Bernie on the Scene: What I Saw in Arizona Spring Training, Part Two

Bernie on the Scene: What I Saw in Arizona Spring Training, Part Two

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

Last week I shared impressions I gained when watching spring training in Arizona. I covered the Royals, Rangers, Brewers, Angels, Athletics, Mariners and Padres.

Today, I will share what I saw and what I thought about several players from the remaining teams training in Arizona.

Chicago White Sox – Glendale

  1. Luis Robert may be one of the finest overall athletes in the game today. He is big, strong, fast and has outstanding offensive and defensive tools. If he gets some help in the lineup, he could win an MVP.
  2. Jose Abreu is the perfect team leader. He is confident, without being cocky. And he's still an RBI machine. I saw Abreu drive the ball, but I think there may be some decline in his offensive production. Abreu is 36, and Father Time may come calling soon. Beware. But he's still a fine player.
  3. Tony La Russa has told people he is now more familiar with his club. He said he got a late start last year, but I think that's a bad excuse for some brutal managing. We'll see how he handles this year's team, and how he navigates the club's injuries.
  4. Gavin Sheets is underrated. He can hit. 
  5. I was once again able to see the electric "stuff" of Dylan Cease. Now, if he can command those above average pitches, he could be a star. This is a huge year for Cease. He has to show he's arrived. 
  6. I didn't see trade chips the White Sox could use

Last week I shared impressions I gained when watching spring training in Arizona. I covered the Royals, Rangers, Brewers, Angels, Athletics, Mariners and Padres.

Today, I will share what I saw and what I thought about several players from the remaining teams training in Arizona.

Chicago White Sox – Glendale

  1. Luis Robert may be one of the finest overall athletes in the game today. He is big, strong, fast and has outstanding offensive and defensive tools. If he gets some help in the lineup, he could win an MVP.
  2. Jose Abreu is the perfect team leader. He is confident, without being cocky. And he's still an RBI machine. I saw Abreu drive the ball, but I think there may be some decline in his offensive production. Abreu is 36, and Father Time may come calling soon. Beware. But he's still a fine player.
  3. Tony La Russa has told people he is now more familiar with his club. He said he got a late start last year, but I think that's a bad excuse for some brutal managing. We'll see how he handles this year's team, and how he navigates the club's injuries.
  4. Gavin Sheets is underrated. He can hit. 
  5. I was once again able to see the electric "stuff" of Dylan Cease. Now, if he can command those above average pitches, he could be a star. This is a huge year for Cease. He has to show he's arrived. 
  6. I didn't see trade chips the White Sox could use to strengthen their team at the trade deadline. the lack of depth may be the team's downfall when they get to the playoffs.

Cleveland Guardians – Goodyear

  1. The young Guardians prospects showed a very patient approach at the plate. They didn't try to smoke the ball over the fence. They did, however, use the entire field and were selective at the plate.
  2. Of their many good prospects, Gabriel Arias once again knocked my socks off. He's a terrific athlete, has a solid hit tool, outstanding range at shortstop and has a cannon for an arm. He would be the first guy promoted for me this season – and I'd stick him at short and leave him alone.
  3. Bradley Zimmer infuriated me. He took fastballs down the middle for called third strikes. Swung and missed at cookies and looked awful, striking out 50 percent of the time. The Guardians finally traded him to Toronto.
  4. Right behind Zimmer on the futility list was Bobby Bradley. He simply can't hit big league pitching. And he can't field his position at first base. Other than that, what is there? He's a minor league player, if that.
  5. Myles Straw and Steven Kwan hitting back-to-back at the top of the Guardians batting order should set up Jose Ramirez, Franmil Reyes and Amed Rosario for some RBIs. I think that's their best shot to scoring runs.
  6. Cleveland is desperate for an impact outfielder. I would play Josh Naylor at first base and go find a power hitting outfielder.
  7. Here's my overall concern with the Cleveland: I saw so many good young prospects it was almost too many. The team has to cull that group down via trade. If they don't, every one of them will reach six-year minor league free-agency, arbitration or free-agency at the same time. Talk about a disaster? And expensive.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Scottsdale

  1. The offense remains inept. The pitching is thin; very thin. How will they win games? They won't.
  2. Madison Bumgarner looked good in spring training. But when the bell rang, in the opening game against Oakland, he walked four in one inning and walked in a run. But some team will pry him away from Arizona at the deadline because he can still pitch.
  3. I think Ketel Marte is way over hyped as a "star" player. Frankly, I see him only a tad better than average. I hope I'm wrong. With no protection in the lineup around him, Marte will continue to swing at lousy pitches and try to hit the ball out of the park. That's a bad combination. He seems like a bad financial investment by Arizona – again.
  4. General manager Mike Hazen did improve the team's bullpen. They can throw Mark Melancon, Ian Kennedy and Oliver Perez out there this year. They are three good upgrades.
  5. I do like switch-hitting rookie shortstop Geraldo Perdomo. He may make some rookie mistakes, but he is an offensive upgrade for Nick Ahmed. Why didn't they trade Ahmed three years ago? It will be almost impossible to move him now, as he has a barking shoulder.

