Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pink Pony Scouts Chat

I created the Pink Pony Scouts Chat last year to pass along what scouts were telling me at spring training's end. The Pink Pony, a Scottsdale bar and steakhouse, is a favorite hangout of baseball people during the Cactus League season. The late Phil Collier frequented the Pony during his days as a baseball writer. I think that Phil, a friend and mentor to me, would enjoy knowing that the Pony's spirit is still alive. What follows is the second Pink Pony chat, which again leans toward the West Coast and the National League West. As a reminder, the scouts quoted below don't generally talk about their club's players, unless it's to confirm something told me by an outside evaluator.

PADRES

Yonder Alonso

"Alonso was all right this spring. Nothing that just jumped out at me as saying that he's going to be a star."

"Alonso, there's so much to like offensively. He has really good timing to hit. The biggest concern you have with Alonso is, he's got a late load and that barrel tips toward the mound and creates that hole. That's got a chance to be exposed. He's got a loop to his swing. That means pitchers are going to go after him inside."

"A very good kid."

"Alonso has good hitting hands, likes to go the other way. He'll hit a lot of line drives. But I don't see him hitting for any power, especially at Petco. I don't see him being the answer, personally. He's slow-footed at first base. I don't think his hands are great."

"Alonso's defense is going to be below average. That park may play to his advantage, because he's more of a gap guy."

Edinson Volquez

"In that ballpark,  Volquez might pitch great. He gets his fastball up, and they wack it. They'll catch it there. In that ballpark, he might have an unbelievable year."

"Volquez has got some nasty stuff."

"Edinson Volquez was great when I saw him. He's got the stuff. That changeup's ridiculous. He's got a great fastball. It's just focus -- pitch to pitch, inning to inning, game to game. It gets easy for him. I think his mind wanders."

"Volquez looked maddeningly inconsistent. He'll show you pluses across the board. He's not as successful as he should be. I think the most consistent thing about him is his inconsistency. You're going to have good days. And you're going to have days where you scratch your head and say, 'That stuff should play better than it does.' "

Jedd Gyorko

"Gyorko looked out of shape, but he can swing the bat. He looks like he's a good defender. Didn't appear to have much quickness."

"Gyorko, he's a pretty good-looking hitter. His body, it looks like a young Matt Stairs. It's hard to think of another third baseman who looks like that. Maybe Olmedo Saenz. Wide in the hips. Very thick thighs. His body's bad now; it's only going to get worse."

"Gyorko is a really solid hitter."

Joe Wieland

"Wieland looked really good. Real good command. He should be a solid No. 3 for them."

"Weiland and Andrew Cashner were both good for me. I liked Weiland better. Cashner threw 99-100 but he is a one-pitch pitcher. His fastball is true, and he'll have to develop a secondary pitch to be not only a successful late-inning reliever, but will definitely need the other pitches to ever become a starter in the major leagues."

Casey Kelly

"Casey Kelly looked a lot better than I saw him last year. He's going to be fine."

"Casey Kelly threw really well. His stuff was what I'd seen in the past, but he was able to finish hitters better. He was able to miss bats."

Jaff Decker

"He can hit. Saw him some in center. I think he's a left fielder."

"Jaff Decker played really well. He looked comfortable. Had good at-bats."

"Jaff Decker looked pretty good. He might figure it out. Decent athlete. Good swing. I think he's still a couple years away."

Rymer Liriano

"That is one strong human being. He is built like an NFL fullback. He ran faster than average down the line and he's 235 pounds of muscle."

"Rymer Liriano is huge. He's bigger than I thought. He can still run a little. He's a little more raw than I anticipated. He's more wide and thick than tall, so it'll be interesting to see what he looks like in a few years."

Others

"Andy Parrino, I think he's a utility guy. Maybe, maybe he could become a second baseman."

"Parrino is a good utility man for a lot of teams."

