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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:11 am 
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Spring Training is perhaps the greatest time of the year. Everything is sparkly and new, and all the hopes and dreams of various players and clubs around the league are still intact. For the Nine, a perennial contender, it’s been no different.

All told, the camp has gone swimmingly as far as the top brass are concerned. The team isn’t winning games, but that’s not the goal. As usual, the team sent a full contingent of 60 players to its camp, and excitement ran high as the kids got their chances in the first two weeks of games. The results have been a solid, and mostly quiet camp with the only dark cloud being a separated shoulder that sent 3B prospect Alejandro Rodriguez (7/9/7/4/7 Talents) back to the minors. The team is hopeful he’ll not lose any real playing time.

HOTTEST BATS?

Perhaps the biggest and best news from Camp has been the performance of young center field hopeful Mauro Saucedo (7/7/6/5/10 Talents). The team has made no bones about the fact that they’d like him to be their everyday player—or at least take the LHB platoon spot. His bat has continued to show its quality with a .346/.370/.462 line that includes three doubles. His glove is still raw, but the team hopes that extended play in the last two weeks will springboard him to greater heights.

In quieter news, unsung prospect Ernesto Garza (7/7/5/5/7 Talents) (who was left unprotected in the expansion draft) has been drawing a steady buzz. His numbers are pedestrian, but the scouts are seeing a new level to his switch-hitting swing. “He’s been working with Sam (AA hitting coach Sam Brewington), and you can tell it,” one scout said as he talked about why scouts have bumped the 20 year-old’s contact rating up a notch.

Young second baseman Bob Frazier (5/5/9/6/5 Talents) has also impressed by clubbing three homers and extending his defensive presence. The existence of Frazier goes a ways towards explaining why the team left Tony Loftis unprotected in the expansion draft. Look for him to play in AAA this year, and be available in 2036 or 2037, depending on what happens with Angel De Castillo (8/7/8/6/8 Talents)’s conversion to second base and his subsequent contract talks (insiders say De Castillo is talking crazy cash).

NINE DEAL FOR TORRES

In an interesting twist, the Nine looked at Rule 5 draftee Joaquin Torres (5/6/4/6/5 Talents) and apparently liked what they saw well enough to include him in the organization, but not enough to keep him on the major league roster. Today they announced a deal to keep him on board, sending catcher Benjamin Clark (6/7/6/4/9 Talents) to the Hustlers instead of Torres.

Torres, at 22, is known as a brilliant defensive infielder at all positions, something the Nine would like to have. Some suggest that if Balthesar Fronteiro doesn’t work out at the RHB platoon at 3B, we might see Torres sooner than later. Clearly the team sees something there, as Clark was a top prospect at the backstop position.

NASTIEST PITCHERS?

Probably the biggest questions on the lips of most Nine faithful was how the young guns of the Rotation of the Future fared. Well, as might be predicted, it was a mixed bag of balls.

19-year-old Curt Phillips (10/7/7 Talents) made two starts, and got rocked once. 20-year-old Ernesto Ramos (10/5/8 Talents) got blasted in his early starts, but was nearly unhittable in 4 innings against Long Beach. Lefty Jose Valenzuela (8/6/5 Talents) was equally erratic, and precocious 21-year-old Carlos Valle (10/6/8 Talents) (who has been on everyone’s wish list for the past season or two) was scintillating early against Des Moines and Twin Cities before getting pounded by Omaha.

“It’s been a great camp for all of them,” said pitching coach Robert LaLoosh. “We’ve gotten to see them all for considerable time, and each has had times when their stuff has made your hair stand on end. It’s going to be great to watch these kids play.”

Tristan Alfama (9/6/7 Talents) (23) also started two games. Alfama is the most oft-mentioned name to be added to the rotation this year. His opening salvo has been solid.

BIGGEST PITCHING SURPRISES?

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the group has been 23-year-old Denis Combe (8/6/6 Talents), who has logged 8 innings, walking only 1 and pitching to a 1.13 ERA. Combe was a minor league FA pickup last winter. Likewise, Joey Graham (10/7/3 Talents) has thrown 6 strong innings, striking out 7 in that span. Both are fringe bets to make the bullpen this year, but are making strong cases. 21-year-old Emilio Gutierrez (9/7/7 Talents) is drawing buzz, too.

LAST HALF OF SPRING TRAINING WILL ANSWER QUESTIONS

The Nine went into the off season needing a backup infielder to replace J. J. McQuade, a solid upgrade to the corner outfield, and some help for their bullpen. These next two weeks will see the front line starters take their roles, and should go a ways toward saying whether the club was successful in patching those holes.

“Mostly we just want everyone to be healthy,” said manager Bret Richardson. “We know we’re going to be pretty good as long as we keep all our guys on the field.”

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:14 pm 
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Best of luck with Torres. Problem for me was I had another Torres (Carlos) who I thought was just a tick better.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:30 pm 
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I hope Torres's bat is just barely good enough to stick. If so, I can really use his glove.

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