Chicago Cubs – Mesa

  1. This is yet another pathetic franchise. The Ricketts family sewed their wallets shut once again in the offseason. I don't think whatever they are paying  Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki to upgrade their team was enough. It will take him time to adjust, and I did see a good swing. However, not adding any of the great free-agents out there to help the team was the wrong move for a big market club like the Cubs. Suzuki was not enough of an addition.
  2. Nick Madrigal can hit. Madrigal can play second base. The White Sox made a huge mistake trading Madrigal, because now they don't have a long-term second baseman on their roster.
  3. Patrick Wisdom showed me more power than I had expected. I could learn to like him. I wish he played for another team, but it was the Mariners who gave up on him and traded him away. He does, however, try to hit a five-run homer every at-bat. If he'd cut his swing a bit, he could be a solid offensive weapon.
  4. The Cubs need to trade their best asset – catcher Willson Contreras. I saw him hit a long bomb and he's got an impressive arm behind the plate.
  5. At one game I saw, Kyle Hendricks couldn't get anyone out. His best bet would be to pitch only intra-squad games against his own team. I think he's toast. I hope I'm wrong, but I see him getting torched as the season progresses.
  6. I also saw Wade Miley get his lunch handed to him. The Cubs rotation is putrid.

Cincinnati Reds – Goodyear

  1. Right along with Oakland, the Reds are fielding a very marginal major league club. There are some good players, but they are surrounded by meh! Not quite as bad as Oakland.
  2. I'm hopeful Jonathan India can be the spark this dreadful team needs at the top of their lineup. I like him. He's a fairly patient hitter. He can accept a walk and is improving his overall game.
  3. Joey Votto can still play. So can Tyler Stephenson. They are both fantasy worthy. But Mike Moustakas? Uh...no. And the rest of the lineup could have a tough time winning in Triple-A.
  4. Tyler Naquin, Tommy Pham, Nick Senzel, Kyle Farmer, Jake Fraley? Nice bench players for some clubs, but those guys are starting for the Reds. Not even Pham excites me. But he should hit well in hitter-friendly Cincinnati.
  5. How in the world will the Reds cobble together a rotation? I don't get it. But...and this is important, Hunter Greene blew my socks off. He has great stuff. And he showed command when I saw him. He's fantasy worthy. Very worthy. The rest of the "rotation" begins with meh and ends with no way. But –t he rotation may improve as the season moves along.

Colorado Rockies – Scottsdale

  1. Kris Bryant took the Rockies money and should be able to pad his own personal stats hitting in Coors. I like the fit. The team is greatly improved because of Bryant.
  2. Randal Grichuk also gets the Coors upgrade, but he goes from getting fit for a World Series ring with the Blue Jays to getting all the Coors Light he can drink in this system. He, too, should thrive at Coors.
  3. So I like C.J. Cron, Brendan Rodgers and Ryan McMahon to hit well this year in a lineup with Bryant and Grichuk.
  4. The Rockies got themselves a solid defensive shortstop in Jose Iglesias. He is an under-the-radar player. And he hits better than most people realize.
  5. The pitching? Ah, the pitching. I don't think I have ever, or will ever, start a Rockies starter at home. It is that big a hurdle to jump. And for that reason, and that reason alone, the Rockies will not be able to contend with clubs like the Dodgers or even the Padres in the West. But the Rockies do have some decent pitching. 
  6. Good offense. Good pitching, but hampered by Coors. No way.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Glendale

  1. Pitching issues will hurt this team. I saw it in the spring. They will continue to scuffle trying to fill out their rotation prior to the trade deadline. Gone are Dustin May (injured), Max Scherzer (signed elsewhere) and Trevor Bauer (administrative hell...maybe suspended). Those are three nice arms no longer available to a great hitting team.
  2. The offense is dynamic. Adding Freddie Freeman makes them even better. 
  3. I have no faith in Cody Bellinger, and I don't see that changing. He's been awful. Lots of strikeouts and poor hitting mechanics. I won't touch him in any format.
  4. Trea Turner is worth all the accolades, and he now owns shortstop with Seager gone.
  5. Indeed, I believe Gavin Lux is a utility player type. I don't think he'll sustain good stats playing in a regular role all season. Just don't see it yet for him. I think I may be in the minority here.
  6. The Dodgers have enough firepower to win 100 games once again, and I think they'll run away with the division. They have to just relax and have fun. It seems they always feel under pressure.

