If you love baseball but for some reason don't feel like watching the Colorado Rockies on TV every day, I suggest you listen to the Grand Junction Rockies radio broadcast featuring Adam Spolane.
Grand Junction is a fun team, and Spolane's a cool guy who was also kind enough to answer some questions about the team he covers on a daily basis.
DC: You get to see the team every day and I'm mostly just looking at box scores. Hamlet Marte has a pretty nice looking box score, but I'm more interested in the catching side. What have you seen from him in terms of receiving he ball, working with pitchers, etc.?
AS: He's learning. It's very new for them up here. Physically, he's good. He makes the throws and he's pretty good at blocking balls. I think, mentally, he needs to work on staying on his pitchers to throw the pitches that they need to. Making sure they establish their fastballs early on is something he can get better at. One thing they really like about him is that he is very positive. That helps out a lot.
They say that he is "invested in his pitchers outing" and you can tell with him that he always is. He's up there trying to make sure they are going and feeling good about themselves. I think he's really good with that and really good with the physical stuff, but he's very young back there. And you see that a lot of times. But he's an incredible guy.
DC: Seeing him progress as a catcher will likely be the main thing, do you agree? In terms of him hitting, the numbers are there and I feel like he has almost the perfect batting stance. Is there something I'm missing with his [then] .414 batting average?
AS: No. It's a very clean .414 [average]. Absolutely it is. And it's hard too because he's gotta play, and [Dom] Nunez has gotta play and they really can't play at the same time because they've only got two healthy guys. You can't have them DH while the other catches, so it's tough to get into a rhythm which makes the .414 even more impressive. He's playing two games, then sitting two games, and still coming through every time. He hasn't lost that timing.
He reminds me a lot of Jose Briceno who was here the last couple of years. He's a guy who can really hit and he's just got to get better at the position, which is very normal.
DC: Especially for that position. Let's talk about the new guys, Forrest Wall and Kevin Padlo. Last night was the first I've seen them. Padlo's arm was impressive, but I've only seen that one game. What are your early impressions?
AS: Very advanced for high school guys, especially Wall. Wall seems like when he came up and was stuck in the lead-off spot it was nothin'. He doesn't get himself out.
DC: I think he and Dom Nunez both have more walks than strikeouts.
AS: Yeah, we have a bunch of guys like that, which is pretty amazing.
[We looked up the numbers at that point.]
AS: Wall has struck out five times in 29 at-bats, which is actually higher than I thought.
He's been really good in that lead-off spot, he knows how to get on base. I love his swing from the left side. So he's been impressive, and Padlo comes up big.
Padlo has struck out [at the time] three times in 32 at-bats. Padlo just turns 18 tomorrow, Wall is 18 now and those guys are coming into a pretty advanced league and facing advanced pitchers and have combined to strikeout eight times in 60 something at-bats? That's incredible, it really is.
DC: Hopefully they can start putting that together with some of the natural power I've seen in BP
DC: When I was here over opening weekend, the heroes were Wilson Soriano and Luis Castro. They are being lost a bit now with Padlo, Wall, and Kyle Freeland arriving, but what about Soriano in the field? Last night he climbed the wall and almost made an absurd home-run-robbing-catch.
AS: Soriano is a really good outfielder. He can play anywhere out there and do it on a high level. And you might look at him and think ‘oh this guy can't throw' but he probably has the best arm on the team.
DC: Yeah, the last time I was here he threw two guys out at home.
AS: Yeah, he's got a few guys at home and I think he has one at third, too. There was one with a guy at third -- I think it's when Orem was here -- and they hit a ball to shallow right center and you're just thinking "tag, tag c'mon let's see this" and of course he threw the guy out.
It's just hard for him because he's a little bit older and there are these other guys that have to play. You've got 17 position players, and sometimes you'll have a situation where two or three of them are just a level below the rest, but this team doesn't have that. This team has an incredible amount of depth.
DC: Is it the most you've ever seen on this team?
AS: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, there are more position players who can play on this team than I've ever seen.
DC: I feel like Dom Nunez may not be here for much longer. With the position switch back to catcher, do you think they are just giving him a bit more time with that?
AS: Yeah, I don't think they are going to rush him at all. I think they want him in a low-pressure environment here. They aren't going to send him to Tri-City because that is really just a lateral move. And I don't know what's going on with the catching situation over in Asheville either and a lot of it is dependent on that.
But the fact that we only have two healthy catchers here makes it seem like he will stay here for a while, just because there aren't the numbers in the organization. A lot of times, that plays into it more than anything else. I know Asheville still has Rodriguez and Briceno, but I try not to get into the game of ‘this guy might move, and he might not' because you really never know.
