"Hmm...Prom...or big league camp...? How about both this year!" - Rich Pilling
Nothing screams "well that's fair and reliable!!!!" like watching a couple games in early March and then writing a scouting report for all to see. So I must offer a similar disclaimer to the one I saw in a commercial earlier tonight, in which a car scaled the side of the house followed by "This car is not actually a skateboard: Do not attempt." Really? You don't think we would all be better off if the segment of the population who can't figure this out went ahead and tried it? Anyway, my disclaimer: "Extreme small samples apply, so kindly disregard everything."
First and foremost, I have to say I have concerns about Hiro Nakajima on both sides of the ball, specifically his arm and his swing. At SS, he "made all the plays" only because Brandon Moss scooped one low throw, another looping throw was still in time, and a throw from the SS hole was never made because Nakajima didn't get to the ball -- not that he should have, as it was a clean hit, but had he reached it his arm was going to be exposed. However, that's nothing compared to Nakajima's swing, which looked long and which consistently produced either fouls to the right or whiffs.
On the plus side, Nakajima's hands and footwork looked just fine at SS so really the only question may be his arm. Also, I'm not saying that I don't think Nakajima can hit big league pitching. What I am saying, though, is that he can't hit big league pitching with that swing. He is going to have to make some major adjustments in order to succeed. Having seen him in person, I'm actually now more concerned about his hitting than his fielding, as I could see him "making all the plays that don't rely on a good arm" but I just can't see him hitting well with that swing.
On the positive side of the ledger, Choice (now 10 for 17) had consistently good ABs and perhaps most importantly made consistent contact. Choice has always had a quick bat and a lot of tools, but has been far too prone to swinging and missing. So far in camp, Choice is swinging and hitting -- to all fields. Physically, he is not built like a classic CFer, in that he is more ... how should I put this ... well-rounded than I would have expected, but it's encouraging that so far he has not had to move off of the position. I haven't had the chance to see him chase enough balls in the OF to pass any judgment on his fielding, but I sure like what I've seen at the plate.
Though he still lacks consistency in "knowing where the ball is going," Gray looked better to me on Saturday than he did when I saw him last spring. His velocity and life are there on the fastball and his breaking pitches had hitters out in front. The two things separating Gray from a big league roster are control and a serviceable changeup, and while I think both are still works-in-progress there has been progress since last year, and a position of #8 on the SP depth chart now seems reasonable.
Sizemore & Russell Interviews Ahead
In other news, I did my interviews on Saturday and am pleased to announce that features with Scott Sizemore and Addison Russell will be running in the not-too-distant future (i.e., the next 7-10 days). I was very happy with both interviews and hope you'll catch them when I have them ready for posting.
Doolittle Violin Report
I also caught up briefly with Sean Doolittle to ask him about the "playing the violin" pose he assumes before each pitch. It's a mechanism Doolittle says he only began using when he converted back to being a pitcher last year. He explained that what this mechanism does is to give him a narrow tunnel of vision running from the bill of his cap to the top of his glove, which allows him to really zero in on the catcher's glove. Doolittle says he's a big believer in visualization and this enables him to accomplish the visualization, and subsequent execution, better.
Perhaps most interesting of all, Doolittle said he was actually not aware he was doing this until a coach pointed it out to him. He had apparently being assuming the "violin pose," as part of his "get the sign, come set, pitch" routine, without even knowing it. Those wacky A's!
The A's are at the Rockies today at noon, brought to you on AN by people who aren't me...