With the Rays down in Ft. Myers on Saturday, and and with the prospect of no baseball on a beautiful spring weekend day facing me, I decided to take Saturday and go visit minor league camp over at the Stu Sternberg complex to check out some of our prospects to see how they are doing. Now going in, it was my impression that this would be strictly one game of the Rays' AAA/AA players against the Toronto Blue Jays' AAA/AA player. How wrong I was. Players from all levels of the minors were mixed around in two games on the cloverleaf fields at the complex, while batting practice was going on on another fields, with pitchers tossing all over the place. It was euphoria for me. So much baseball going on, no Gestapo security forces to intercept you as you moved about freely, and pure baseball. It was truly a great day, I recommend it to anyone. But to the point, I had a business obligation. And it was to take this opportunity to inform the readers of DRaysBay of the happenings of our future, the minor leaguers. And indeed I did. I took plenty of notes and was going to snap photos, except you kind of need a camera to do that, which I forgot at home. Oh well, I'll bring it next week. But in any case, the notes I took on prospects such as Chuck Tiffany, Chris Seddon, and Wes Bankston follow the jump.
Before we begin, I will explain some background info that you need to know to fully understand the enviornment. The Stu Sternberg complex, formerly the Busch Complex and Payson Field, is an MLB training facility of the cloverleaf setup, like so many other. This means that their are four baseball fields lined up in quadrants, with the home plate of each set around a central location where scouts, team officials, and clubhouses are. Now I don't remember the exact number of each field, but games were going on on two of the fields, and batting practice on the other. The fourth field was for the occasional pitcher and catcher to go out and toss the ball around. With that being said, here is what I observed.
-I arrived at the Stu Sternberg complex about a half an hour after the scheduled 1:05 start time due to a multitude of reasons including, but not limited too...
- Sleeping In
- Work I had to do
- Commute from Clearwater
-When I arrived, I proceeded over to field 1, where most of the players seemed to be A ballers, though some higher level prospects were mixed in. When I came in, some prospect I've never heard of with the last name DeBarr had control issues. He walked the first batter I saw him face, getting none of his pitches anywhere close to the strikezone. C Josh Arhart did a good job of handling the wild throws.
-The next pitcher, "Little" was no better, as he walked in a run before setting down the next Blue Jay batter. A run eventually scored on a wild throw back to the pitcher from Arhart. The inning concluded on a fly out.
-Among the high level Rays prospects at bat the next inning were Garret Groce and John Jaso. Groce grounded out 5-3, while Jaso grounded out 4-3. The thing that struck me about Jaso was the fact that he crouched in his batting stance, and was fairly thin and short for a catcher, looking more like a shortstop than a backstop.
-I then ventured over to the next field after the Rays' side was retired and walked right into an inning in which Chris Seddon was pitching. Seddon was helped in his inning by two great defensive plays from Brent Butler, and the pitches I recorded tallied like this...
- ball hit into play
-On the offensive side of things, "Knox", whoever that is struck out while Ryan Christianson popped out, while Brent Butler singled.
-Fernando Cortex then struck out to end the inning
-Defensive players I noticed:
-On a side note, Toronto seemed to have better prospects playing with the low level minor leagues than the Triple A and Double A ones. Among those with the A ballers were Adam Lind, Carlo Cota, and Ricky Romero. The higher level minor leaguers included Jason Arnold on the mound and Curtis Thigpen catching.
-I observed players taking batting practice on the other field and in between innings, I took note of who they were. They were shouting and laughing, and just generally having a good time pretending as though their hits were real, and they were playing in a real game. The players included Matt Spring, Thomas Lagried, and Mike McCormick.
-A completely useless note, but apparently the Sternberg complex was upgraded in the offseason. New flower were planted in the groundb all over the place, and they weren't even those old genetically-modified Venus fly traps that ate innocent fans which the old regime planted.
-Darnell McDonald lead off the next Rays inning with a K. He was followed by Wes Bankston, who drove the count to seven pitches before grounding out 5-3. Kevin Witt than was robbed of a hit by the first baseman, who dived to make a great play and get Witt to retire the side.
-Chuck Tiffany would come in to pitch, and have an absolutely horrible outing. He had a great first inning, but he attempted to go out and complete his second, but threw 32 pitches, got no one out, and was relieved, but not before walking in two runs. Overall, he threw 46 pitches, and here is what I recorded...
- ball hit into play
-After an unimportant batch of Rays hitters brought home a run after Tiffany's first, good inning, he gave away the farm and was succeeded by Travis Driskill, who immediately gave up a two run single, at which point I thought it best to go back on over to the other field, where Colt Simmons is now catching, and "Allen" is on the mound. I came just as Gaby Martinez made a catch in foul territory to end the inning.
-Garret Groce lead off the Rays' half-inning by walking, and was followed by Jaso, who flew out to center field. Elliot Johnson then game up, and grounded out 3-1, and the inning was retired when Patrick Breen struck out.
-The next inning "Machi" came into pitch for the Rays, at which point I stopped paying attention, though he did induce an Adam Lind fly out when I was paying attention. In the final half-inning, the Rays came to bat with Gaby Martinez leading off. He promptly struck out on three pitches, a foul and two called strikes that were both....not strikes. The next batter "Coleman" flew out to left. Charion Isenia then singled up the middle for a hit, but he was stranded when Kris Dufner popped out to end the game.
-Both games concluded within minutes of each other, and the Rays lost both games according to players, with the Tiffany/Seddon game a confirmed 5-2 loss.
I wish I had taken the camera and a scorecard along, and been on time, but oh well. I hope these notes at least gave you some insight into the minor leaguers, but personally, I think you garner much more by being there in person. I recommend heading out to the complex for one of these games to scout out some players if you can. To help improve the experience, I will bring a camera and scorecard next time, and I will try to be on time. I should be able to make it out to the complex(es) for every game the week of March 27-31, though I don't know how many I will actually attend. Anyways, to sum up, great experience, wish you could have been there.