Cactus League Games 11-12: Two in Prime Time

marc w · March 12, 2016 at 1:12 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Montgomery vs. Cody Reed, 6:05pm, and James Paxton vs. Brandon Beachy, Alex Wood, Carlos Frias 6:40

Mike Montgomery’s probably not a prospect anymore, but he certainly was at one point – about 5-6 years ago in the Royals org. Kansas City drafted Cody Reed as well, a lefty from a Mississippi junior college who had a velocity spike that carried him from unknown to second round pick. Reed did well in his first pro season, then problems with his delivery torpedoed his 2014 – his K rate dropped and batters started barreling up his still-plenty-fast-fastball. The K rate dropped again in his first taste of AA, but after he was included as a high-risk, high-reward piece in the Royals deadline deal for Johnny Cueto, something seemed to click. In the Reds org, his K% jumped to nearly 30% (it was nearly half that in the Texas league, when he was still with the Royals org). Whatever mechanical change the Reds made, it’s turned Reed from toolsy thrower into one of the better pitching prospects around, and a serious candidate to make the Reds opening day rotation. Of course, the go-nowhere Reds traded away half of their rotation last year, and while they have plenty of young arms in camp, Reed (and Robert Stephenson) have more pure talent than many of the vets ahead of them. Given that the Reds figure to be one of the worst teams in baseball, the Reds may opt to keep Reed down for a month to get an extra year of club control.

Montgomery seems like a AAAA guy, an out-of-options lefty who simply doesn’t profile as a LOOGY or situational reliever because his great change means he’s not a real lefty-killer; he may be better against righties. I love his change, though after a fast start, the league seemed to figure him out. Coming into camp, I gave him long odds to stick with the org through the month: he wasn’t going to be in the rotation, he just doesn’t fit in the bullpen, and they can’t send him to the minors. But new pitching coach Mel Stottlemeyer, jr. seemed to see something intriguing in him, and he just seems like the kind of guy a good pitching coach could really help. His odds are better than I initially thought now, but his slow start due to injury means he’s going to have to show a lot in a short time. If everything goes well, he could stick around as the long man in the bullpen, though the M’s are going to need to figure out what role the loser in the Paxton/Karns battle will take as well. Anyway, immediate transformations due to a mechanical tweak don’t happen often, but Cody Reed shows what can happen when they do. Yes, yes, Reed is much, much more talented and has a good 6mph edge in velo, but to me, there’s no reason a guy with as much run/sink on a change thrown with good arm action should get knocked around consistently in both MLB and AAA. Montgomery is *better* than he’s shown, but he’s running out of chances to prove it.

M’s Versus Reds in Goodyear
1: Martin, CF
2: Sardinas, 2B
3: Smith, RF
4: Romero, 1B
5: Navarro, LF
6: Montero, DH
7: Zunino, C
8: Taylor, SS
9: O’Malley, 3B
SP: Montgomery

Back in Peoria, the M’s face some fraction of the LA Dodgers. In large part, that’s due to the fact that LA too is split-squadding, sending half of their club to face the Cubs, but it’s also due to a rash of injuries that have hit today. The biggest name to head to the trainer is SS and by some accounts the #1 prospect in baseball, Corey Seager, who’s having an MRI on his knee after hurting it running the bases yesterday. Then, today’s starting pitcher, Alex Wood, was scratched with forearm tightness (never a good sign), so the M’s will face hard-throwing sinkerballer Carlos Frias instead. OF Alex Guerrero was penciled into today’s line-up, but he’s been scratched with a knee issue of his own – he’d been held out for a few days along with 2B Howie Kendrick. Rough week in Dodger camp.

Frias throws 94-96, and has a four-seam and sinker with similar velo. He’s got a change-up, but his outpitch is a hard cutter, thrown around 90mph. It’s a huge whiff pitch and also gets ground ball contact, which is handy, because he’s been remarkably ineffective at getting hitters to whiff on his fastballs. It’s just odd to see a guy who missed some bats in the minors, and then in a brief trial in 2014, post a K/9 under 5 last year in a dozen or so starts. Did I mention he sits in the mid-90s? Of course, with a hard sinker and a cutter that gets GBs, he’s excellent at inducing grounders, but those grounders tended to find holes last year. He pitched around that mediocre BABIP fairly well, but some added strikeouts would help his cause.

M’s Versus Dodgers in Peoria
1: Aoki, LF
2: Marte, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Lind, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Gutierrez, RF
8: Clevenger, C
9: Powell, CF
SP: Paxton

Paxton figures to get 4 IP today, so we’ll be able to check in on how his velocity’s progressing. Always find it interesting one one split-squad gets 90% of the 1st string talent, and that’s what it looks like today with the Peoria contest. Smith/Romero/Navarro is a very different middle-of-the-order from Cano/Cruz/Lind.

The M’s made a minor transaction today, grabbing out-of-options back-up catcher Rob Brantly off of waivers from the White Sox org. To make room on the 40-man, the M’s moved RP Ryan Cook to the 60-day DL; that strained lat is looking more and more like a very serious problem. Brantly’s a rare left-handed hitting catcher, a fact that seems kind of useful until you remember that Steve Clevenger is also a left-handed hitting catcher. As Larry Stone mentioned, this seems like an insurance policy in case Clevenger or Iannetta get hurt before camp closes. As Brantly’s out of options, he could be back on waivers in a month, the cruel fate of playing for 5 clubs in 2 years that often befall those who’ve burned their option years. Brantly isn’t much of a hitter, and hasn’t rated too well in BP’s framing and pitch-blocking metrics, but hey, catching depth is catching depth, and they didn’t give up any talent to get him.


One Response to “Cactus League Games 11-12: Two in Prime Time”

  1. Longgeorge1 on March 12th, 2016 6:35 pm

    This is where results are going to start counting. This is the first game for Paxton where the “tryout” starts.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.