I always intend to write on the Cactus League action while I’m still in Arizona. However, I’m easily distracted by the weather and the fact that I see many of my “baseball friends” at the conference I attend every year. Once again this spring, I’m already back home before I have a chance to write about what I saw. So I’ll do an overall wrap-up of some general observations, as well as a few predictions.
What I liked:
I already mentioned Carlos Carrasco’s performance on March 9 against the Mariners; however, I think it deserves a second mention. He pitched with confidence, and his stuff looked great.
Trevor Bauer – I saw Bauer pitch twice while I was there; once against the Cubs on March 10 and against the Padres on March 15. Even though Bauer gave up back-to-back-to-back hard-hit home runs to three highly-touted Cubs prospects (Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant) I was pleased with what I saw. Plus it sounds like Bauer was able to get over the bombs with grace (and a little bit of humor). Bauer faced a tough Padres lineup on the 15th, and looked sharp. His command was great, and he was efficient enough to last five innings.
Francisco Lindor – Obviously we all know he is talented, and seeing him do great things on a baseball field is pretty much par for the course. But he had a lot of playing time from what I saw, and looked fabulous. I was surprised by how much power he displayed during spring training, and my final day in Arizona was capped by a Lindor in-the-park home run. He honestly made non-Indians fans around me say “wow, who is that guy?” I know that he’s not likely to make the Opening Day roster, but if he continues to look like that, he’ll be in Cleveland by the season’s end.
Brandon Moss – I was worried about his injury issues lingering this season, but he looks great. He slammed a couple of home runs in the games I saw, and seemed to have no ill effects. When I mentioned this to someone they said “Yeah, but he’s likely hitting those homers against minor league pitching.” That wasn’t true in every case, and still, I was worried about the bad hip draining him of his power no matter who he faced. The power definitely appears to still be in tact.
Jose Ramirez – I didn’t get to see him play too much while I was there, but he made a spectacular defensive play in the one game I attended. He’s been pretty hot at the plate so far as well.
Most of the bullpen – Cody Allen, Nick Hagadone, Marc Rzepczynski, and CC Lee all looked good to great. I’m still a little worried about Lee, and about some of the guys that threw so many innings last season, like Atchison, Allen, and Shaw.
Shaun Marcum – Everyone was talking about Gavin Floyd and the fact that his season is over before it started. Marcum was an invitee to spring training in 2014, but was still plagued by physical issues during the season. He’s looking to turn things around in 2015 – so far, he has a 1.29 ERA and has looked good on the mound. Marcum may not be able to edge his way onto the roster by April 6, but if he stays healthy, he’s a great depth option. He’s also willing to consider a trip to Triple-A, if it comes to it. I honestly thought he may compete for a role last spring, but I didn’t realize he wasn’t fully recovered.
What I didn’t like:
Bryan Shaw – Shaw looked baaad for much of spring training. He looked much better when I saw him Sunday in Arizona, and in an appearance on Tuesday afternoon against the Reds. I’m hoping it was just a slow start, and not a result of the great number of innings he threw last year.
Danny Salazar – Last year, Salazar didn’t have a great spring. When I first arrive in Arizona, I snag my rental car and race out to the ballpark to catch a 1:05 game. I’m so excited to be there, I typically don’t care what I see. Last year, Salazar was making his first spring start on the day I arrived and it was painful to watch. Even though it didn’t count, it was just miserable to sit in the stands for it. While he ended up finding his way later in the season, the beginning of the season was rough for him. When I saw Salazar pitch this year, I hoped for better. He’d had a strong outing before I got out there, and he was pitching against a (somewhat depleted) Oakland lineup. Salazar gave up a home run to Billy Butler that probably still hasn’t landed yet. It cleared the wall, and the entire grass lawn seating. He allowed just 1 ER (3 runs overall) but it just looked so much worse…he didn’t even make it through the second inning before he was pulled. I’m hoping they were just working on something with him, and it may not be as bad as it seemed.
Charles Brewer and Bryan Price – While both were long shots to make the bullpen, both have looked pretty terrible. Brewer is on the 40-man roster, but may not be for much longer. Especially if someone like Bruce Chen or Shaun Marcum is going to make the team.
Speaking of Bruce Chen, I have a somewhat random prediction – I think he makes the 25-man roster out of spring training. Chen hasn’t been great this spring (but hasn’t been dreadful) and I just feel like he’s Giambi 2.0 – the pitching version. I don’t think he’ll make the rotation, but I think they’ll keep him around for his “leadership skills” and use him as a long-man out of the bullpen. With Floyd out of the picture, he has a much better shot.
I never saw Nick Swisher while I was out there; I guess he’s just started to play in simulated games. At that rate, he’s probably not going to be ready for Opening Day (unless the pace of his recovery picks up considerably).
Zach McAllister is out of options and either has to make the Opening Day roster or face exposure on waivers, where he’ll likely be claimed. He didn’t look terrible, and at times he looked like the victim of some bad breaks – like balls that just managed to get lobbed between the infield and the outfielder. I still prefer to see him working out of the bullpen, but we’ll see what the Indians do with him. I do think he’ll definitely make the roster.
There were still some ugly defensive miscues; in fact before I could even get to my seat on March 15, Lonnie Chisenhall had a throwing error on the first batter of the game. As we’ve said, the absence of Asdrubal Cabrera alone is an improvement…I’m still worried about the defense though.
I also happened to be at one of the games where Will Farrell played on Thursday, March 12. The amount of hype around it was absurd, but I thought he actually looked decent in the field…at least comfortable on a baseball diamond. Scott Kazmir was the starting pitcher for Oakland (it wasn’t a great outing for him) and the people around me were joking that Kazmir didn’t seem too amused by the stunt.
I took a number of pictures while I was in Arizona; here are some of my favorites: