I promised a scouting report of the Boise Hawks and yesterday's 6-0 shellacking by the Eugene Emeralds. So here goes.
The starting pitcher was Tarlandas Mitchell, who is a short right-hander who, despite throwing 3.2 hitless innings, didn't impress me at all. Boise doesn't have a stadium radar gun and I didn't sit close enough to the scouts to see theirs, so I can't tell you speeds on the pitches. Going on eyesight alone, Mitchell can throw hard, but when he does, it doesn't go over the plate, as evidenced by the four walks. He can take something off his fastball (two-seamer?) and get it over the plate, but then it's slowere and over the plate. Honestly, his "no-hitter" was a result of some very good infield defense--more on that later. He did seem to have a nice change-up that I think I saw him throw twice. The breaking pitch seemed nothing special. It's also jarring to see someone that short on the mound. He's listed at 5'8" and that seems about right. Yeah, I know, Tim Lincecum. Mitchell's not Tim Lincecum.
When Mitchell left the game (I assume on a pitch count) he was replaced by Joe Simokaitis, who was a shortstop now trying to salvage a baseball career on the mound. Honestly, he looked like a shortstop trying to pitch. The first two batters he faced hit towering home runs off of him. I saw nothing that indicated to me that he could pitch at a higher level. I suppose he's new to the mound, but he's also 26 already.
I finally got a chance to see Larry Suarez pitch next. It's been three years now since the Cubs signed him out of Venezuela and it seems like we've been hearing about "The Next Zambrano" even longer than that. I now understand the comparisons to the Big Z--they're both Venezuelan and Suarez honestly looks like Carlos, both physically and in his pitching motion. He also throws hard like Carlos but that's where the similarities end. Everything Suarez threw was up in the zone and the Emeralds were hitting him hard. Their was good speed on the fastball and the breaking ball had a nice snap to it, but he simply didn't have good command of it. He gave up three runs on three hits and a walk in only one inning, and it could have been a lot worse if not (again) for some smart play in the infield.
When the team gets blown out 6-0, there aren't a lot of highlights, but I will say that I was impressed by the infield defense of the Hawks. Let's start with the most impressive player of the night, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee. First of all, forget the Derek Jeter comparisons. He's not like Jeter at all. If I'm forced to compare him to an all-star shortstop, I'd compare him to Omar Vizquel, not Jeter. Lee made three good plays on defense, one of which was spectacular. One one play, he went deep into the outfield grass between short and third, turned and threw a rocket to first base on one (short) hop to nail the runner going to first. The two other good plays that Lee made were similar ones--choppers past the mound that he quickly charged and then fired to first to nail the runner.
As a hitter, Lee like to slap the ball around and take advantage of his speed. He leans back in the box and then goes forward on the swing like Fukudome in order to get a head start to first base. His one hit was a high-bouncer in the ninth inning that bounced between and over the first and second basemen. He works counts too, so he should draw some walks. I doubt he'll ever hit for power with that stance. In a lot of ways, he seemed to be a throwback to the shortstops of the 70s and 80s who were speed and defense guys not expected to contribute RBIs.
More smart infield defense came from Logan Watkins. Watkins made one diving stop on the outfield grass between first and second to throw out the runner (Of course, throwing out a runner from the outfield at second isn't that impressive, but the diving stop was.) He was also instrumental in two double plays, both of which showed some smarts. One was a high chopper to second in which he held the ball until he could tag the runner and then fired to first for the DP. The other was the one that saved Larry Suarez's butt. There were runners on first and third with nobody out when the Emerald batter hit a rocket to left field that looked like a double, but kind of died in the outfield and was caught by the left fielder Jose Valdez. The runner scored from third but the guy from first had gone past second and had to go all the way back from first. Watkins noticed that the runner hadn't touched second on his way back to first, called for the appeal and got the double play.
On offense, Watkins didn't get the ball out of the infield. A couple of weak grounders and a popup. He did lay down a great drag bunt that I thought he beat the throw to first, but the umpire didn't agree.
I should note that Lee and Watkins seemed to be communicating well in the infield. I mention that because when you put foreign and domestic players together, that can sometimes be a problem. I didn't appear to be here.
Third baseman Jordan Petraitis also showed some nice defense. He made a nice play on a ball hit just fair down the line and threw out the runner by plenty. He also made a nice grab on a line-out. Offensively, he was nothing, striking out twice and getting an infield hit on a little dribbler that made it past the pitcher.
I don't really have a lot to say about Jae-Hoon Ha. He hustled in the outfield, I guess that's something. He was 0 for 3 at the plate and it wasn't really very memorable.
Finally, there's Brett Jackson. I don't have anything to say about Jackson's defense as only one ball was hit to him and that was single that he had absolutely no chance to catch on the fly. What I can say about him is that he can fly. His one hit on the night was a scorer's gift--the play was a clear error. Jackson hit the ball hard and on the line at the shortstop where it hit him in the glove. The ball bounced out of his glove and dropped at the shortstop's feet, where he picked it up and fired to first. But Jackson was flying out of the box and despite the fact that the ball was hit hard and the shortstop didn't need to take a step to get the ball, Jackson beat the throw at first. He hustles, there's no question about that. I hate to say that he was then thrown out trying to steal, but it was a great throw and the Emeralds catcher Jason Hagerty is an impressive player.
Jackson flew out the other two times up, hitting the ball hard but neither one was a threat to go out. I didn't see him flailing at bad pitches or missing mistakes up in the zone. Why he struck out so much at Cal, I have no idea.
Summing up, there were a few good signs at Boise. The most disturbing thing is that the pitching staff stinks, and that's why they're losing so much. But I have to say I was impressed by Lee and reassured by Jackson's performance.