Here's Mark Newman on the players who have stood out for him this spring:
"Montero, big-time. Romine, very, very good. Both defensively and offensively, both of those guys have been great. Angelini has gotten into games the last couple of days and he's been impressive. Dellin Betances has been what we expect him to be, 95 and plus breaking ball. The changeup, he's getting a feel for it. Those guys have been good at the Charleston level. We have three corner guys there - Wady Rufino, Brad Suttle, and Brandon Laird - that have also been impressive. That whole Charleston group offensively has been very good, but we anticipated that.
"It seems to me Eduardo Nunez has been making progress in Tampa. Kyle Anson has come a long, long way defensively in a relatively short period of time. A third base conversion, that's impressive. Mitch Hilligoss I think is making progress defensively. He doesn't have classic style as an infielder but he's essentially fundamentally sound and he makes all the plays that he should make. I think his power is improving also. I think he's learned to pull the ball more with more authority and that has shown up. Damon Sublett, a seventh round pick last year from Wichita State, has been very good and has made adjustments. He's an athletic second baseman with an interesting speed-power combination for that position - so that's been a plus.
"At Double-A the three outfielders have been fine - Curtis, Jackson, Tabata. We're missing Francisco Cervelli, that's a big piece of that group. Marcos Vechionacci has a challenge in front of him. Ramiro Pena has come back pretty nicely from his injury. He's hitting the ball with more force, which is a bonus, but he's still playing defense the way he has been. Kevin Russo has done a nice job, he's putting pressure on Reegie Corona. And Cody Ehlers has been fine, he's been about what we expected. The pitching staff there, McCutchen has been good. The bullpen, Mike Gardner has been impressive. He came back from San Diego in the Rule 5 Draft. Wordekemper has been as we've expected - a strike-thrower. We feel good about that group.
"I haven't seen much of the Triple-A group but Brett Gardner was really good in Major League camp. He has opened a lot of eyes. Miranda seems to be getting his feet on the ground competitively after being off for two years. His at-bats have been of higher quality than they were last year. His plate discipline, what was already good, has been improving. Eric Duncan I think has been as good as we've seen him in four years.
"We'll see how that all plays out but our kids have done a nice job in this camp. Offensively, I think our position players have really made a leap. James Rowson and our hitting coaches are doing a nice job. And our scouts have obviously, I think they have been good at selecting some players with hitting ability. Taking all of that together, the month we've spent has generally been very positive. The injuries have been relatively manageable."
A year ago maybe organization insiders would have thought it but not too many fans or readers would have considered Austin Jackson a breakout candidate as a guy to jump on the national prospect map. Is there a guy, or maybe even a couple of players in your mind, who could pull an 'Austin Jackson' in 2008?
"Eduardo Nunez is a guy who's intriguing to me because he's such a great athlete at shortstop. He's got some power and he's got the run tool as well. He's really interesting. Some of these young guys - Montero, Romine, Suttle, Brandon Laird - those guys are going to be very interesting. They're very talented and they've got hitting ability. There's some others.
"I didn't even mention Justin Snyder's name. Justin Snyder is a real good player and will probably wind up playing in the big leagues in some capacity because he has such great defensive versatility, and has such an advanced understanding of the game.
"Sublett may as well, a seventh round draft choice. He had a .950 OPS last year in a pitcher's park in Staten Island. Those numbers were impressive in a somewhat limited sample, but he's been really good here as well. Those guys have a shot.
"I think Colin Curtis may put together a big year because his swing is so sound and he understands the game. He's been kind of under the radar a little bit because of A.J. and Tabata and the pitching, but he's a good looking young player and we like him a lot."
Spring Training Thoughts With Mark Newman
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