by Scott Hoffman
Kevin Gausman - I realize he struggled to adjust last night, left a ball or two up in the zone and out over the plate, but the sky appears to be the limit for him. He can hit the low, outside corner with a 98 MPH fastball and chase that with an 83 MPH change in which the bottom falls out so hard that Gary Thorne kept labeling it a curve by mistake. The slider's not too shabby, either. That's a recipe for a TOR pitcher, for sure. Forget whatever bumps in the road he might face early on. Don't even be discouraged if he gets sent back down at some point. Gausman's the real deal.
Manny Machado - "What?!?! The Orioles are calling up Manny Machado?!?! To play THIRD FREAKING BASE?!?! Ugh...too soon. Way too soon. No way is he ready. This is a mistake for sure." - Scott Hoffman, August 8th, 2012
Turned out the kid could flash the leather at the hot corner. He showed glimpses of potential at the plate last season, but at times definitely looked like a 19-year-old in the Bigs.
"What?!?! Buck's going to pencil Manny in the 2-hole this season?!?! Is he insane?!?! That's too much pressure for a young guy. I hope this doesn't crush the kid's confidence. This is a mistake for sure." - Scott Hoffman, April 2, 2012
Okay, okay, okay...two things. A) I've never been happier to have been wrong when it comes to my baseball acumen, and B) Buck Showalter appears to be a really, really smart baseball guy.
Jim Johnson - I always saw him as a bullpen guy, but more a setup man for some prototypical, power-pitching, fireballer than the actual closer. 35 saves in a row and 51 saves in 2012, though, can't be a fluke. I haven't given up hope on him as our closer, but I also don't agree with Buck's apparent tip-toeing around JJ's psyche. It's one thing to show confidence in your guy. It's another to hang him out to dry as he costs the team four shoulda-been wins. Hopefully Darren O'Day's quirky delivery can continue to be effective and deceptive as he gets a few shots in the ninth while Buck, Rick Adair, and company figure out how to get JJ back on-track.
Chris Davis - Prior to pitchers and catchers reporting to Sarasota for spring training, I heard Chris Davis was already on-site working on his defense at first base as well as his approach at the plate. In an interview a little later that spring, I heard Davis say that he was going to focus on taking more walks and hitting the ball to all fields. I know it's only the end of May, but I believe he leads the league in extra-base hits (a product of his willingness to drive the ball on the outer half to the opposite field rather than trying to pull it), leads or is tied for the lead in home runs, and is at or near tops in on-base percentage. Two months into the season, it's nice to be able to say a guy's dedication and hard work is paying off in a big way.
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