Setting the Stage
The opening series of the NYPL season for both the Oneonta Tigers and the Lowell Spinners was as entertaining as expected. The ballpark in Lowell was filled to capacity every night, and crowds were raucous. Lots of new Tiger faces and a few returnees present for a great series.
• Oneonta's best player to open the season was pretty easily the newly acquired Kody Kaiser. He was hitting lasers to all fields in BP and in games. His approach at the plate is excellent, working counts waiting for his pitch to drive, and really epitomizing the traditional top of the order hitter. He's an above-average runner with good instincts on the bases, and he's not afraid to be aggressive and force the issue. Defensively, he's making the transition from the outfield to second base; and he didn't look horrible. He obviously needs some significant work to get better, but the tools are there. He's got a solid-average arm with good accuracy, soft hands, and good range. Kody lacks the instincts for the position now, not really knowing when to work around the ball, when to charge hard, and his reactions were a tad slow. The biggest leap he needs to make in his quickness on the double-play, but that will certainly come with time. This kid certainly has some talent, and he will be one to watch.
• I love being pleasantly surprised by players. After plenty of less than stellar reviews, I hadn't really given Angel Flores another thought; that is until this series. He has some potential in his all around game. Defensively, he is excellent. He receives the ball well, has good form and positioning when blocking the ball, and is very agile and quick behind the dish. His footwork on throws was outstanding, combined with a strong and accurate arm. I had him in the 1.90 seconds range on his throws this week. Flores is very vocal behind the plate, with a tremendous understanding of pitcher's mechanics and what they need to adjust during games. Offensively, you can see the tools, but he needs some refinement. He doesn't have a great picture of the strike zone, and is prone to chasing bad pitches. There is some strength and quickness to his swing, giving him some power potential down the line. He's an average runner who demonstrated some solid instincts on the bases. If he can put together a couple of solid offensive seasons, he might just be a guy that could craft out a career as a Major League backup.
• I hadn't seen Alfredo Figaro pitch in over a year, but he looked quite solid. Still working a 92-94 mph fastball that peaked at 96 with regularity, he was spotting the ball at the knees and on the corners better than I had recalled. His breaking ball and change-up are a bit behind, but they both show promise as average to slightly above-average pitches. He has a nice feel for pitching, mixing his offerings and working all parts of the zone.
• With Sendy Vasquez assigned to Oneonta for a few starts, it was a nice treat to get a chance to see him live again. Velocity isn't an issue for Sendy. As one coach state, "Winging it in there isn't a problem for him, but getting it over the plate sure is." He was consistently working at 92-95, and reached 98 several times during his start. He had absolutely zero command of his fastball, walking numerous batters and falling behind nearly everyone. He demonstrated no feel for his off-speed stuff, and almost seemed reluctant to even attempt throwing any. The arm will never be a question, but the rest has a long way to go.
• I'm becoming more and more skeptical of Ronnie Bourquin. He just doesn't seem to have "it" in my mind. He seemed lethargic on the field the last few days, giving what appeared to be half effort on some balls down the line and in the hole at third. The only way I can describe it is a general disinterest in being there. At the plate, he borders on being patient to a fault; taking very close pitches that by definition are not strikes, but there isn't an ump on earth that isn't going to call them strikes. He is routinely in awful hitter's counts, and just didn't seem to square the ball up routinely. I'm just not a fan of his skill set moving forward.
I expected awful defense from Devin Thomas, and he wasn't terrible. If his bat can keep progressing, he could be a sleeper catcher prospect….Cory Middleton appeared to be handling his move to the outfield well….Another pitcher with a good arm; Adriano Santos sat at 91-93 with some sink and two average secondary pitches….Rudy Darrow is one of those guys that's just suddenly going to be on a Major League roster. He's got a true side-arm delivery that is short and quick, and the ball jumps out at 90-92 with some arm side run….In Thursday's game there were back-to-back strikeouts where the runner reached on a passed ball for Oneonta; I can't remember ever seeing two in one game, let alone on back-to-back batters….Its hard not to root for Casper Wells. He hustles everywhere on the field and is all out, all the time….