I spent MiLB opening night in Lakewood, where the BlueClaws took on the visiting Hickory Crawdads, the Texas Rangers SAL affiliate. This game featured plenty of highly ranked prospects.
Some of whom were making their full-season debuts, including Alec Bohm, Luis Garcia, Julio Pablo Martinez, and Sherten Apostel. On the mound for Hickory was Hans Crouse, who is already a fan favorite among those that follow the Rangers closely. Lakewood went with their 4th round pick from 2018 on Opening Day. Colton Eastman, out of Cal State Fullerton, got the ball for the Claws. Below are notes on all of these guys mentioned as well as a couple others that stood out.
Lets start with the home team, the Lakewood BlueClaws:
Alec Bohm, 3B – Bohm was one of the main reasons that I needed to get to get to one of the first games of the season, because I have a feeling he won’t be here for long. As long as he hits, he should get Clearwater shortly, which is where many expected him to be assigned.
Bohm was the Phillies first rounder last year. They took him with the 3rd overall pick out of Wichita State University. After a brief stint in the Gulf Coast League, the Phillies sent him to the New York Penn League last summer, where he struggled, and then missed some time with an injury after being hit in the knee with a pitch.
The first thing anyone will notice when they are watching Bohm is his size. He’s listed at 6 foot 5, 225 lbs, and he still may be able to add some strength to his already powerful frame. To put that in perspective, Eloy Jimenez is listed at 6 foot 4, 205 lbs. Because of Bohm’s frame, the number one concern for him over the last couple years has been whether or not he can stay at third base. After one game, I can’t give you a very good response to that. A couple pop-ups came his way and he was able to handle one of them smoothly, but overran the other. He wound up making the catch on that one in foul territory but he had trouble judging it in the air. Bohm has a good arm, but range is the question and I will continue to watch for an answer to that.
Bohm went 0 for 4 with a walk on opening night but certainly didn’t look lost up there. In the first inning he rocketed one into right center but it was ran down by Julio Pablo Martinez (as seen on video below).
He reached base twice on the aforementioned walk as well as a fielders choice. He also had another hard hit ball to second base, which he was thrown out on. I should see Bohm again later this month and will have some more details.
Luis Garcia, SS – The 18 year old Phillies SS has had plenty of hype around him toward the end of last year and this past offseason. In his first game above complex ball he went 1 for 4. In his first at bat he appeared overmatched on a three pitch strikeout by Hans Crouse. He just wasn’t able to catch up with the fastball. His lone hit in this one came on a screamer right back at the mound in the 4th, deflecting off the pitcher and Garcia was able to beat it out. In the field Garcia played 2B today.
He will be rotating between 2B and SS with Jonathan Guzman. Garcia had a couple issues with glove to hand transfers that took a bit longer than ideal. One of them on a double play turn and the other on a grounder. I will watch to see if this continues or if it’s just a product of it being his first game of affiliated ball. It wasn’t Garcia’s best game but I can certainly see the bat speed and his overall potential.
Colton Eastman, RHP – Eastman looked solid early in his outing. His fastball was in the high 80’s, topping out at 91, with a changeup in the low 80’s. But Eastman’s best pitch is a 77-79 curveball with lots of break that he was able to consistently throw for a strike, while also getting plenty of swings and misses. The changeup was also decent in the early innings against left-handers.
Things were going well for the right-hander out of Cal State Fullerton until there were 2 outs in the top of the 4th. That’s where things unraveled. He gave up a walk, followed by a first pitch single, and then a double to left. That made it 2-1 Hickory but the Crawdads weren’t done. Chris Huff then singled home two runs to make it 4-1 before Eastman finally got out of the inning. The Claws sent him back out there for the 5th inning which also wasn’t good to him. Hickory singled then doubled before Eastman was taken out.
Overall what I saw from Eastman in his first 3.2 innings was impressive and I won’t put too much stock in what happened the rest of the start. because it was his first start of the season and it was a chilly night. His stuff was decent and he showed back end of the rotation potential.
