Spring Training Preview: Peoria
Five days from now I will be back in the place where I got Ken Caminiti, Trevor Hoffman and Randy Johnson to sign a baseball when I was 11 (also Chris Bosio), and where I saw Troy Tulowitzki hit a laser beam home run onto the berm two years ago that I am still trying to get my mind around. Peoria Sports Complex, my preview is my tribute.
Stadium B- / Backfields A+ Peoria was the first of the new model of shared complexes when it opened in 1994. The collection of backfields all in one place was a revelation when my family first visited that year. Because it is a little older than many of the other complexes, the stadium is no longer anything special, but there is a very fan friendly angle to the whole place. In the rightfield corner, there is a walkway between the berm and the rightfield stands, where the players come in before the game and leave during and after it. As they walk to the locker rooms, kids push cards and baseballs through the fence and get to spend a second with their heros.
The backfields are also the most accessible in the Cactus League. You can sit between fields or behind outfield fences catching balls during batting practice, but you can also press your nose against the batting cages and watch coaches help hitters tinker with their stances, strides and swings.
We’ll be lucky enough to watch the Padres from this vantage point before a Monday game against the Cubs. And since I am a Padres fan, I am interested in too many players to ask you to sit through, so I am just going to talk about few.
Carlos Belen – 3B, 6’2″, 17 – The Padres finally started making a reasonable push in the Dominican, spending a lot more money there in recent years. Belen got $1MM for a hit tool that is far ahead of players his age with power to go along with it. 2013 will be his first season of state-side ball and it will be a treat to get to take a sneak peak before his talents are officially unveiled in Rookie or low-A.
Euri Minaya RF, 6’4″/200, 17 – Minaya is huge and he has power potential to match, but unlike Belen, the swing and approach are very raw. He also features a strong throwing arm. The 2013 season will be is first as well.
Jonathan Galvez – 2B/SS, 6’2″/175, 22 – Galvez looks good every time I see him. I’m still trying to figure out why scouts don’t seem to like him. He plays left-field in addition to second base, profiling as a 15HR-20SB type with 25 2Bs. That’s a little light-hitting for your prototypical corner outfielder, but nice for a second baseman. His BB% and K% are average and the hard contact he has made in the minors has helped him consistently post BABIPs in the .350-.360 range. I think he’s flying under the radar by being left out of organizational top 20s.
Cory Spangenberg – 2B, 6’/185, 22 – A very advanced hit tool (albeit with very little home run power) carried Spangenberg to high A last season. Although he was limited by concussion issues during the regular season, he kept at it and lit up the AFL. He should see AA at some point in 2013.
Austin Hedges – C, 6’1″/190, 20 – Fangraphs’ Marc Hulet ranked Hedges ahead of Jedd Gyorko in his recent top 15 for the organization. This is to say, Hulet is totally disregarding the fact that Hedges is nowhere near the Major Leagues, and has put together exactly one slightly above average season (offensively), while Gyorko is on the doorstep, having pounded 60 homers over the last two seasons. While it is evident Hedges has the potential to be elite defensively, I happen to find Hulet’s valuation somewhere between negligent and downright stupid. I have regarded the growing enthusiasm over him with extreme skepticism, but I won’t stop myself from buying in if I glimpse something special in person.
Yeison Asencio – OF, 6’1″/175, 23 – The Padres protected Asencio in the rule 5 draft because he has spent the last two seasons making lots of contact, totaling 15 HR and 15 SB in about 600PA over that span. He was limited last season, due to Visa issues after it turned out he was not a 21 year old named Yoan Alcantara. The downside on Asencio is that he is far too aggressive. He walked in just 4.2% of his PAs last year, but even that was an improvement of his rate of 1.8% in 2011 (8% is average). Ideally, this is the kind of guy you see in game action, to see if he is making strides in his approach.
This concludes the Spring Training Preview series. For installments one and two click the respective linkage: Mesa: Cubs, Salt River Fields: Diamondbacks. Stay tuned for reports and podcast episodes from Spring Training in the days to come and for the love of shit, start watching more baseball!