"Jonathan Galvez swung the bat good. I don't know where he's going to play. He's not a very good defender. He's getting stronger. As long as he doesn't get pull happy, he's got a chance to be a pretty good hitter."

"Jeudy Valdez has good tools. Can catch and throw it. He gets a little lackadaisical at shortstop. He's a poor baserunner."

"Cory Spangenberg is going to be a very good player."

"James Darnell looked lost in left field, and I think that really hurt him. It wasn't very good."

"The (Carlos) Quentin thing amazes me. You just know he's going to be a 120-game player. But they did cover themselves there with (Mark) Kotsay and Chris Denorfia."

"O-Dog is not going to be a plus this year."

Overview

"I think it's an ordinary team."

"My biggest concern would be the number of innings their starting staff is going to supply them with. (ClaytonRichard, Dustin Moseley, (Tim) Stauffer and Volquez -- that's four that have had season-ending arm injuries. And (Cory) Luebke, you're going to want to be soft with him in his innings level. I figure (Anthony) Bass takes their sixth start. I'd want to be a little more positive going into the season."

"You hear a lot about their farm system. I think the Padres have their work cut out. They need one of their prospects to become an All-Star hitter. Maybe a Gyorko or a Liriano. Look at the Padres in '10 with Adrian Gonzalez. That one bona fide bat can make a big difference if you surround him with pitching and defense."

"The Padres have a great coaching staff. I like (Bud) Black. They're going to get the most out of their talent. They have a good plan."

"I just think they're going to struggle to score runs."

"I think their farm system's over-rated. Maybe the most depth of anyone. But I still don't see a lot of high-end, can't-miss. They have some nice pitchers, and they'll play up in that park."

"Their farm system; stars, I don't know. Competent big league players, probably. Does one of them step up? Maybe. Who it is, I don't know."

"You hear they have a very deep system. Very deep. With the changes in the collective bargaining agreement (eliminating most compensatory draft picks and limiting the amounts teams can spend on the draft), they may be ahead of people there."

DIAMONDBACKS

Trevor Cahill

"This spring, Cahill wasn't the same guy he was last year with his sinker. I know they're hoping a little on him. They were convinced they saw something mechanically, and they thought they could help him. A little bit of a red flag to me."

"I think Cahill is a concern. His stuff hasn't been good. There's some concern there about how healthy-healthy he is. If Cahill was right, they would have the most innings-eating rotation in the division I think."

Chris Young

"Chris Young has changed his approach some at the plate and it's really for the good. He's got a lot better plate coverage. He's using the whole field. His balance at the plate is so much better. He's got his ass underneath him and he's actually got some flex in his knees. He can actually drive the ball to right field. That's something he was never able to do. It was fun to watch.  I understand it's spring training, but I think there was something concrete to it."

Jason Kubel/Gerardo Parra

"I guess the left fielder (GerardoParra's going to be great. It's going to be hard not to play him -- but they gave the money to (JasonKubel."

"I think Kubel is going to have a big year. He's healthy now for the first time in a while. Plus that Minnesota ballpark is tough to hit in. It's freezing and it's like Death Valley in the gaps. Now he's in Chase Field.  He's going to have an opportunity to hit in a controlled environment."

"You hear they'll move Parra for a shortstop."

Others 

"It's sooner rather than later with some of their young arms, (Trevor) Bauer and (Tyler) Skaggs and (Patrick) Corbin. I could see all of those guys pitching in the majors this year, and Archie Bradley may be better than all of them. It gives Arizona an in-season alternative. It gives them a financial alternative. Say they're not in the race and they want to move (Joe) Saunders. They've got that protection."

"Corbin, good athlete; some projection left. He creates angles. He throws hard enough. There's a lot of things to like. Could be better than a four. He's fine." 

"Skaggs could be good. Throws plenty hard enough. Can spin it, can change it."

"Their shortstop situation is interesting without (Stephen Drew). Willie Bloomquist, huge energy guy. John McDonald, spectacular defensive skills. These guys are both 34, 35 years old or more. That's going to affect their energy, range." 

