Monday, April 30, 2012

Beloit Snapper's Baseball

      When I was driving from Minneapolis to Ann Arbor this past weekend, I was lucky enough to catch a Beloit Snappers at Pohlman Field. This was my first minor league game, and it was a uniquely 'minor league' experience. The stadium is tucked away between a quiet neighborhood and a soccer field, covering about the same amount of acreage as a high-school ballpark. That is, a high-school field with about 20 autograph seekers, beer, carnival games and a gang of six year-old's. The field itself is a gem buried in the quaint surroundings, beautiful grass, well-groomed like Luke Scott's beard. However, what matters is what took place on the field, so I'll stop waxing poetic about the stadium and get to the important stuff.

      Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario were the obvious attractions, hell, I would have passed through town had they not been there. I'm obviously not a scout, so please don't take this for anything more than it's worth. What I can say for a fact, is that Sano is freaking beast of a man. Watching the team warm up in the outfield, it was immediately apparent which player he was, #33. Sano is all of 6 foot 3, but still looks very athletic. His body compares to 2012 Hanley Ramirez, though I know they have very different skill sets. I say 2012 Hanley Ramirez and not 2005 Hanley Ramirez for a reason. Sano has the thick, powerful lower body of a veteran but still very athletic frame (much like current Hanley, as 2005 Hanley was a much thinner). Just based on body alone, I don't see Sano ending up at first base, Miguel Cabrera style. His skill at the position is another matter. On the positive side, his arm is as advertised, he won't ever have a problem getting the ball to first. He also impressed me by communicating well and taking charge on a pop-fly between him and the catcher. On the negative side, Sano missed a couple glove side grounders that would be routine in the majors. Lateral movement may be a something he needs to work on. As for the bat, the man can mash. He has huge power, which is apparent in every swing he takes, and I can't imagine he'll ever have problems putting a ball out of any park. However, his approach was not so impressive; in his first at bat, he swung at the first pitch, making bad contact (and still landing the ball near the warning track). In his subsequent appearances he took a couple pitches, but still showed questionable pitch selection.

        Eddie Rosario also reinforced a lot of what I had read and heard. Defensively, he looks athletic, like a prototypical, compact second-baseman. He turned a very nice double play showing off quick hands and very good arm. The scorer's were lenient on at least one play that could have been called an error, where he simply did not get his glove down on a pretty routine grounder. At the plate, he looked very comfortable and showed great discipline, going deep into the count a couple times and fouling off pitches. The scorer's also gave him a break ruling a double as a triple, in which the left fielder had trouble with the ball in the corner. Despite the ruling, the stinging, opposite field liner/grounder was an impressive showcase of his hitting ability. Rosario might have a long road ahead of him based on his lack of defensive polish, but he certainly looks like a big leaguer in other respects.

       I went on much longer than I anticipated on Sano and Rosario, but I wanted to touch on a handful of other players. The Snapper's starting pitcher, Tim Shibuya, struck out 11 and walked none in 6 and 2/3 innings. Sounds impressive, and given how little help he got from the defense, only allowing 3 runs was damn good. However, Shibuya got a lot more called third strikes than swinging strikes, so I wouldn't get expectations for him too high. The other pitcher I wanted to write about was Corey Williams, a third-round pick out of Vanderbilt. Williams passed the eye test and the batter test, finishing his inning easily and quickly giving up just one hit. However, I had read that he was a power lefty hitting mid-90's with the fastball, but the Twins scout sitting in front of me had most of his pitches coming in at 89-90 on his Striker radar gun. I'm not sure if this is was a different pitch, perhaps a two-seam fastball or cutter (though it didn't have much movement) or if this was a bad outing, but I'll be keeping an eye out for reports on his velocity as the season goes on.

Some other quick notes:
Tyler Grimes- The shortstop made two early errors, one fielding and one throwing. Besides that, he didn't look bad, but he now has 7 on the season and errors have been a problem for him; I texted Andy, who said he played against Grimes last year and that he led the conference in errors. Besides that, Andy also threw in that Grimes "squares balls up", which was fairly evident in watching him. He has a strong and compact line drive swing, that probably won't generate too many homers, but should produce solid batting averages at some point.
Daniel Ortiz- He honestly didn't stand out too much, except in one at-bat where he hit a solo opposite-field home run. It was impressive in that he didn't get all of the ball, but it just kept going. He certainly has power, but the rest of his game was very ordinary, including a double down the right field line that was really just a grounder past the first baseman.
Adam Petterson- lists Adam as 5'9" and 170 lbs. and that might be generous, he was easily the smallest guy on the field. That said, he hit the ball, and hit it hard; his double reached the center field wall (380 feet).
Jhon Goncalves (Gone-Cal-Vis)- Last but certainly not least, nobody made more of an impression on me this weekend than Jhon. Being realistic about his future as a pro, I don't expect to see him in the majors, but I will be rooting for it. There is no way his listing of 5'11" and 159 lbs is even close to his real size. Jhon looked like a first baseman playing center field. Though he made all the plays, I don't think he'll be a long-term center fielder in the organization. He hit well too, showing a good approach and some pop with a solid double. Really for no other reason than for him looking totally out of place in center field, I'll be rooting for the kid.


Introducing... Pitcher's Duel

      Nobody reads this blog yet, I'm not sure anyone ever will, but I feel we can't start here until some sort of proper introduction takes place. Maybe somebody will find this in the archives once we have tricked  them into reading our thoughts, ramblings and rants.

      The name 'Pitcher's Duel' was chosen because there's two of us: Nils Johnson (yours truly) and Andy Johnson. Despite our common last name, there is no relation. Our blog will have one theme, baseball, and hopefully not ever straying too far from that. Andy and I are both statistically inclined often drawing a lot of our inspiration from The Book by Tom Tango and Baseball Between the Numbers by Baseball Prospectus. However, I don't think we're close-minded to or dismissive of more traditional baseball-speak. I don't want to speak for Andy too much more, so I'll stop there.

      A little bit about myself, first of all, I love baseball. I like other sports too, but baseball is the one year-round constant obsession in my life. I played rec baseball through high school, and a ton of pickup ball down in what we called 'Johnson Field'. I'm a Twins fan by birth, which gave me a decade or so of good times and a year of disappointment in 2011. Now, I'm a 20 year-old Junior at the U of Michigan in Ann Arbor studying cell biology and econ. I don't have any formal writing experience, which I'm sure is pretty obvious just by reading this, but hopefully my work is somewhat readable and improves. You'll get to know me more as the blog continues and evolves.

      I'll do an introduction for Andy, but I'll try to keep it quick and let him expand later. He's just finishing up his Junior year at Bradley University, and will be a Senior in the fall. A few important things, first, he's a damn good pitcher. I went to a lot of games growing up and he regularly dominated high school hitters, which landed him a spot on the Bradley Braves. Andy had Tommy John surgery last fall, and is currently rehabbing, I hope/expect that he will write about that process. Secondly, he knows a ton about baseball. I don't know anyone our age who knows more about the game itself. Lastly, I believe he's a journalism major, so this blog should be right up his alley.

Time to get to work-

Thursday, April 26, 2012