by George Zuverink
I attended all four games in Asheville this weekend and this may be my last chance this season to post anything based on in person observations. I've already commented on Bundy in another thread. I read some outrageously optimistic and enthusiastic statements, most of which were apparently based on listening to the game on internet radio or reading posts from someone else who was listening. The following dialogue from the movie Blazing Saddles summarizes my feelings about all that that adulation:
Lili Von Shtupp: Tell me, schatze, is it twue what they say about the way you people are... gifted?
[sound of zipper opening]
Lili Von Shtupp: Oh, it's twue. It's twue. It's twue, it's twue!
Now for the rest of the team. They won three out of four. Only one other player stood out as a near sure shot to contribute in Baltimore someday. (More on him later) I saw eight others who I'd put in the 10% to 50% probability range of at least getting a cup of coffee. None of the position players looked over their heads at this level.
In the Field - Three throwing errors in four games, two by Givens and one by Esposito. Everything caught cleanly. Two highlight reel plays. A running over the head catch of a line drive just in front of the left field wall by Ruettiger and a great backhand stab of a grounder deep in the hole between third and short by Givens followed by a remarkable jump and throw right at the edge of the outside grass that just caught the runner at first. Four DP's in the last six ininngs of the first game after Bundy left. ( Hard to turn two with no runners on base.) Givens started three of them.
On the Bases - Ruettiger stole nine, two in the first game, three in the second, four in the third, and then in the fourth game he rested because he didn't steal any. Maybe he felt that on Easter, he needed to do something that sounded Biblical. All told they stole seven in the first game and fifteen for the series. None of the pitchers for either team did an acceptable job of holding the runners. The best looking unsuccessful throws came from Delmarva's Gabriel Lino. We had several thrown out trying to score, but none ran thru any of Ryan Minor's signals. As huge and serious looking as he is, that could be a painful mistake.
On the Mound- A classic "tough act to follow" situation. Jose Nivar was the only one that had a terrible day. They have him listed as 6' 1" and 170. Maybe when they signed him at age 16 0r 17. He's 23 now and appeared to be more like 6' 4" 220. Except for Parker Bridwell and Williams Louica, the rest had good results, but nothing about them stood out.
Bridwell is the one guy I saw as being better than 50/50 for making it to Camden Yards someday. He must have been amped up for the first few batters because he was hitting the mid 90's on the gun, eventually settled into the low 90's with decent location but a little higher in the zone than Bundy. He changed speeds much more often than Bundy and was effective doing it. He's listed as 6'4" and 190. He may be that tall, but his frame looked a little narrow and he is on the thin side. He's only 20, so I could easily see him adding 20 lbs and a few mph on his fastball.
There may be an interesting story behind Williams Louica, an entirely new name for me, who was born in Haiti and probably moved to the Dominican Republic at some point. This is his first year with Delmarva, after four seasons in the Dominican Summer League, having started at 18. He made their mid-season All Star team in 2009 and 2010. He's listed at an honest 6'2'/180 and will probably fill out more. In 226 innings in the DSL from 2009 thru 2011 his ERA was 2.31, his BAA .253, his WHIP 1.28, SO/BB 1.88, and 0.15 HR's every 9 innings Those are similar to Jim Johnson's stats with the Orioles - 3.29 ERA, .254 BAA,1.28 WHIP, SO/BB 1.95, and 0.54 HR's every nine innings. On Friday, Louica was throwing low to mid 90's, struck out four in two innings and gave up a home run that probably would have been a homerun in most major league parks. Could be a bullpen prospect.
At the Plate - The best numbers were from Ruettiger, Brenden Webb, Gabriel Lino, and Sammie Starr. Webb had the only HR. Everyone but Esposito and Givens hit the ball hard at least once. Givens consistently hit on top of the ball and grew more frustrated every game. The whole team seemed to have a good sense of the strike zone and plate discipline, taking 21 walks in 32 innings . (The doubleheader ganes were only7 innings apiece) No one looked completely over-matched.
My Small Sample Size Top Three Picks - I didn't see anyone not named Dylan Bundy whom I'd expect to shoot rapidly thru the system. I do expect to see Parker Bridwell pitch in the majors. Gabriel Lino has good tools behind and at the plate. His size and physical maturity raises the question of whether he is really only 18. There is no question that his command presence is outstanding for a young catcher, particularly given that there is probably a language difference with most of his pitchers I certainly could envision him growing into a valid backup for Weiters or a valuable trade chip. Nick Delmonico got a few hits and drove a few balls, but i was most impressed by his swing and plate awareness. He's a big kid now and will get bigger. I would not be surprised to see him become a legitimate power threat. He looked a bit uncomfortable at first base.
My Role Model Pick - If I had to pick one player to show a young boy or girl and say, "play like he does," it would be Sammie Starr. He played second all four games and was 5 for 11 with three RBI's and one SB. Handled every play cleanly including a nice backhand flip to start a double play. He ran the bases hard, breaking up a likely double play with a tough, but clean slide. At 24, old for this league. I'd be surprised to see him make the majors as a player, but not as a coach or manager.
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