San Francisco Giants – Scottsdale

  1. The first six guys in the Giants lineup are over the age of 30 in a game that is getting younger Mike Yastrzemski (31), Brandon Belt (34), Darin Ruf (35), Joc Pederson (30), Brandon Crawford (35) and Wilmer Flores (30). That does not bode well for the team. They really have to start injecting some youth. That's why we're now seeing Heliot Ramos on the parent club. But I'm not a big fan of Ramos.
  2. I was crazy about Logan Webb when I saw him last spring. He looks just as good this year.
  3. Ruf had a great spring. I think he now has a full-time role in the lineup based upon what he produced in March. He's found his stroke and is the one guy who will defy the age issue this year. But I still believe he will be overexposed. He really is a utility type player in a full time role. That concerns me.
  4. I think the Giants could lose at least 15 more games than they did last year. Maybe more. We have to remember that they won some very close games a year ago. I'm not sure they won't be clobbered by in-season injuries.
  5. I watched carefully, but I didn't find one guy in the Giants lineup I would fear as an opposing pitcher.
  6. Carlos Rodon could be a huge addition for San Francisco. But I still think he'll wear out and break down physically at some point in the long, 162-games season. The question is when?

Heading Home:

The very rough early outings for Brewers pitchers can be directly attributed to the lack of spring training innings. Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta are among the three best starters in the game. Each scuffled. Each had difficulty commanding his pitches. Each will rebound. Brewers fans should not panic. The pitching will be fine. The hitting? I'm not convinced they can score runs, but the Central is weak.

How important is organizational pitching depth? Well, a team can't have too much pitching. Just ask the White Sox. They may watch their hopes and dreams go up in smoke with injuries to their starters. Lance Lynn is now joined by Lucas Giolito on the injured list. And Tony La Russa has to be careful with Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech. They'll make it to the playoffs again, but what happens if they don't have enough pitching depth in the postseason?

The Washington Nationals might be for sale. Good. The Lerner's destroyed their momentum by jettisoning Scherzer and Turner. The team is awful. I'd like to see them sold. And the Pirates. And the Orioles. And the Guardians. And the Athletics. And the Rays. And the Reds. I heard the Twins are for sale as well. These owners are ready to cash in. I hope they do.

The Castellini family's words to the media and their fans this week made my hair stand on edge. If you haven't read the transcripts, please do. In essence, the fans were threatened with the team moving and the family's financial motivation – their quest for profit from the club was front and center of the interview. Reds fans should be furious. And they are.

The Diamondbacks were no-hit by the Padres Yu Darvish (six innings) and Sean Manaea (seven innings) in their first two games. To be clear, the D-backs missed several cookies offered up by Darvish. And the D-backs are a Triple-A quality baseball team. They, too, could lose 105 games.

It blows me away that MLB public relations departments have no imagination. If one team does it, the rest follow. Same between-innings songs and fan engagement shtick from park after park. Dog days in park after park. Why not cat days? Why not bring your kids days? Whatever happened to Ladies Days from the '50s and '60s? MLB parks are very vanilla. And redundant. And why do fans need to be told to MAKE NOISE? Why does every club have to have a hot dog race on the big screen or find the ball under the hat, or similar races, etc. I want to see some imagination. Some creativity. I want to see:

  • Players signing autographs every day. Each player has to sign at least once a month for a half hour.
  • Open the gates at 4 p.m. for batting practice of both teams.
  • Every kid goes home with a gift every game. They can be a coloring book, a pack of baseball cards, a team photo, a scorecard for a future game, a team pin. A gift. Free. Every kid.
  • I'd like to see high school bands invited to play before the game. Why not in baseball? Why are there only bands in football? There is plenty of "dead" time before games. Bring in the high school bands. Let them play before the game and then let them play the National Anthem.
  • Instead of having the military veterans stand up in every game, why not give them free tickets if they show their military ID? Make seats available with the veteran getting his/her choice of attending one game free. First come, first serve, with a limit on each game. There are plenty of empty seats in most ball parks. Let the veterans in free for one game. Or maybe even more.
  • Lower the price of concessions and sell more product. Every kid should be able to get an inexpensive hot dog and soft drink at a baseball game. Help families by making attending the game a little more affordable. The Diamondbacks and other clubs have begun to have lower prices on kids meals. That's good. Every club should have that.

I could go on and on. But something has to be done about the lack of creativity in big league parks.

I have the Extra Innings MLB package from Cox Cable in Phoenix. I continue to be stunned at how totally boring many of the announcers are on several teams. If you get a chance, listen to Jason Benetti and Steve Stone of the White Sox. They are so incredibly entertaining, knowledgeable and fun.  The Brewers TV crew is special as well. Exciting and entertaining. Bravo.

I'd love to know if you like your hometown announcers? Let me know in the comments below.

I was grumpy in today's article? Why? I think baseball is becoming more and more divided between good and bad teams. And over the course of an entire season, the separation will be very evident. We have had a great first week of games, but I'm fearful about the overall product in several cities. Complacency and losing will set in. It troubles me. 

It troubles me that players were locked out for weeks so owners and players could collectively bargain a new basic agreement. And then the Reds and the Athletics conducted fire sales of good players. What was all the bargaining and moaning and groaning all about?  

Thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and for reading my work at Forbes. Next week I begin a series of scouting profiles/evaluation of young MLB pitchers and hitters. Have a great week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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