Live From Fall Ball: Infielders

Ready for the in-depth info on the Instructional League baseball going on in Lakeland? TigsTown and Mark Anderson has you covered, going player-by-player. Next up, the rest of the infielders in fall ball.

Second Base
Gustavo Nunez – Probably the fastest player I saw this week, he can motor both in the field and on the bases. He has solid instincts when running the bases, but he needs to refine his jumps when stealing. He makes consistent contact at the plate, and can slap balls to all fields. Working from an open stance with hands held about shoulder level, he snaps the bat through the zone and is on his way to first base in a flash. His understanding of the strike zone is advanced, and he could work at the top of the lineup pretty easily. In the field, his range is exceptional and his hands are above-average. He turns a good double play thanks to a quick exchange, but his arm strength is only roughly average. He's a nice player that could move very quickly after showing well in the Gulf Coast League and holding his own at Lakeland in 2008.

Luis Palacios – Luis worked at second, short, and third this week, with most of his time spent between the first two of those positions. His lower half is thickening as he matures, and I like his defensive projections better at second. His range is adequate and he has enough arm strength to turn a good double play. Instinctually, you can tell he's not used to the position, and he has some development to undertake. Palacios' swing can get long at times and he has trouble keeping his head on the ball, but he does have some juice in his bat and an ability to hit it hard to the pull side. He'd be better served using the whole field more frequently, but that may take time given his aggressive approach. I don't expect him to move quickly, but he should get plenty of chances to continue his development.

Scott Sizemore – He wasn't on the field for any game action, but he just started swinging the bat again this week. He's still undergoing daily rehab after his wrist injury, but the fact that he's got a bat in his hands and is taking grounders daily is a very good sign. Most of his work was off to the side while the bulk of the team was working on other things, so I didn't get a good look, but I doubt the overall skill set has changed much. He looked trimmer than in the past, and I will be anxious to see him in the spring.

Third Base
Bryan Pounds – My initial and final impressions over the three days are identical here. Every single one of his tools plays up a tick compared to what I was told coming in. His range and actions at third are positive attributes and he has enough arm to remain at the position. He's a heady player with a very good understanding of his role in the field. He makes all the routine plays, and showed an ability to execute the difficult. He had more speed underway than I was expecting, and his bat speed was more impressive than his college coaches indicated. He has a short swing that sprays line drives to all fields. He was one of the hardest workers I saw this week, and that could turn him into a better prospect in the end. He's pretty aggressive at the plate, and may be better off being a bit more selective in order to get pitches he can drive with some regularity.

Brett Anderson – The position change is still in it's infancy, having moved from shortstop after the draft in June. He's a very raw, pure athlete, with a tremendous ability to move in the field. His actions still look like that of a shortstop, and he needs to continue adjusting his defensive approach and footwork to match his new position. There are certainly raw tools there to be successful at the position, but it's going to take time. There were some rumblings around of him seeing the outfield down the line, but nothing concrete. He was limited to some defensive drills and batting practice thanks to a tender right arm, so I didn't get to see much of his bat, but what I did see was very unrefined and in need of further instruction. He has wiry strength and a great frame for projection, so there are definitely some tools to work with.

Shortstop
Cale Iorg – Real deal! I should stop there, but I feel obligated to expand upon that statement. Everything he did on the field looked natural, even easy for Iorg. In the field, he made the routine plays look mundane, he made the challenging plays look routine, and he made the near impossible look not only possible, but probable. He has excellent first step quickness, great footwork, tremendous actions, soft hands, and a strong arm. In short, he has every defensive tool you could possibly want in a shortstop. Cale did dial it back on a few of his throws this week, trying to guide them over rather than trusting his ability and arm strength to make the play for him. This should go away with more innings in the field. At the plate he's strong, has a concept of the strike zone, drives balls to all fields, and has so much room for projections. He's still thin with room for added strength, and his power is already clearly evident. He hit a ball at Osceola County Stadium on Friday that was absolutely murdered. If not for the win blowing across the outfield, and the power alley being 390-feet from home plate, it would have been an easy home run. As it was, the ball was caught at the fence. I can't even count how many balls he scorched to all fields; absolutely impressive young player! I know it is easy to be skeptical of the recent comments of Dave Dombrowski, but he is right on the money here; Iorg is an All-Star in waiting.

Audy Ciriaco – Ciriaco worked out at both shortstop and third base throughout the week, but I'm listing him here as the position switch is not official. Those in charge still are not sure what is in store for Audy, and if I understand things correctly, some of the decision may be based on roster needs next spring. Regardless of position, his ceiling is still as high or higher than any position player in the system; and the flashes of brilliance are becoming more and more common. He still has tremendous range and arm strength in the field, with good hands, but his footwork still appears rushed. The game is starting to slow for him though, as the routine plays are beginning to look as routine as they should. I'd love to see him continue to remain at shortstop. Offensively, there is still so much potential here it is absolutely scary. He can destroy balls to all fields, though he does have a propensity to try and pull a few too many pitches. In practice, he works diligently on his ability to go the other way and hit to the situation. He gets out of the box quickly and is still a very good runner. As has always been the case, Audy continues to chase breaking balls out of the zone, and it may never be something he avoids completely. Overall, there is still superstar potential trapped in that body, and if things start to click, we could be witness to a Wilkin Ramirez-type breakout.

Brent Dlugach – Back on the field after missing extended time during the Gulf Coast League season with a pulled muscle in his back, Dlugach indicated that he feels good and is ready to get back to playing everyday. Though his arm was tender and limited his participation on Thursday, he insisted his arm was strong and ready to go when I spoke with him. In the field, he looks a bit rusty as a result of the limited playing time since the shoulder injury, but the tools are still there. His swing looks a touch more rigid than I remember, and I'll be curious to see if it smoothes out come the start of the 2009 campaign. I know the organization is still high on his overall ability, so pay close attention to their handling of him next spring; particularly with Worth and Iorg likely to be pushing for time at the highest minor league levels.


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