Thursday felt like the last day of summer camp. Everyone has made a bunch of friends and had a good time, but everyone is ready to go home. The 7-inning contest I saw between Scottsdale and Mesa nearly made it to the two hour mark. Players showed final bursts of energy as they approached the finish line. It worked for some but not others.
A smooth, confident defender with a very strong arm, Hicks could be an above-average defensive center fielder in the big leagues tomorrow. Throw in that he's a patient hitter with a strong, projectable frame and you have a guy with a lot going for him. Hicks wasn't aggressive enough at the plate for me. I'm fine with guys taking pitches and being patient, but Hicks didn't swing the bat with bad intentions -- it's a @SteveCarterPP -ism. By it I mean that he doesn't let it fly.
Hicks bats not to strike out more than he bats to hit the cover off the ball. Right now, he's not a confident hitter. He doesn't shorten up when he has two strikes and he's not a good two-strike hitter. He also will expand the zone. His triple in the final game of the season was on a pitch that was well outside.
I left the AFL feeling that Hicks isn't close to figuring things out at the plate. And it didn't help that he ended his season by taking a silly swing to strike out in his final at-bat.
Vitters has a good frame and a pretty swing. He's an OK defensive outfielder and he can make some loud contact. That said, he still doesn't know what the strike zone is. All this makes him a better showcase player than actual talent. He can get hot when pitchers challenge him anywhere near the plate. But all a pitcher has to do it throw him outside breaking balls and he's toast. It's like he's spring-loaded to swing every time the pitcher throws the ball. Unfortunately, Vitters' understanding of the strike zone has made little to no progress in the last two years. I have trouble imagining him ever finding extended success in the big leagues.
A tall, athletic-looking ball player, Lake has some opposite field power. He hits from a tall, upright stance and makes a decent amount of contact from it, all things considered. But what you have to consider is that he's an aggressive hitter with a very poor feel for the strike zone. What's more, he's not a smooth instinctive defender. Lake is still young enough to improve and maybe surface as a big leaguer. Just be aware that you're projecting a whole lot of growth if you pencil him in as a likely MLB regular.
Another hitter who doesn't have a good feel for the strike zone, D.J. LeMahieu swung at almost everything in and outside of the strike zone. He made a sound defensive play at third base, but I didn't like his bat at all.
Last year I singled Xavier Avery out as the worst hitter at the AFL. Since then, he has clearly made strides. He now has a better plate approach and makes lounder contact, though he may be a little too selective.
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