While everyone is concerned with how major leaguers are doing during spring training, minor leaguers have spring training too! Sure, there are more than a hundred of them, with multiple players wearing the same number, with multiple games being played on adjacent fields, which is why it’s awesome.
Technically, spring training hasn’t begun, with Dodgers’ minor leaguers playing games against each other. The rules are relaxed, often with major leaguers batting in both halves of every inning and runners arbitrarily put on base and taken off. But what you get to see is something more intimate than a normal game, with coaches shouting directions at players on the field and in the batter’s box.
If you have a chance, take the trek to the backfields, locating far beyond the major league stadium and take in a game or two at a time. It’s a very unique experience.
Now, onto business:
- The backfields were graced with the presence of not one but two major league stars today. Rehabbing Matt Kemp and healthy Yasiel Puig each led off every half inning, with differing results. Kemp struggled to make hard contact, beating balls into the ground and popping them up. He might be too much in his own head. On the plus side, he did play an inning in the outfield and didn’t show any problems physically. Puig, on the other hand, took a few turns to get warm but started blasting missiles all over the field once he got going, ending his day with an opposite field home run. Now if he can start doing that in major league camp…
- Uber-prospect Corey Seager played shortstop during the game, though he only had two at bats and didn’t collect a hit. The 19 year old will likely return to Rancho Cucamonga when the season starts and if all goes well, he could head to Chattanooga by late summer.
- Some minor leaguers stood out today. The first guy I noticed was outfielder Joey Curletta, a hulking slugger who put on quite a show in batting practice. The 20 year old put up strong numbers last season in Ogden and will be challenged in the Midwest League in 2014.
- Jacob Scavuzzo was another hitter who caught my eye, with his long, athletic build and quick bat. He drilled a standup triple to right-center during the intrasquad game, showing off his power. Like Curletta, I expect Jacob to start the season in Low A ball.
- The Dodgers popped first baseman Cody Bellinger with their first round pick last year. The lanky lefty struggled to make contact but showed plus athleticism in the field and collected 6 triples in 47 games. Today he made hard contact in both his at bats but the balls found gloves. Still just 18, he may see another season in rookie ball.
- I spoke briefly with Blake Smith, who mentioned the differences in approaching the season as a hitter and pitcher. The converted outfielder saw time in the Australian Winter League, an experience he enjoyed immensely. He said he looks forward to getting more innings under his belt and progressing on the mound.
- One final note: Julio Urias is expected to pitch on the backfields in the next few days. The 17 year old, who’s projected to pitch with Rancho Cucamonga this season, was in uniform for a major league game last week but didn’t make an appearance.
ICYMI: Clayton Kershaw is honored to pitch Game 1 in Australia