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Archive for April 2010

Game Recap: Charleston RiverDogs vs. Rome Braves 4/26/10

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It was hard to harness my excitement for this one since Rome was trotting RHP Arodys Vizcaino to the mound, the most heralded prospect I’ve had the chance to see this year. Vizcaino was a pivotal facet of the deal that brought Javier Vazquez to the New York Yankees this offseason.

Vizcaino was also coming off his best outing of the short season, a seven inning, six hit, six K gem against the Kannapolis Intimidators. Building on that momentum seemed like a foregone conclusion before I got to the beautiful Joe P. Riley, Jr. Park.

I don’t know if he was tired or what, but Vizcaino’s outing was short and hardly sweet. He went just three innings, giving up three runs on three hits. The early lead Vizcaino gave up was all the ‘Dogs needed as they won the game 5-0.

Still, it looked like Vizcaino’s stuff was there. According to the stadium gun, his fastball sat at 94-95 miles per hour. His changeup lingered almost exclusively at 80. A velocity differential that large may be overwhelming any other night, but the seeing-eye singles kept dropping and his two walks came back to bite him.

Vizcaino struck out six in the abbreviated outing, so this was still an encouraging start. He could have used some help from his curveball, but the pitch refused to spin like usual and he ditched it midway through the second. Velocity-wise, the pitch ranged from 75-78 miles per hour.

His mound nemesis, Jose Ramirez of the RiverDogs, however, was nearly untouchable. The 6’1″ righthander out of the Dominican was dominant, pitching six very strong innings without allowing an earned run. He struck out nine in the process.

The lean and lanky righthander offers a lot of projection, so he could easily add a few miles per hour to his 91-92 mile per hour fastball. And that’s an intriguing thought because his changeup was outstanding, with a ton of downward movement. Rome hitters never got a good read on it and consistently swung well in front of it. It very well could be the best pitch I have seen all year.

I don’t know much about Ramirez, but he’s putting together a solid 2010 season, holding a 1.93 ERA through four starts, in which he has lasted at least five innings and struck out five in each.

Offensively, the game was just okay.

Christian Bethancourt, Rome’s young catcher, was still way too aggressive at the plate. Aggressive may not even be the word; stupid, well, that could work. In his first two at-bats, he saw a total of two pitches. His blind aggression worked in the first, as he picked up a single to left. In his second at-bat, he flew out on the first pitch if I remember correctly. And in his third, I thought someone may have told him, “Hey dude, calm down. Take a few,” but he still swung as soon as the ball left the pitcher’s hand. I don’t remember the result, but I was shocked at how poor his plate disciple truly was. He’s also got a lot of work to do against breaking balls.

Charleston’s batters, while they may have looked good in this game, still aren’t doing a whole lot for me.

Six foot-four inch first baseman Luke Murton has hit in 14 straight, so he looks alright. However, I don’t know if I have ever seen a batter more dependent on off-day pitchers in the stands. Before he steps into the box, he looks up to his teammates in the stands (you know, the guys with the gun or the pad meticulously recording every pitch) and asks if a pitcher is throwing a curve or a slider and whether or not his change is working. He may as well have a teammate sitting on second stealing signs.

And Deangelo Mack, a South Carolina grad and the RiverDogs’ pride and joy, knocked another roundtripper. He looks like he could be heating up. He’s easily one of the RiverDog’s more exciting players, so I’ll keep an eye on him as the season progresses.

The real story for me, however, was Rome’s bullpen. RHP Thomas Berryhill got in the game and did not live up to the bullpen session I saw on April 25. His fastball was around 89-93 with little-to-no control and little movement. His stride to the mound is real long and his arm tends to lag behind. As a result, he leaves a lot of stuff up in the zone. I was not impressed with his in-game action.

Another guy, who I know zero about, really impressed me. Julio Surinach, a 6’1″ skinny righthander from the Dominican, looked electric. Well, I should qualify that: wild, but electric. He hit two batters, but struck out two, too. He routinely and aggressively worked the inner-half of the plate, unafraid of hitting batters. His fastball ranged from 91-93 and had good pop and sweeping movement from a 3/4 arm slot. His changeup is a good offering, but needs refinement. It sits at 85. He’s also got a big curveball that spun in at 78-80 miles per hour.

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Game Recap: Charleston RiverDogs vs. Rome Braves 4/25/10

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TANGENT ALERT!

I ravenously devoured Matt McCarthy’s Odd Man Out over the last two days. The Million Little Pieces-like book is a humorous and often painful look into the turbid and unforgiving world of Minor League Baseball. For any baseball fan, it’s a must-read. It will open your eyes as to what it’s like to be a minor league player and I promise you, you will never heckle a A-baller again. It’s an odd combination of Jim Bouton’s revealing Ball Four and the refreshingly honest and invigorating movie Sugar.

As soon as I finished the book, I knew it was time to take in a South Atlantic League game. The newfound respect I garnered from the book made me immediately more interested in and intrigued by the lives of minor leaguers. And for some, the South Atlantic is a step in the long and arduous ladder to the majors, but for others, it’s just a flash-in-the-pan story they’ll be able to tell their grandkids.

Either way, the South Atlantic League is full of Odd Man Out stories just waiting to be written.

There are plenty of sites out there that write about Sally League prospects, but most of them do it from a distance. However, there’s some that do it from behind home plate. Mike Newman’s Scouting the Sally is, by far, the most comprehensive and honest look into the league. His coverage of the Savannah Sand Gnats conveys an undying loyalty to the game and he’s not afraid to go against conventions. Check it out.

I, however, will be covering the Charleston RiverDogs, the New York Yankees’ low-A affiliate. When I go to the games, sure, I’ve got my 2010 Baseball America Prospect Handbook with me, but I never let it influence my evaluations. So if you see me rip someone who you’re sure is a huge star in the making, it could be a product of small sample size. And if I tout a guy who you think is a dud, well then, we’ll see who comes out right in a couple years.

Today’s game featured the Charleston RiverDogs and their anemic offense and the Rome Braves and their deep system of possible impact prospects (mostly pitchers). The pitching matchup was Charleston’s Sean Black versus Rome’s Brett Olberholtzer. Black has done nothing but get beat around lately, while Olberholtzer has looked good, with an ERA under 2.00.

The ‘Dogs won 3-2. Here are the notable players from the game.

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