BRADENTON, Fl. – Minor league camp hasn’t fully kicked off yet, with only early players arriving at this point. It’s almost their version of pitchers and catchers reporting, except there are about two full infield groups in the mix as well, along with a few outfield groups. The full camp reports on Sunday, and the first full workout takes place next Tuesday.
So far this week, it has been a lot of the same stuff — batting practice, bullpen sessions, and fielding drills. The only change each day has been the bullpen sessions, with the difference being the various pitchers who are throwing each day. Today, the routine changed in a big way, as live batting practice started for a few guys. My focus was on Gage Hinsz, who was an 11th round pick in 2014, and one of the more promising young pitching prospects in the system, with the ability to touch 93 last year. Here is a video of his live BP today.
Of course there was also batting practice, and Sean and I got some video of Austin Meadows. We were shooting at the same time from different angles, so there are some repeat swings. I wish I could have put them side by side so you could see the swing from different angles at the same time, but we didn’t coordinate that ahead of time (translation: I thought Sean was only taking pictures). Meadows has one of the best swings in the system, and extremely quick bat speed through the zone.
Finally, here was a fun drill for the infielders. They were practicing turning double plays, with no one knowing where the ball would be hit. The catch? There was a four second timer that would set off a loud tone at the end of the countdown. Four seconds is 80 Grade speed from the right side, or Plus Plus speed from a left-handed hitter. So if they can turn a double play in that amount of time, they can get almost anyone out.
It all happens too fast to tag fielders, but here were the guys at each position:
First Base: Edwin Espinal
Second Base: Mitchell Tolman (who needed a few breaks as the only second baseman today, and got some relief later from Adrian Valerio)
Shortstop: Cole Tucker (no throws to first), Adrian Valerio, and Alfredo Reyes
Third Base: Ke’Bryan Hayes, Connor Joe, Jordan Luplow
A few of the highlights to watch for:
**49 second mark: A nice pick from Connor Joe on a slow chopper, although the throw to second was a bit high.
**54 second mark: Adrian Valerio with the turn at shortstop. He is so smooth, and this gives a glimpse of why he’s one of the best defensive shortstop prospects in the system.
**1:01 mark: Ke’Bryan Hayes with a quick, smooth release and a strong throw down to second, starting a 5-4-3 double play that gets an elite runner.
**All throughout: Great work by Tolman at second base making the quick turns and throws, especially since he had no break.
**1:26 mark: This was the end of the drill. Gary Green said if they got this one, Brian Esposito (hitting at the plate) would buy the infielders dinner. But if the infielders didn’t turn it, they’d have to buy all of the coaches dinner. Jordan Luplow made a great play to start it off, and they turned a quick double play. However, Green said he forgot to hit the button for the countdown. They tried it again, but the ball ate up Valerio at second (who ran over to help out Tolman). The third time was successful. I’m not sure how serious the “Esposito buys dinner” challenge was, but those were two of the quickest plays at the end.
For those who are in Bradenton and aren’t making the trip to Disney for the game tomorrow, practice at Pirate City starts at 9 AM.