I got to see the Kane County Cougars get drubbed by a talented Quad Cities team tonight, 7-2. It’s been too long since I’ve seen live baseball and I was very happy to get to see a couple of the game’s very best prospects on display. The game got pretty uneventful fast, as the game was out of hand after the second inning, but I stayed the full 9 innings. I won’t be publishing video of any hitters as I want to wait for more swings to put together a complete video, but I may have good video of Pierce Johnson available later today if everything goes well with YouTube.
(I will be using the following structure for my game recaps for at least the next few weeks, so please let me know what you think of it!)
Three Good Things I Saw
Cougars’ 3-4-5. The middle of the lineup had it going today. Daniel Vogelbach hit 3rd and went 2-4 with two loud singles, the second of which came off of a LHP. Jeimer Candelario hit 4th and went 1-3 with a walk and a loud single while batting from the right side. Rock Shoulders hit 5th and hit a bomb to right-center field. Video of the home run below:
Jeimer Candelario’s Defense. After all of the talk of “Jeimer Candelario can’t play 3B” that I’ve heard, I expected to see a slow, clumsy third baseman with hands of stone. This is certainly not what I saw. I saw a smooth fielder who made two nice plays charging in on slow rollers. On another play where the ball that took a huge hop right in front of him, he adjusted perfectly and made a strong throw to second to start the double play. He has clearly worked on his defense in the offseason.
River Bandit’s Left Side of the Infield. Carlos Correa and Rio Ruiz both had very nice opening days. Both looked very comfortable in the field. Correa made his fair share of nice plays, and Ruiz made a great play on a ball to his right where he planted and fired a strike to get Hernandez out. Both impressed at the plate as well. Correa went 2-5 and made great contact in his first three at-bats. Ruiz went 1-3 with two walks. Both have a mature approach at the plate.
Three Bad Things I Saw
Cougars’ Middle Infield Defense. It was ugly today. In the 2nd inning, Marco Hernandez made an extremely poor decision in throwing the ball to second base on a grounder deep in the hole. The runner was already on second and Gioskar Amaya clearly wasn’t expecting the throw, which sailed into right field. Later in the game, Amaya ranged to his right and caught the grounder with the heel of his glove. He tried to pick it up barehand and fire off a throw, but the runner was virtually on the bag by the time he had picked the ball up, and the rushed throw missed its target by 5 feet and bounced into the stands. Also, though this may be a small quibble, I didn’t see lightning fast hands on Marco Hernandez. He looked slow in transition a few times, especially once during a 4-6-3 double play turn.
Pierce Johnson After the 1st. Johnson appeared to lose it after the first inning. It wasn’t warm tonight, but it wasn’t freezing either, so the fact his velocity dropped off in the second inning was troubling. His secondary stuff was lacking in the second as well, as his breaking ball was much flatter than it had been in the first. Also, I’m not one to critique a player’s mental state too much, but it was interesting to see how he dealt with his bad 2nd inning. He was clearly rattled by a few of the hits, and his confidence vanished pretty quickly.
Oliver Zapata. This may be harsh because he isn’t much of a prospect anyway, but man did he have a poor time in the field. In the 5-run 2nd inning, he ran in on a grounder to right, scooped it up…took almost 8 steps with it…then threw the ball home (not a particularly great throw either). He also badly misplayed a liner hit right at him later in the game.
- Pierce Johnson looked really good in the first inning. Before the trainwreck of a second inning, he was hitting his locations, and he had good depth on his breaking ball. He got some swinging strikes from players who were fooled badly by his offspeed stuff. That said, he’s got a bit of a funky delivery. He kind of leans back towards second base at the top of his leg kick, and it makes him look really unbalanced as he begins to move towards the plate.
- I kind of get Pin-Chieh Pen. He just looks like a ballplayer. His swing is nice, though pretty level and powerless, and he just looks like he fits on a field. Not saying I expect a breakout or anything, but it’s always interesting to be reminded just how gifted all of these players are, even the ones who will never sniff AA.
- It’s going to be a while before I can accurately comment on players in a comparative manner. I know what is good, what isn’t, and much of what is in between, but saying “Jeimer Candelario’s glove is average” is probably a bit of a stretch, just because I haven’t seen too many other 3B at that level yet. Hopefully I’ll be able to see enough baseball in the near future that any concern of this nature is eliminated.