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Live from Cardinals Camp in Jupiter
The author spent part of Thursday afternoon on the backfields at Jupiter, Florida’s Roger Dean Stadium, spring home both to the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals. It was a camp day for the Cardinals, and the observations which follow are from a game between that club’s Double- and Triple-A rosters.
While reading them (i.e. the following observations), the reader would do well to remember that the author is an amateur in every respect.
On Jorge Rondon and His Fastball
Right-hander Jorge Rondon pitched only an inning today, but definitely threw harder than any of the five or seven or whatever other pitchers who appeared in the game. All told, he threw maybe six total pitches in that one inning — all of them, so far as I could tell, fastballs at ca. 96 mph — and induced three ground-ball outs. There’s not a lot to be deduced from his appearance — except this, of course: Jorge Rondon throws at 96 mph. Matt Eddy reported a similar velocity in a minor-league transactions piece back in October (when St. Louis added Rondon to the 40-man roster), adding that the 24-year-old reliever also has “a nice mid-80s slider.”
Last year, Rondon posted a 50:24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 49.0 innings between Double- and Triple-A, posting better ratios at the latter, actually, than the former. According to Minor League Central, he’s recorded ground-ball rates between 45% and 50% in the high minors. There’s little about his profile — except perhaps the highish walk rates — to suggest he wouldn’t have some success as a major-league reliever.
On Tyler Lyons and His Excellent Slider
If Rondon featured the best velocity of the day, left-hander Tyler Lyons featured the best single pitch — a slider that he throws at around 82 mph, keeps low, and with which he induced a number of swings and misses.
A ninth-round pick by the Cardinals in 2010 out of Oklahoma State University, Lyons has posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio better than 3:1 as a minor leaguer, recording a 24.3% strikeout rate and 4.9% walk rate in 88.1 innings at Triple-A Memphis last season following a midseason promotion from Double-A.
In addition to his slider, Lyons also threw an 89-91 mph fastball, 83 mph changeup, and ca. 75 mph curveball. PITCHf/x data from Lyons’ Arizona Fall League stint in 2011 reveals roughly the same repertroire.
• Shortstop Jake Lemmerman hit a home run in his first plate appearances of the game — the only home run of the game from either side. Lemmerman was acquired by the Cardinals this offseason in a trade that sent infield Skip Schumaker to the Dodgers. In person, he looks to be on the large side for a shortstop (something which his listed height of 6-foot-1 bears out), but the reports on his infield defense are generally positive. Both Steamer and ZiPS project Lemmerman — originally a fifth-round pick by the Dodgers in 2010 out of Duke — to be worth something better than replacement level this season.
• I saw two of third-base prospect Stephen Piscotty‘s plate appearances in an A-ball game taking place at an adjoining field. The 36th-overall pick in the most recent draft and seventh among Cardinals prospects on Marc Hulet’s top-15 list from this past Novemeber, Piscotty is impressive physically, listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, but with above-average athleticism for his size. Unfortunately, there was little otherwise to extract from the two plate appearances I saw, which both ended rather quickly (with two grounders — one up the middle, one to the second baseman).
• Right-handed prospect Michael Wacha, among the league’s best rookie-eligible pitchers this spring, made a mid-game plate appearance (against Lyons) with a view to laying down a sacrifice bunt. His emergence from the dugout was greeted with much in the way of playful taunting from the inactive players behind the backstop (the same group pictured below). After Wacha fouled off the first two pitches, those gathered called for a curveball from Lyons — with which request Lyons complied, ably, striking out Wacha looking.
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