2015 Spring Notes: Greiner, Brown and Others

Wrapping up our back field coverage, we deliver a number of quick hitters on some notable position player performers from the back fields this spring. Which players stood out and attracted attention during their playing time?

Josh Prince: The shortstop was in the lineup every day for Erie, and despite not looking the part, handled himself well. He belted a home run to deep left center field in one game, while showing solid range at short. One notable weakness though was his arm strength, as he struggled to get much on any ball he had to range for. That was magnified when compared to the shortstop on the other diamond, in shortstop prospect Dixon Machado.

Austin Schotts: Was not playing in the field, only taking at-bats for Lakeland. Club wants him to focus on his offense, but it remains a work in progress. A lot of the contact he made was weak during the at-bats that were observed. He remains a good athlete, but his offensive game continues to struggle.

Jose Azocar: A newcomer to the states, Azocar was on the small side, both in height as well as weight. That meant the contact he made didn’t have a ton of power behind it, much of it being on the ground, and hoping to find a hole. When he did reach base though, he showed good speed, using it as a weapon to steal bases, and create additional opportunities just by creating a distraction to the pitcher because of the threat. He’s an intriguing player because of his speed, and is still only 18 years old, so he’s got time to grow physically.

Rashad Brown: Another player on the slender side, but showed more signs of strength with his athleticism than Azocar did, with a couple of well hit balls on a line, along with similar speed. There’s no telling what he’ll be as a baseball player at this point, but you can see when you watch him swing and catch and throw that there’s potential in his body.

Ignacio Valdez: We mentioned Valdez in a prior notes piece just calling out his size, but it can’t be emphasized enough. He’s BIG. He’s tall, probably 6’ 5” or 6’ 6”, very muscular, and already well built. He still appears to be growing into his body a bit – his swing looked awkward, and he had a tendency to overswing in hopes of driving the ball – on one swing in particular, he swung so hard he did a 360. But his approach was solid, working a walk in one game and willing to take a pitch, and when he made contact, the ball jumped off the bat. Like Azocar, another newcomer to the States from Venezuela and is young at 19, but unlike Azocar, he’s already filled out. Now just needs his baseball skills to come around.

Steven Fuentes: If you didn’t know who Fuentes is, you would not expect him to trot out to shortstop and man a defensive positon usually reserved for players that are quick and usually on the thin side. Fuentes however held his own at the spot and showed his athleticism in the field, even if he wasn’t the prototypical quick fielder, showing off his strong arm when he could. Still tough to see him sticking there longer term, but the Tigers continue to give him looks.

Jiwan James: A year ago, the Tigers signed Wynton Bernard out of their tryout camp, and he went on to win the Midwest League MVP award and get added to the Tigers 40-man roster. It’s hard to expect James to do the same, and unlike Bernard, he didn’t put on a show in spring games like Bernard did last year, but you can see why he was appealing to the Tigers’ front office. He’s an impressive athlete that showed good speed in the field, and when he made contact, the ball jumped off his bat. He never really produced in the Phillies’ system, but was named a top ten prospect by multiple outlets on his athleticism and potential alone a few years ago, and that raw skill is still evident.

Grayson Greiner: With the catchers still out of sorts as the club sorts the needs of the big league team, Greiner was catching with the Triple-A club, though he’s almost assuredly going to end up in A-ball to start the season. Greiner was getting exposed to more advanced pitchers behind the plate, showing a good ability to block the ball and making a good attempt at trying to frame pitches as guys worked the corners. His mechanics were still a bit of a work in progress – you could see the strong arm in warm-ups, but when he had to make a throw to second on a stolen base attempt, he two hopped the ball there thanks to a rushed throw and not getting his feet set. It was the sort of thing that you’d expect out of someone recently out of college, playing against competition that will likely be a step away from the big leagues. His plate appearances were similar, with a big frame that showed the potential to hit well, but not making much solid contact against more advanced pitching. You couldn’t take much away from his results, but the talent was clearly there.

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