For months, we’ve discussed our dreams to eventually cover minor league prospects as well as amateur on PerfectGame.org and PGCrosschecker.com. We hope to have organizational rankings and weekly features on all the up-and-coming baseball stars at some point in the near future. In the meantime, I will occasionally blog from my home state in Florida, where spring training has just begun and there’s plenty of minor league action to come in the summer.
Here’s my first pro report, from the spring training opener between the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles at their spring home in Fort Lauderdale.
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL- Forty years really was a long time ago. That was 1969, the year that the “Miracle” New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles were the kings of baseball and played a World Series for the ages.
And I was well aware coming in that both teams have been temporarily decimated by the World Baseball Classic. The Mets have loaned a league-leading 18 players (including Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Francisco Rodriguez, J.J. Putz….) to the classic while the Orioles are without stars like Brian Roberts, Jeremy Guthrie, and Nick Markakis.
Still, I expected to see a load of prospects on opening day. And I expected to see good, well-schooled baseball.
I got neither.
The prospect I wanted to see most was Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. Wieters may be the best prospect in baseball right now, a 6-5, 240 pound switch-hitting catcher who overwhelmed both High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie to hit .355-27-91 in 437 AB. That added up to a .454 OBP and .600 slugging percentage in his first season as a professional after being drafted fifth overall in 2007 out of Georgia Tech. He’s a plus thrower to boot who should become at least a solid-average receiver. Rumors have been flying after the Ramon Hernandez trade that Wieters will end up the opening day catcher. He is the beacon for a once great franchise that has reached the nadir of its existence. Wieters is a potential superstar to build around at the most important position on the field.
Baltimore used three catchers today and not a single one of them was named Wieters. It was devastating to me as an observer.
And as far as “good, well-schooled baseball”, the game was so poorly played in the first five innings that fans were walking out muttering. There were messed up run-downs, pitchers missing the glove by a mile, horrible baserunning, pitchers taking thirty seconds between deliveries. Three times pitchers were pulled in the middle of innings, which rarely happens in spring training.
I’ve watched a lot of amateur games already this spring and if these players weren’t so much bigger and stronger, I’d have thought for sure I was watching another one. I know it’s February 25th, but….
The New York Mets would go on to win 9-3 at old, rickety Fort Lauderdale Stadium. Admittedly, there was much more bad baseball on the Orioles side and the bad ball with the Mets was mostly limited to the filler players.
Nevertheless I did see two top outfielder prospects today, albeit in limited roles. The Mets’ Fernando Martinez and the Orioles’ Nolan Reimold are worth blogging about.
Martinez is considered by many scouts to be the best prospect in a New York Mets system depleted by trades. The 6-1, 190 lefthanded hitter is only 21 years-old but he can pass for 25 with his solid build in a baseball uniform. Unfortunately, he was the designated hitter so I didn’t get to see him in the field where he reportedly has considerable ability. In three at-bats before being lifted, Martinez hit one line-drive single and struck out. He rolled over another ball and looked like a solid-average runner going down the line.
From what I saw, Martinez has a good-looking lefthanded swing. He’s fairly short to the ball and has average bat-speed already. It’s just a matter of making adjustments. For AA Binghamton, Martinez hit .287-8-43 in 352 AB as the youngest player in the league. He’ll be one to watch in AAA in 2009 and a valuable trading chip for the Mets if needed in July.
Nolan Reimold got even less exposure, coming in to play left field for the last three innings and getting just one at-bat for the O’s. Reimold flew out, but I got a look at his swing. At 6-4, 220, he’s a strapping 25 year-old with some juice in his bat; average bat-speed with plus leverage and extension. He hit .284-25-84 for AA Bowie last year, slugging .501. With average range and a playable arm for a corner outfield position, he has a chance to stick in the near future as a platoon player. Reimold was originally a 2nd-round selection by the Orioles out of Bowling Green in 2005.
It was disappointing that all I got was a combined nine innings of Reimold and Martinez while missing the big fish of Wieters as well as the big league stars, but that’s the way baseball goes some times.
Check back in the next few days when I’ll have more prospects to blog about!