I attended three Lansing Lugnuts games from Sunday through Tuesday in downtown Lansing, the home of never ending construction. Oldsmobile Park is the lovely home for the Lugnuts and as always in a minor league park there was lots of entertainment for the fans. Lansing is two hours from the border at Sarnia so it is easily driveable in a half day.
The starting pitcher on Sunday was Randy Boone who was making his second pro start. Boone did not pitch last season as he signed late and started this season in the bullpen. Boone works fast, throws strikes and keeps the ball down. Boone is average major league size, 6'3", 215 pounds, and a right handed pitcher. Boone's fastball is 88/89 mph and has a little movement and good sink on the two seamer. Boone got a lot of swings and misses on that two seamer. Boone also features a slurvy curveball, a slider and a change-up. Boone's approach is to throw strikes and let the hitters try and hit them. The two seamer is Boone's best pitch and he will have to refine his command as he moves up the organizational ladder.
Edgar Estanga relieved Boone on Sunday. Estanga is about 5'10", a lefty, and he has a heavy build. Estanga threw a lot of different pitches and tended not to repeat the same pitch at the same speed. Also, whereas many pitchers throw their fastball over 50% of the time, Estanga was well under that as he was able to fool the younger hitters with his mix of pitches. Estanga's fastball was around 88 mph although he also threw it around 84-85. Estanga also showed a curveball, and a change-up. Estanga also appeared to have a problem repeating his delivery and often left his fastball up and outside to right handed hitters.
Trystan Magnuson started on Monday. Magnuson is tall, 6'7" and skinny. Magnuson was a reliever in college and relied on his fastball and slider. As a starter he is working on a change-up. Magnuson's fastball sits around 90 mph and the slider at 84-85. Magnuson is on a pitch count of 50 pitches or 3 innings as he works up to starting. On Monday he pitched three innings and gave up two hits, none of them hard hit. However he did allow four walks and that was his problem, commanding his fastball. His command was poor on this day and so far in 2008 he has walked 11 in 18.1 innings. Magnuson will have to throw more consistent strikes with his fastball before looking at a promotion.
Luis Perez relieved Magnuson and pitched three innings. Perez is a lefty, just under 6 feet tall. Perez featured a fastball around 87-88 with a little tail away from RHB, a slider and a change-up. Perez was also wild and walked four hitters in his three innings. Perez, like Magnuson, needs to improve his command.
Russ Buckwalter is a RHP featuring a 88-90 mph fastball and a slow breaking slider.
Tim Collins is 5'7" tall, a RHP from Worcester, Mass. Collins signed as a free agent last season and is only 18 years old. Despite his small stature Collins can hit 90 mph and pitches most often as 88-89 mph. Collins fastball is fairly straight and he also throws a 12-6 curve and a change. Because of the 12-6 curve Collins might not be a LOOGY candidate. I asked Collins if he knew JP, as he was from Worcester. He said he did not although JP's dad had come to most of his high school games. JP's dad then persuaded JP to come see him at a legion game and Collins said he struck out 11 of 12 hitters and then the Blue Jays signed him as a free agent.
Marc Rzepczynski started Tuesday's game. Zip is 6'3", 205 pounds and a lefty. This was Rzepczynski's first start of 2008 after he broke a finger in the off-season. Zip was throwing a fastball at 88-89 mph with some run and sink. Zip throws from a 3/4 angle. He also throws a slurvy slider and a very good change-up. Rzepczynski showed good control for his first start and kept the ball down well. Zip profiles as a number 4 or 5 major leaguer as none of his pitches are above major league average. I was reminded of Jeremy Sowers as I was watching him pitch.
Alan Farina pitched two innings in relief. 2008 has been a struggle for Farina as he has had difficulty repeating his delivery. Farina has walked ten hitters in thirteen innings, having walked ten in eleven innings last season. Farina is around 5'11" and does have potential. Farina's fastball is around 91-92 mph and he also possesses a good change-up at 83 mph. If Farina improves his control he could become the closer of this team.
Brad Cuthbertson from Alberta made his A ball debut in this game and was victimized for five runs, all unearned. Cuthbertson is 5'10" and has a maximum effort delivery. Cuthbertson showed a good mix of pitches, a 88-89 mph fastball, a good curveball and a change-up. The Lugnuts made a couple of errors early behind Cuthbertson and he had to throw a lot of pitches which led to the five runs.
