Eyes on Julio Urias, Nick Williams, Christian Arroyo and others.
RHP Cody Buckel: Half-windup; over-the-top slot; showed a lot of effort generating his velocity; fastball worked 89-91; lacked movement; very flat and visible up in the zone; plane when he worked down; found plenty of barrels; dropped several slow lollipop curveballs to steal a few strikes; loose and easy to track; not a legit pitch against better bats; fringy slider in the 82-84 range; lacked sharp break; body language was poor (slumped shoulders and sulked); didn’t record an out in his first inning of work; required several mound visits and encouragements; airmailed a few balls to the backstop; didn’t get a “yips” vibe despite some wildness; pitched with trepidation; find optimism in the fact that he was able to throw some strikes but the stuff and the body language on the mound left a lot to be desired. Didn’t look like a future major-league pitcher. –Jason Parks
OF Nomar Mazara: Lanky; a solid 6’4” at least; very lean and muscular; seemed very comfortable in the box; knew his strengths; laid off some spin down in the zone; got himself into good hitting counts; has big-time bat speed; hitchy timing mechanism; the way his hands load is reminiscent of Chris Davis; timing needs to be perfect, but when it works it’s explosive; pulled a middle-in fastball for a 420-plus-foot bomb; raw power is near elite; game power is starting to actualize; loved the way he hit—he looked for a pitch in a certain spot and demolished it when it came; in his third and last at-bat, he hit one over Terrance Gore’s head in CF for an inside-the-park homer, another fastball over the heart of the plate that he didn’t miss; showed off solid-average speed around the bases as well.
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Eyes on Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Ronald Guzman, and others.
OF Albert Almora: Mixed production at the plate; squared a 95 fastball up in the zone for an opposite-field RBI single late in the game; fast hands and aggressive; loved the way he attacked the ball; earlier in the game, was sawed off by a fastball inside and hit an infield squib; clocked a 4.4 time to 1B. I like the setup and swing, with an open stance and very good balance through his load and stroke. Swing is more linear without a lot of lift at present, but he can make hard contact with the ball, especially against quality fastballs; in the field, looks the part of a plus center fielder; glides naturally to the ball; effortless ability to make quality reads.
Example: On a high sky, sun field, tracked a high fly ball that was tailing toward the right field side. It would be common to see young center fielders make a poor opening read and struggle to adjust to the ball because of the sky and tail on the ball. My eyes focused on Almora upon contact, and he glided to the spot on his initial read and made a catch at his left hip, which looked as effortless (and cool) as his route to the ball. For most outfielders, the appropriate response to the flair of this particular catch on a backfield would be, “Nice catch Hayes, don’t ever do it again.” But for Almora, its just natural baseball. –Jason Parks
Getting hit by a pitch is a skill, but how repeatable is it, and what should we look for?
The hit by pitch—or at minimum the threat of one—is supposed to be a tool for pitchers to use against hitters. Not just in the Bob Gibson sense, but in a nuanced understanding that goes something like this: humans can only be so accurate when throwing a projectile over long distances. Accidents happen, regardless of intent, and both sides know it—but only one side faces the projectile on each pitch. As Roger Angell writes in Five Seasons, "Most pitchers seem hesitant to say so, but if you press them a little they will admit that the prime ingredient in their intense personal struggle with the batter is probably fear."
If fear buys the pitcher another inch on his fastball, or causes the batter to bail on his breaking ball, then he becomes more likely to realize success than he would otherwise. Instilling fear is an unhealthy aspiration, but nonetheless passes as legitimate strategy. Most hitters react like normal beings; after all, getting drilled by a firmly thrown ball hurts no matter the location. Yet there are some batters who have turned the hit by pitch into their own weapon against pitchers. These batters fear not getting hit; instead, they embrace it—some even hunt for pitches to throw their limbs toward. These batters are the stupidest smart guys in the game.
Chris Davis' amazing journey is the story of a swing, broken and put back together.
Chris Davis came into the major leagues in 2008 as a highly touted slugger from East Texas who was expected to hit monster home runs in bunches. He hit 17 home runs in a little less than half a season, but the next three seasons were the most frustrating three years of his baseball career. That began a stretch during which his swing was under heavy scrutiny and suffered numerous ill-advised changes. Davis was chosen for this article because the swing changes he made or was encouraged to make are some of the “go-to” changes hitting coaches will push upon their players.
The Indians seek to extend Justin Masterson, and the Rangers try to replace Derek Holland.
Indians expect to discuss long-term pact with Justin Masterson
With more than five years of service time under his belt, Justin Masterson has one more year of arbitration eligibility left before his first chance to hit the open market. The 28-year-old right-hander took home about $5.7 million in 2013, when he forwent his hearing by agreeing to that salary on January 18, and the Tribe is once again hoping to come to terms with his agent, Randy Rowley.