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Midseason FCL Update

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The draftees have started to gain their footing down in the FCL so I think it’s an appropriate time to give an update if what I’m seeing down here in the Florida sun.

There have been signs of development and improvement, some larger than others but one that is standing out to me is the OF defense of Stiven Acevedo which has picked up significantly in recent weeks after looking iffy early. Acevedo strides with more confidence and tracks the fly ball better and for longer than he did in the season’s first few games and has nabbed some tough catches both going back and coming forward. Great sign from a guy who looks to have some offense too.

Isaac DeLeon is a player that’s impressed me even when he doesn’t make the play or beat the throw. He never gets down and watching him you wouldn’t know if he knocked in a pair of runs or struck out with the game on the line. It’s his level head while playing that’s drawn me to him, but don’t think he’s not a beast with the glove because he absolutely is. Well-built and strong legged, he’s a leader on the left side of the infield and his level of play has remained consistent.

Reed Trimble (.385 .928OPS) and Connor Norby both look like really tough ABs. Kind of Brian Roberts-ish ABs where they can keep fouling off close ones until they get that cookie is a really great sign early on. Trimble’s inside out swing works from both sides of the plate and he can go opposite as easy as pulling.

Catcher Connor Pavolony has provided a bit of a laser show over the last couple of days with the arm throwing out a runner at 2nd on Monday and picking off a regretful fellow backstop Dylan Shockley at 1st. It’s the rookie league, he’s controlling runners and I’m getting Chris Burgess vibes!

First-round pick Colton Cowser is taller and broader than I thought. His arm from the outfield is on point and the throws are strong. A fast runner tried to stretch a hit into a double today and Cowser nailed him with a peg from short center. Fortunately, his friend and Sam Houston teammate Gavin was in the stands watching and I remarked how impressive a play it was. He seemed like it was pretty normal. Offensively and defensively it looks very much like the O’s made an unconventional yet intelligent choice. Cowser is calm in the box and has shown selectivity. If he doesn’t like it, he’s not initiating that swing but it’s a lot more fun and loud when he does!

John Rhodes takes the right pitches and has yet to find his groove, which is true of several other players. SS Collin Burns plays hops well and gets his body into throwing position quickly and athletically. I am impressed by his fielding posture and pace in the limited action I’ve seen. In only 9 AB, he’s hitting .556 too.

The most impressive player I’ve seen overall and the source for most of the non-draft excitement is without question Coby Mayo. Despite not playing in more than a handful of games in the last couple years, he’s hit the ground running and shows an ability in the field that can’t be taught. Savvy and instincts are built in and he makes the right thought first, before using a rifle for an arm to throw across the diamond. His footwork and gathering/transferring actions are refined and he has a great and sticky glove. At the plate he has a large hot zone, but the thing that has stood out when I rewatch my videos are how easily he adjusts mid-swing to location high and low. For a long limbed athlete, this is usually an area of deficiency but not with Mayo and he really fits a classic tall slugger’s profile with that skill. Think good Richie Sexson if you remember him. He’s gone opposite field with purpose, line drive with exit velo and pull side deep so the arsenal is there and evident in both the numbers and the game action. I was excited about his future before, now I’m realizing the sky is really the limit in terms of where his development could go. Also has been a thrill watching and learning with his proud extended family. Coby’s going to make a lot of fans in O’s colors with his game and his smile. Start following him now if you’re not already.

Pitching wise it has been a different story on both Black and Orange. The sample sizes are small yet the ERAs and WHIPs are inflated. Too many walks is the short version. And really, a lack of 3-ball count execution is the source of that.

There have been a couple performers who have stood out. Starter Jean Pinto did well and moved up and now Raul Rangel has 7 August innings, 1BB and 11Ks so he’s in a good streak right now. Rangel is a slender righty who can locate his heat well but can really field the position at an above average level. Good rhythm and a calm manner on the field helps him make plays on grounders and utilize a good pickoff. I like his starts. Miguel Padilla, another righty probably still has the best pitch I’ve seen. His true curve is a bitch inside and as he figures out how to land it, I’ve enjoyed watching him experiment and learn. He’s a loud teammate and keeps the attitude up, I’ve seen several instances where his voice has helped rallies despite being out in the pen. Definitely a positive sign!

Briefly, here are some other random observations:

INF Noelberth Romero: little bit of pop and a lot of transfer speed. Versatile guy w the glove shows good instincts/footwork around 2nd AND 3rd!

Misael Deson/Luis Gonzalez: steady improvement and performance. Not as consistent day to day as you’d like, time is most certainly on their side. Deson has a natural up the middle contact/swing and Gonzalez has more of an uppercut (when he masters swing mechanics watch out!!) but seeing them be better weeks after the season started is right on plan.

Davis Tavarez: The righty OF probably has the best power/strength combo and he hit the longest HR thus far. He’s hammering inside pitches but is the loudest cheerer by far! All of my videos from Ed Smith Stadium feature a raised latin voice yelling ‘vamos! and it’s always Davis! What a guy. 2021 draftee Jacob Teter is a really big guy and makes a nice target for infielders at 1st. His swing has to be worked on, I’ve already seen pitchers going for the holes in it and mess with his timing, but when he barrels it, the baseball goes fast and far. He had his 1st pair of RBI today against PITT.

Overall there’s been a great deal of ground level instruction, which I love to see up close, and the improvement is vital to a rebuilding organization. TB’s rookie level team is full of talent, and the Pirates low minors have pulled a 2019 Orioles going from one of the worst to the best so both O’s squads are regularly tested with the Ref Sox and Atlanta being better than usual too. There’s much more progress to be made in players’ skill areas and as teams so I’ll check back in a couple of weeks to track that too. Hopefully we’ll see some rookie arms get in and start showing their stuff as well. As always, follow me on Twitter and IG @Eric_Birdland for lots of highlights and great plays.

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