Stories From Camp That I’m Reading, pt. 6
As the spring goes on, we get to the point where rosters are mostly conceived and the talk of prospects is of those that will make it, not the camp curiosities. But hey, this is the end of it, isn’t it? We’re getting on to the point where the real baseball will start, along with real-ish minor league baseball soon after that.
• I suppose one of the big news bits of the week from a prospecting standpoint was that Dustin Ackley was optioned to the minor leagues. Three stories I read followed it with varying levels of commentary, one Tom Singer with MLB.com, one Larry LaRue with the TNT, and one Kirby Arnold with the Kitsap Sun. In the MLB.com piece, the front office is referenced as passing down advice that he needed to get more comfortable at second. In LaRue’s article, Eric Wedge is cited, and he’s not as terse, talking about the kind of at-bat Ackley provides. Arnold chooses to focus more on Ackley’s own words than anything else. The gist of it is that, while some grumble about damaging a guy’s confidence by sending him down, Ackley is not such a guy. Ackley seems to recognize the issues, see the rationale, and is committed to working on it. Good news, though not discussion provoking. I maintain my opinion that Ackley will be pretty good off the bat, but take a couple of years to really get into a groove as a MLB player.
• The other bit, naturally, would be that Pineda spent Saturday afternoon mowing dudes down. Larry LaRue had the goods again for the TNT, talking about Pineda’s adjustments with Weeks and the avoidance of Fielder (overthrowing), getting Eric Wedge quotes, and confirming what we pretty much all knew in that Pineda was under orders to not swing at anything. An MLB.com article got additional comments from Pineda via translator. I’m pretty much okay with the decision to keep him on the 25-man now. Yes, the lineup the Brewers ran out didn’t have a lot of left-handers, but they’re a good hitting team and he managed to make his adjustments the second time around. I’m just glad that the org seems committed to him as a younger player. But please, all of you, temper the Rookie of the Year expectations just a scooch.
• Larry Stone spent a column on Saturday talking about Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon, with the opinion growing that one of the two will end up being a Mariner come June. There’s also some talk in there about the new style bats leading to depressed offensive numbers throughout collegiate baseball. There are some other names that are hovering around the discussion on talent, but I think that the Mariners will end up sticking with one of the two college guys and either would probably be the number one prospect in the system instantly.
• Every so often, a story comes up in spring training where it seems as though all of the local media came together and decided to focus on the same topic just because it was there, or still there. This week, the topic was Tom Wilhelmsen. The Greg Johns piece at MLB.com spends time talking about Wilhelmsen’s life in bartending and the beer leagues and has video which incorrectly labels him as a left-hander (whoops!). It also mentions his realization that he can’t blow fastballs by the major league hitters without something else to keep them honest, a recurring theme in all of them. Kirby Arnold mentioned that Wilhelmsen was a little late to start last year because he was recovering from nerve damage suffered in his ’09 stint with the Tucson Toros. I hope that’s not recurring. Larry LaRue gets Wilhelmsen to talk about improvements to his change-up and sinker. The curveball and the fastball are pretty much a given at this point. If he does end up making the team, I’ll probably bust out a larger post about it and what it means for him as a pitcher.
• Throughout spring training, I’ve tried to point to Adam Moore as a guy who was previously underestimated and seemed to be making improvements in this camp. Kirby Arnold delved into this, talking about how Eric Wedge compared video of Moore in Tacoma to video from Seattle and basically saw two different players. Moore also talks a bit about his own perspective on events and sharing time from last season and what he took away from it. Olivo’s presence complicates things a little, but I could easily see Moore gradually taking more and more playing time and eventually being the team’s starting catcher, if things continue to progress as they have been. The article is worth clicking on for the photo alone, but the content is solid as well.
• If we’re still talking about not-quite-prospects, we could talk a little about Smoak and Saunders. Smoak talked in the Everett Herald about the lack of appearances against left-handed pitchers being a factor in his switch hitting and mentions that he’s trying to go from being a “power hitter” to a “hitter.” We still like power, Mr. Smoak. Saunders lost his “most disappointing” label from Larry Stone, which is a start, and also talked to the Brock and Salk blog about his hitting adjustments and the whole gaining more power from the lower half thing, something that we’ve been hearing from a lot of prospects this spring, which makes it downright strange to me that no one’s talking about the minor league conditioning program that made the buzz last spring. It’s still around, you know.
• Greg Johns also caught up with Aaron Laffey, who is newly outed as being in “The Best Shape of My Life” camp. He apparently got some motivational advice from a career 51 OPS+ middle infielder who won a World Series with the Royals. Whatever helps you gain perspective, I suppose. Larry LaRue also touched on the story for the TNT.