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March 8, 2012

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Spring Training Diary, Days 8 and 9

by Jason Parks

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Day 8: 10:40 PM
It’s late, Patricia, and I’m sorry for not putting fingers to these keys earlier. The sun was magnificent today, like a big, glowing ball of headaches, disorientation, and fire. My eyes starting stinging early, and by noon I realized I was nearing collapse. After the morning workouts and the 1PM game at the big boy stadium–which I will tell you about in a minute–I bypassed a late lunch in order to cool my thoughts in a long shower. I rushed through step three of the showering process because the symptoms of heat stroke were still present and I didn’t feel confident standing in a slippery basin with my eyes closed while negotiating bouts of dizziness. It’s important to avoid cracking your head open. 

Day 8: 11:00 PM
I had to drink a glass of flat water with a slice of cucumber gently floating on top. I would have preferred sparkling, but I’ve become particular about my sparkling water and I’m not about to rush into a sloppy water consumption decision just because the selection is limited and my body needs to fight off dehydration. It’s important to stay hydrated, with style when possible. I watched the Royals earlier today, as I tend to do out here in Surprise, and one player in particular caught my eye, as he has every spring since he was drafted. I sat in the scout section behind home plate, allowing the waves of Americana blasting from the stadium P.A. system to crash into my eardrums, waiting to have my eyes opened by a spectacular play or a spectacular player, when from the sky a heroic figure emerged and slowly lowered his human form onto the playing field and picked up a baseball bat. It was Eric Hosmer, and his face was bronze, and his body draped with the cloth of kings, and his skin was wet with the tears of innumerable virgins. His swing was delicious, with a robust finish that was assertive and aggressive, yet tender and passionate.

At least, that’s what I thought I saw. It was a very bright day and my core temperature was elevated. Give me a second.

Day 8: 11:45 PM
I had to take a shower. I’m supposed to be finishing my write-up on the top five prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system, but my head hurts and I’m having trouble focusing. I started this series a few months ago, where I break down what could go wrong with a prospect in the upcoming season, and I’m meandering through the team-by-team analysis at a Bengie Molina pace if he were playing an attacking midfield position for Barcelona. I really like the series and I really enjoy the conversation it sparks, so it frustrates me to fall behind in the project. I know you don’t care about this, Patricia. I just feel that I can tell you anything. After standing in the sun from morning to late-afternoon, I feel I can open up to you, as if your soothing reception were a cool day, or a cool beverage. I forgot to ask: Are you on Twitter? I searched for you, but not in a creepy way. If you happen to have a Twitter account and enjoy other people with Twitter accounts, you can follow me @ProfessorParks. I often speak of crushes, but don’t be alarmed if you don’t see your name mentioned in the mix. I’ve been keeping you to myself. The only one who might pose a threat to you [read: us] is Tom Verducci, and he’s not on Twitter. It’s a long story, Patricia. I won’t bore you with the details. We have a history.

Not that you will care, but I’ve seen a lot of baseball in the last week and most of it doesn’t matter. It’s early in camp, and arms are still in the process of gaining strength, and bats are still in the process of finding bat speed, and players are still in the process of adjusting to being players again, and the sun is shining and the Route 44 Lime-Aid from Sonic is still refreshing. Here’s what I’ve seen in the last four days, Patricia:

  • Uber-prospect Jurickson Profar hit a home run in a simulated backfield mini-game on a 20-grade batting practice pitch from a member of the Rangers coaching and developmental staff.
  • #TheLegend Jorge Alfaro hit a triple and clocked a ~12.0 time from home to third, which is crazy fast for a catcher.
  • I already mentioned Hosmer, but it’s worth mentioning again. Hosmer could win an MVP award before he leaves in free agency. Have you seen his bone-structure, Patricia? He’s leaving in free agency. You can’t keep bones like that in the Midwest, and that’s not a shot at the Midwest.
  • Jake Odorizzi pitched and had good stuff in the first, diminished stuff in the second. In the first, his fastball was firm in the 92-95 range, and I openly wept with excitement. In the second, his velocity slipped to 90-91, and his secondary offerings were missing the mark. My tears dehydrated on the spot.
  • Wil Myers broke his bat on a thick fastball. He’s going to be a good hitter. The power isn’t going to happen overnight. He doesn’t use batting gloves. I bet his hands are still tender to the touch.
  • Robbie Ross threw the ball that broke Myers' bat, a 90 mph bowling ball with cutting action. All of Ross’s pitches have natural cut to them, which I like and dislike at the same time; the action can miss barrels, but I worry about the pitch running into the zone against right-handers rather than running away from them. It puts a lot of pressure on the ability to locate. Ross is probably a reliever. I see two pitches. Maybe he can reach the majors this season in a situational role.
  • I saw Robbie Erlin and his fine-looking control get a dose of reality against hitters who love hitting strikes. Fine-looking control and fine-looking command aren’t the same animal, and Erlin is going to learn that lesson when he faces major league caliber talent. His fastball was soft and located, which lead to Max Ramirez hitting it out of the park.
  • James Darnell hit a single and the ball yelped.
  • Yasmini Grandal was doing something at the plate but I was watching Eric Hosmer at first base, staring into the sun.
  • Jaff Decker’s name should be Jeff Dacker.
  • Lorenzo Cain looks like a major league regular, a guy who can handle the assignment in center field and sting the ball at the plate. The Royals have a lot of talent in the field.
  • I saw Mike Montgomery pitch, and he was up and down. Fastball was 91-94 with some arm-side movement, but he couldn’t locate the pitch, and the curve was flat in his first inning of work. The delivery was a mess. Somewhere Kevin Goldstein cracked an “I’m not a fan big of his” smile. The second inning was much better, as Montgomery worked faster, had a smoother delivery and more consistent release, which resulted in better location on the fastball and a much better curve, which he was able to throw for strikes. Eric Hosmer probably gave him a pep talk. Montgomery probably wept.
  • I saw Tanner Scheppers hit Max Ramirez in the face with a pitch. It wasn’t an attractive scene. Scheppers has good stuff but poor command, and unless the command takes a step forward, the power combo of the fastball and curve will go to waste.
  • Engel Beltre likes to swing.
  • Sonic has the best ice.
  • I’ve heard “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen every day I’ve been in Arizona. I understand why people enjoy Bruce, and I can’t deny that a few of his tracks have an effect on me, but if I have to hear about him sitting around, talking about the old times one more time, I’m going to vomit in the shape of New Jersey. We get it. You have old friends and you like to reminisce and you like having a good time and you like talking about that good time. You should have stopped at “Thunder Road.”