Rzcepczynski looked good
Magnuson was disappointing
Farina has potential
Collins looked good but at 5'7" he has a long road in front of him
I did not see starters Brad Mills or Nate Starner or reliever Cody Crowell pitch.
I interviewed Mills and pitching coach Tom Signore. Look for those soon.
Many of the Lansing hitters are very young, six of them have 1988 or 1989 birthdays. Young players are still looking for a consistent swing so making an evaluation is difficult. That said here are some observations:
Justin Jackson looked very good, particularly in Sundays game where he had three hits including a double and a triple. On Sunday Jackson lined the first pitch he saw for a line drive single to centre. In his third at-bat he hit a screaming line drive off the right field wall, remember he is right handed hitter, for a double. In his final at-bat he drove a ball to the right centre field wall for a triple. The ball jumped off Jackson's bat in this game. Jackson was less successful in the other two games recording a single and a walk. Jackson has a good eye at the plate and has a nice fast swing. Jackson is 6'2" with an average build. Jackson looked to have average speed, I don't think he will be a major base stealer, probably more of a Vernon Wells type who is fast around the bases but not a stealer.
Defensively Jackson was very impressive making a number of highlight plays. Jackson gets rid of the ball very quickly and has a strong accurate arm. Because of his size I don't think he will be a John McDonald type SS. In Monday's games Jackson made several highlight plays showing good range and arm.
I don't have as much to say about Kevin Ahrens. Ahrens played two of the games and didn't really stand out. I don't mean that in a bad way, he had two hits, one a grounder in the hole and one a nice line drive, he made several play at third showing a strong arm and made one error. Ahrens fit right in, which is good for a player who just had his nineteenth birthday.
John Tolisano also played two games and fit right in like Ahrens. Tolisano showed the most pop in batting practice hitting more home runs than any other hitter although not the longest. Tolisano showed that pop in the last inning of Tuesday's game where he tripled off the right centre field wall. Defensively Tolisano didn't have a lot to do but he looked fine to me.
Yohermyn Chavez is struggling with his swing right now. Chavez has been struggling at the plate recently and in Sunday's game he was resting the bat on his shoulder before the pitch was delivered. Before the game on Monday Chavez was out for early BP and in Mondays game he had changed his hand position. Chavez is not comfortable at the plate right now and is looking for a good setup. Chavez is tall and skinny, 6'3", 180 pounds. To me Chavez looks gangly, as though he still hasn't learned to handle his body. Alex Rios was a bit like that for a while. Defensively Chavez has a strong arm and looked good in left field.
Mike McDade is another young player who turns 19 today. McDade is a large man, 6'2" and somewhere around 250 pounds. As a result McDade is a very slow runner. McDade is a big swinger who is also fighting his swing at the moment. McDade shows big time power in batting practice but had difficulty making contact against live pitching.
Moises Sierra is another 19 year old. Sierra has a "gun" in right field although he isn't particularly big, he is around 6' tall. Sierra didn't see a lot of action in right field in the two games I saw him play but he showed his arm on one play. The hitter blooped a hit just inside the right field line, medium depth. Sierra hustled onto the ball and threw a frozen rope to home plate, very impressive. Sierra is another hitter with big time power, he has an uppercut swing and the ball goes a long way when he connects. In the games he was less successful, he was hitless in the series. Sierra has a good eye at the plate and appears to have good hand-eye coordination as he fouled off a lot of tough pitches and his strikeout numbers are not high. His swing looks to be slightly off-balance so he doesn't get good swings at some of the pitches he sees. As with all the young hitters Sierra is looking for a consistent swing and if he gets there he could do well, the ball does fly off his bat.
Wesley Stone played two games and has a line drive swing that can punish mistake pitches. stone looked less confident in the field where he looked a step slow.
Those seven young players are surrounded by 24 year old catchers CJ Ebarb and Matt Liuzza. Both are experienced hitters who can drive the ball to all fields if the pitcher makes a mistake. Richmond Hill's Joel Collins played one game at DH but didn't get a hit.
Manny Rodriguez was on the DL but came off to play in the last game. In that one game Rodriguez looked like he has a long swing that might hold him back at higher levels.
Darin Mastroianni is another free swinger in the Aaron Mathews or Ryan Patterson mould.
Jackson looked very good
Ahrens and Tolisano are doing fine at A ball
Chavez and Sierra are looking for a consistent swing