Last week, I spent a couple days at spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona. I managed to catch a full practice on Thursday and part of practice on Friday, as well as a small glimpse of a couple of minor leaguers over at the minor league complex. Without further ado, my thoughts:
First, and relevant to my interests: I’ve written a lot of words already this offseason about the fringe players on the roster. Sixth infielder, fifth outfielders, twelfth relievers, that sort of thing. So naturally my interest was piqued when Tony Abreu, Kensuke Tanaka, and Wilson Valdez all hit batting practice in the same hitting group. I saw each of those guys take perhaps 60 swings, including a live BP session against Edwin Escobar (a top-15 prospect in the system).
With that said, I predict that Tony Abreu will be the sixth infielder come opening day. He was by far the most impressive hitter in the two BP sessions I watched. He’s a switch-hitter with easy gap power. He appeared to have more power from the right side but he was spraying line drives around the park while hitting left-handed. After his BP session on Friday he went out to second base to take extra grounders from Tim Flannery.
I like Tanaka a lot. He’s said all the right things, he turned down a significant chunk of change from a Japanese club (reportedly around $3 million) to get a chance to play in San Francisco, and he’s a great contact hitter. But even in batting practice it was apparent he has no power.
Valdez was similar to Tanaka in his lack of power, but unlike Tanaka we have the statistics to back that assertion. For his career, Valdez has a .077 ISO and has never slugged higher than .360. I’d be surprised if Valdez spends any significant amount of time in the Giants’ organization.
Second observation: I got a chance to watch Angel Villalona take some batting practice, and I came away impressed. He took live BP against Josh Osich (another good prospect) and hit a couple balls quite well. He still has plus bat speed, and I was encouraged to see that he appeared to be in excellent shape. He was out on the front leg on several swings, but in general I came away cautiously optimistic.
I have more thoughts about minor leaguers and prospects that will be coming later in the week.