EST MLN: Baez/Azocar Shine, Clinard Update

More updates from Lakeland, especially the back fields, where youngsters like Sandy Baez and Jose Azocar are impressing (with video), and an encouraging update on the recovery of Will Clinard. Plus, is Confesor Lara more than just an 80-grade name?

Baez Continues To Impress

Sandy Baez was nothing short of spectacular Saturday in a game against the Atlanta Braves EST squad. The right-hander racked up an impressive five strikeouts over four scoreless innings. Baez's heavy, late sinking fastball sat 92-94 mph, topping out at 95 a few times throughout the outing. The 21-year-old sprinkled in a few low-80s change-ups that featured solid arm-speed with dive and fading action. Most impressive was the progress of the high-70s power curveball. Baez moved the breaking ball around the strike zone well, tormenting batters with the pitch, utilizing it as a strike to both sides of the plate and as a chase pitch out of the zone. Fresh off the heels of a breakout 2014 campaign, the ground-ball machine seems poised for another impressive season.

Azocar Flashing Raw Power Early On

What started out as an impressive display of raw power during batting practice on Saturday, carried forward to game action as Jose Azocar mashed a three-run homer to deep left-center field. Azocar's bat speed has looked encouraging, as have the bat to ball skills, yielding lots of well-barreled contact early on in EST. The speedy 18-year-old center-fielder also legged out an infield single, flashing a respectable 4.21 60-grade time on a dig. Azocar was tabbed the Tigers 33rd best prospect in the TigsTown Top 50 earlier this season.

Clinard Begins Rehab

After missing the entire 2014 season due to injury, Will Clinard took the next step in his rehab process on Saturday morning. The 25-year-old right-handed reliever tossed a quick, 12 pitch inning of relief in Extended Spring Training. Clinard almost exclusively pumped cutters that sat 88-90 mph, mixing in a couple 92 mph fastballs during the brief outing. Ranked as high as the 13th best prospect in the Tigers farm system by TigsTown back in 2013, Clinard could be a huge shot in the arm if he's able to return to form.

More Than Just an 80-grade Name?

Without question Confesor Lara has an 80-grade name.

With a month in the books, his hot start this season in Lakeland might suggest he's more than just a name; potentially a prospect. This past weekend the 24-year-old right-handed reliever notched his second save, striking out one on Friday. Over 12 1/3 innings Lara is 1-0 with two saves, a tidy 1.46 ERA and 0.89 WHIP with an impressive 17 strikeouts.

The numbers are certainly impressive; it's the stuff, however, that has me most intrigued. Previously a low 90s guy, Lara has gained some zip on his fastball this season, now sitting 94-96 mph, topping out as high as 97. Lara has been mixing in an improved low-80s slider and high-70s curveball, keeping hitters off-balance and guessing. The repertoire has yielded lots of swing and miss and the bulldog mound presence is encouraging. Last season Lara could be best described as a raw dart thrower. There was lots of arms and legs and an unrepeatable delivery. Quite honestly beyond impressive arm-speed and a catchy name, I didn't see much in the profile. There's certainly still work to be done, but Lara has noticeably tightened up the mechanics, and the arm-speed has yielded a respectable bump in velocity. Lara is without question a name to keep tabs on the remainder of the season.


Tigs Town Top Stories