I spent last week in New York and Reno watching the Futures Game and the Triple-A All Star Game, respectively. My observations on the Futures Game appeared in last week's column.
New York is always a vibrant city, no doubt about it. There's no place like it on Earth.
A guy approached me when I was looking at a breakfast menu on Lexington Avenue across from my hotel. He said - "Hey, we have a breakfast special. Only $18 for ham and eggs, toast, and home fries. Coffee isn't included either is juice. And hey - I have a 10% coupon for you." I had seen other breakfast prices, I hadn't eaten a solid meal in two days and I was hungry. So I went in. I gave the waiter the coupon. He said - "Buddy, this coupon isn't good for breakfast." Annoyed, I left. I asked the guy handing out the coupons why he didn't tell me it wasn't good for breakfast? He said, "You didn't ask." That my friends, is New York City. $18 for breakfast? That would buy a dozen egg-producing chickens and a pig in some places.
Anyway. I survived. I had to take a taxi everywhere for fear of ending up in East Kishnev or some place I'd never heard of. Taxi fares required taking out a loan at a local bank.
Anyway, I survived. It was close to 100 degrees most days. One of the taxi drivers didn't like air conditioning in his car. It makes his nose run.
And do you think I was going to argue with him? Not a chance.
Anyway, I survived. Have you been to Reno? I mean downtown Reno? Not up in the mountains or Lake Tahoe. I'm talking downtown Reno.
I'm just asking here. I'm not going to expound. The new Aces Stadium, home of the Diamondbacks' Triple-A club is one of the best minor league facilities I've visited. It is an oasis right in the middle of...I'm not sayin.
Anyway, I survived. My hotel was six miles north of downtown. It was wonderful. And the best part? There was a Texas Roadhouse a mile away. Have you had a steak at Texas Roadhouse? I think they're wonderful. I've never had a bad meal at one. Clean, new, and very, very healthy meat with smothered baked potato, fresh rolls with great butter, etc. All healthy food.
Anyway, let me tell you about some players I saw on this trip:
I scouted some outstanding pitchers, but the three I liked best were Vic Black (Pirates) Michael Wacha (Cardinals) and Brian Moran (Mariners).
Black is a high velocity closer with good command and control. To me he looks ready to pitch for the parent club. However, with Jason Grilli on the team and doing so well, the Pirates can wait and let Black develop more. Or they can move him for a starting pitcher. I guarantee other scouts saw what I did. After the game I ran into a friend from a very prominent publication and we traded thoughts. The first name we mentioned simultaneously was Vic Black. If you haven't seen him or are wondering about him - take it to the bank. He can pitch. For now, he has to keep working on his command and control.
If you have followed me since spring, you know I like Michael Wacha. I still have the same concern. Although he is among the most polished prospect pitchers I've seen this season, the fastball still doesn't have great movement. The ballpark radar showed him topping at 93 mph. However, the other radar hit 95. He's going to really help St. Louis down the stretch.
Brian Moran is a very, very good left-handed pitcher. For me, he's a situational lefty. He's lethal against left-handed hitters. His slider is a swing-and-miss pitch and he uses it to perfection. If your league values holds - he's your guy in the future. He is another very good Mariners pitching prospect.
A couple of position players stood out for me.
Matt Davidson strikes out a great deal, but he has good power. He kind of reminds me of a poor man's Troy Glaus. I have no idea what the D-Backs will do with him going forward. He and shortstop Chris Owings are ready for a promotion to the major leagues.
Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez hit an opposite field home run with an inside-out swing from the right-handed batters box. I think he is working on using the entire field. If he can succeed, the Pirates may have themselves a good catcher. At least a backup if not the starter they had hoped he'd become. My jury is still debating his future.
Twins first baseman Chris Colabello was recalled to the major league club after the All-Star Game. He has some nice gap power and he can play the position. I'm not sure I would count on him being able to hit major league pitching on a sustained basis. His bat appeared slow to me.
You may remember that the Red Sox had listed Mauro Gomez as their first baseman in the offseason this year. Well, they traded him to Toronto and he's hitting home runs in the International League playing at Buffalo. Gomez is a wide-bodied, slow moving right- handed hitter. Don't fall in love with the home runs. He will hit less than .240 against quality pitching, but the power is evident. I see him as a Quad-A guy, at best.
I've watched and have written about Billy Hamilton for the past three seasons. I see improvement in the outfield play. He's quite good in center field. I still have the same concerns: he hits too many flyballs and live drives, does not accept walks and his on-base percentage is not good enough to elevate him to a full-time outfield spot. Yet. But the Reds may be able to promote him in September and let him pinch run. If they do, the stolen bases will mount. Even in one month.
Third baseman Cody Asche is making strides since I saw him last. He doesn't have much power and he plays a power position, but the Phillies need a third baseman. I think he'll be playing in Philadelphia this September.
Ernesto Mejia is a thin version of Mauro Gomez. Power with high strikeouts and a .240-ish batting average. He is not really on the Braves' radar screen. but the power is evident and very real. Once he puts the bat on the ball, anything can happen. I'd like to see how he would do against higher quality, major league pitching. He's a guy someone might take a chance on. If you ever learn that he was promoted to the major leagues, think power.
Thomas Neal can't get a sustained look. I still like him. He has good plate discipline and patience, and some pop. In his career so far he hasn't been able to get into a lineup and play for a month at a time. The Yankees should have given him that chance this year. It was a perfect scenario. But he is now a Quad-A player. Yankees have recalled him, but will he play?
Nationals shortstop Zach Walters can play defense. I'm not sure he has enough of a hitting tool to ever get a full-time job. Maybe he becomes a utility man with some real power from the middle infield.
I like the arm on Rays reliever Kirby Yates. I think he has the stuff and the mound presence to close. Even at the big league level.
I've written about the Jays' Jason Pridie before when I saw him in Durham. I believe he has enough of a hitting tool with some pop, good speed and enough solid defense to be a fourth outfielder on most any big league club. He just needs another break.
Astros starter Jarred Cosart couldn't command his pitches and he fell behind in counts repeatedly. He looked very awkward and uncomfortable on the mound. He gave up some walks and a big three-run homer to Tony Sanchez. I am not a big fan. I have real concerns about Minute Maid being his home park. Yikes! I'm taking a pass. Everywhere.
The Cubs' Chris Rusin has a very formidable changeup that he can use anytime in a sequence. He gets swings and misses with the pitch. I see him as a late-game reliever. I'm watching.
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