The first Spring Training game didn’t feature many players on either team’s 40-man roster, but did have some of the team’s best prospects get their hacks. The starting lineup for Arizona featured prospects Alek Thomas, Corbin Carroll, Neyfy Castillo, Buddy Kennedy, and Tommy Henry. To the casual fan such a lineup might not have been worth the price of admission, but for me it was worth every penny since it was a chance to get an in-person look at some of the team’s top prospects in one sitting. With the inconsistent measurements from Statcast, this was a game that being there in person was a huge advantage. The cameras were not taking measurements very often as I didn’t see radar gun readings on the scoreboard until the top of the 3rd inning.
The D-backs would open up the game by doing absolutely nothing against journeyman starter Ty Blach. Both Thomas and Carroll were frozen by nasty breakers by Blach with not a lot of solid contact. Tommy Henry matched him pitch for pitch through the second inning. Henry was able to fill up the zone with all of his pitches, throwing 17 of 28 pitches for strikes, and recorded 6 groundouts for the game. He made one mistake, a 3-2 pitch that caught too much plate against Brent Boswell that resulted in a long home run to center. The solo shot was all Henry gave up in 3 innings as he also notched 1 strikeout. Of the fastballs recorded, Henry sat 92-93 MPH with about average spin rates (2200-2300) and showcased a solid curveball and slider. For Henry, that was a very encouraging first start to the year.
The other pitchers weren’t as lucky, as control problems caught up to Caleb Smith. Smith was having trouble getting his slider to the bottom of the zone and had no command of his fastball. A seeing-eye single up the middle and a walk set up a 2-on, 1 out situation in the 5th. Two good sliders had Caleb Smith up 0-2 on Scott Schebler. After attempting to change eye levels with a high fastball, Smith left a slider in the middle of the zone and Schebler ripped a ball past C.J. Chatham for an RBI single. After another walk, that got Mitchell Stumpo warming in the pen, but Smith was able to retire the next two hitters to finish the inning.
Joe Mantiply would see his first outing in this game as well. The first three hitters were able to get to him, as a double and two singles resulted in a run and runners on the corners with no outs. A 4th hitter hit an absolute rocket straight at Thomas, resulting in a sac fly and putting the D-backs down 4-0 in the 5th. Stumpo once again warmed up but never was needed as Mantiply got a strikeout and an easy ground ball to 3B to end the inning with no more damage. In the 6th J.B. Bukauskas would surrender a cheap opposite field homer to Willie MacIver, a ball that in regular season conditions would likely have died at the warning track. Bukauskas would retire the next three hitters to end the inning, although needed some help from his outfielders to get two of them. Dominic Canzone got handcuffed a bit on a knuckling line drive hit towards him, with the top spin requiring him to pivot and make a diving grab for the first out. After punching out Sean Bouchard with a soul-stealing slider, Eduardo Diaz made a nice running catch on a ball hit towards the right center gap for the final out.
Through the first six innings, the D-backs weren’t able to really put any offense together. Their only two hits up to that point where a ground ball single by Neyfy Castillo and a humpback liner up the middle by Carroll. Castillo had a particularly solid day at the plate, twice able to fight back in the count and find a way to get on base despite falling behind 1-2 and 0-2. For a guy who’s calling card is power with the drawback of strikeouts, seeing that type of plate discipline is a big step in the right direction.
That offense changed in the seventh. Following wholesale changes on the diamond, Deyvison De Los Santos would step up to the plate and draw a 5-pitch walk. Canzone would take advantage by hitting a frozen rope just to the right of the batter’s eye for a 2-run homer. I said in the Game Day Thread the ball was 115 MPH, but that was a mistake as Statcast did not accurately record the exit velocity for that. Given the upward trajectory Canzone has made in the last year, keep an eye on him as a potential mid or late-season call-up in the outfield.
Tyler Holton came in and suffered a bit of bad luck as a blooper landed perfectly between Canzone and De Los Santos for a double. He was able to work out of the jam with ground balls back to the mound, to 3B, and 2B as the runner never advanced beyond 2nd. Holton’s off-speed stuff had the Rockies minor league players baffled, as 6 of 18 non-fastball deliveries resulted in a called or swinging strike. His slider and change-up were particularly nasty to right handed hitters that he faced today. He would also pitch around a 1-out walk in the bottom of the 8th to put up his second zero and be the only D-back to not give up a run today. He could be another sleeper prospect in the farm where he can exploit his off-speed stuff in a specialist type role.
The top of the 8th saw Andy Yerzy go up against Reagan Todd. After looking bad on a first pitch slider in the dirt, Yerzy was able to jump ahead 2-1 in the count and turned on an inside fastball for a massive homer to right center field. The blast measured in at 110.8 MPH and traveled an estimated distance of 470 feet. While his bat hasn’t developed at a pace we’d like, that was a flash of the talent that made him a second round pick in 2016. That was easily had the loudest bat crack I’ve ever heard in any game despite being all the way in left center field for the game and was the hardest hit ball of the game. That would be it from a scoring standpoint, despite Stone Garrett’s single giving Arizona three cracks to tie the game. Three strikeouts would close it out, despite getting a chance with both De Los Santos and Canzone having a crack at it.
Overall it was a solid day for two lefty pitching prospects, as Henry and Holton showed why they are close to making an impact in the major leagues. Some lower level prospects also had some good trips to the plate with Neyfy Castillo putting together two very impressive ABs and Canzone continuing to flash the type of power that made him a surprise prospect last year.