Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Armchair Scouting Report. In this weekly segment I will take 150 years of scouting practices, traditions, and baseline certifications and throw them out the window. In their place I bring you the rare talent of watching baseball games in my underwear with a glazed donut in each hand (jelly donuts are gross).
Fear not, for I shall not lead you astray. Even though I have not played baseball at the professional level, been employed by any professional baseball team, or breathed the same air as a pro ballplayer without the words “protective order” immediately following the event, I do have 20+ years of experience dissecting player performance from the comfort of my living room. For all of the fans out there who believe that they can scout better than the pros, this column is for you.
Stroman is an unconventional ace. At only 5’8” tall he is easily the shortest pitcher in the major leagues, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from his pitches alone. In Sunday’s opener against the Rays, Stroman’s fastball regularly was clocked at 93mph, and occasionally touched 94. It is what we scouting types like to call a heavy fastball, in that it has late downward action which induces ground ball contact. Of the 24 outs that Stroman recorded, 15 were from ground balls.
The young righty has phenomenal fastball command. He pounded the lower half of the strike zone from the beginning of the game. Though he didn’t get a feel for his changeup and slider until the middle innings, that fastball command allowed him to get outs without his secondary stuff. He hung a handful of breaking pitches that a better hitting team might have taken advantage of, but from the 4th inning on there wouldn’t have been a lineup in baseball that would have been able to break his rhythm (his own team excluded).
Stroman was efficient with his pitches; working into the ninth before he was pulled from the game. His final line score of 8IP, 3ER was misleading as the final run scored after he was replaced. Stroman’s strikeout numbers were slightly depressed but his reliance on the fastball and pounding of the strike zone can account for that. All in all it was a start that should vanquish any doubts that he will be affected by the ACL injury which hampered him in 2015. If he can continue to keep the ball down and develop his secondary pitches then I can see Ace potential for him.
Buxton’s first three at-bats of 2016 ended in three slow walks back to the dugout. After a spring training where the rookie piled up the K’s, this first sample was not encouraging. Last year the highly touted prospect struggled to put the ball in play and frequently looked overmatched. The disclaimer here is that three plate appearances is as small of a sample size as you can get, but from what I saw Buxton is still having trouble recognizing breaking pitches away, which is causing him to guess and then get gassed by fastballs up and in.
Buxton’s defense remains his strongest suit, and it will play in the big leagues now. His speed and range in center will fit perfectly at spacious Target Field. If Buxton could hit .250 then he could easily steal 40 bases; his speed and base stealing talent is that good. However right now the strike zone familiarity and ability to recognize pitches out of the pitcher’s hand is not where it needs to be. I did see a handful of check swings that may have been flails in 2015, but incremental progress is not what Twins fans were hoping for when Buxton was handed the starting job.
The disclaimer here is that it was opening day and jitters may have played a role in his performance. That being said, Buxton wasn’t facing Ace caliber talent. His three strikeouts came against Tyler Wilson, Mychal Givens, and Mychal Givens again. The young rookie is hitting in the 9 spot in the order, so there is clearly no pressure for him to carry the team now, however if the strikeouts continue to pile up over the next few weeks we may see him sent back to the minors before the end of April for more seasoning. Watch for better plate discipline and any sign that Buxton can put the ball in play and make solid contact over the next few days.
Last Minute Musings:
David Wright looks awful. With his body ailing, it’s hard to know how much longer he can be serviceable both in the field and in the batter’s box.
Roberto Osuna is not going to surrender the closer job to Drew Storen.
Big Papi is going to hit 30 home runs again this season. You can take that to the bank.
Corey Dickerson is proving that his power does play outside of Coors Field.
If you would like to hear more unsubstantiated claims from Ian Shaw, be sure to listen to the Waiver Trolls Fantasy Baseball podcast by clicking on the podcast tab or by downloading and subscribing on Itunes and Google Play.
Featured Image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette