Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 3/27/12

I’m currently in Jupiter, Florida, as a guest both of (a) my 91-year-old grandfather and (a) the Miami Miarlins of Florida. Today was Day 1 of 3 of my time here. I’ll be spending time on the backfields, watching some minor-league games and providing mediocre analysis on same.

Today, I watched mostly the High-A game between the Marlins and Cardinals — or, alternately, the Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals, of the Sally and Florida State League, respectively.

Regarding Grant Dayton
Left-hander Grant Dayton, 24, pitched for Miami and was generally excellent — although, perhaps, less excellent in consideration of his age. He threw what appeared to be four or five pitches, depending on how all the breaking balls are split up: a fastball at 88-91 mph, a cutter at ca. 85 mph, a slider at around 80 mph, and a change at 82-83 mph. There were a couple of breaking balls in the high 70s, too, so it’s possible that he was throwing a curve. In any case, the shape of the pitch was pretty similar to the slider.

His second time facing Cardinals second baseman Starlin Rodriguez represents a great example of the degree to which Dayton was able to mix both his pitches and locations. After throwing a change at 83 for a ball outside — and maybe compelling Rodriguez to look outside on the next pitch — he came back with a 78 mph breaking ball on Rodriguez’s hands which the latter was only able to foul off. The third pitch in the sequence was another change on the outside corner, this time for a called strike. Finally, Dayton got the out on the next pitch, throwing a fastball at 91, high out of the zone, inducing a foul pop.

The reports on Dayton generally profile him as a relief pitcher — and those reports are written by people who are definitely smarter than me — but, given the degree to which Dayton was able to command multiple pitches, it seems as though starting could work.

Regarding Zach Russell
Right-hander Zach Russell, 22, had less success pitching for the Cardinals. From what I could tell, he was throwing four pitches: a fastball at 90 mph, a slider at 83 mph, a change at about 82 mph, and a mid-70s curveball. He threw a number of backdoor curves with success, getting strikes looking that way to a number of right-handed batters, but had much less luck with throwing either of his breaking balls for swings and misses away to righties. His fastball was at its best when Russell was able to throw from a higher release point and hit the lower part of the zone. Hitters seemed to have more difficulty with that. But too often he was missing in the zone or high, perhaps as a result of lowering his release point slightly.

The highlight of Russell’s day came against Marlins top prospect Christian Yelich, during the latter’s second plate appearance. Yelich hit an impressive home run off of a high fastball (or maybe it was change, but I think not) from Russell during his (i.e. Yelich’s) first AB. Russell struck Yelich out the second time, getting strike two looking on a well-placed curve on the outside corner against the lefty-batting Yelich. Strike three, also looking, was on an equally well-placed slider to Yelich’s back foot.

Again, though, the fastball location was a bit of a mess for Russell, and he allowed quite a few hard-hit balls.

In Brief
• I saw three PAs from Yelich: the home run and then two strikeouts looking. I don’t know much about Yelich’s plate discipline (he had a 10.6% walk rate as a 19-year-old — which seems high-ish, I guess), but he seemed to have a pretty specific idea of what he did and did not want to hit.

• Yelich had both (a) the hardest-hit ball and (b) thinnest legs of any player that I saw in the High-A game. If Yelich’s home run wasn’t the hardest hit ball, then corner infielder Johnny Rodriguez’s home run was. He did something disgusting to a Dayton changepiece that got up in the zone.

• No. 2 Marlins prospect, outfielder Marcell Ozuna, was hit in the face by a Russell fastball on third pitch (I think it was) of the former’s first plate appearance and left the game immediately. He walked away from the incident, but was also holding his jaw intently and was escorted by a trainer.

• I also saw Marlins major leaguers Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton, and Cardinals top prospects Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong briefly in the Double-A game, but have little to report — except that (a) Cardinals left-hander John Gast handled Stanton well, striking him out with a series of two or three consecutive changeups at one point and (b) I’m excited to see Oscar Taveras again.

• I saw this on the ground, outside the left-field fence. I think maybe it’s a spider egg sac.


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