mph SL.  This is a good 5-6 mph off where Perkins need to be to be effective.  Nevertheless this should be raising more Red Flags to the Twins' brass than there are outside the Kremlin...

Have a few more notes from today, but for the sake of brevity, I will include them in one of the future writeups 

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