[azru]: I was excited when roarke contacted me about writing again. He’s an old hand at this having been a regular DFR contributor in the past. Alas, he was waylaid by two little girls (my words not his) and children beat blogging every time. What follows are some of his notes from Jupiter and a great set of photos. Welcome back, roarke!
Hello my internet friends and acquaintances, it has been a long time. As some of the long-time visitors to this site may recall, I used to be a regular contributor here (back in 2008, which, not coincidentally, was the last baseball season before children entered the roarke household). Writing for Future Redbirds was not the only thing that fell by the wayside as real life intervened; my annual trips to Jupiter for Spring Training also ceased for a few years.
Until this year, that is.
I was able to sneak away for a few days and catch some games and practices last week and azru has been kind enough to let me share some pictures I took and my observations. So, without further ado, words and pictures are after the jump.
One of the players that I was most eager to see was Tyrell Jenkins and I got the opportunity to see him in a game against the Mets on Saturday. As azru noted in the DFR, Jenkins got hit around a little bit during the game. He flashed the stuff that has made him one of the Cardinals top prospects, but he was inconsistent with his command, leaving offspeed pitches up in the zone that led to hits.
I was able to position myself so that I could see the gun readings that the players were getting on Jenkins and his fastball was usually between 90-92 and he hit 96 once while I was watching (of course, I only stood there for parts of two innings, so perhaps what I saw wasn’t representative). His curve clocked in at about 77 and he threw a changeup around 83. Here is a sequence of pictures of his pitching motion:
Jenkins had a nice, easy delivery and was about what I expected: raw, with flashes of brilliance. He struck out one Met on a curveball that was a thing of beauty. He definitely has big league ability, but he’s still quite a way off from being able to consistently put out that level of performance, which is expected at this stage of his development.
Another player I was anxious to see was Oscar Tavares. I was able to see him bat a couple of times in an inter-squad game and once as a pinch hitter in the big league game. OT (as his teammates called him) showed a little bit better plate discipline than I expected, but when he unleashed his swing, there was definitely a bit of violence in his swing (as I think Kevin Goldstein described it).
He was overmatched in the big league game and struck out, corkscrewing himself into the ground on the third strike. Below is a sequence of pictures from the inter-squad game where he hit a bullet to second base (which, incidentally, Kozma made a fantastic diving play on to get OT to end the inning):
I don’t believe I ever saw Kolton Wong in game action, but I did see him take BP (no good pictures, though) and I did watch him participate in DP drills. He appears to be fundamentally sound in all aspects. Nothing about him really blew me away, but he sprayed line drives and he and Kozma were clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the second basemen participating in the drills. Here are a couple of pictures of him taking a grounder and feeding a shortstop for a double play:
As a side note, during the middle infield drills that I watched, Wong, Kozma and Jackson all looked great; and everyone else looked ok, except Kenny Peoples-Walls, who was very sloppy and booted several grounders. Perhaps he was having a bad day, but he looked unfocused and lazy in comparison with the rest of the group.
I also saw Zack Cox take BP and I really like the look of his swing. To me, his swing looks like it should generate more power than it does, but, true to form, he hit line drives and warning track fly balls without any home runs during the time that I saw him (again, small sample size warning).
I never saw Shelby Miller pitch (or Carlos Martinez or Trevor Rosenthal – I was a little unlucky), but I watched him take part in some drills and he seemed to carry himself with a confidence that some of the other players didn’t have. Perhaps it was just the assurance that he wasn’t going to get cut, but he seemed comfortable.
I did see Shooter Hunt pitch during the intra-squad game. He was wild early, but his catcher came out to talk to him and he pulled it together, getting out of a jam and throwing two really nice curves for strikeouts. I was impressed with his stuff, I just hope he can maintain consistency. Here is a picture sequence of his motion:
Another guy that impressed me was Ramon Ulacio. I didn’t know anything about him before going to Jupiter, but I saw him throw a side session in a group that included Scott Gorgen, Brandon Dickson and a couple of other guys, and Ulacio’s pitches just sounded different from the rest. There was no gun on these guys, but I put Ulacio as the hardest thrower in the group. His slider is still a work in progress – it wasn’t especially sharp and could been seen coming a mile away, but his fastball seemed like the real deal. His strikeout numbers in the Gulf Coast League last year are nothing to get excited about, but I’m interested in seeing what becomes of this guy after seeing him in person.
Finally, on a somewhat different side note, some Cardinals dignitaries came out to watch Tyrell Jenkins pitch – in one golf cart was John Mozeliak and in another was Whitey Herzog. Mo actually sits in the row in front of my Dad at the big league games, so seeing him wasn’t that big of a deal, but Whitey was another story. As someone who grew up in St. Louis in the 80′s, Whitey is an icon – a living legend. This was the first year that he had returned to Cardinals camp (because of LaRussa), so it was pretty cool to be that close to him. My Dad went over and talked to him and said “Mr. Herzog, does it get any better than this – watching baseball on a beautiful day like today?” Whitey paused for just a second and then said “Well, I think I’d rather be fishin’.” I stood nearby for a while and listened to him tell stories to Dyar Miller for a while (note: Mr. Herzog has a potty mouth), which was about as cool as it gets. Then, I approached and asked him for his autograph.
Now, I am not an autograph guy – I haven’t asked anyone for an autograph since I was 12 and I got Danny Cox to sign prior to a Cardinals game – but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to interact with Whitey Herzog. He was very gracious and signed a foul ball that I had picked up a few minutes earlier: