Dany Jimenez’ first pitch was a fastball that the Eyeball Scout noted as being pretty electric. His second pitch was another fastball that was clobbered over the left-center field wall. And that’s one of the players who did make the team. Oy.
That being said, the rest of Jimenez’ appearance, he used his off speed pitches more and he was effective. It’s well known that big league hitters will time even the fastest fastballs, and what Jimenez learned, hopefully, today is that even if he doesn’t have great faith in his slider he needs to throw it. And that’s why they have spring training.
So all hope is not lost. The A’s, after today, have lost exactly zero regular season games and the Eyeball Scout is not one to concede playoff spots prematurely. Not since 2012 anyway. So here is what I saw — the good, the bad, and the ugly — on a warm Monday afternoon at the old ballpark.
My first stop was to the clubhouse, where I am pleased to say that my streak of never being turned down for an interview remains intact. This is thanks to my two new favorite players, Kevin Smith and Tony Kemp, both of whom were as gracious, accommodating, and articulate as a scout of any organ could hope for. I hope to have both interviews ready for publication soon, although the unusual cadence of this spring training makes it questionable as to whether they will run before Opening Day.
Then came the game. Against Anthony DeSclafani, the A’s hitters’ approach appeared to be, “try to swing and miss twice, and then look at a called third strike”. Unfortunately, this strategy did not produce a lot of offense.
In the meantime, Cole Irvin looked like Cole Irvin for 4 IP, tying hitters up with his new cutter, working both sides of the plate and limiting the Giants to a single run on a Brandon Crawford solo HR. Irvin did run an unusual number of full counts, possibly why he ran out of gas as early as the 5th when he was knocked around a bit and did not finish the inning. He’ll be fine so long as he isn’t our #2 SP. Well, crap.
Eyeball notes from the small sample that is one game? Though he has had a good spring, this was not Sheldon Neuse’s day. He struck out all 3 times, looking late on the high heat, which reminded me of the Sheldon Neuse I remember from his first stint. He also let a hot shot to 3B play him, but he recovered nicely after a bobble with a strong throw to record the out.
Cristian Pache got jammed and popped up in his only plate appearance, but in CF he showed his speed, range, and closing speed to make a fine running catch, with a mini-slide chaser, in right-center field.
Zack Jackson pitched, throwing a run-scoring wild pitch but also missing a few bats. Just in terms of his delivery and stuff — a heavily over-the-top release, a mid-90s fastball and hard 12-to-6 diving ‘chase’ slider — Jackson reminds of an AL reliever and it’s a pretty good one to have as a comp: Peter Fairbanks. Fairbanks is, of course, Jackson’s 99th percentile outcome, but Fairbanks came a bit out of nowhere to stardom, and it’s spring training, so let’s dream.
I was a little excited about Christian Lopes at the start of spring training, as he came out of the gate impressing, but he was not impressive today, not his pitch selection, not his swing, not the quality of the contact he made when he made it. Apparently you’re not supposed to fall in love in March, and older prospects like Lopes are part of why.
Speaking of older prospects, Dalton Kelly had a good day at the plate, lining a single and then pulling a double just fair inside 1B, scooting all the way to 3B and plating 2 runs when the ball was briefly bobbled in RF. However...in LF I wouldn’t quite describe his defense as “Custian” but I would describe it as...how shall I say...wanting? Like I was wanting a good LFer instead of that one. Kelly doesn’t appear to get very good reads off the bat and his routes are less “direct” and more “watching your Lyft app as the driver navigates a roundabout while starting to turn the wrong way down a one-way street”. OK maybe not that bad, but in order to help a team Kelly’s bat really needs to play.
Speaking of needing to play, today’s game wasn’t the best litmus test for how the A’s will do this year, as it did not feature Sean Murphy (who I predict is going to have a monster year), Tony Kemp, Elvis Andrus, or Kevin Smith (who I predict will be a ‘sleeper gem’ in the deals). That’s most of your infield.
That being said, I do think the A’s will compete this season. Unfortunately it against themselves as to which is shakier, the pitching or the hitting. But we’re going to have fun no matter what, AN!!!! The Eyeball Scout practically insists on it.
Thanks again to the A’s media relations and players, and I hope to share the Kevin Smith and Tony Kemp interviews before too long. At least hopefully before they’re traded.