Welcome to the inaugural Pink Pony Scouts Chat.
Here, major league scouts who've spent the last five weeks at spring training share gleanings about the Padres and other Western teams. Thank you, gentlemen.
The Pink Pony, a steakhouse in Scottsdale, was a Cactus League fixture for decades and is attempting a comeback, so I'm honoring it with no strings attached. Special mention goes to the late Phil Collier, a Pony regular in his days as a Padres beat writer. Phantom, as Phil was known, couldn't have been nicer to me when I was a cub reporter.
A few words about the scouts and their comments below. These men are pro's pros, baseball lifers who appreciate how brutally hard the sport is. They don't mince words, but nor do they take potshots. Harsh opinions are backed up, sometimes off the record. They also admit it when they miss on a player, which they inevitably do. Save two pithy comments here that reinforced what an outside scout said, scouts didn't talk about their own clubs. Be advised, a few salty words pepper their remarks although this is a G-rated site.
"Anthony Rizzo has a chance. His swing works."
"Rizzo is a really, really good-looking young player. He's got a lot of ingredients to be a middle of the lineup guy. He can really play first base. Good get."
"I really like Anthony Rizzo. I think he's going to be a guy and I think he's going to be a guy soon. He didn't play like a kid. He wasn't afraid at all. He swung at strikes. He can run some. He's a good fielder. He was impressive, really impressive."
"I'm not sold on Rizzo. I think he's going to be a decent big leaguer. His swing is kind of long, kind of reminds me of Adam LaRoche's swing. He's got a good eye, which helps him. He'll be able to hit them out at Petco. Right now, I don't see a short or consistent swing."
"Cameron Maybin, there's no doubt he can play center field in Petco. He handles the fastball. But you just have to wait and see how much he's going to hit against the breaking ball."
"Maybin, I saw a little more confidence in him. I think he knows the spot is his and he's going to get his 500 at-bats. He looked a little more confident in his jumps. He's good east-west. But he really has trouble breaking back and in. At the plate, he doesn't recognize spin. But, you never know how he's going to be until he gets a chance to play every day."
"(Mike) Adams threw the best of their relievers. (Luke) Gregerson was ordinary."
"Casey Kelly has a good arm, no doubting that. I saw Mat Latos twice. I'd be concerned, man."
"Simon Castro is overhyped. He's got no feel." ( For what it's worth, Castro was dominant in a minor league game on March 26, striking out five batters to start and clocking up to 97. --Tom Krasovic).
"I don't understand why Wade LeBlanc would be over Cory Luebke unless the Padres are trying to keep Luebke's service time down. It's not even close. Aaron Harang's stuff is just fine. He got hit around, but I like him."
"I was impressed by Casey Kelly. I liked his poise, I like the fact that he attacked the zone. He had a clean delivery, strike one, good downhill plane, three pitches for strikes. I think he should be a nice middle of the rotation guy."
"Cameron Maybin is not much of a hitter. You'd take (Blake) Tekotte over Maybin if you're just looking at them swing the bat and didn't know anything about them."
"James Darnell is healthy and pounding the ball, has big power. (Donavan) Tate has a lot of talent. (Jaff) Decker is in outstanding shape. He can really, really hit, just natural, generates serious batspeed."
"(Brad) Hawpe's swing looks pretty good. His at-bats are really good actually. He's a little shaky on some groundballs. (Ernesto) Frieri looks OK, not great. (Chad) Qualls looks good, fastball down and has good sink, 92 (mph)."
"Latos, I've never seen him so bad. But you don't know how he'll do. He supposedly didn't feel any (shoulder soreness) after the outing, then felt it two days later. If he gets pissed off, he'll throw 95 (mph). He's been missing east, west, up and down. His front side is opening up. He's battling his mechanics. Maybe the sore shoulder takes some pressure of him to be the No. 1 guy."
"Latos is a No. 1. He's a stud. He'll be fine. He's ornery. He has good enough stuff that he's fine. They've got great pitching coaches. They'll keep him straight ahead. That's a premium guy."
"Harang threw a lot better than I'd seen him in the last three years."
"Casey Kelly was OK. He's got a nice curveball. Nice, easy motion. Fluid. Has a chance to be a nice No. 3."
"I think the Padres are in trouble. I like (Orlando) Hudson and (Jason) Bartlett up the middle. The Padres, I think offensively they're going to really struggle. Without that stud (Adrian Gonzalez) in the middle, it can really wear on everybody else. They have to have stellar pitching. They might need Luebke or Castro to step up."
"I think the Giants and Rockies are the class of the division. I think the Padres have a chance to finish ahead of the Dodgers in third."
"The Padres, the way they do things, this team fits their mold. They're not going to hit a bunch of home runs and they know it. They got away from that maybe when they got (Miguel) Tejada and (Ryan) Ludwick, and maybe got away from their style, scratching and biting. They scratch. They hit and run. They do the things that they need to do. And I think they'll be a better defensive team than they were."
