Jackson @ Montgomery: Thoughts


I got a wonderful opportunity to head out to see the Mariners AA affiliate last night. A big shout out to the front office of the Montgomery Biscuits and Joe Davis who set me up with Press Passes and were awesome hosts. I had one of the best times I’ve ever had the ball park.

For any of those that were listening to the game Chris Harris the play-by-play announcer even invited me on the air for a couple of innings to talk a little Mariners baseball too! One of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced and definitely won’t be forgotten.

I’ll be headed back to the ball park Thursday evening and have been invited back on the air by Chris. I don’t know all the details yet. But tune in and hear us talk some Mariner prospects and even a little bit of baseball in general. The General’s radio feed online is free and if you haven’t noticed we already have a link set-up under “The Minors” – “Minor League Radio Feed”. You just have to select Jackson Generals.

I maybe annoying to listen to but Chris is one of the best announcers and a great guy, I hope you all will be dialed in and listening.

Now, on to my take on some of the things I saw last night. If I don’t go over something that you have a question about feel free to ask.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a professional, just a fan with some basic knowledge. Take this for what it’s worth.  I’m not claiming to have some deep inside knowledge just repeating things I know and things I observe.

Nick Barnese was a pitcher for the Biscuits. Was named the 10th best prospect according to baseball America in 2010 and while his stock didn’t really drop with the influx of talent within the Rays system his position within the system ultimately dropped.

He sports a four-seam fastball that sits in the low-90s and Baseball America call his off-speed offering a slurve which makes sense being that many of the guys up in the press box were having problems trying to figure out if he was throwing two different pitches (as in a slider or a curve) or if it was just one inconsistent pitch. He also has a very good change-up that combined with his deception misses a lot of bats.

This is who the Generals went up against yesterday.

Jake Shaffer, LF – Is the living embodiment of the stereotypical Bob Fontaine/Bill Bavasi baseball player. He’s an athlete first and foremost sporting an athletic frame and with that he’s not a bad baseball player. In the outfield he looked to be able to get average reads and I didn’t see bad any bad routes in the two or three balls hit his way.

At the plate Shaffer has started off the season on a tirade and continued it last night against a good pitcher. His first at bat he looked a little uncomfortable at the plate and struck out looking at on a solid change-up.

But after he got that out of his system had an impressive game. He had a couple of solid line drives, one where he pulled in the ball in the 3rd and then more importantly he took a low 90s fast ball on the outer half of the plate and took it the other way.

He had a home run in the 5th which was cranked, but at the time the wind was blowing in from right field. I thought for sure that it was going to get knocked down by the wind. But sure enough it was hit hard enough just got out. I haven’t seen many balls go out to the deep part of right field.

NOTE: (There is a good difference in Riverwalk stadium between deep right field vs. shallow right field. Shallow right field has a board walk which is kind of wraps around the foul pole and is only 334 feet deep. The boardwalk has a round curve to it that is about 30 feet in length and then it immediately builds depth and runs back about 20 feet. It’s all right field and leads to right center which if memory This is the difference of the deep vs the shallow.)

Shaffer didn’t get cheated on his home run he got it all and got it to a deep part of the park with the wind blowing in from right field. I’m not saying he has huge “power” or anything like that. But I don’t think saying he has “no” power is correct either. It may be enough to be a role player or even a platoon player.

Nate Tenbrink, 3B

The one thing I wrote three different times was how much I just love to see him hit. Just a smooth stroke and a solid load. He doesn’t get cheated in an at bat and while he went 0 for 5 and struck out twice. I never felt like he had a really bad at bat.

He made weak contact twice and in the ninth inning with Shaffer out at second he just got under a pitch and popped out to left field.

Something that mildly set off flags was a play in the bottom of the 8th with runners at first and second, and two outs. There was a ground ball hit to his left and it wasn’t hit hard but it got on by him as he missed it while diving. While yes he had to dive I didn’t feel like it was a play that he couldn’t have made. It seemed rather routine and it just seemed as if he was a bit slow in reacting to it.

It’s only one play but a couple guys mentioned it in the press box so I made sure to write it down.

His arm wasn’t bad but it didn’t stand out. I’d say it’s plenty good enough in the outfield and with his athleticism that’s probably where he is destined to end up. But let’s wait it out. I’ll see him again Thursday. I’ll try to put some extra focus on him out in the field.

Kyle Seager, 2B

I won’t try and skirt the issue. I’ve never been a huge fan of Seager. But he made good contact on a few different pitches. His stance was similar to Tenbrink but I see where people say he doesn’t have the loft. But it wasn’t horrible either.

His defense was better than I had expected. He turned a really awesome double play with Carlos Triunfel. His actions were smooth and quick. I didn’t really get too much of a chance to see his arm. But he could be an interesting guy going forward.

Rich Poythress, 1B

Poythress kind of came across to me to as a potential three true out come guy. The thing is despite his long swing he has such great bat control and understanding of the strike zone he didn’t get beat but a couple of times and those times he went ALL OUT.

I will say I wasn’t a fan over his swing. It was too long and it worries me mildly as to how he will do against advanced velocity.

The one standout moment he had though was when he went from first to home on a James McOwen gaper to left field. He was chugging hard and moved quicker than I had expected.

He wasn’t as “gargantuan” as I had expected. Sure he has a big build he just isn’t a overshadowing figure. Even for 6’4 he seemed to be a small 6’4 at the plate. Just was weird. Talking with Lonnie he mentioned something of the same during our pod cast this past week (which has yet to be published but will shortly! :plug:)

James McOwen, DH

The second biggest surprise in this trip was McOwen. He just hit the ball hard every time. It was similar to the first time I saw Tenbrink. The odds of McOwen becoming a major leaguer are obviously against him at this point. He’s 25 and coming off a missed year. But, he looked.