Day 9: 2:00 AM
Did I mention that the house here in Surprise has a pool? I’ve never been a fan of swimming, although I have been known to enjoy water. Swimming pools are giant urinals in the ground. It’s insulting to think I would willingly submerge my thoughts in a urine and chlorine bath. You can’t cleanse thoughts in filthy water, Patricia. You just can’t.

I do enjoy the outdoor environment of the back patio/deck, an area that helps provide aesthetic context for the giant urinal in the middle of the yard. When the mood attempts to seduce me, I relax my mind while watching the shadows embrace their own existence, a creation made from the various architectural shapes found on the back deck/patio and the sunshine, which seems to be on the scene for days with no reprieve. I can sit and stare at the shadows until my eyes sting. Just yesterday I had a two-hour shadow session, highlighted by a return of former U.S. President George Washington; historically, his image has calmed my thoughts. I was staring at the sun as it gently tickled the chemically treated water of the giant urinal in the middle of the yard when the former President’s face found its shape, as several independent shadows discovered a common interest and formed a man. A great man, apparently. If you stare at the sharp visual likeness long enough, his lips will move and songs will flow forth. As I gripped the sides of the plastic and synthetically tethered chair for sanity stability, I thought back to when I purchased the faux furniture at the local Target, where for a wink and a $50 bill you can purchase sub-standard patio furniture, before once again focusing my attention on General Washington’s face, specifically his lips, that mouthed the lyrics to Lil’ Wayne’s Mr. Carter.

General George Washington:

“To you forever, from me to you
I heard somebody say church, I'm a need a suit
I'm a need a coupe, I won't need a roof
Flyer than Beetle Juice Beetle, Juice, Beetle Juice

I got the floor I'm tryin’ to see the roof
Didn't wear a bulletproof so I got shot and you can see the proof
Blind eyes can look at me and see the truth
Wonder if Stevie do……”

I was waiting for General Washington to finish the track so I could put my feet back on the ground, when a voice from behind cut the sound and dissolved the shadow. I stared at the dead area in the ground where the General was just rapping; a certain stillness and longing overtook me, and I was unsure if I could put my thoughts into words. It’s almost as if I were staring into a grave, imagining what it would be like if the occupant of the grave crawled back out and said it was all a big misunderstanding and everything can return to normal. Could I just pretend everything was normal? I’ve never been in that situation before. It made me think and it made me sad.

At the peak of my sadness, my roommate–who you will meet later–asked me if I would like to consume a delicately chilled cold beer and play a game of FIFA on his PlayStation3. Said roommate travels with the necessary video game equipment, and appreciates the experience of drinking a cold beverage. I wasn’t in the mood for video stimulation at that particular time, Patricia, so I asked him to give me a moment. I had just experienced a very vivid and Presidential shadow experience, the most spectacular of its kind so far this trip. I’m soaking up the intensity of this with all available energy. I’m completely sober, which might surprise you. People often assume I’m a big drinker, or perhaps even a recreational drug user, given my talk of the drink or my predilection for the unconventional. But I play up that particular aspect of my game so that people will think the chemicals provided by beer companies are responsible for my imbalances and not the imbalances themselves, which are intrinsic and tattooed on my genetic information. We all have our issues and we all catch hell when we feel. The misdirection makes it easier for you to accept me. It doesn’t always work. “Blind eyes can look at me and see the truth.” 

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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