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Florida Coast League Update – August

Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, darkened.
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There’s been some action down in Sarasota and I’m not talking about Hurricane season, although weather has altered schedules. A couple of things have stood out to me that take a few more sentences than a tweet thread so here goes:

1) Dan Hammer is pitching like himself again.

Hammer got the loss in today’s 2-1 intrasquad game but he was hitting his spots well and for strikes. A welcome sign as he’s been struggling with longer counts and ineffective outings. Hammer has used his time in Florida to get closer to healthy but the stuff snap back makes his assignment a positive one after all.

2) Trendon Craig is advanced defensively.

This guy has somehow shown enough of every skill to have me place him in the top handful of fly ball catchers in the entire organization. When the ball is in the air, his skill set that can’t be taught takes over and adjusts him to where the path ends with such ease. If he has to hurry, his closing speed is outstanding and his late adjustments are made with his eyes looking the ball in. He’s an absolute natural and shows plenty of arm to go with this outstanding defensive foundation. I can’t gush enough about this playmaker. It’s a treat to watch him pursue fly balls.

3) The defensive drills have paid dividends.

Watching these players be better at long throws from the hole and fielding in general is the direct result of hours of practice. Yorky Alvarez, Noelberth Romero, Isaac DeLeon, and Moises Ramirez have all spent time at various left IF positions and have shown significant development in transfers and release speed. The true demonstration that the coaches’ methods are working is the lack of errors and misplays on ‘routine’ type balls.

4) The pipeline from the Dominican Summer League is open.

Both teams rosters are mostly made up of former DSL performers and although the winning percentage isn’t ideal, the players can compete on this level and the instructors have helped their games advance in a matter of weeks. In previous seasons, the international market was for other organizations but this regime has made shrewd moves fortifying this young and talented group. There are many more on the way who will make their way to Sarasota next summer so this is both an effective and efficient operation. Looking big picture, this educational level and the results that come from it can only assist in keeping the rebuild wheel turning with future talent.

5) Deson and Acevedo are multi-talented young OFs with real and fantasy futures.

I’ve discussed both of these players at length but they keep raising the ceiling with on-field performance. Showing their physical abilities day in and day out, I now expect them to steal, get a clutch hit or run down a sinking liner in the gap and they usually do those and more. On Thursday they combined for 6-for-7 with five RBI. Deson has two homers and seven steals to go along with an average of .341 and .862 OPS. Acevedo turned 19 weeks ago and is holding his own batting .280 with three homers and six steals to go with a .742 OPS. Can’t wait to see the additions of Kjerstad and Elio Prado taking this OF corps even higher.

6) Veteran hitters showing their skills.

RF Davis Tavarez is hitting .343 in August with three steals, usually batting in a run production spot. He’s also become trustworthy with the glove and has popped up to make quick throws keeping runners close. Catcher Chris Burgess is frustrating pitchers since he’s been down as he can wait out a walk with the best of them. In his six games he has three doubles, four walks and is batting .500 with a 1.443 OPS!

7) The next generation of O’s minor league stars will undoubtedly include Moises Ramirez.

He looks the part and can flat out play. Quickness improvements with his hands and positioning are the last hurdles he needs to clear to be a pro with a shining future but in the box he’s already very advanced. Moises, also 19 hits home runs with ease and popped one out to left again today. He’s used his ABs here to show off and has four home runs and five steals to go with a .330 AVG .907 OPS. Buy your baseball cards now!

8) Coaches have this group fighting through fatigue.

This time of year there simply is no escaping the debilitating heat. The players are young and for the most part experiencing a new culture while not living in the most comfortable environment. Despite these factors, I’ve seen no lack of focus or more importantly effort. A credit to the people who toss in the cage sessions, or help with video analysis or stretching make these long days great ones and the results are showing. There’s lots of action everyday even when things are moved or rained out and the players are very obviously taking full advantage of their Sarasota summer.

These are the things that I see that have made this a highly successful few months down here. The talent being forced upward will have an effect on the players above them and a continual stream of talent will provide pressure on each new class. The national writers who wreck the rebuild simply don’t care or don’t know about the day to day progress as it’s not of value to their objective. And they definitely don’t know about the 473-foot ways that Isaac Bellony can end an at bat. My detailed observation of what’s happening here and especially who is involved makes me realize that the future is bright in Birdland. High level skills are being added to the mix and these players are proud to be part of the number 1 system in the sport.

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