That’s More Like It, Cactus League: Clayton Kershaws at King Felixes
2010 AL Cy Young vs. 2011 NL Cy Young, 1:05pm
I don’t mind the fact that spring training involves lots of players who may one day become MLB-quality, or were fairly recently MLB quality. It’s part of the charm, and you’ve got to make that mental adjustment that sports fans are accustomed to making. As a prospect fan, it’s often more exciting to watch a Brandon Maurer step up rather than sitting through Joe Saunders-working-on-something sort of a start. That said, some times fate gives you Maurer vs. Votto and some times fate gives you Jeremy Bonderman vs. Sugar Ray Marimon. So while it *still* doesn’ t mean anything, and while opening day’s so close it makes it hard to concentrate on Arizona, today’s pitching match-up is pretty damn cool.
Felix pitched brilliantly in his last outing against the Padres, and Kershaw’s rounding into regular season form as well. The game’s in Peoria, so we can obsess on velocity readings if that’s your thing. If not, we’ll at least get a look at Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley facing one of the toughest lefties in the game. Kershaw’s interesting in that he’s got an extreme over-the-top delivery. His rising fastball from a high arm slot probably helps him against righties, as this type of pitch has lower platoon splits than a sinker coming from a lower arm slot. That said, his curve and slider are so good that he’s still got platoon splits. He’s quite good against righties, but his lack of a change-up (he’s got one, he just doesn’t throw it much) means his K rate is noticeably lower (though still above average!) against them.
1: Gutierrez, CF
2: Saunders, RF
3: Morales, 1B
4: Morse, DH
5: Montero, C
6: Bay, LF
7: Ackley, 2B
8: Andino, SS
9: Miller, 3B
SP: El Rey
Yesterday’s game would seem to doom Bonderman’s chances at making the opening day rotation. Not only did he get knocked around in the 5th, he came out in the 6th throwing in the mid-80s. This isn’t unexpected for a guy coming off surgery less than a year ago, but I hope it helps convince Bonderman to accept an assignment to Tacoma to begin the year. As a six-year MLB veteran, the M’s must give Bonderman $100,000 on top of his split contract to report to Tacoma, and I hope that’s enough to convince both sides its in their interest. A Bonderman-with-more-arm-strength could be useful depth at some point, and he could mentor James Paxton for a while as well. He also makes it a tiny bit less likely that Hector Noesi starts the year in Tacoma’s rotation. I’m not saying I want the M’s to cut him, but they need to figure out what’s wrong with Noesi’s approach without needlessly inflicting him on paying customers in Tacoma.
[UPDATE: According to Drayer, Divish, Johns, etc., the starting rotation is set: Felix, Iwakuma, Saunders, Maurer, Beavan. No word yet on whether Bonderman will accept an assignment to the minors.]