Kings in Spring (Pt. 2)
With all the talent that has passed through Alliant Energy Field over the past three seasons, I’m still surprised by the fact that not one LumberKing from 2006-08 has made a Major League Debut. We came close last year with Mike Ballard’s (’07) almost-start, but still it has not happened.
That will obviously change soon, possibly on the season’s first day. It seemed for a while like Jose Vallejo (’06-’07) had a shot to be that man, but Joaquin Arias is off to a huge start (3 RBI in his first 9 at-bats) and veteran Omar Vizquel is still making barehanded plays like he’s 20. Plus, Jose’s only 1-for-7 so far. With that said, there’s plenty of Spring to go, so don’t count Vallejo out.
How about what Justin Smoak (’08) has done so far? He has yet to play above low-A, yet he’s faring more than well in big-league camp. He’s 4-for-9 with two doubles in five games. The only “coming down to earth” stat? Of his five hitless at-bats, he’s struck out four times. Still, anything I’ve read about Smoak has been positive, especially regarding his defense. If not for rising star Chris Davis at first base, Smoak might have a clearer and faster path through the system. I would think he’ll still spend plenty of time in the minors this year (his first full season), but if he continues to hit Major League pitching, he might end up in triple-A sooner than we think.
Right-hander Neftali Feliz (’08) made his spring debut the other day, giving up a run on three hits over 2.0 innings. Yes he’s human…kind of. He also struck out four in the outing, most so far by a Ranger. If there’s any former King with more hype surrounding him this spring than Feliz, I haven’t heard of him.
Things did not go so well for left-hander Derek Holland (’08) in his first recorded action. A man who served up only three home runs between Clinton, Bakersfield and Frisco last year allowed two bombs in just one inning of work. Holland also uncharacteristically walked two batters (he walked only 11 batters in his final nine starts last year), but “saved” the outing with a pair of strikeouts. Omar Poveda (’06-07) allowed two earned runs over 2.0 innings in his first outing as well. Again, it’s early.
So far with regards to Spring Training, we’ve been following a lot of Rangers prospects. This Sunday, March 8th I’ll be traveling to the Peoria Sports Complex to check out Seattle Mariners camp for the first time. I hope to catch up with upcoming LumberKings manager Scott Steinmann and get a look at some of the prospects that might end up here. Failing that, I should at least have plenty of photos from sunny Arizona. Stay tuned to the LumberBlog for that coverage next week.