Hello O’s fans and readers my name is Eric Garfield, I live in Sarasota and I’m going to be covering the team down here and reporting what I see. When Spring Training kicks off, I’ll be at the stadium/games every day and when it’s done I’ll be your eyes at Minor League Spring Training and then the GCL as the season goes on. Quite a privilege for any O’s fan!
Last year I watched the GCL very closely (every home game) and keeping things in perspective as far as age relative to league and the both the organization’s rankings and the low percentage that make the bigs out of a league this far down, it was a great season to watch. They played well, won the league and some skills were shown that I took note of. I have read the posts concerning the GCL and hope that some questions are answered or addressed here. The stats and sample sizes don’t tell the whole story, and I learned that by watching. Overall I’d say that O’s fans have a better mix of talent than they’re used to churning down in the low minors.
This first post is looking a bit at some names that aren’t widely discussed and why they stood out to me.
Nick Roth-RHP mostly reliever but made 2 starts. I liked him better as a reliever and he was used as the team’s closer down the stretch before going north to Aberdeen. What I saw was a righty who keeps the ball way down and doesn’t give righties a chance to square him up and held them to .200 in 11IP. He was 3-3 in saves, including the league clinched and as a reliever had 20K/13.2 IP. Also had one only walk in the GCL and it was a close call. His control is his calling card in my opinion. He’s 22, not young for this level but it’s hard to get off to a more impressive start and he did his job while on the mound.
Darrell Hernaiz-SS/2B It’s not hard to squint and see big things from this guy as he knows how to carry himself on a baseball field and perform both at the plate and I the field. His best skill is by far his hand speed ands I saw several flips that he made turn into beautiful double plays. Also, he has that knack for letting the ball get in on him that last extra second before starting his swing because of that hand trust. The sample size is obviously small and he’s still 17 years old(!) until early August, but he’s motivated to prove he was a draft day steal in the 5th round.
I’d say that his ability to drive the ball is behind his contact tool, as only one of his two home runs cleared he fence. But you can see that when he connects he can put a charge into the back of the power alleys at age 17 so not too bad.
Christopher Burgess-Catcher This one will require a little bit more squinting but I would suggest you try. Burgess is a well built guy with a catcher’s trunk which is appropriate because he was the foundation of this team. He provided the clutch at bat when needed, slowed things down when pitchers got jittery and organized the infield time and time again showing full confidence from a guy with a few years (age 22) but no pro experience. He made a strong impression on me with his leadership and the team needed it often, he was ready. Also was a good at bat, ending the season at .286, .840OPS and a pair of homers, again only one clearing the left field wall. For good measure he threw out 6 of 8 potential base stealers and made just 3 errors in 104 innings. For an organization that has considerable depth at catcher, I would not forget about him. Watch him play one time and you’ll like him too.
Moise Nolasco-RHP Nolasco has had periods of moderate success in the organization and I can see why. He was the swing guy and has a very smooth, low effort delivery and release. When he was on and throwing strikes, his innings were quick and efficient and he finished the year with a WHIP of 1.01 holding righties to a .226, but lefties to an even better .125. His stuff floats lefties and has significant late tail. A little consistency would provide a more solid picture but he played his role and got outs when needed. This will be his fourth season in pro ball so maybe we’ll see a bit of a groove.
Mason Janvrin-This one’s easy. As a leadoff hitter he used his speed to beat out several infield hits, grinding to get to first and cause damage once there. He hit.340, stole 14 bases in 15 chances, got on base at a .380 clip and took the fastest routes to fly balls in his zone. Janvrin’s a fast player and can use his speed well. He didn’t show that selective of an eye at the plate, and wants to get the game started swinging. The kind of guy that runs to first hard after a walk (only 6 in 91 AB), I was not at all surprised when I got to Ed Smith Stadium and found out that he’d been called up.
There were lots of solid performances and with a team slightly older than league average that should be expected. Several players started their climb up and finished the season at a higher level. Before I close out I’ll share a few brief takes-
Trevor Putzig-this infielder showed a real knack for contact, good drive through the ball and a not too long swing that he had control of throughout the plane. I don’t remember him having many bad at bats at all . 8 extra base hits, 1:1 BB to K rate and a .850 OPS is why he went up to Aberdeen
Lamar Sparks-Sparks is an outfielder who looks to be growing into a very strong frame. He did not show consistency, but also didn’t start of see consistent playing time. This is a guy who can go from first to third in 4-5 low effort strides and if he learned how to use that speed as an asset would be very dangerous on the bases. In the outfield he finds the ball and can accelerate to it without shifting to a high gear.
The starting rotation-Truly the reason that this team played well and finished out a great season was the guys who started and gave them innings in the heat. Jake Prizina, Jake Zebron, JJ Montgomery and Jensen Elliott made 27 starts, finished with 144 K’s and a 1.03 WHIP in their 141.2 collective innings. It’ll be interesting to follow this group on the way up. I saw them beat lots of good lineups, less than stellar umps and take some baby steps in their development.
Talk about it here.