I had the pleasure last night to go check out the Sea Dogs in Portland. I got a call from a friend a few hours before the game and he told me he had an extra ticket. I couldn't pass up a chance to see Lars Anderson go 0 for 4.
OK, so that didn't actually happen. Lars did all right and it was a pretty good game despite the Dogs losing, 6-4. I made note of a few players that saw action last night.
Daniel Nava, LF - This guy can play. Where did we get him? I'm not even sure, to tell you the truth. He hit leadoff for the Dogs and was really impressive, going 3 for 5. Not only can he put solid contact on the ball, but he can draw a walk with the best of him. Didn't really see much action in left field, so I can't comment there, but it'd be interesting to see how he does the rest of the season and into 2010.
Iggy Suarez, SS - Iggy, a fan favorite, made his presence known early. He had a behind-the-back flip for an out at second in the first inning and then followed it up by throwing a batter out from the grass in short left field BY A MILE. Seriously, the batter had no chance. Iggy got the ball into the glove and into it his hand so quickly and made a perfect throw to first. It was impressive. His bat, though -- well, I don't think he could hit out of a wet paper bag, unfortunately.
Jorge Jimenez, 3B - Jimenez played a solid hot corner and put good wood on the ball. He didn't do anything spectacular, though. He hit out of the three hole, but I think that's only because he has a pretty decent average on the year (.287).
Jon Still, DH - Still definitely looks like a power hitter at the plate, and 15 home runs on the year backs that up. But as a power hitter, strikeouts come with that and he K'd twice. If he wants to make it to the bigs he's going to have to hit for more power and get the average up, too. The power is there, but I'm not sure about everything else.
Lars Anderson, 1B - Laaaars. Lars went 1 for 3 with a run and two walks, while playing solid defense at first base. I really tried to figure him out at the plate and my biggest concern is that he's not aggressive at all. I really think that's why he's been struggling this year. I can't even remember him taking a good hack at the ball tonight. He had a hit, but it was in the second inning (the Dogs' first of the night) and it was an infield single. I will say, though, he's surprisingly fast for a tall guy. If he starts swinging at the good pitches -- instead of seeing the count go 3-2 almost every time -- he's going to be a better hitter.
Luis Exposito, C - After Lars, the one guy I was really going to watch. Expo did well behind the plate, blocking quite a few pitches in the dirt. He also did well at the plate, going 2 for 4 with a walk. He's hitting .361 with Portland this season. He seems like he could be a pretty good hitter in the pros, but there are definitely some weak spots with his game at the plate. But he's talented and he could go far. I'm excited to see what he does in Pawtucket, perhaps, next season.
Jason Place, RF - Oh, Mr. Place. The first round pick that has yet to pan out. But maybe tonight will be the start of something consistent? Place went 2 for 3 with a huge two-run home run in the sixth. It was dead-center and hit very well. Place seems to be a guy that maybe tries too hard. He obviously has some talent, he just hasn't put it all together yet. He also played a good right field with a jumping catch in foul territory to earn an out. I'm still waiting to see him put it all together and be a good player, but I'm worried it won't happen.
Ryan Khoury, 2B - Don't laugh, but after watching Khoury for a few innings, I thought "Dustin Pedroia Lite." Both guys are of similar size and Khoury is a lot like him: he has a huge swing and plays a dirty defense. He didn't look very comfortable at the plate (0 for 4) but he is an OBP machine. I think he needs to get comfortable at this level and then he'll play well.
Matt Sheely, CF - Sheely didn't do too much to stand out last night. He played a fine center field, but was never really challenge. At one point he hustled after a ball and then sort of hiccuped and dove for it, allowing it to get by him. The interesting thing is that he's hitting .190 on the year, but has a .369 OBP.
Kris Johnson, SP - Johnson struggled in his 5.2 innings. He couldn't find the plate and when he did, he got hit. He gave up 5 runs (4 earned), walked two and struck out three. He never hit higher than 91 on the gun. I don't really see much future for Johnson. He's struggled at almost every level and doesn't have anything special in the repertoire. Maybe he'll pick up the pace, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Chad Rhoades, RP - He had some life on his fastball, but had to work hard for outs. He worked for them and got them. Really pounded the zone. Solid reliever, but nothing too special.
Richie Lentz, RP - Lentz is probably the biggest name of the three pitchers tonight. He had a good fastball, but he nibbled a lot. The umpire had a tight strike zone, too, but Lentz didn't really blow me away. It didn't seem like he had any secondary pitches that could really get the job done. He gave up a run and struck out three in two innings of work. The best part about Lentz: he has an amazing mustache. Grade A stuff. His 'stache alone should get him a call to the big club.
All in all, a good night for baseball, despite the Dogs losing. Players I was most impressed with: Nava and Exposito. Players I'm holding out hope for: Lars and Place. Players I want to see succeed, but will probably fall through the cracks somewhere: Iggy and Khoury.
In other minor league news, I may be seeing Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch for the Sea Dogs on Saturday. That's a maybe at this point. Could catch a game on Friday, too. If I do any of the above, I will certainly report back to you, The Faithful.
In the meantime, let's hope Lars and J-Place find their swings.