“Baseball is my stereo, and you're our product, and we can't very well have our products turning against us, can we?” – Dick Jones, RoboCop
Twenty-four hours after I arrived back in New York from my amazing journey to the Futures Game, where I witnessed the finest talent the minor leagues had to offer, I found myself in New Jersey watching Low-A baseball. The contrast caused a rash, and I struggled to hold back the tears during the three-day trip, and the talent on the field wasn’t the only source of the sadness. I don’t want this to come across as someone who is overly critical of New Jersey the state, because I’m not familiar with the entire state and I shouldn’t render judgments based on a very small sample of the state, but I’m not a big fan of New Jersey the state.
Not that I’m an alcoholic, but I enjoy an adult beverage after a long day sitting in the stands taking notes and keeping a focus. However, New Jersey the state didn’t want to provide me with easy options. Perhaps the creature comforts of New York City have spoiled me to the realities of other locations, just as my upbringing in Texas has spoiled me to the service of ice-cold beer delivered via a pleasant drive-thru experience in makeshift barns off the highway, so excuse me if I thought buying a chilled adult beverage would be a painless process at 10pm on a Thursday night. Nope. Upon entering the local grocery store with a smile on my face that suggested complete and total ignorance to local laws, I combed the aisles looking an adult snack, one I would be sharing with a fellow minor league prognosticator, most likely as we re-lived the evening’s on-the-field events, perhaps discussing why Jorge Alfaro refuses to take a pitch to start a sequence, or why Jordan Akins is such a beast yet can’t play baseball.
After an exhaustive search that could rival a body hunt, I arrived empty handed to the front of the store, where a kind employee dropped the disguise of kindness and announced my failures to the entire population of the cookie and pastry section. I was told that grocery stores don’t sell beer, and that I’m a fool, and that gas stations don’t sell beer either, and you can’t even pump your own gas, and that I’m a fool, and that only specifically recognized outlets can sell beer, specifically the liquor store next to the grocery store, but that they close early and I was out of luck for the evening, and that I was a fool. I thanked her for her support and I didn’t buy any cookies or pastries in her section just to spite her, and I left the relationship unfulfilled, and I didn’t want to find a bar and drink in public, so I went back to my hotel to find that their adult beverage service had concluded, and that I was a fool, and the concierge mentioned that the local strip club sold six-packs to go, and I declined the suggestion after offering a criticism of the alcohol laws, and I retired to my room where I went over the following game notes with the familiar scents of failure and disappointment escaping from my pores.
Player: Aaron Altherr
Acquired: 9th round; 2009
HT/WT: 6’5’’ 190 lbs.
Game (s): 07-12/13
Result: 6 AB, 1 H, 2 BB, 2 K
Notes: Long, lanky frame; athletic; swing was easy and fluid, but loopy; triggered slow; struggled to hit inside velocity; struggled with breaking balls; didn’t control the bat well; hit tool was well below average; showed good raw power potential; impressive pop to right-center gap; average at best range in center; good speed, but didn’t show quick jumps on balls; strong arm; long action; looked raw; a prospect, but serious doubts about the bat; right field profile, good power potential; good projections; big gap between reality and dream.
Player: Kevin Matthews
Acquired: 1st round; 2011
HT/WT: 5’11’’ 180 lbs.
Result: 5 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Notes: Short; very athletic; thicker build (not fat); 3/4 slot; compact and simple delivery, but finishes across body; long stride; high leg lift; fastball was soft in 88-91 range; touched 92 mph; showed some good arm side run when spotted down in the zone; didn’t miss many barrels; curveball flashed plus; worked 73-77; tight rotation; excellent depth; was able to throw pitch for strikes; big fan of pitch; changeup was below average; was instructed to throw 15 of them during start; worked 80-82, with a little, late vertical dip; lacked fading action; good deception from delivery; good fastball disguise; was too firm and lacked quality movement; overall command was below average; elevated fastball up and to the arm side; overthrew at times; delivery and athleticism points to above average command profile; arm was a little dead; fielded position well; was slow to the plate with runners on (1.6); didn’t have best stuff, but competed and battled all game; lacks projection; fastball has potential to work in the 90-93 range, with plus curveball and average changeup, good command, and intense approach; back-of-the-rotation type/reliever.
Gabriel Lino (Phillies): Big, mature body; adult strength; raw receiver; excellent catch and throw skills behind the plate; footwork needs improvement; arm is easy 7; big raw power; poor hit tool; good approach; tracks pitches well, just can’t hit them; all projection.
Jorge Alfaro (Rangers): Body is maturing; impressive strength; raw power is easy 7; impressive batting practice pop; shows some bat control; hit tool could be average; approach is very aggressive; swings early and often; soft and spinning stuff can take him out; looks to go opposite field with most offerings; well above average catch and throw skills; arm is 8; footwork looks better than ST; receiving still needs refinement; shows some leadership qualities on the field; All-Star projections, but approach could limit offensive potential.
SS/2B Rougned Odor (Rangers): Lacks impressive size, but shows strength and athleticism; played both shortstop and second; arm is easy 6; can make every throw at both positions; range is better suited for 2B; good quickness; instincts for the game are obvious; high game IQ; good/clean actions; good backhand pickup; shows a lot of flash at both positions (almost to a fault); bat is extremely quick; hands are above average; impressive bat control; tracks pitches well; mature approach; surprising pop for size/age; uses an all-field approach; not just a slap hitter; drives through ball; glove is 6; arm is 6; hit tool should be at least a 6; power is 4; speed is 5; toolsier than people realize; total gamer; future major league regular at 2B in the mold of Placido Polanco; big fan.
3B Maikel Franco (Phillies): Looks heavier than listed weight; thick frame; impressive power; loud contact in batting practice; ball jumps off bat; was very aggressive at the plate in game action; swing wasn’t controlled; wild; wasn’t impressed with hit tool; looked lost against right-handers; below average speed; not especially athletic in the field; glove was fine; arm was very strong; range was below average; interesting prospect; big power potential; plus arm; might be able to stick at 3B depending on body/footwork; hit tool/approach were suspect; major league projection; not sure of position or specific offensive ceiling; 5 role.