Jason Hunt takes a look back at some of the prospect performances that were available to watch from the first half of this week's spring training games, including performances by Taijuan Walker, Nolan Arenado and Christian Bethancourt.
With more Spring Training games in the books, a number of prospects have been receiving significant playing time, and more than a few of the top prospects in the minors were able to be seen on MLB.tv. As the spring progresses, we will probably see less and less of these prospects as the World Baseball Classic winds down and teams start sending their prospects to minor league camp.
Taijuan Walker (SEA - SP) - Viewed in Monday, March 4th's game
Walker threw against the Rockies on Monday, and was the first time I have seen him throw on video. His throwing motion is very simple and fluid, and he appears to hide the ball well before releasing it. He threw fastballs primarily, sitting 94-96 with his fastball. His first inning was very easy, although he did fall behind a couple of the hitters that inning. He also broke out had a nice sequence against Tyler Colvin, throwing a great changeup he swung through, followed by a breaking ball which set up the strikeout pitch, another changeup. Overall, Walker pitched alright, but struggled at points with his command and overthrew some pitches as well. That said, you can see what makes him a top 25 prospect, as he showed three pitches which have the potential to be above-average or better. I can see him spending a substantial portion of the season in AAA as the Mariners have him work on improving his command.
Nolan Arenado (COL - 3B) - Viewed in Monday, March 4th's game
Arenado has been tearing it up this spring, as he hit his 4th home run of the spring and is making the case to make the roster as the starting 3B this season. Arenado homered off of Walker on the first pitch he saw in the 4th inning, taking a high fastball and still driving the pitch out to center field. Arenado ripped an easy double in his third at bat, pulling it down the left field line very easily. It's hard to judge right now whether Arenado will make the team, and it seems more likely he will be sent to AAA to start the year. If he keeps hitting like this, it's not going to be an easy decision the Rockies.
Christian Bethancourt (ATL - C) - Viewed in Monday, March 4th's game
I wrote about Bethancourt a couple weeks ago when I looked at the disparity between his fantasy and real-life value, and it's easy to see why after watching him play on Monday. His defense behind the plate looked great, as he moved well to both directions to block balls in the dirt, and threw out 2 of the 3 base runners that attempted to steal on him. In his first at bat, he swung at the first pitch he saw, flying out to right center. The second at bat he didn't look much better, but it is of course a very small sample size. He seems destined to return to AA to start the season, which seems like it might be the best thing for his development overall.
Billy Hamilton (CIN - OF) - Viewed in Tuesday, March 5th's game
Hamilton went 0 for 3 in Tuesday's game, and even without reaching it is abundantly clear just how much havoc his speed will cause in the Majors. In the first at bat, he hit a hard grounder to first base, and nearly beat the pitcher to the bag. In the second at bat, he attempted to get a running start on a bunt attempt. I can only imagine what that would have looked like if he had made contact. He only batted from the left side in the game, and his swing jumped out at me that it reminded me a little bit visually of Kenny Lofton in terms of how he stepped toward the pitch.
Tyler Skaggs (ARI - SP) - Viewed in Tuesday, March 5th's game
Skaggs faced off against team Mexico for three innings on Tuesday in his quest to win the 5th starter's job. The TV feed did not have the radar gun feed, but overall Skaggs looked very good. His curveball looks absolutely filthy at times, although he didn't throw it for a strike either time he threw it in the first two innings. Overall, he was using his fastball primarily, and had a bit of a tendency to elevate the pitch at times. He finished the evening with 4 strikeouts over his three innings. During the game, the broadcast team mentioned that his AAA pitching coach mentioned Barry Zito and Chuck Finley as possible comps, which I thought was a little bit interesting. I will also say that they showed highlights from earlier in the game of a double-play pickoff, which I can't say I had ever seen before in a game.