Over Labor Day weekend, one month ago, I made another tip to the Quad Cities to watch River Bandits baseball. I’d been to the Quad Cities several times this year and still managed to miss Shelby Miller. Yes, I’m still bitter about that and yes, he’s something of a white whale to me currently. In any event, what follows are my notes on various players from that visit.
Edgar Lara – I saw him at the beginning of the season and I saw him at the end of the season. The flaws were unchanged. He struggles with pitch recognition and seems very susceptible to sliders from same handed pitchers. I’ve got several notes of him swinging and missing at average sliders.
Alan Ahmady – Ahmady looked undersized for a first baseman. He’s listed at 5’11″ but I’d guess that’s a little generous. He showed above average range at first base but is probably restricted to 1st or potentially a corner outfield spot. He had some long flyouts to deep parts of the park but he wasn’t quite making the solid connection that you’d hope for.
Michael Swinson – He’s still really fast.
Luis Mateo – He showed good mental awareness of the game taking home on a wild pitch in the 4th inning on the 6th. He’s not the fastest runner (still above average) but he looked good on the bases advancing when appropriate. Mateo has a rather lanky frame that could fill out. At second, he was adequate with a strong arm and average range.
Cody Stanley – Stanley had just been called up to Quad Cities and he looked over matched. He’s of similar size to Alan Ahmady with a typical catcher’s build (a thicker lower half) and has a nice swing from the left side of the plate. It seemed like Stanley was pressing at the plate. The picture of Stanley below is both his first hit and his first homerun in the Quad Cities.
Daniel Bibona – Bibona only pitched a pair of innings on the 5th. His breaking pitch to same handed hitters was very effective. He takes a very deliberate (read: slow) pace to his game as he comes set and delivers. Solid pickoff move.
Joe Kelly – There weren’t any scouts with radar at the game so I can’t tell you what he was throwing. I do know that once he started throwing he had everyone’s attention. His fastball simply looks, sounds and feels different than all of the other pitchers I saw that weekend. Kelly was only pitching a couple of relief innings so he didn’t have to worry about stamina. Batters had a hard time getting around on his fastball routinely swinging late on the pitch.
Jorge Rondon – Rondon belongs in the pen. By the third inning, his command had fallen apart leaving the catcher (Robert Stock and later Cody Stanley) stabbing at balls out of the zone or over their head. The first inning he generated a pair swings at nasty breaking balls in the dirt but he struggled to replicate the pitch again in the later innings of the game.
It’s been my experience that when you watch the minor league games, there are occasionally players who stick out like a sore thumb. The talent of the elite players is seemingly tangible when you come across them. The player that stood out over Labor Day was the Peoria Chiefs’ Hak-Ju Lee. After taking note of Lee, I had to recall that he was the Cubs’ submission to the World Team of the Futures Game and it was apparent why. Lee has great range at short with a strong arm. He’s prone to rushing his movements and will get ahead of himself leading to some poor throws. He also dropped a pop fly in the 5th inning on the 6th as he seemed to just have a momentary lapse.
At the plate, Lee’s calling is obviously as a slap hitter with plus speed. He’s not completely inept at the plate but he’ll never be considered a power hitter. He has tendency to bail out of the batter’s box in the style of other Japanese hitters (Kosuke Fukudome, Hideki Matsui) which pitcher’s can exploit by working off the plate. I came away extremely impressed with Lee and would say that he was easily the most impressive position player I saw that weekend.
A special thanks to bgh for putting up with me for the entire weekend. I had a great time in Davenport and it was a blast hanging out with another long time VEB-er.