From my two-game stint in Tennessee watching the Danville Braves (Saturday and Monday), I headed down to Birmingham for two games with the Mississippi Braves. The first game would be a night game at the Barons’ new stadium, built last year. The second game (in the next game report) would be the Rickwood Classic, the oldest baseball stadium in America.
Up first was Regions Field, which is possibly the biggest and nicest minor league stadium I’ve been to. The setting in downtown Birmingham gives the field a beautiful backdrop. There are also tons of great fan-friendly features to the stadium, like rocking-chaired berm seating, several levels of club level seating, and a miniature field for kids to play on.
As for the game on the field, I was mainly interested in seeing starting pitcher Jason Hursh, and newly promoted second baseman Jose Peraza. The speedy second baseman Peraza has an interesting and nonchalant setup in the batter’s box.
It’s a bit awkward, but it seems to work for him. Still, I’d like to see his hands start further back. Shortening his hands like he does also limits his power, though he doesn’t profile as a power hitter. Any consistent power he shows will come from shooting doubles and triples into the gaps.
Once Peraza got on first, the pitcher was very aware that he would be trying to steal, and threw over there a lot. He got to second base on an error on a sacrifice, but got a careless lead and got picked off in a daylight play.
More photos and player reviews after the jump. Here is a link to the box score from this game.
Jason Hursh started on the mound. He was okay, but not dominant. As a guy who induces a lot of ground balls, he is susceptible to batted ball luck. In this game that luck was not on his side. He allowed a lot of bleeders, but the most concerning thing I saw was that he was not always able to reach back for extra velocity when he needed strikeout. He also seemed unable to consistently control his off-speed stuff well enough to use those pitches to get a K.
The ability is there though, as he escaped a jam in his final inning by spinning a backdoor curve for a called strike three. He’s still young, at 22-years-old, and it’s clear he’s still trying to figure out many of the finer points of pitching. That puts his timetable back a year from what many, including myself, had previous thought. At this point I don’t think he’ll be major league ready until 2016.
If I may also nitpick a bit more, I’m not a big fan of the way he grips the ball just before he starts his delivery. The photo above on the left shows him getting the sign, then on the right he grips the ball while entering his windup. I know there are several major league pitchers who do this, but I feel like there’s opportunity for a grip error, especially when the fatigue of a long start, or long inning, sets in.
From the stretch, his blind reach into he glove is the same. He’s also got a little Kimbrel-esque arm dangle as he gazes in for the sign (seen on the left). Here’s one more of Hursh.
On to third baseman Kyle Kubitza, who I had previously not liked that much when I saw him live last year at Lynchburg. This was due in large part to his weird setup in the box, especially with the way his weight gets shifted around onto his front leg. He seems to have corrected much of that inconsistency from last year to this year.
After seeing him for a couple of games, I’m much higher on Kubitza. I still want him to cut down on his strikeouts, and with his good bating eye I believe with time his K’s will come down. Overall though, he’s a solid prospect who makes good contact, and contact with power. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, Kubitza could be as good as Chris Johnson in the majors, and Kubitza offers the opportunity for more walks and better defense.
Kubitza also seems to be a leader on the field. He visited Hursh on the mound several times to calm him down.
Elmer Reyes, who was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett a few days after this game, has an even more nonchalant stance than Peraza.
I’m not sure he really offers much as a prospect, other than a light-hitting utility infielder. He doesn’t take walks, doesn’t have much speed, and certainly not much power. But he’s versatile in the field, and if his hitting is to be believed, then perhaps there’s some value there.
David Rohm… good setup, looks good… he’s a big, tall guy… he just doesn’t hit for any power — zero home runs this year.
He didn’t play in this game, but Barrett Kleinknecht did just about everything else. He coached first base and warmed up the pitcher when the catcher was getting his gear on.
Here is the M-Braves bullpen during God Bless America.
And finally, catcher Matt Kennelly warming up a pitcher in the bullpen. The way the ledge is out there you can get pretty cool top-down photos of players.