"(Adam) Russell and (Edward) Mujica aren't throwing good. Mujica's velocity is a little down, hasn't been throwing the splitty. He's a veteran, maybe he's just building for the season. Chris Young (who will start for the Mets) actually looked OK. Velocity wasn't what it was a few years ago, but he actually pitched pretty good. It's still enough with the deception."
"Leo Nunez is the Florida closer. He should be the Florida setup guy. Because Ryan Webb is going to be the closer. Not to start with. Webb pounds the strike zone. And that bowling ball he throws up there is heavy and shattering bats. Chris Young needs to get his arm strength back but his mechanics are OK. It's 85-88 but the deception is still there and the late life is still there. His breaking ball got better each time."
"I'm all about trading relievers for everyday position players, but I think the Padres are going to regret trading Ryan Webb."
"Let's see how those relievers (Webb, Mujica) do now that they're out of Petco."
"Ryan Webb, the only thing with him is a matter of confidence. He doesn't believe in himself yet. He will, because the stuff is so good. Is he a closer? Doesn't have a strikeout pitch, really. But he's going to pitch in the back of the 'pen."
"The Dodgers have become old and slow. They have some pitching depth."
"I think they're going to be offensively challenged, and defensively challenged. The other day, (shortstop Rafael) Furcal was 4.9 running down the line, third baseman bobbles the ball and he's still out in plenty of time. Saw (Matt) Kemp misplay two balls in the same game recently. He looks terrible in center field. Kenley Jansen is pretty damn impressive."
"They should move Kemp out of center."
"Furcal is not the athlete he once was. There's no question about that. As a runner, he's not anything like he was. He's a decent shortstop. I think Kemp will have a good year as far as home runs and run production. He's not a great center fielder. His attitude was better than last year."
"(Jonathan) Broxton does not throw 99 anymore. He throws 94, 95. He's plenty good. If Broxton comes back, the bullpen can be very good."
"(Rubby) De La Rosa, I don't know whether he's going to be a starter or reliever. The arm is about as good as anybody's in Arizona. He doesn't get good arm extension, but his arm is good. If this guy stays healthy, in a year or so he should be a big help for the Dodgers."
"De La Rosa has a huge arm and a plus changeup. The only thing he doesn't have is an average breaking ball, so as a right-hander does he end up in the bullpen?"
"De La Rosa is going to be outstanding."
"I think De La Rosa can pitch there right now and he'd be fine. He was up to 97 and good angle to plate, good feel for changeup, and I think the breaking ball will come. I think this guy's a starter, and I don't think he's far away."
"Dee Gordon is still young and skinny. He has all kinds of ability. Athletically, he's like Cameron Maybin. Very good athlete. (Jerry) Sands, I never saw him pull the ball. His balls were all to right center and center, the deepest part of the park. But he's strong. There ain't no doubt about that."
"I like Xavier Paul more than the Dodgers do and would keep him over (Jay) Gibbons or (Tony) Gwynn Jr. Paul needs a change of scenery. His bat is OK. He has a good swing and can run the ball down. Hector Gimenez is a just a good-looking hitter. I'd take him as a backup. Ivan DeJesus, he's stayed inside the ball well. Sands, I like his bat. He has a really nice swing. He looks OK in left field."
"Rod Barajas is a backup catcher and he's going to have to start. He''ll hit a home run, but he moves in slow motion."
"(Juan) Uribe is heavy and his legs are bothering him. He looks more comfortable on the left side of the field than at second."
"I think they're going to be battling it out for third place with the Padres, and the Padres know how to play better."
"They could be a disaster with all of the ifs."
"The lefty (Tyler) Skaggs -- outstanding. Really good. Right now, today, Skaggs is better than (Jarrod) Parker. He has some power to his pitches. Good tempo. Confident. Power curveball."
"They're blocking too many young guys with old guys. (Xavier) Nady looks bad. Still can't get his foot down. Swing is long, slow."
"Skaggs--very good makeup. Had two really impressive outings for me. He's probably ahead of Parker now, but so much of this game is what have you done lately."
"Skaggs is Arizona's best pitching prospect. Has a chance to be a No. 1 or 2. Up to 93. Plus curve, plus changeup."
"Joe Saunders has been awful. So that trade with the Angels could come down to (Dan) Haren for Skaggs and the money (Haren's salaries)."
"I actually think Ian Kennedy is under-rated. Solid No. 3 starter."
"(Justin) Upton is healthy. He's going to see a lot of crappy pitches. Will he walk? I don't know."
"Diamondbacks look terrible. Absolutely awful. Not only are they not talented, they're playing very poorly. They're bad, they're so bad."
"(Brandon) Belt, he's not afraid to hit with two strikes. He stays back real good. He doesn't lunge. He has pretty good strike zone recognition."
"In high school Brandon Belt was blocked off as a hitter, closed up. Not now. Great hitter's hands."
"Belt is really going to be a player. He swung the bat great the days I was there. He hit the ball hard all over the park. Hits the ball really hard to left center. I think he's a 20-plus home run guy and should hit for a good average. Keep him at first base."
