Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie took the mound today against the Blue Jays’ single A teams. Both had uneven outings in different ways. Taillon allowed a solo HR in the first and got hit hard for three quick runs in the second, as he continues to have trouble whenever he elevates his fastball. He mainly settled down after that. Allie allowed no runs and showed significant progress with his command, but he did walk at least one in every inning and from time to time uncorked some really wild pitches.
I spent more time watching Allie. It’s interesting that the myth of him throwing nothing but a high-velocity fastball continues to crop up occasionally. Allie’s best pitch isn’t his fastball, it’s his slider. He even controls the latter well, sometimes trying to get hitters to chase it and sometimes throwing strikes with it once he’s gotten into two-strike counts. He froze at least two, maybe three hitters for called third strikes with it today, as the majority of the outs he recorded came on Ks. The slider comes in hard, as fast as 88 today, so hitters don’t have an easy time picking it up. His heater has good movement and generates a lot more swings and misses than Taillon’s, despite both having nearly identical velocity (mainly 94-96). His control of it is much better than it was a year ago, although he still has a ways to go. He remains hard to hit; he allowed just two singles today, one on a broken bat.
There was little offense to speak of today. It mostly came down to a grand slam by Jose Morales, who was seeing (I think) his first game action in the “Allie game,” and a solo shot by Drew Maggi off Deck McGuire in the other game. There was some good defense from Carlos Paulino, who, as Tim noted the other day, has an outstanding arm. He cut down two runners with laser throws today. Elias Diaz, who relieved Morales behind the plate, also showed off a good arm, picking a runner off first.
The lineup in the “Taillon game” may have closely reflected the projected Bradenton lineup this year. Evan Chambers, who’d been playing with the AA squad earlier, was in center, so he appears likely to return to the Marauders. Mel Rojas, Jr., and Dan Grovatt also started in the OF, and Wes Freeman entered the game late, so those four could be sharing OF and possibly DH duties. Maggi played second and Gift Ngoepe short, although I’d guess the two will alternate in the middle infield. (Personally, I think Ngoepe fits better at short.) The catcher was Paulino, with Alex Dickerson at first and Benji Gonzalez at third. I doubt Gonzalez will end up as a starter. He seems to be making the transition from shortstop prospect to organizational utility player; I’ve only seen him play second and third this spring.
The other game featured players who are probably battling for regular spots in the West Virginia lineup. The OF was Josh Bell, Gregory Polanco and Willy Garcia. Polanco, a LH hitter, hit one drive to the fence in left-center and showed good power to all fields in batting practice. The infield, third to first, was Jodaneli Carvajal, Alen Hanson, Dan Gamache and Jose Osuna, with Carvajal and Gamache switching between their more frequent positions. Diaz caught when Morales wasn’t in there. Just as a guess, probably only Bell, Osuna, Hanson and Gamache have safe starting jobs. Players like Taylor Lewis, Rodarrick Jones and Yhonathan Barrios probably also have shots at the lineup. The position battles at the lowest full season level tend to continue into the season, which makes sense because it’s hard to say what the team has with these players just yet.