I just got back from a vacation out east where, on Saturday night, I took in a Blue Rocks game on the road against the Potomac Nationals in the "Battle of Bryce Harper's Potential Future Teams." It was also a battle for 1st place in the Northern Division due to a Wilmington team-record 12-game winning streak. My presence turned out to be as unlucky as trying to win a 13th in a row, as the Rocks barely even showed up for the 9-0 pasting. As no one truly cares about the results of these games, here's a really-really-layman's opinion of what I saw amongst the individuals on the crown jewel of the current farm system:
Hitting: Both Johnny G. and Clint Robinson (the only player who looked good in all of his at bats) crushed doubles into the left field gap against a pretty-good-but-not-overpowering LH in 2008 10th round draft pick in Tom Milone. This was the extent of the positive observations of the offense). Apparently Milone's recently learned a cut fastball that spent most of the game just touching the left side of the plate and basically confounding everyone. Moustakas took a walk, but really never looked good in any of his at-bats--what contact he made was minimal, and I he struck out twice. Hosmer did get a hold of one to the opposite field which looked like it would carry for a long double, but the oppressively still air of Pfitzer Stadium (like apparently the entire Carolina League) seemed to push it back down for a line out (Robinson and Johnny were helped by a wind straight out to center earlier in the game which I could only visually verify with a flag--you could feel nothing in the stands).
Fielding: nothing particularly interesting to see. I was on the first-base side, and both Johnny G. and Hos looked good. I don't remember anything getting hit to Moustakas at all. Paolo Orlando has some very good outfield range
Pitching: Going to a Blue Rocks game, I had a 40% chance of seeing Mike Montgomery or Danny Duffy pitch. I'm not that fortunate. Alex Caldera started and was figured out immediately, giving up 7 runs in 1 2/3 innings. He labored with nearly every batter and, even though his fastball had some life, he had control problems and got hit pretty hard when he did throw a strike. He did get hosed on an inning-ending double play that wasn't called--Johnny G. threw high to second, but Hosmer went up for it and kept his foot on the bag, although the ump disagreed. The next hitter ended Caldera's day with a deep three-run homer.
I did get fortunate later, though, because Danny Gutierrez pitched the 5th-7th innings, and was simply dominant results-wise: 6 K's, no walks, and 1 single. Solid contact was made on some fastballs, but they were all foul balls--no one could catch up to them. He could put the fastball anywhere he wanted (I tried to get a peek on the scouts' guns, but they weren't on when I was looking). He's working on what looked like a curveball, but could have been a changeup--unlike the fastball, I don't think anyone knew where the off-speed pitch was going to wind up. But his fastball command and the drastic speed difference for the off-speed pitch prevented any problems. It was a really cool performance to watch, gave me something positive to see in this game, and made me thankful he, Boras, and the Royals finally made up enough to get him back on the mound.
Other thoughts: I was simply baffled in the 8th--Derrick Robinson got barely hit by a pitch, thus creating the only opportunity he was going to get on base in this game. Not only does he not try to steal (down 9 in the eighth, what can there possibly be to lose?), he doesn't even try to lead off when he wasn't really being held on that much (the 1B was close, but off the bag behind him). Clint Robinson then hit a single to right that someone with his speed should have easily reached third on, but he never even gave it a thought. Even though he's filled out a lot since I saw him in Burlington in 2007, speed still seems to be his only tool, and that he doesn't even try/is not allowed to use it had me annoyed (I'm hoping there is a minor injury as opposed to it being a strategy call).
--I cannot figure out why Clint Robinson is not in NW Arkansas. Coming out of college, I know he's considered old to be a prospect, and, while his stats aren't breathtaking (.296/.357/.456/.813, 10 HR--2nd to Moose, 62K/27BB), they are solid enough (esp. in the Carolina League) to have him playing 1B at Springdale instead of career minor-leaguer Corey Smith. His approach looks good at the plate--good patience, no bad swings, even his outs were with good contact. With Hos there, he's no longer in the field--I have no idea how his glove is, but isn't figuring out what you have from even a marginal prospect better than playing a not-at-all prospect?
--Paolo Orlando is fast--I already mentioned his range, and he legged out one infield single and nearly got a second. I don't know if there's anything else there, but he's fast.
--Catcher Ryan Eigsti (.197/.298/.260/.558 with a team-leading 75 strikeouts) must call a heck of a game, because he didn't do much else right in the game I saw. First, he sent a pickoff throw down the right-field line, sending the runner to 3B. Then, after he got a rare hit by exhibiting some Gathright-esque power on a ground-ball single in the 5th, he promptly got doubled-up off of first on a line drive. Caldera also picked up a WP on his watch. And he appears to be the best of the Blue Rocks' catchers.