Before I start, I want to thank Dan Wolfert (GM Sarasota Reds) and Joe Ayrault (Manager Sarasota Reds) for their time, support, and wisdom while I was visiting this past week. I really enjoyed my week at the ballpark.

I also want to make clear that the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone and I’m not a scout or a baseball “insider”…the views expressed are mine and mine alone based on what I saw last week (and also colored by what I saw from some of the same players last year when they were playing in Dayton). They’re more of a “snapshot” than any type of scouting report.

I’m also writing this report without going back and looking back at box scores, etc; simply going off the notes that I scribbled down while watching the games.

Sarasota Reds

– Future of: It’s still up in the air. The gist of what I’m getting is that one of three things will happen.

  1. The Pirates buy the Florida State League franchise and move it to Bradenton. (They put lights in there last year.) The Reds would then take their High A team to Lynchburg Virginia of the Carolina League.
  2. A private group is considering buying the entire Ed Smith complex, keeping the Sarasota Reds there, running baseball academies there and bringing in Japanese baseball during spring training. The report I heard is that this group is offering more money than the Pirates are. (This is my hope, as I want the Reds to keep a team in Sarasota.)
  3. The Orioles come into Ed Smith (their ST home is presently Ft. Lauderdale) and bring their teams there.

– Ed Smith Stadium

First thing I noticed at that the infield grass has some bald spots…seemed strange, like they’re not going to worry too much about it since this might be the final season there. Hope that’s not the case.

It seemed like a much bigger stadium than Dayton, but I compared the dimensions and it’s 20 feet longer down the lines (340 – 320) but the same to straight away CF. Ed Smith is more symmetrical and doesn’t have that strange and sudden jut outward in LCF that Fifth Third does. The ball seems to carry to LCF and just to the right of the backdrop in RCF, but this is just a guess. The reason it could seem bigger might be b/c of all the empty seats.

I saw 5 Sarasota Reds games last week. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and the rainout makup 7 inning double header on Thursday.

– Defense

This is a BAD defensive club, especially in the infield. Way too many errors on easy plays, bad throws, ole’ grounders.

Nefi Soto can look really good one play at 3B, but really bad the next. He’s young, but he doesn’t look like a 3B to me; first base may be in his future (in fact he played one game there and DH’d one game while I was there).

Nothing too much gets by the outfield, but I was surprised at how much Lakeland and Tampa seemed to run on the OF arms. They seemed to advance at every possible opportunity.

When I saw Phipps in Dayton, he had a cannon in RF, he’s been switched to CF (and Justin Reed has been moved to RF, not sure why) and Phipps didn’t show the same arm I saw in Dayton. He also was very tentative on balls in front of him in CF. I think there were at least 3 balls that looked like he could have caught or made more of an effort on, that dropped in front of him.

– Offense

The FSL is known as a pitcher’s league, but the Reds offense is pretty barren. When Phipps is hitting in the 3 hole, you’re hurting for hitters. No one really shown offensively in the games I attended…

Individual Players

– Devin Mesoraco has grown up. He looks like a man now and he just turned 21. He’s listed in the program as 6’1″ and 223 lbs and he looks every bit of it. He came out of Saturday night’s blow out after hitting a HR (day game next day), and was the DH in the first game of the doubleheader, but played every other inning behind the plate….and I would guess it’s not easy being a catcher in the Florida State League.

I thought Devin looked better offensively at the plate, though his numbers may not show it. He hit a HR on Tuesday night that he absolutely crushed to LCF and had a double (maybe during the double header?) that he also hit very hard. He looks like he has more of an idea of what he wants to do while at the plate, though I think he still seemed to chase the outside garbage too much, but so does Jay Bruce.

Defensively though, he’s improved tremendously from last year. I only saw a couple of steal attempts on him, he nailed one that I remember, but he seemed to be throwing REALLY well. But IMO, the biggest improvement is on balls in the dirt. I think it was Saturday night, he had a ton of balls in the dirt and NOTHING got by him…and I’m not talking about blocking them, keeping them in front of him, he caught every one. And I noted this on a couple of different days…so he had a very good defensive week.

– Justin Reed is fun to watch. He plays HARD on every play. I don’t know if he has the talent to make the bigs, but he plays hard. He can really run, and plays reasonable defense (this is based more on when I saw him playing CF last year than anything I saw this week). He’s one of those guys that the more you watch him, the more you like him as a player. He also can bunt, which I really enjoy and think is fast becoming a lost art.

– Jeremy Horst threw a very, very good game on Sunday in the mid-day Sarasota heat. I believe he gave them 7 innings and only really made one bad pitch (HR in first inning). He looks like he’s carried on from where he ended up last year in Dayton. I’m sure he’s wondering why he’s still in Sarasota.

– Scott Carroll started a game I saw also and he started slow, but got better as the game went along. He doesn’t look to be throwing as hard as he did last year when I saw him in Dayton, but it could just be rust from his suspension.

-Rafael Gonzalez had a rougher start than his stats showed in the game I saw. He couldn’t find the plate at all and left the bases loaded in the first two innings, escaping with no runs allowed. He ended up getting touched up after that, but it could have been much worse. He’s a #4 pick in ’04, but he’s only 23 now, so…

– Luis Montano threw a decent game on Thursday night. Most of the runs against him were unearned, but he gave up a series of hits after the error (runner on first w/ 2 outs and no runs in, I think), so he wasn’t blameless for those runs, even though they weren’t earned.

– I didn’t see enough of anyone in the bullpen to really pass any judgement on them at all…but with the lack of offensive production, I can see how the starters could come down with “Harang disease” (due to lack of offensive production, you press and try to be too fine b/c you feel that if you give up any runs, you can’t win). I have no idea if this is the case, but runs are hard to come by for the home team at Ed Smith.

– Based on what I saw (and previously saw at Dayton), it’s my opinion that these players “have a chance” to be big leaguers…

Scott Carroll, Jeremy Horst, Matt Klinker, Travis Webb, Devin Mesoraco, Nefi Soto, Justin Reed

GCL Reds

I attended Friday’s game vs the GCL Reds. I mainly wanted to get a look at 2009 #2 pick Billy Hamilton and the two Latin kids (Yorman Rodriguez and Juan Duran). One game isn’t even really a fair indication of anyone’s talents, but these are just my opinions, right?

First, Billy Hamilton makes all the plays at SS. He was the only infielder (I think) that didn’t boot one at some point in the game. But man, he’s skinny. He’s 6’1″ or something and like 165. When he hit, (and MiLB has him listed as a RH hitter, but he’s either a LH hitter or a switch, as he hit LH when I was there), the Orioles outfield played him like a softball game. They were WAY IN…he must have zero power at this point.

Yorman Rodriguez played CF and Duran was in RF and both are years from being any help to this organization. Rodriguez badly misplayed at least 2 catchable flies to CF and looked terrible doing it. Rodriguez did make a nice strong throw to the plate, but on the rest of his throws looked disinterested.

Neither did anything with the bat either, as was the case with the entire club that day for the most part. I don’t think that Duran has a hit yet (something like 0-34). Considering the Reds have $4.5M tied up in these two kids, I hope the scouts knew what they were doing.

Kid that did catch my eye (defensively) was C (#30 pick) Yovan Gonzalez. Just threw well, made a  couple of nice plays.

Summary

There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of position talent @ Sarasota (nor at Dayton right now, for that matter), which means all the position talent is in the upper levels which concerns me. There does seem to be some pitching talent though. But the exciting thing is it means that if the Reds have a window, it’s in the next year or two…as these young guys become ready to perform at Great American Ballpark.