A lot of it tends to not have anything to do with what goes on on the field.
DC: On that note, Terry McClure is someone we've all got our eye on but he's so young. He is repeating but only 18 still. He has a little bit of a strikeout problem right now but also walks. He's drawn some comparisons to Dexter Fowler for that reason and, perhaps lazily, because he is from Atlanta, is fast, and plays good defense. What about that comparison works and doesn't work for you?
AS: I think he might be a little bit toolsier than Dexter. He probably has a little more power.
DC: I think he has fewer holes in his swing. Dex has kind of a loopy, hitchy, swing sometimes.
AS: That makes sense too. But yeah, he's still raw. He still 18, he's been a little banged up too this year, he missed about a week with a leg thing.
And that's the hard part again, you have to find a way to get him on the field. These other guys -- [Yonathan] Daza, [Denzel] Richardson's a very toolsy guy, [Randy)]Reyes and [Omar] Carrizales, Wes Rogers is going to be healthy very soon -- that's the challenge that Anthony Sanders has, trying to figure out how to get seven healthy outfielders into games and it's really tough.
So Terry might play two then sit two. So much of the improvement for these guys is going to have to come before games in their individual drills and during BP.
We have one guy who qualifies for the batting title. Nobody else has enough plate appearances.
DC: Speaking of batting titles, Henry Garcia has been a monster at the plate.
AS: Yeah, but he's been hurt and had to sit for a few games. But even there, you've got two first baseman ... the depth is just staggering.
DC: That other first baseman, Nate Causey, has the easiest BP power I've ever seen, he doesn't look like he is swinging hard at all.
AS: Yeah, he's going to hit one 600 feet at some point. That's what we're waiting for. He's hit a couple of home runs on this home stand, but yes, he has some serious, serious power.
DC: Outside of Kyle Freeland, what have you seen from this young pitching staff so far?
AS: They've been inconsistent. They've been inconsistent with command so you are seeing a lot of home runs given up.
DC: Yeah, I've seen a lot of uneven scores. Seems like every time I'm doing the Pebble Report, we're beating up on them or they're beating up on us.
AS: I think Orem, in four games, hit 15 home runs? But one thing is they can really hit and we are playing in ballparks where the ball just flies. They have to work on fastball command, that's the biggest key at this point.
If you leave the ball up here, it gets destroyed. I just talked to Marc Magliaro about that being a big difference between here and even Tri-City. In Tri-City you don't really learn a lot as a pitcher because you can get away with a ton. Here, you can't get away with anything.
They've done a decent job with walks. We are in the top half of the league in walks, strikeout numbers are hit-and-miss at this point because that isn't something they focus on a lot. Getting ground balls and avoiding the home runs and keeping the walks down are the main priorities.
In terms of specific names...
Alec Crawford I've really liked. He is a guy who will battle in the ninth inning.
Javier Palacios has got to work on the change-up a little bit, but he gives you innings and if he can stay away from the big inning -- and a lot of times it's the home run that gets him -- then he could be really good.
Yoely Bello has turned into a left-handed monster. Lefties are [at the time] 0-19 against him, the only two who have reached base were hit. He doesn't want to be a lefty specialist and has done okay against righties too, but if you can get lefties out you have value.
DC: You mentioned command and keeping the ball low and it's also worth mentioning that this park [Sam Suplizio Field] is the park most like Coors Field that these pitchers are going to see, so do you think that this "pitch-to-low-contact-, don't worry as much about strikeouts" concept is working at the very least at this level in terms of a development tool?
AS: I think so. They sold me on it because you can't go into a game and try to strike everybody out. It doesn't work, especially if you are going to be a starter because you need to pitch deep into games and if you are at 100 pitches in the fifth inning, that isn't good for anybody. Guys need to learn to get easy outs. And by easy outs I mean quick outs.
Get your ground ball, and move on. And at Coors, if you're going to be a strikeout pitcher there, a lot of times that means you are working up, and if you work up, big league hitters can turn on it. So I think they are trying to get that into the heads of these guys early. In college, they want you to strike guys out but that can develop bad habits of preying on worse hitters.
I totally get the developmental process and how they want to do it and I buy into it. I really do. Get him in three pitches, if it's a strikeout fine, if it's a groundball that's fine too. If he gets a hit, get your double play.
Eddie Butler was a guy who didn't strike out a lot of guys in college and people saw that and said, "Wait a minute, he throws 96 but doesn't strike guys out so maybe he's not that good,' but in college, they told him to just get ground balls and not worry about strikeouts and that has worked for him every step of the way. So it can work. It just depends on the guy.