Notes from the Backfields: Jupiter, FL, Day 3 of 3

I’m currently in Jupiter, Florida, as a guest both of (a) my 91-year-old grandfather and (a) the Miami Marlins of Florida. Today was the third and final day on the backfields here, and what follows represents the third and final installment of mediocre analysis on same. (Read Day 1 and Day 2.)

Today, I watched mostly the Double-A game between the Cardinals and Marlins — or, alternately, the Springfield Cardinals and Jacksonville Suns of the Texas and Southern Leagues, respectively.

On Michael Blazek
Right-hander Michael Blazek, 23, pitched for the Cardinals, and is probably the most polished pitcher of any that I saw this week — if not always in terms of command, then at least in his ability to repeat the same shape and velocity on all his pitches. Blazek doesn’t have what you’d call “pedigree”: he appears neither on our Marc Hulet’s top-15 prospect list for the Cardinals, nor on Baseball America’s top-30 list (from their Handbook), nor on John Sickels’ top-20 list, nor on Kevin Goldstein’s top-20 list. There are probably a number of reasons for why his (i.e. Blazek’s) name is omitted from so many lists. The easiest one to which we can point is velocity: at no point did Blazek hit as high as even 92 mph on the radar gun. And it’s a fact that there’s a real correlation between fastball velocity and run prevention.

Still, the depth of Blazek’s repertoire gave him a decided advantage against his Double-A competition. From what I could tell, he threw no fewer than five different pitches with basically equal comfort: a four-seam fastball that sat at 88-90 mph; a two-seamer, which he threw about as often as the four-seamer, at around 86 mph; a changeup at 78-81 mph; a slider at around 80 mph, which he seemed to introduce the second time through the order; and then a curve in the low 70s. Blazek’s two-seamer and change were his best pitches, probably, with both pitches capable of getting whiffs from lefties and weak contact from right-handers; however, every pitch plays up just because of the existence of the other four.

Blazek absolutely sank Kyle Skipworth — BA’s 21st-ranked prospect for the Marlins, and the most heralded prospect Blazek faced — during the latter’s first plate appearance, getting whiffs for strike two and three with a changeup that showed excellent fade.

Briefly, On Oscar Taveras
Please note immediately that I’m neither qualified, nor will I attempt, to break down Oscar Taveras‘s, or anyone else’s, swing. I’m perfectly willing, however, to say that it (i.e. Taveras’s swing) seems like a good one for a baseball player to have. Between today’s game and another one on Tuesday, when I also saw a couple Taveras plate appearances, the Cardinals outfielding prospect swung and missed exactly zero times. At some level, it was maybe to his detriment: on Tuesday, for example, Taveras flied out deep to left field on a pitch that was outside off the plate. Today, also for example, he beat a ball into the area in front of home on a pitch that was probably low. Having the ability to hit all manner of pitches seems like a good kind of problem, however.

Defensively, Taveras did little (again, in the smallest possible sample) to suggest that he’s a natural as a center fielder. On a wind-altered fly ball hit by the Giancarlo Stanton on Tuesday, Taveras came up with the catch, but only after a great deal of perambulation. Today, on a fly ball to left-center hit by Miami farmhand Ben Lasater, Taveras took a route that was decidedly parabolic in shape.

While running out a grounder for an infield hit in the first inning today — a ball that he chopped over the pitcher’s head, but which died in front of the shortstop — Taveras showed more in the way of hustle than actual speed.

Briefly, On Kolten Wong
I saw maybe five plate appearance from Cardinals second-base prospect Kolten Wong over the week, and he didn’t hit the ball out of the infield in the air — coming closest on a liner-ish type thing up the middle today for a single. It seems like pitchers were attacking him inside — or, at least, that was the case from what I saw.

Briefly, On Shelby Miller
Top Cardinals prospect, right-hander Shelby Miller, pitched in the Triple-A game today, and I saw a couple of his innings. Over those two innings, only one pitch — a 96 mph fastball to poor Terry Tiffee — was recorded at higher than 92 mph on the gun. Most of what looked like fastballs were at 89-92 mph. These were likely two-seam fastballs — which is a type of pitch he throws occasionally, according to the internet — but they didn’t have the sort of run or sink that one would expect from a two-seamer.



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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


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Psst
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Psst
4 years 3 months ago

Just had an Idea that sounds like a Carson article waiting to happen, How about an all-fictional team I imagine Roy Hobbes and Pedro Cerrano will have an epic battle in RF, That bullpen of Ricky Vaughn and Kenny Powers ought to be interesting as well.

I can’t wait to see if it is Crash Davis catching Billy Chapel with all the space time goodness that implies

Psst
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Psst
4 years 3 months ago

more fun if ala the Eastbound and Down article you can get numbers, WAR projections, and team win projections

Oliver
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Oliver
4 years 3 months ago

Thanks, Carson. I guess I have to hope that Kolten’s bat will show a little more drive in a larger sample. The Cardinals are aggressively promoting him and Taveras, so I’m preparing myself for some early disappointments.

Blazek was somebody I hadn’t taken seriously based on his propensity to yield longballs in the Texas League. Even with the depth of his repertoire, chances are remote that the Cardinals are banking on him to stick in the rotation. Despite holding opposing hitters to a .210 average with a 31/104 BB/K in 103 innings at low-A, BA didn’t even include him on the org’s depth chart in the 2011 handbook. He posted lousy numbers as a 22 year-old in AA, so maybe they recognized his shortcomings. I’m hoping what you saw will prove that 2010 was not a fluke.

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