"Is Ryan Roberts going to have the same year?"

"Aaron Hill, I'm a little shy on him."

"Paul Goldschmidt is going to have a learning curve to go through."

"The Diamondbacks are scared to death they'll lose Miguel Montero. If he gets hurt, they're in deep trouble (at catcher)."

Overview

"I still think they're the favorites."

DODGERS

Dee Gordon

"He's adjusted. He's learned to make contact. I think he's cut down his swing a little bit and is relying on his speed. Plus, he's showing really good actions at shortstop."

"Dee Gordon has an 80 arm."

"Is he ready? Well, we'll see. But there isn't a choice."

"Gordon is one of those guys that's either going to be either really great or really bad. He's got exciting tools. Great arm. Phenomenal range. Acrobatic. Can fly. Learning to bunt. If he can get on base, he's the real deal. The biggest question is, he's awfully thin; is he going to hold up over the long haul? The strength factor, is he going to hit enough to warrant playing every day? And he makes a lot of young-guy mistakes. I really think he's going to be an exciting player who can steal 50, 60 bases, if he gets on base enough."

"I'm not as high on Flash Gordon's son. I can't warm up to him. He's very frail. People are talking about him as an All-Star. When I saw him last year, they were knocking the bat out of his hands. I just don't see it. He hit .372 in September. There's three times you make mistakes evaluating players -- spring training, September callups and winter ball."

Andre Ethier

"Ethier was swinging the bat very well."

"Ethier looks really good. I think he's over his knee issues. I think he's going to have a big year."

"The guy who's going to have a big year is Andre Ethier. I could easily see him going out and hitting .300, 25 (homers) and 90 (RBI). It's his walk year. He sees the money everyone's handing out. He's a good player, and he's healthy now."

Aaron Harang

"His arm looked a little slow to me."

"Harang was OK. All of those guys -- (Chris) Capuano, Harang, (Ted) Lilly (who is injured) -- they can put you to sleep. But they know how to pitch. I would be concerned with Harang because I think Petco helped him a lot, and the bullpen would come in and save him. His stuff looked about the same. He threw strikes."

Others

"They've got a problem behind the plate. A.J. Ellis and Matt Treanor, that's not a very good combination. Ellis in most organizations is a Triple-A guy. Treanor's best days are behind him."

Overview

"I think they're going to make a big splash in free agency."

"All you kept hearing is that the seven ownership groups bidding on them wanted to make a splash in free agency."

"They still have some holes, but they have some talent too."

"After Clayton Kershaw, they're a bunch of four and five starters. I think it'll be tough for them to finish above .500."

GIANTS

Buster Posey

"Posey looked good for a guy that's coming off a major injury."
 
"Buster Posey, I think he's ahead of schedule."

"Posey looked fine."

"Buster is OK. He's certainly not going to block the plate anymore. He's going to be fine."

Melky Cabrera

"He's in shape. That's the biggest thing for him. If he's able to stay in shape, he should be fine."

"Looks like he should help them."

"Melky Cabrera swung the bat well from both sides."

Others

"Freddy Sanchez looked awful. He had the injury."

"Panda looks about the same as he did last year. He didn't do anything where you go, 'Oh boy, we've got a problem here.' He did what he had to do to get ready for the season."

"They've got a zero bat at shortstop."

"The free agent they signed, Gregor Blanco, quite frankly, he was better than (Angel) Pagan in center."

"I'm not sold on Blanco. He's a flyer. He found a few holes. A few balls fell in for him."

"Pagan was not good. I didn't see him take very good routes to the ball and his at-bats were poor."

"(Catching prospect) Tommy Joseph continues to get better. Hector Sanchez really swung the bat well. They've got a nice problem behind the plate."

"I like the Panik kid (Joseph Panik, the Giants' first-round draft pick in 2011). He's a little guy with some strength. Has a nice short swing. Probably a second baseman."

