Young Power Arms Show Heat
Starting with the most exciting moment of the day, it came on the field occupied by the West Michigan team, when Gerson Moreno trotted out to the mound for an inning of relief work later in the game. When the best players step onto the field, they have a habit of drawing a crowd from fans, and it’s not much different even when it’s just the players, as they’ll flock to see a guy with incredible talent take the field.
Moreno did not disappoint in his inning of work. His fastball didn’t quite reach triple digits as he was hitting occasionally last season, but his fastball checked in 96-98 MPH, plenty of heat especially for this early in spring. His curveball has been a work in progress pitch, but he threw a few very good ones on Sunday, including getting one swing and miss for a strikeout on the pitch.
TigsTown will have more on Moreno later in the week.
Moreno was followed by Johan Belisario, whose 94 MPH fastball might have looked slow in comparison, but still gave hitters fits. Belisario also mixed in his big looping curveball as he tossed a scoreless inning of relief, to the delight of onlookers. His smaller stature remains a concern for scouts who are skeptical of smaller players being able to maintain high velocity and stay healthy. But he hasn’t yet shown signs of fatigue or injury, and has had plenty of success to date, coming off last year in which he posted a 1.79 ERA in 55 1/3 innings, with 54 strikeouts for West Michigan.
Finally, on the short season-A/extended spring field made up of guys likely headed to Connecticut later this spring, Francisco German stood out among the pitchers that took the mound. German was a strikeout machine for the GCL last year, and retired a pair of Astros hitters in the same fashion on Sunday, one on a 94-MPH fastball, the other on a slider that had the hitter looking foolish. German debuted at #40 on the TigsTown Top 50 this season, and has the sort of raw stuff that could warrant a jump in the rankings if his secondary pitches come along.
Hill Working to Overcome Doubters
2015 wasn’t quite the debut season Derek Hill was hoping for. He dealt with multiple injuries that sidelined him for a good chunk of the year, and while his athleticism was evident to anyone that observed him, his hitting skills were frequently described as raw and he received poor marks on much of his plate-related skills, including his ability to make contact, hit for power, and work counts. TigsTown didn’t slide him in our rankings, as Hill checked in at #3, but other services did, with a couple even pushing him out of the top ten entirely.
Hill didn’t necessarily react to the rankings, but he certainly took note of the disappointing year and worked hard in the off-season to improve in all facets of his game.
In three at-bats on Sunday, Hill had three singles, all coming in a variety of ways. His first single was a ground ball that found a hole past the diving shortstop. The second came on a perfectly laid bunt, that found no-man’s land and with Hill’s speed allowed him to reach first without a throw. The third of the three was the most encouraging of all, a well struck line drive that easily cleared the infield and landed well in front of the right fielder for another single, with a good compact swing. Hill used his speed to score a couple of times, including going first to third on a routine single, and might have been able to score after a bobbled ball, had he not unnecessarily slid into third.
Like Moreno, TigsTown will have much more on Hill in the coming days.
· Julio Martinez is Stateside this spring and he looks every bit the part of a young, budding star still growing into his large frame. The big swing is there, but it’s raw, and facing a sidearm pitcher left him lost on Sunday, earning a walk and striking out in his pair of plate appearances.
· Hector Martinez also came Stateside and appeared for the Connecticut team at second base. Stockier than one would imagine, he pulled off a bloop single, but also struggled to turn a tailor-made double play, whipping the ball over the first baseman’s head after an easy feed to start.
· Franklin Navarro worked as West Michigan’s catcher and showed well, including nailing a runner on a stolen base attempt at third on a perfectly thrown ball right at the bag. The pop time wasn’t great, but the throw was strong and perfectly aimed. His swing still gets long and his approach isn’t always the best, which resulted in a swinging strikeout on a pitch well out of the zone. But he also ripped a solid single later in the game.
· Steven Fuentes remains a bit of an enigma. He’s big, he’s strong, he has good athleticism, but his ability to translate that on the field is still a work in progress. Playing at third for West Michigan, his movements aren’t fluid defensively and his approach at the plate needs improvement. The lone bright spot was a sacrifice fly, in which Fuentes made contact and did enough to drive the ball into the outfield to score the man from third.