Cactus League Game 7, Mariners vs. Royals prospects
Taijuan Walker vs. Matt Strahm, 12:10pm
This one’s on Root Sports, so you don’t need an MLB.tv subscription to watch it, though of course you DO need a cable subscription.
Taijuan Walker takes the mound today for his second start of the spring, and first in Peoria, so we can get an early look at any changes he may have made to his repertoire. Without an innings limit or serious challenge to a rotation spot, this is a big year for the young right hander. The M’s stumbled out of the gate in part because of another poor offense, but also because Walker and James Paxton were both pretty terrible in the spring. To his credit, Walker fought hard and became a solid pitcher by the end of the year, and he’s obviously got the potential to be more than that. Avoiding those early-season problems is going to be important for the M’s this year if they’re going to catch up to the Astros.
That job may be slightly tougher now, as Bob Dutton reports that new relievers (and ex-A’s teammates) Evan Scribner and Ryan Cook will both begin the season on the DL due to lat sprains in their back. Neither sounds particularly serious, but it’s a problem that Scribner’s dealt with before, and the M’s want to be cautious. M’s fans remember the seemingly-minor lat strain that essentially nuked two Stephen Pryor seasons, and while that’s something of a worst-case scenario, it’s a reminder that there really isn’t such a thing as a back injury that’s nothing to worry about. The M’s, like every team, have plenty of hard-throwing options in their bullpen pile behind Scribner/Cook, so this isn’t a huge setback from the team’s point of view. Scribner wasn’t the closer or primary set-up guy, but he DID bring some upside to camp; you could see how he could become a real asset thanks to a video-game K:BB ratio. Joel Peralta/Jonathan Aro/Justin De Fratus/Blake Parker/Donn Roach don’t have that upside, but they’re healthy and at least Parker/Peralta/De Fratus have some prior MLB success to point to.
The M’s are facing a split-squad Royals team today, so in addition to Lorenzo Cain and ex-Mariner Kendrys Morales, the M’s get to see prospects like OF Reymond Fuentes, 3B Hunter Dozier, and SP Matt Strahm. Dozier was a first round pick, and a notable player (and, to be fair, someone notable for being a signability guy that allowed KC to *also* grab Sean Manaea later in the draft), and Fuentes has been a solid but injury plagued guy who came up initially with the Padres. But Strahm? Never heard of him. Apparently, he’s the Royals’s 8th best pitching prospect, and a guy who lost 2013 and almost all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery. He was drafted out of North Dakota community college, so let’s just say he doesn’t have Dozier’s prospect pedigree. What he DOES have is impressive strikeout rates in the few innings he’s been able to tally. He finished 2015 in the Carolina league, so he hasn’t yet pitched above high-A. Reading the scouting report in the Fangraphs article and scanning his stats, I’d say he throws a rising fastball, and what sounds like a decent curve. The left-hander has some minor/normal platoon splits, but seems to be tough on lefties. At least, he’s been tough on *A-ball* lefties.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Gutierrez, LF
6: Montero, 1B
7: Iannetta, C
8: Sanchez, DH
9: Martin, CF
That is NOT a split-squad line-up.
Felix Hernandez threw a 2-IP simulated game today and remains on track to make his Cactus League debut on Monday against Colorado. Sounds like that one may be televised as well.
More bad news on potential M’s relievers: LHP Danny Hultzen’s been shut down with shoulder pain. That’s certainly not what any M’s fan wanted to hear, and while it too is being described as minor, it’s part of a pretty disturbing pattern. Ryan Divish praised Hultzen’s work ethic and patience, but this would test even the most optimistic player. Get well soon, Danny.