I didn’t get a chance to see him in the field but it’s obvious, much like Shaffer, McOwen is an atheltic talent, what is important is his reads and routes in the field. His speed should help him out too.

Johermyn Chavez, RF

Chavez batting stance is …. well it’s peculiar that’s for certain. Chris Harris likened it similar to that of Cal Ripken. With the bat straight back and his hands below his shoulders. But in his load he brings his hands up and has solid bat speed. His feet are kind of in an open position and with his load he moves them towards the plate and he seemed to get good plate coverage on pitches on the outer half of the plate.

He struck out twice and all-together swung at some poor pitches. He obviously didn’t display the best discpline skill which was a little worrisome swinging at bad breaking balls inside. He did make solid contact on one pitch but it was just a can of corn to the left fielder.

In the field he took a couple of weird routes to flyballs and one that got on by him to the wall. He made up for it for showing off the howitzer that is attached to his shoulder and gunned out the runner trying to stretch the double into a triple.

Henriquez, C

Henriquez just made a fool of himself at the plate. Had no pitch recognition ability and gave away all four of his at-bats. Defensively he wasn’t anything great. Didn’t have a bad arm and did work with Kasparek and his pitch rotation.

Carlos Triunfel, SS

Everyone is going to jump all over the home run. Which yes was hit solidly and with the wind being what it was I wasn’t sure if it was going to stay fair. But it did.

The thing about Triunfel was that he was swinging at bad pitches. Didn’t display any patience and in three at bats didn’t take advantage of what could have been a hitters count.

Had he let a couple of those early changes go he would have been sitting ahead of the count instead of behind and he would have had some fastballs to drive.

His swing is mildly better though I’m still holding out. According to Statcorner he has a much larger LD% than what he has had any of his previous years so while it’s a sample size there is that to lean on.

Chris Harris pointed out that he has seen a much more improved Triunfel here early and just from a couple of plays I saw I’m inclined to agree. In the bottom of the third he and Seager connected for a double play. A play that required Carlos to leap and throw over the sliding Reid Ffonk. It was an exciting play and certainly not one that I expected out of him.

Then in the bottom of the 7th Daniel Mayora had a line drive that skipped easily by Tenbrink but somehow Triunfel got a glove on it and snagged it. Mayora is a swift runner and easily had a base hit on the play but for Triunfel to get to it was impressive.

I’m starting to believe he could be an below to average defender  at short. Instead of just being out and out horrible. I know there are some that refuse to believe that he could play the position at the big league level but he wasn’t bad. Now I’ll be interested to see if he can follow up that performance with something similar Thursday night.

Brandon Haveman, CF

I love Haveman. Just a gritty hard nose, run out every ground ball type of guy. While Shaffer and McOwen represent the old regime’s type of ball player, Haveman represents the McNamara/Zduriencik type of ball player. He’s a BASEBALL player. He lives for the game he works endlessly at it and he makes the game exciting to watch.

Similar to Tenbrink he didn’t get cheated on any at bats. Made solid contact on a few different ocassions and obviously has some speed both defensively and on the base paths.

I truly believe that Haveman could be a value at the big league level one day. It’s just a matter of whether they are going to give him a chance or not. He makes solid contact he can take a walk and while the knock will be that he doesn’t have the power I don’t believe that he has to have much with his game.

He drives the ball well and doesn’t strike out much. He knows and understands the strike zone and doesn’t get beat much.

I have yet to really see him challenged in center field. Everything was just a lazy fly ball and I don’t think he caught one of them. He was either called off by Tenbrink, Triunfel or Chavez.

Again, hopefully I’ll get a chance to see more Thursday.

Kenn Kasparek, SP

When Keith publishes our podcast from this past Friday, you’ll get to hear Lonnie and I talk a bit about Kasparek. We’ll I made kind of mocked Lonnies’ Don Wakamtasu like belief system in Kasparek. Too many fly balls too many, not enough bats missed.

But last night he was very on the spot with his pitches. He threw a lot of strikes (59 of 83, 71%) and while he left a lot of pitches up in the zone there was only three or four guys that hit actually got a hold of it and only two of those stayed fair. In the bottom of the third Matulia home run and it was just crushed, then in the bottom of the 2nd Kasparek got lucky as Matt Sweeney drove a pitch to the poarch of the shallow right field wall. It had the power but was completely knocked down by the wind. A couple of the guys that were in the box with me told me on just about any other night that is a no-doubt home run. It just got too much air and because of that got knocked down.

The other thing that I was surprised about was short of the walk to Fronk, Kasparek was very spot on with his command and control and it gave him the opportunity to miss some bats. Through most of the game Kasparek sat about 87-89 with touching 91 once or twice different times.

I really have to say about Kasparek is that he has such clean and smooth mechanics. It was like watching a major league pitcher.

I can admit that while I still don’t think he can be better than Fister there is more potential there than I had originally thought.

Brian Moran, RP

Moran was solid against left handed batters. Obviously this is his strong suite. Against right handers … not so much. In his three bats he sat 88-90 and touched 91. Not as much of soft tosser as I had previously thought.

It was unfortunate but on his third batter he got pegged by a line drive and was taken out of the game. He threw a few practice pitches and looked fine but the coaches pulled him anyways.

I don’t expect him to go on the DL but he may take a couple of days off just to make sure he’s okay.

Scott Patterson, RP

Meh, he was a former major league reliever. He sat 87-89 and had decent movement with his fastball. Meh…He placed it well and really just dominated a weak Biscuits line-up. Meh…