AK and I attended the Kane County Cougars-Wisconsin Timber Rattlers game on Friday to do some “scouting” and because there was some guy named Rock Shoulders playing*. The Rattlers dominated the contest behind a strong performance by Jorge Lopez with an assist by gigantic 5th/3rd Bank Ballpark, which has high fences and is 335 down each line. Here’s a brief report on the major contributors:
Brent Dean is 26 year old catcher playing in Single-A ball, and I suspect is only seeing action right now due to an injury to Clint Coulter (Note: Just found out that Coulter was demoted back to rookie ball). Being a 26-year-old in A-ball says a lot about your potential future as a major leaguer (you don’t have one), but guys like Dean stick around for a reason. On Friday starting pitcher Jorge Lopez was masterful, and a good chunk of the credit for his performance should go to Dean, whose work behind the plate was one of the only things in the game that stuck out as major-league caliber. Lopez was able to work consistently low in the zone and Dean brought a ton of balls back up for called strikes. He set an excellent target, didn’t flinch or reach for balls, and made great use of Lopez’s ability to locate. He also gunned down Alfredo Almora attempting to steal second, showing a plus arm and quick release.
Dean was not just a defensive superstar either. He crushed an RBI double off of Cougars’ starter Mike Heesch in the 6th which was probably the hardest hit ball of the night by anyone not named Vogelbach. Dean then proceeded to steal third. He might not ever play above A-ball going forward, but on Friday Brent Dean showed why he gets paid to play baseball.
The Rattler lead-off hitter and 2nd baseman went 2-5 with a double and 2 RBI. At this point I would like to mention that with the exception of Victor Roache, Mike Heesch, Rock Shoulders, and Dan Vogelbach, every player in this game looked to be about 12 years old and 145 pounds. Alfredo was no exception even though he’s 23 and listed at 6 feet tall. He made solid contact several times and to my untrained eye, was competent at 2nd. He’s played SS in the past but has been moved over (I assume) for Orlando Arcia.
Orlando had a rough game at the plate, going 0-5. He didn’t strike out, which was a positive I suppose. He did have some nice elevation to his swing and got the ball in the air with some power a few times, and I can see why scouts are optimistic. He acquitted himself well on defense though no one on the infield was really tested much. He was quick, moved laterally well for the opportunities he was given.
Taylor had one of the least impressive 4/5 nights in history. He reached on a bunt in the first and was caught stealing. He hit a nice line drive single in the 4th but was stranded. In the 6th he led off with an infield single and eventually came around to score on a sac fly, but it was a minor league infield single. Finally, in the 9th he singled on a fly ball, but was subsequently picked off by Shawn Camp. You can see Taylor’s athleticism as he runs very well, but he was reckless on the base paths and his defense in CF can charitably be described as a work in progress as his speed bailed him out of bad reads on several occasions.
Roache stood out as one of the men among boys in this game. He’s only 21 but already looks powerful. The knock on Roache from what I read is his ability to make contact. That wasn’t a problem on Friday as he hit the ball hard several times, going 1-3 with an HBP.
Lopez was outstanding allowing only 2 hits and one walk over 6 innings while striking out 6. He missed bats, induced a bunch of weak contact, and kept the Cougars off balance all night. According to the stadium radar gun he mostly sat high 80s occasionally touching the low 90s. He kept his breaking stuff down and excelled at locating his fastball. If he can add a few ticks to that fastball they might have something here.
Almora is one of the top prospects in the Cub organization, and quite possibly their top prospect. He’s only 19 and has been destroying Low-A to this point. This was not the greatest game to display his talents as he reached on a single in the first but was caught stealing, and was quiet for the rest of the game. He seemed to cover a lot of ground in CF, I will say that. 19-year-olds will have the occasional unremarkable game.
The man with the best name baseball had one of the Cougars five hits on the night, a harmless infield single in the 9th. Other than that, Shoulders mostly looked intimidating while grounding out. He looks to have outstanding power potential and hit one out on Saturday, but Lopez had his way with him on Friday.
Dan Vogelbach will not be selling any blue jeans. Vogelbach is generously listed at 6’0” and his build is distinctly Fielderian. I hear he’s actually cut a lot of weight and if he can keep himself in shape he may have a bright future. BP lists him as having 80 raw power and in a smaller park he would have had at least one home run on Friday. You’ve probably already guessed that he’s limited to first base. He went 1-4 with a harmless ninth inning bloop single to left (beating the shift), and was gunned down trying to stretch it into a double, but had a few loud outs to go with it.
Best play of the night:
1-unassisted. I have to confess in my memory the 3rd baseman made this play unassisted, but according to the box score it was instead gigantic lefty starter Michael Heesch. With Orlando Arcia on 1st, Tyrone Taylor laid down a bunt and 3rd baseman Jeimer Candelario tried to barehand the ball but overran it. Since there was no one covering 3rd Arcia just kept running. Heesch picked up the ball, sprinted over to 3rd, dove, and tagged Arcia just before he got in. Taylor was subsequently caught stealing for a truly TOOTBLAN-y single-A inning.
Overall experience: AK and I sat 3 rows back just on the home base side of the rattlers dugout for 12 bucks each. They have an excellent beer selection and a nice fireworks display after the game which allowed us to beat traffic as we don’t really care about fireworks. The food was solid and the between-inning Jimmy Buffett music was just fine. Also, due to a lack of between-inning commercials and some efficient pitching, the game only lasted two hours and twenty-five minutes. Not too shabby. A great baseball experience if you don’t mind going all the way out to Geneva, IL.
*And it was Jimmy Buffett night, which mainly just increased the quality of the music between innings.