"(Second baseman Charlie) Culberson is going to be a solid big league player in a few years."
"Francisco Pegeuro looks like a young Sammy Sosa. Big swing but has got power and can run and throw."
"Kung Fu Panda looked great. Lost a lot of weight and has some range now."
"Shortstop looks like it could be a problem with (Miguel) Tejada. Brandon Crawford is not the answer for me, I think he's more of a second baseman. (Ehire) Adrianza can play short. You hit the ball to him and you're out. It happens easy. When he dives, he catches the ball. The hands are like Omar Vizquel's."
"I think they've got to hold on to Nate Schierholtz. He's OK. I'd take him over (Pat) Burrell. I'm not a big (Mark) DeRosa guy. He just looked sluggish."
"(Aaron) Rowand, everyone knows, has really slowed down in the field and with the bat."
"Funny, the Giants are built better for the short run than the long run. I think it'll be harder for them to win the division than to make a run in the playoffs. It's going to be a struggle to score runs."
"I saw a team that had a swagger to them and looked lot more confident than last year, like they were out to prove they weren't a fluke last year."
"The Rockies are good. I think they're the best team in the division."
"(Lefty) Rex Brothers has the big arm. Throws good strikes. Just a reliever but 95-96 on the gun with good plane."
"Ian Stewart looks healthy. (Dexter) Fowler is working on his bunting, which is good, but it still looks like he can be easily attacked."
"I think they have problems at closer."
"(Catcher Wilin) Rosario, I guess he hurt is knee, but he can really throw. He's kind of a wild swinger. He's got tools along the lines of Miguel Olivo."
"The most interesting thing I saw all spring was the rebirth of Erik Bedard. His curveball, it's a bastard. Sometimes an 80 (on the 20-80 scouting scale)."
"Bedard pitched good. He's not as good as he once was. His stuff is plenty good to win games. His arm's not quite as high. The curve doesn't have the quickness at times that it used to have. But he's plenty good. He should keep them in games."
"Justin Smoak, there's not a lot of click in there. I see a guy whose development curve got retarded, both in Texas and Seattle now. There was a rush to judgment."
"Smoak did not do much for me. Smoak did not make good contact at all. I'm sure if he hits the ball, he's got power."
"Dustin Ackley, he's got a magic wand. He can hit."
"Ackley, he hits like he wants to be a leadoff hitter. He's not aggressive. He will be a good offensive player. But Ackley, the attitude he gave off was, I'm not going to make the club, why should I bust my ass? I don't know if that's how he felt, but that's how he played. He's so-so at second, he needs a lot of work there."
"Milton Bradley looks good."
With Franklin Gutierrez a DL candidate, Michael Saunders might open the season on the roster. Mariners hitting coach Chris Chambliss (Oceanside High) and manager Eric Wedge worked with Saunders to retool his preswing, which now resembles that of Adrian Gonzalez, an adjustment that the Padres' Will Venable also made in spring training.
"Saunders looks good in a uniform," a scout said. "And he hit the ball at the end against mediocre ptiching. I wouldn't go out on a limb and say he's a regular."
"Their team should be a little better than last year."
"Peter Bourjos played really well. Amazing in center field. An 80 runner, 80 center fielder."
"(Bourjos) was more confident at the plate than any time with the Angels last year."
"Brandon Wood needs a change of scenery but it sounds like they're going to keep him because of the injuries. If they put him on waivers, I have little doubt that the Pirates would claim him. He still can play third, and he can play shortstop."
"Howie Kendrick kept hitting rockets to right field. I think he's going to hit .300 this year."
"Mark Trumbo had an unbelievable camp. Erick Aybar was inconsistent with the bat and the glove."
"The Royals have some young talent. (Lefty pitcher Mike) Montgomery and (first baseman Eric) Hosmer -- the two best young guys I saw this spring. They could be the real deal."
"The Royals' Montgomery has Cole Hamels written all over him."
"The Washington club, oh, they have really good athletes. And, they have really good young arms.They're going to take their lumps early, but I think after the All-Star break they're going to be really good."
"Jim Riggleman (a former Padres manager) is the absolutely perfect guy for that Washington club. He's a teacher. Rigs came up in the St. Louis organization and he learned from Mr. George Kissell, and you don't say George Kissell. You say Mr. George Kissell, he was the architect of the Cardinal Way."
"(Marlins outfielder) Mike Stanton is a beast. He hit one like 30 feet farther than (Mark) McGwire ever hit one in Jupiter."
"(Second baseman) Danny Espinosa (Orange County's Mater Dei High) of the Nationals is going to be a good player."
"Manny Banuelos of the Yankees is outstanding. He is really, really good, 82-93, and a changeup from hell. And, he looks like he's been pitching 10 years in the big leagues."
"I'm apalled by some of the non-roster pitching that kept getting to the mound this spring. But, that's where the game is right now."
"Watching the split-squad games, it just shows the lack of pure major league players there really are."
"Spring training is about information gathering, it's not about evaluation. When in doubt, you'd better consult the back of the baseball card."