By Eric Garfield

Read full report with Video here.

Good morning from Sarasota, don’t mock me but it’s cold out here at Twin Lakes and everybody is dressed in hoodies.  We’ve got infield and some outfield stretching already and I’ll let you know what I see before I head to the Oriole game.  
10:15am Update-

it looks like Hammer and Connor Gillispie are going to be throwing today, their warm-up exercises are aggressive with resistance bands and weighted balls while the rest of the pitchers have catch/long toss.  I’ll try to get clips of Gillispie.  
12:00 Update-Pitching sim innings today was Grayson, DL Hall, Gray Fenter and Baumann.   It’s not a day where they can get warmed up as highs are in the low 60’s but I’m filming and taking notes.  Briefly, this was the first 24 pitches of camp I’ve seen for Hall, his control looks good and his stuff is not on point.  Lefties squaring him up is still tough.  Baumann and Fenter have breaking stuff working and Baumann is changing planes.  Grayson looks fine and nothing special this early.  His rhythm is very good and not rushed.  He hit Adam Hall and it sounded uncomfortable 

4:30 Update-Sorry for the long delay and I’m not at the O’s but I had real life things to do, they dragged on and I wanted to get to my phone to go over what I saw this am and write about it.  Today I saw some different drills and skills, outfield to infield relay-BY FAR best turn and throw belongs to Joey Ortiz.  He can catch and fire on no bounce and it hums on in after a nice gather and pivot, it was a hard play to film going from outfield to infield then on home but it actually sounded better than it looked.  It’s my instinct to look for a slight defensive edge and that’s a play he can make.  Also, lots and lots of pitchers.  Grayson, Baumann, DL, Fenter, Lebron, Peek, Rom and Bradish were on mounds among others and I saw a great deal.  Knight warmed up, I missed seeing him to batters.
Back to the relay drill.  Not too many guys made impressive throws from the outfield to the infield, Nuestrom’s didn’t hit the ground but they were all on the warning track throwing to the SS hole.  The nearest thing was Ryan Ripken using two hands like a field goal sign high to line up the throw over him.  So smart and I heard him say ‘I’m trying to give you guys an angle’. Next play, Hernaiz used the angle and made a clean bounce catch and fire into Jordan Cannon.  After that it was Gunnar, above Ripken’s hands again and another strike.  Again, best arm by a lot was Ortiz.  

The pitchers were fun and I’ve been waiting to see Hall.  Grayson is showing such an improved package from buildup to delivery and honestly the O’s should be pleased with the amount of progress he’s made.  There’s more to go, and grow but he’s cleaner.

DL Hall looked fresh, and I addressed his less than perfect spot hitting below but his legs and lower body just seem so much stronger than someone of his size.  He has good balance through the motion (I slo-mo’d it) and when he plants his front foot, his leg just straightens up so fast to drive.  He’s not a big guy but that’s a big torque and transition and his front foot landing just initiates a quality motion.  Here’s him at warmup speed where it seemed he didn’t miss once in 24 pitches

I was focused on just watching him so I didn’t have my pen out much but I did observe a contrast in him against righties and lefties.  Hall using the inside corner against lefties is something he seems to do with ease and he might not be in the glove without it moving but he’s in the right quadrant of the zone and it’s not all the same speed.  To me, that spells a very bad plate appearance for a lefty.  And even better it shows maybe a future in doing ok without the top line stuff being there.  If those aren’t positive indicators to you, they seem like they are to me.  Seasoning and success doing what I just outlined is how he closes the gap.  Righties however touched him and there was one clean contact and everything else fouled or popped up.  

Another guy who showed well vs lefties was Rom.  And it appears the rumors of a split are true!

I watched him for a few batters and he was very deliberate to a lefty Robby Thorburn.  He was even more deliberate to Janvrin and was able to work low, finally rising for a pop-up off Mason, a righty.  Then another righty-Daschbach (big strike zone)came in and ROM’s breaking ball held too much of the middle of the plate. He got him out though because he used a high fastball at the right point in the count.  It looked like heat is his out getter, movement is the count helper.  Let’s see him break out that splitter for k’s looking!  I’ll have my eyes open.
The most impressive pitcher was Baumann.  This guy impressed me so much in 2017 just watching one start I told so many of my friends to expect big things and soon.  I’m not patting myself on the back but he may be even better than we realize and his stuff moved with funk, dive, drop and plane changing spin.  His hands as he releases have more function than violence and I bet his control gets a hair better because of this.  My notes said ‘Warming up, a show!  He also just seems like a guy who will be unflappable and focused on a high level.  I’ve seen one facial expression…ready.

Every single thing about his body language says ‘I’m coming to get you’ from his round, exaggerated whip into pitching position with his hand behind him, his low sweeping foot near the ground, his hair to his wide open chest and glove.  It’s all forward and then the balk moves any way he wants.  I may not know an ace, but this seems the kind of skill set made to face hitters more than once.  And best them often too.  I mean wow!  I was watching Hall when Michael pitched on the mound, and he looked to be working on stretch but he wasn’t hit.  My notes also said early movement and dual plane if he wants it.  

So as much as other guys were showing twisting stuff, the best out of that was Gray Fenter. He gets all the way on top of breaking stuff-it’s almost impossible to not nod at movement like his.  He had both a slider and a 12-6 curve moving from arm side left with ease.  You don’t have to sit close to see these breaks.  In warm ups, Daniel Fajardo and his body language indicated that he was impressed before hitting Fenter with a ‘that’s the one we want!  
More notes on pitchers:   
-Bradish showed less depth with breaking balls but significant spin out of the hand and spin stayed throughout path so it was moving but not down like he probably wanted.  
-Lebron was using heat and had it in the zone, not around it but got JC Escarra to swing and miss on a high fastball to finish their Miami vs Miami battle.  Escarra wondered if it was a ball.  I would guess yes.  
-Zach Peek was seen too! His motion has so little stop in it,  clean and without any hint of hesitation.  His foot placement and stride seem out of alignment but I only saw a few pitches.  On video I noticed his wrist action to force a break is quick and subtle to finish the pitch off.  Impressive.

In case you can’t tell, my priority is the minors and the drills and pitching are very slightly rounding into form.  Today there was an absolute ton to see and getting to it all was tough.  Guess what, I have so much more!  Infield drills as usual, but I have catcher explosion into throwdown drills in on video too and I’ll go through that to see anything. I have slo-mo and Cody Roberts has the least wasted motion, Brett Cumberland has the least overall motion, Fajardo has the slowest foot placement and Cannon is in the middle.  Mav Handley won the drill and he gets off a good toss with his second one here.

I will say it now.  I will say it often.  The catching depth chart in this organization has some serious talent.  Roberts has the best arm here but I think Chris Burgess will out-throw him soon.  We all know Adley is soon to top it but this is a group with baseball skills, not just crouching.  This will accelerate the pitchers through a slight bit faster and seeing it in person is fun.  I didn’t even mention Ben Brezeale who has a late snatch into the strike zone and shows a slight foundation for pitch framing skills.  I’m not blown away but they’re able to be developed and very baseball intelligent.  The communication with the pitchers in this environment is so upbeat and pitch specific.  The notes said Rom was helped today by Cody Roberts.