"Barry Zito; it wasn't pretty."

Overview

"I'm not enamored with the Giants. I don't think they're good up the middle."

"It's between them and the Diamondbacks. I'd have to go with the Giants, but like just about everybody else, if their catcher or shortstop goes down, they're in trouble."

"It's win-now with them. That's how Brian Sabean is. He's a win-now guy. Every year with the Giants, it's about trying to win until they get their ballpark paid off."

ROCKIES

Nolan Arenado

"Arenado should be a really good hitter. He should be a really good player. Maybe you see him mid-season. He's very engaging. Talks to the scouts. I think he'll be a media favorite too."

"Arenado, it's a lot to ask him right now to be that guy, but he could be down the road."

"Arenado's not ready yet. But he's a legitimate prospect. He certainly looks like he might hit in the big leagues. If I was a betting man, I'd say he will, especially in that rarefied air."

Dexter Fowler

"Jury is still out. He's not very strong. He has to cheat to catch up. They just pound the crap out of him. So, to catch up, he has to get his swing going early, and that's death there. He can play center field. He's a great kid. I just don't see the strength. He's a disappointment, certainly, with the bat. But that's a huge center field out there in Colorado, and they need someone to cover ground out there."

"Dexter Fowler, you still wonder what he's going to do. He looked like he's going to miss."

Jordan Pacheco

"Pacheco looks like he might be a good utility player."

"The guy I love there is Pacheco. Very under-rated in his value. He can hit. Busts his ass. Can play a lot of places: first, third, you can stick him in the outfield, and he's a catcher. So you have the flexibility of using both catchers (in the same game) if you need to."

Others

"Charlie Blackmon is a good-looking player."

"Last year, their catcher, (Wilin) Rosario, was coming off a knee injury. He looked much better, healthy and swinging the bat well."

"(MichaelCuddyer, you could tell he came up in the Twins' system. He played the game the right way. Played hard."

"(Juan) Nicasio threw pretty good for me this spring. It's a miracle after the broken neck. He's OK."

"Todd Helton looks like he's having trouble moving at first base. He's not moving well at all. He runs like a guy with bad Achilles problems."

"They're glad they got rid of Ubaldo Jimenez. He's a knucklehead. I was at the game where he hit (Troy) Tulowitzki. It was so obvious. He definitely threw at him, there's no doubt. And then he started charging."

 Overview

"I'd be concerned about the inability of their young pitching to develop."

ANGELS

Howie Kendrick

"Howie Kendrick is going to have a monster year."

"If Howie Kendrick wins the batting title, it wouldn't surprise me with Albert Pujols hitting behind him. You could see it in spring training. They'd get 2-1 on him and they'd look over and see Albert swinging about 14 bats and they'd throw the fastball. The last thing they want to do is walk anybody in front of Albert. Howie's a great fastball hitter."

Others

"Mark Trumbo is a little rough at third."

Overview

"Their issue may be their closer. He did not look good in spring. He's just a big strong guy who tries to throw the ball by people."

"The Angels, that's a good team.  The only worry with the Angels is their bullpen. They've got questions at the back end and in the middle. They've got the great starters."

"Their bullpen doesn't have to pitch great. It just has to pitch decent."

ATHLETICS

"Jarrod Parker used to pitch on a good downward angle. When I saw him, he was getting around the ball. He was up a lot with his pitches."

"I think (outfielder) Josh Reddick will be good for them."

Overview

"They're just not going to score."


MARINERS

Dustin Ackley

"Ackley looks like he's playing better defense than last year."

"Ackley is going to be a real good player offensively."

Danny Hultzen


"He looks like a top of the rotation starter, a No. 2."

"They worked with Hultzen's delivery. Made him a little taller. I think he's getting on top of the ball better. His ball jumps by guys."

"Hultzen needs a little work with his breaking ball, but he'll be a good pitcher. He can pitch with his fastball and has a good changeup."

