Besides automatic strike zones in one park, the Arizona Fall League is also experimenting with tackier baseballs, which would seem to be the next step in correcting the foreign substance overusage by pitchers that led to a midseason crackdown on sticky stuff. Nippon Professional Baseball uses a baseball with a standardized tacky cover, which has proven popular with pitchers who have worked in both leagues, so it seems like a natural progression to gradually adopt it stateside.
Baseball America’s Josh Norris says AFL pitchers are mostly positive about the idea, although apparently there are consistency issues that make it difficult to place all the faith in a given baseball.
“At first, I thought just while playing catch it was pretty good, but we had some issues with it the last couple days in the game,” Salt River pitching coach Ken Knudson, who works in the Mets organization, said. “It seems to be how much was put on … We had a pitcher who’s primarily a breaking ball pitcher who said he couldn’t throw (his breaking ball with the new baseballs). So instead of throwing 50% breaking balls, he threw three out of 50 (pitches).
“So, it seems like it’s gone from being OK during catch play (but) during games a couple of times (the balls have been) really slippery and guys have struggled with them. I don’t know if it’s the difference in the weather or what are some of the issues with it, but I would say, generally speaking, it’s less than positive.”
Meanwhile, James Fegan had a big article about the White Sox’s AFL prospects, and I’ll incorporate some notes below.
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Céspedes continues to scuffle in the desert, although it seems like you can file it under “a learning experience” rather than “overmatched.” Chris Getz says that Céspedes will have to temper his aggression, and the mechanics that result from that desire to attack, attack, attack.
“This level of competition he’s playing against right now is better than any competition he’s played,” Getz said. “To maximize his power potential, we need to cut down on the swing-and-miss and the strikeouts, and there are some mechanical adjustments that need to be made. There’s no denying that, there’s no need to deny that. He needs to make some moves and make him a little quieter at the plate to be able to execute the barrel to the ball and be more consistent, to allow him to hit the ball to all fields and utilize the power that he has.”
Norris got some good footage of Céspedes swing:
And for #WhiteSox faithful, here’s some pretty passes from Yoelqui Cespedes. (Side note: Tony La Russa was in the house yesterday, so he saw these too.) pic.twitter.com/NeiulgQXK6— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) November 3, 2021
|Total||47||5||12||13||HR, 3B, 2B||3/7||2/0||.255/.300/.383|
While Rodriguez isn’t quite performing to the standards he set during the regular season, he’s still Making Things Happen, as evidenced by an RBI total that’s second on the team despite just one homer. What Getz told Fegan is similar to what he told Connor McKnight on White Sox Weekly, in terms of how he’s being developed as a shortstop, with a little bit of flexibility baked in.
Here’s one of Rodriguez’s three hits on the week.
|Nov. 5||3||2||1||2||HR||1/0||—||2 E6|
Sánchez started off getting B-team reps over the first couple weeks, but he’s earned more playing time thanks to the best plate discipline numbers on the Desert Dogs. Here’s a case where you can scout the stat line, because both Getz and Fegan’s scouting troop are seeing the same thing:
With a torrid .343/.369/.469 stretch in Birmingham, reaching base about half the time in limited action at the AFL and scouts seeing some recognition of spin out of hand, there’s more reason to hope that Sánchez can hit enough to provide his glovework in the majors. Getz emphasized that the Sox are continuing to work on wringing more lateral range out of Sánchez through conditioning and thought that some of his gonzo-aggressive approach was trying to impress in his first full season stateside but affirmed a method to the madness/aggression.
“Yolbert is not just a free swinger,” Getz said. “There’s some guys that you’re sitting there and you’re watching and you just know that it’s a predetermined swing, every time. (Sánchez) shuts down on pitches when the intent is to swing, he recognizes spin or a pitch out of the zone, he will shut down. He’s shown that ability.”
Beyond telling fastballs from breaking balls and swinging accordingly, Glendale (and Winston-Salem) coach Danny Farquhar says Sánchez is finding the barrel, and there’s video evidence of solid contact.
Another disaster set back the stat line for Johan Dominguez, as he allowed four runs on three hits and three walks over two-thirds of an inning to start the week. He then scattered six hits over three scoreless innings to close it out, so that’s how his peripherals exploded on him.
Things were a lot calmer for Caleb Freeman, McKinley Moore and J.B. Olson, all of whom threw a pair of scoreless outings. Regarding Freeman and Moore, picked one round apart in the 2019 draft, Getz has hopes that their experience of the AFL will be something along the lines of iron sharpening iron.
“He’s the most consistent of that group with the stuff that he has,” Getz said. “Consistency in the zone is key for both of them. Both those pitchers at least have two plus pitches, there’s velocity. When they are in sync, if they are clicking, you’re looking at a major-league reliever right now. Now that being said the key to success at the major-league level is doing it on a regular basis. And that’s what we’re working on. Sometimes that’s a mechanical issue, sometimes it’s a confidence issue. But really, you can’t make any of those adjustments mechanically or gain confidence without playing against good competition. And that’s what they’re being exposed to right now.”
(Photo by Nick Panico)
Wonder if Yolbert will supplant Leury as the Sox primary Infield Utility man. Man, I miss Yolmer. Imagine a Yolmer-Yolbert infield pairing.
Romy is ahead on the depth chart and would probably be first to replace Leury but its nice to see Yolbert turning some heads and rising in the prospect rankings.
Yoan-Yolbert-Yomer-Yasmani third to first
I’m by no means a swing mechanics expert, but Cespedes’s swing just looks kinda, I dunno, busy? He has a pretty pronounced lift on his front leg, and his toe swings inward in a fashion I don’t know that I’ve ever seen before to have a comparison. Given the length of his swing and balance that looks somewhat questionable, I kinda see the concerns that FanGraphs had in their preseason prospect rankings. Compare that to the swings of Rodriguez and Sanchez, who seem a lot more compact with their swings and less noisy with their mechanics. Give somebody with Cespedes’s physical tools the swing of a guy like Popeye and you’re probably talking about a top-50 prospect.
Sanchez looks a little chunky, especially for a shortstop.
That’s what they said about Andrew Vaughn, and now he’s a second baseman!
Further recognition for Yolbert.