Final Day in Bradenton

Last year I was only in Bradenton for two days.  It only took about five minutes for me to be at Pirate City to get addicted.  For those of you who have never been to Pirate City, it’s got four fields, in a four leaf clover type formation, with all four home plates accessible from a square area for fans to watch.  Between two of the fields is a bullpen where up to four pitchers can warm up at one time.  At any given time there can be two games going on with other farm systems, an inter-squad game with lower level players, and 2-3 pitchers warming up in the bullpen. There is never a dull moment.

It’s almost overwhelming.  You stand in a certain area, and you can watch Rudy Owens pitching on one field with Tony Sanchez catching, Jameson Taillon pitching on another field, and Zack Von Rosenberg warming up in the bullpen.  You turn and see a player belt a line drive, then speed around the bases to easily get a stand up double.  You check the roster sheet to discover that this player is Drew Maggi, displaying impressive speed.  The next moment, Maggi easily steals third base.  You turn to the other field and watch as Quincy Latimore crushes a pitch off the batter’s eye in deep center field, 410+ feet away. There’s so much action, and yet there’s so much that you can miss.

It doesn’t take long for me to scan through the roster sheet and find a player that I didn’t see this week.  For example, I didn’t see Adalberto Santos play at all.  I didn’t see Nick Kingham pitch (he pitched on the road).  I didn’t see one of my favorite breakout candidates, Joely Rodriguez.  I didn’t see Vincent Payne.  I saw Brooks Pounders pitch one inning on the last day. Last year, after leaving Pirate City, I thought that I would need a week down here.  Now, I’m thinking I need a month.  And that’s not just a “wouldn’t it be nice if I could come down here for a month” thing.  That’s a “next year I’m coming down here for a month” thing.  It will happen.  And if you liked the reports from this past week (and I’ve got a ton of stuff for the next few weeks), you can help make it happen by purchasing the 2011 Prospect Guide and supporting the site.  There will be a 2012 Prospect Guide, and sales from that book will also help increase the site’s coverage.

Before I get to the recap of the final day, I’d like to issue a few thank you’s:

-Thank you to Jim Trdinich, Dan Hart, and Matt Nordby for providing access to the site, and for being so accommodating this week.  This all allowed for a ton of great information, as well as some excellent photos (I took over 3000 photos this week).

-Thank you to Neal Huntington for taking the time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me and talk for 45 minutes.

-Thank you to Kyle Stark, who took the time to answer a lot of player specific questions for some features I will be running over the next few weeks.

-Thank you to Jim Benedict for talking to me for half an hour at the end of the day (around 4:30 PM) on Saturday, even though he had been up since 4:30 in the morning for his daily preparation for Spring Training, and had a meeting immediately after our interview.

-A huge thank you to my dad for taking a week off of work to come and help me out.  It was a horrible sacrifice to come down to Florida for a week and endure the 80 degree weather, but he did it anyways.  In all seriousness, I can only be in one place at one time, which usually left my dad with the radar gun, going from field to field getting readings (and usually getting a message from me that an important pitcher was warming up, or coming on to a field that he wasn’t watching).

-Thank you to Jameson Taillon, Jeffrey Inman, and Calvin Anderson for their time in doing interviews for features on the site.  I only wish I could have talked to more players, but time was limited with just one week.

-The most important thank you goes to everyone who has read the site, supported the site, and who enjoyed the coverage this past week.  This site is my full time job, and it’s all because of your support.  As long as you keep reading, I’ll do my best to provide you with interesting content, and that won’t be ending with the end of Spring Training.  My three game trip to see Anthony Rendon is about two weeks away, and that only kicks off a busy year of coverage for the site.

Now on to the recap…

Today was a short day.  First of all, it was a camp day, which meant that they played inter-squad games early, and ended around noon, rather than around 4:00 PM.  I actually didn’t arrive until around 10:30, as all of the lack of sleep this week caught up to me.  Since it was a camp day, I got to see twice the amount of prospects in the time I was there.

Some quick hits:

-Bryan Morris was pitching a few innings when we arrived, and was throwing 92-93 MPH with his fastball.

-Victor Black was in the 88-91 MPH range, and touched 93 MPH on the last batter.  Note that I didn’t have radar readings for the entire outing for these two, as there were too many pitchers going at once.

-Brandon Cumpton pitched two innings, throwing 91-92 MPH in the first, and 90-91 MPH in the second.

-Nathan Baker threw around 89 MPH.

-Kevin Kleis was around 88-89 MPH, and was very erratic.  This is the second time I’ve seen him, and it’s been the same story each time.

-Brooks Pounders was in the 87-88 MPH range, and gave up a homer on an 87 MPH fastball.  He is an interesting case, as his off-speed pitches are his bread and butter.  I wouldn’t expect good results as he works on his fastball.  At the same time, if he does improve his fastball, that would only strengthen his off-speed pitches, which would make him a prospect to watch.

-Jimmy Hernandez threw 91-92 MPH with a 77 MPH curveball.  Hernandez is making the jump to the US this year, and has been impressive in both outings I’ve seen him throw.

-Duke Welker was throwing 91-94 MPH, and was very efficient.  Welker has a great fastball, and throws it with little effort.  His problem is that he lacks control, which could hold him back from advancing out of A-ball.

-I mentioned Maggi above.  I saw that today, and was impressed with his speed, especially on his steal of third base.

-Mel Rojas Jr. has a cannon for an arm.  I watched him throw a perfect strike to second base today, trying to get a runner stretching a single to a double.  He made the play look close, when it should have been an easy double.

After the games were over, we went to McKechnie for the Pirates game.  For most of the game I was down in the photo wells, so my priorities were getting some good shots, and not dying from a foul ball.  So to wrap this up, here are some photos from the Pirates’ game:

McCutchen and Diaz

I’ll be making the 15 hour drive back home tomorrow, after a quick stop at Pirate City, and a stop at Mixon’s to pick up some supplies (I forgot to mention above that the other thing that makes this all possible is bringing home some Mixon’s orange juice to my wife).

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Thanks for everything you do! It’s guys like you that have a true love of the game, that makes everything enjoyable to read. The propects book is amazing and I’m sure I’ll be going to it all summer. Keep up the great work!

Tim….since I thoroughly enjoyed all of your posts, I want to second those thank yous.

If your dad can’t make it next year, I’d be more than happy to ‘tough it out’ as your assistant. 🙂

I’m pretty sure you would have to cage-fight staff member John Dreker in that scenario.

respect your elders! 🙂

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