Justin Smoak

"He's cut down his swing from the left side."

"I'm not a huge Justin Smoak fan. He's got power but he's just a little slow with everything he does."

Others

"Taijuan Walker looks like Dwight Gooden."

"Kyle Seager is starting to grow on me. I think he'll hit for average and he makes the plays at third."

"Jesus Montero is a good hitter. I really question how much power he's going to have in their park. I don't think he has any chance to catch. It doesn't seem like he's comfortable or he likes it back there."

Overview

"They're a couple of years away from being pretty exciting. I think they're on the right track."

RANGERS

"Joe Nathan was very ordinary last September. People say he's another year removed from surgery, but he's 37. I could see some blown saves."

Overview

"Minor leagues and majors, they're loaded. Unbelievably loaded. And they did not have a player on their 40-man roster who was out of options. How unusual is that? They have pitching. They have infielders. They have outfielders. If  anybody gets hurt, they've got young people ready to step right in with a better than ordinary chance to have success."

"It's going to be a hell of a race between Texas and Anaheim. Southern California people should be really excited about that."

ELSEWHERE

"I think Bobby Valentine has pissed off half the Red Sox clubhouse already. He's a very  smart guy, but he's not one to look the other way on anything."

"Justin Morneau looks like he's healthy. Near the end of spring training, he was having the same swings he had when he was good."

"Aaron Cook threw well for the Red Sox. He looked like he did when he'd shove the bat up the Padres' assses in about  two hours and 15 minutes."

"Kevin Youkilis, you don't want to get fooled by a guy like Youkilis. You could say maybe the wear and tear is catching up with him. He looked a little beat in spring training. He's played hard. He's no spring chicken. Still, you'd love to have him."

"Dustin Pedroia, he plays nine innings in spring training like he plays nine innings in July. This guy hustles, he plays hard -- doesn't matter whether it's spring training or not. Amazing ability and makeup."

"Because of (Carl) Crawford being hurt and the shortstop not being really a shortstop, and their catching is so-so, I don't think Boston is quite as good as they were the last few years. They've still got stars."

"You hear that Valentine and Adrian Gonzalez aren't seeing eye to eye. Bobby doesn't like that Adrian stands two feet in front of first base on pickoffs."  

"The Rays have great pitching. They just don't have enough offense. They don't seem to want to make a trade. They're just going to go with really good pitching and hope they hit enough."

"They're pretty good in Tampa, but (Tim Beckham) wasn't one of their better choices. Can't hit. He's borderline. Good-looking athlete but has not made progress with the bat. He has little or no chance against big league pitching. Not a bad athlete, but he still doesn't recognize pitches off the plate and pitchers know it. I'd say he's a fringe prospect because he's got good tools."

"Before he got arrested, Matt Bush looked pretty good. Throwing 94. Pretty good delivery."

"The starting shortstop for the Reds (Zack Cozart) surprised me offensively, had some really good swings. I heard he was a defensive guy."

"I would bet on Hanley Ramirez having a big year. He's really swinging it well. He looks healthy, happy. He and Jose Reyes hang out together. They're inseparable. They both dyed their hair orange the other day. Why, I don't know."

"I'm not sure what the White Sox are doing. Their front office personnel were hardly seen at the games. I didn't see (general manager) Kenny Williams once. Between the press box, lunchroom and the field, you expect to see somebody, but they were hard to find. Holy crap, you look at that team, I'd be concerned offensively and defensively. But I think they think they're going to be all right."

"You hear about how the Pirates are coming. Well, they're still a bad team. Pedro Alvarez (drafted second overall in 2008) looked terrible on offense and terrible on defense."

"If you ran the video of Anthony Rizzo last year with the Padres and saw him now, it's completely different. Remember how, on the on-deck circle, he had that warmup swing that was almost like a golf swing? He's not doing that anymore. In the batter's box, he's not laying his bat like he used to. He's more direct to the ball. He's driving the ball in the middle of the diamond."

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