US vs. Cuba World Cup Observations

September 24, 2009

I watched the bulk of the US vs. Cuba World Cup game on MLB Network today and jotted down some notes. Pedro Alvarez and Justin Smoak were among today's starters. Let's get to it!

Pedro Alvarez does an outstanding job of generating torque with his lower half. He also has amazing bat speed. You only have to watch him swing once to see where his power comes from. He's also a very balanced hitter with a good eye. That said, it's equally clear that he's a below-average runner. And he looked awful swinging at a curveball down in the zone in the fifth inning (struck out). He also swung over a changeup in the seventh...and an outside fastball later in the same at-bat (struck out). You get the point.

Hitting from a very open stance when he batted from the right side, Justin Smoak demonstrated excellent pitch recognition. I can tell that he can tell if his pitch is coming almost the second the pitcher releases the ball. Smoak also demonstrated an impressive opposite-field hack. He didn't look ready to hit breaking balls, though. And when he finally was in a count when he had to swing at a curveball, he swung right through it. His stance is more closed from the left side than the right. He should eventually be able to hit breaking balls well with his balance and bat control. But the pitch is an evident weakness for him whether he's hitting left-handed or right.

I like how Jason Castro stays balanced on the pitches he doesn't swing at. He showed a good eye at the plate and advanced knowledge of the strike zone. His swing is quick and compact, but it's not a swing that's going to generate much power. He layed down a good bunt in the eighth inning. He looked very smooth and comfortable behind the plate. I was impressed with his receiving skills, arm and ability to block balls in the dirt.

Ike Davis has a lot of forward movement in his approach. He was stepping a little toward the midpoint between first and second base and almost falling over even when he took pitches. Based off what I saw today, I can't see him having much success hitting off-speed pitches. Despite his poor balance, he appears to see the ball pretty well. He has a long swing but a lot of bat speed.

Watching Daniel Descalso play baseball on T.V. is surreal -- we went to college together. His load looks more complicated than it was in college. It looks like he's modified his mechanics in an effort to keep his hands back longer and generate more power. It's impressive that he can be a good of a contact hitter with that approach. He doesn't offer more than average speed or defensive value, but I think could surface as a big league utility man. He's a good line-drive hitter.

Trevor Plouffe looks pretty solid at the plate. I don't see any standout offensive abilities with him, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't spend at least a few years in the big leagues. He runs well too.

Trevor Reckling was removed from the game after one inning due to a strained left lat. He sustained the injury while throwing his warm-up pitches prior to the second inning.


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