And now for the Hickory Crawdads, the Texas Rangers A ball affiliate.
Hans Crouse, RHP – Hans had a strange outing, numbers-wise. His overall line was 2.2 IP, with 2 strikeouts, 1 unearned run and 1 hit, along with no walks. However, this line is not a great indication of how he pitched. He was constantly missing inside to right-handed hitters with both his fastball and breaking ball. He hit two guys, and it’s odd that he didn’t walk any given how wild he was at times during this start. Crouse threw 52 pitches total in those 2.2 innings.
On the plus side, his fastball showed flashes of being a very good pitch. He threw 94-95 in the first then dropped to 92-94 later on, and this powerful pitch plays up due to plenty of deception in his unorthodox delivery. You can see what I’m saying here in the video below. As far as a breaking ball, there wasn’t much that Crouse put on display in this start, despite being known for having a very good slider. He threw a bunch but most of them were either spiked in the dirt or thrown way too inside on the hitter. Hans mostly stuck with these two pitches while often working from behind.
In order to have a chance at starting in the majors, Crouse needs to be able to prove that he’s able control and repeat his complicated delivery, which was a glaring issue on opening night. He’s also going to need a more consistent breaking ball then what I saw, as well as a third pitch.
Here’s some footage of the right-hander warming up, along with his strikeout of Luis Garcia in the first inning. Note his shimmy to throw off the hitters timing, on strike three.
Julio Pablo Martinez, OF – JPM is a very exciting player. He can make things happen with his bat, his glove, or his speed. He has quick hands at the plate and can adjust to pitches inside and outside. Thursday night I saw Martinez pull the ball to right as well as go with a down and away fastball and take it opposite field for a base hit. He is very small, listed at 5 foor 9, which limits his power potential, but there’s still some pop there due to his very loose hands and bat speed.
Julio Pablo didn’t get too many opportunities in CF but when he did he looked good. He got a good jump on a line drive to right center that he was able to track down on the run. I also saw him motor from first to home on a double. I didn’t get a time on that but Martinez has wheels.
The main reason why Martinez isn’t higher on prospect lists than he currently is, is that he is well behind most players at his age. He’s already 23 years old and just starting Low-A, but he’s fun to watch, and he’s going to be good.
Sherten Apostel, 3B – Apostel could be a big riser this season if he performs. He has a large frame, at 6 foot 4, 200 lbs, yet seemed to be able hold his own at third base. He was a little raw fielding during warmups but during the game he looked impressive charging a slow roller, and then later backpedaling to take care of a pop-up in foul territory. Sherten also has a strong arm and can throw it across the diamond. At the plate he has a slightly open stance with good balance. He showed the ability to lay off a couple of tough breaking balls as well, resulting in 2 walks. In the 9th, Apostel ripped a double to left field to drive in a run. The 20 year old has big upside, and I’ll be watching him closely this season.
Chris Seise, SS – The Rangers took Seise in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He missed the entirety of the 2018 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He was a guy that really stood out on opening night. Seise went 3 for 5 with 2 doubles and a triple. The Crawdads’ infielder was consistently squaring up balls and shooting them to gaps, while also showing great speed on the bases. At shortstop it wasn’t a day to remember for him, making two throwing errors, bouncing balls to first base. He also made another mistake with the ball due to indecision on what to do with it. But after all this is his first game back from shoulder surgery. Seise is off to a red hot start and I could see the 20 year old moving up a level sometime before the all star break if things continue to go well with the bat.
Sam Huff, C – Huff was the DH for the Crawdads and caught my eye with his size and power. He crushed some balls in BP and made hard contact a few times in the game, going 3 for 4 with a double.
Stay tuned for my next article in a couple weeks, which likely will include notes about what I saw out of the West Virginia Power. This will include OF Jarred Kelenic, OF Julio Rodriguez, and possibly even RHP Logan Gilbert.