• Mar
    25

    A View from Sarasota

    Now I remember why our good Doc Shorebird spends so much time here in Sarasota. Seventy degree weather (although it was cooler in the mornings), green grass, and lots of baseball to watch.

     

    Monday  March 24, 2008

     

    Nothing like getting up at 4:00 in the morning to catch a six o’clock flight to watch a baseball practice in Florida, but that’s exactly what I did today.

     

    I arrived at the Orioles Twin Lakes Facility around 10:00, or just in time for the camp to spring to action. The first thing I noticed was how organized and active the entire camp was. Players moved quickly from drill to drill and the coaching staff  was doing a good job of ensuring the drills were done correctly.

     

    Once hitting started, I spent my time going between the four fields trying to see as many hitters as possible. It’s hard to get too much out of these sessions but I was mainly trying to see how the ball comes off the hitters bats and what their swings looked like.

     

    Without a doubt, the best hitter I saw was not surprisingly Matt Wieters. Wieters uses a short, powerful stroke that was impressive from both sides of the plate. Of all the power hitters I saw, Wieters was the only one that did not have a fairly long swing, which suggests he’ll do well quickly at the upper levels and hopefully in the major leaguer. Wieters hit several balls to the fence and a few over during his BP sessions, despite a decent breeze blowing in. The ball explodes off his bat. From what I see, he’s the real deal with the bat.

     

    There’s no doubt you see the power and ability that made Billy Rowell a first round draft pick. Like Weiters, the ball explodes from his bat, but unlike Weiters, there still some things in the swing that need work. Rowell has an interesting toe tap before he loads his swing which in and of itself is not concerning, especially since batters like Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter do a similar tap, but he appears to drop his hands slightly while tapping his toe and the end results is a bit of a long, upper cut swing. Rowell has such natural power that the sooner he realizes he doesn’t have to upper cut for his power the sooner he will have success in the upper levels. He’s young and hard worker, so there’s nothing to be too concerned over, but the potential is certainly there for a future impact bat.

     

    Some other random observations from batting practice

     

    Brent Krause is a big, big guy with some power. His swing is a bit long but he hits the ball with authority. I was a bit disappointed in Paul Chmeil. For a tall kid, he has some pull power, but generally did not hit the ball solidly in the round I saw him. He’s still young, but I didn’t see the pop I thought I would see.

     

    Keiron Pope still looks very much like a project. I know injuries have put him behind the curve, but he’s still extremely inconsistent on making good hard contact, even on BP fastballs. Elvin Polanco showed me some good pop from the lft-side of the plate but he was struggling from the right-side and only took part of a round from that side of the plate. According to David Stockstill, Polanco actually has better power from the right side of the plate so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of numbers he puts up this year. I would say he looks like the first power bat to come out of the Orioles Dominican program worth keeping an eye on.

     

    Since it was a camp day, the only game action was two five inning intra squad games. The highlight was the pitching of David Hernandez. Hernandez threw the ball well showing off a good moving fastball and quick late breaking curve at times. He struck out Weiters on a nice curve ball that Weiters tried to check his swing on. Weiters later lined a fastball into left-center for a single, but overall I believe Hernandez ended up with six strikeouts in a little more than four innings of work. Although he was not facing a murderer’s row of prospects besides Weiters, it was a good effort nonetheless.

    I talked with David after the game and he was obviously happy with his effort as he should be. He’s heading for Bowie’s rotation and will be a pitcher to watch this year.

     

    Mike Costanzo, who was traded twice this off season, told me he enjoyed big league camp and loves the idea of catching. He made sure to point out that Ben Davis helped hima  lot while in big league camp while trying to learn the position. He may only end up an emergency option back there, but it’s good to see Costanzo embrace the additional duties. At third base, Costanzo made several good plays while showing off good range to his left and solid arm.

     

    Tuesday  March 25, 2008

     

    The Orioles Delmarva and Frederick teams took on the Pirates A-ball teams at Twins Lakes today. I’m sure Doc will have some more detilas but I wanted to highlight a few things I saw today.

     

    I have to start with John Mariotti who has one of the best moving sinking fastballs I’ve seen in some time. He wasn’t throwing particularly hard today (fastball was anywhere from 84-89 MPH), but he was getting groundball after ground ball out while mixing in some strikeouts. I didn’t watch his entire effort as I was back and forth between his game and the other game, but in the two innings I saw, he allowed one hit, struck out two, with no batter getting the ball in the air against him. Mariotti was in the 88-91 range last year so if he can maintain that velocity with that kind of movement, he’s going to move very quickly and may surprise some people. His breaking stuff is average at best and he’s not a big guy at all, so his eventual role may end up as a setup guy in the bullpen, but for now, keep him in the back of your mind when you start talking Orioles pitching prospects.

     

    This time of year is stressful for players since all of them want to make a full season club. One player who was on the bubble was last year’s surprise Tyler Kolodny. Kolodny is an absolute bundle of energy as everything he does is at 100% effort. Unfortunately, after starting off camp as one of the best hitters, it appears he’s starting to press in an effort to get noticed. During BP, he was pulling his shoulder out badly as every swing appears to be a home run swing. He was dipping down and popping a lot of balls up. During the game today, he walked and promptly sprinted to first base like Pete Rose used to do. After every pitch Kolodny takes one step back, un-straps and re-straps both batting gloves before stepping back in to see the next pitch. In the field, Kol0dny had a tough day making at least two errors and had another bad through scooped for him by Polanco. Kolodny has some natural talent, so the sooner he lets that talent come through without forcing it through the faster he will move. As of now, I would not expect him to open the season at Delmarva barring an injury.

     

    Without a doubt the talent level of the Dominican players are improving. Shortstop Garabez Rosa and catcher Deshenko Ricardo are two names to remember. I’ll have more on them soon, but they are two projectable players who already have some talent.

     

    OK, I’ve got a lot more but some will have to wait until my forum at Fan Fest. I’ll try to get another report out tomorrow after my meeting with David Stockstill tomorrow afternoon.


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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.

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