March 10th, 2016

My Florida Spring Training Tour-Braves and Astros

So as I walked into the gate at Astros Spring Training, the fantastic odor of barbecue permeated the air. The old looking big black grill looks like that machine that trails in the back of a roof repair truck we get stuck behind on the highway. Only this big black machine has a fantastic odor. Just another one of the great scents of Spring Training.

The Astros move next year to their new home in the Palm Beach area. So yesterday was my last visit to the Kissimmee based park forever. I have great memories from my time as an Astro scout.

Yesterday I watched the new edition of baseball’s future. The two teams; Houston and Atlanta are building their clubs with very good trades and smart selections in the First Year Player draft. Both will net great results over time.

Yesterday was my first look at highly regarded prospect shortstop Ozzie Albies. The Braves played him at his natural shortstop position with another highly regarded rookie, Dansby Swanson taking over at second base in mid-game. One of the two will be the shortstop of the future. The other will probably play second.

I saw Albies speed. He costs himself a step or two with a slow start out of the batter’s box. He stops to look at the ball and that costs him a tad in his overall time from home to first. Albies made a bad play in the field because he didn’t move naturally. His feet got tangled. I would like to see him move without thinking first. I can see the agility. I can see the athletic ability. The quickness is real. Now, it’s a matter of executing his skills. It’s a matter of just being himself and learning in his development program. In short, I saw a raw rookie in need of instruction, playing time and patience.

Mallex Smith, like Albies, has tremendous speed. He’s a natural outfielder with some pop in his bat. I didn’t however, see patience at the plate. He was up there to hack, and hack he did. He has to recognize pitches quicker and lay off the bad breaking balls. I do see some very real left-handed pop. Again, he needs a bit more time to refine his skill set. But he isn’t that far off from being in a place where he can get some big league at-bats and help the club with his solid all-around tools.

Swanson clearly does not look like a finished product. Even though he has a college career at Vanderbilt to build upon, he looks a bit overwhelmed by big league pitching.
He has smooth moves in the field, but I think it is his bat that will help get him to Atlanta.

I also saw Adonis Garcia, a good looking hitter use the barrel of the bat to hit the gaps. I like what I saw from Garcia in this brief one game look.

The Astros just continue to impress me. They just keep rolling out hitter after hitter and quality player after quality player. Their problem will be narrowing the group of very good players to those that they wish to have break camp with them. Does A J Reed stick on the roster? I don’t think so. I think Jon Singleton is such a huge force at the plate that he can break up a game with one swing. That allows Reed more development time and a slower clock.

Dallas Keuchel is a master at inducing ground balls with late sink on the ball. I do like watching him pitch. Yesterday was the second time I’ve seen him in person. I noticed that he takes the ball out of his glove at the top of his delivery. A hitter can take advantage of that exposed look at the ball. Over time, that slight glitch in his delivery may aid some hitters. Generally speaking, pitchers are taught to hide the ball. Keuchel is more comfortable keeping the ball outside his glove before releasing it from his hand. He’s a really, really good ace for their staff.

I saw George Springer get picked off first base when he started to steal second on the first move of the pitcher. The pitcher’s first move was to first base. Springer was laundry on the line being hung out to dry. But man, can he slug. The ball just jumps off Springer’s bat. It gets out in a hurry.

Think of a lineup with Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa as the one-two-three guys any pitcher has to face. Then they get to see Evan Gattis (when healthy), Colby Rasmus, Carlos Gomez, Jon Singleton and on and on. Try to navigate through that lumber yard. Yikes!

No game for me today and no blog tomorrow. Tomorrow I get my first and only look at the upstarting Philadelphia Phillies. Then, later in the day I fly home to Phoenix.

Thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.