A couple times a week I will be posting first hand reports from Extended Spring Training here in Arizona. The names I will feature from my days on Extended Spring fields are not household names, yet. In fact, chances are, of all the guys I see and write up, only a handful may ever become well known big leaguers, if that. I am hoping to provide some photos, videos, and reports on guys that are not well covered on other prospect sites, but are names to keep in the back of your mind as they just may become something in the future.
The most impressive player I have seen thus far is a 19-year old catcher from Venezuela by the name of Jose Ruiz. While he may have an incredibly generic name, the San Diego Padres backstop is anything but generic. If you look at his offensive numbers in his two seasons in the system, it can be very easy to write him off as a non-prospect, but numbers can be deceiving.
He is listed at 6’1″ and 190 lbs., but he looks to be carrying more weight than that, but not in a bad way. He has a solid frame that can carry the extra weight and it doesn’t look like his size will ever be an issue. He is stiff at the plate, which explains the poor offensive numbers in the DSL and AZL, but when he barrels a ball it really jumps. The ball coming off his bat was louder than anyone else I saw that day, but the approach at the plate and the swing need some work.
The part of his game that impressed me right from the jump was his defense. When the second attempted base stealer of the day was gunned down just like the first, I looked at my stopwatch ready to hit the clear button as I felt I was a bit slow stopping it, but it read 1.94. I was standing next to a Padres scout at the time, so I turned to him and said, “I just got 1.94 on his pop and I felt slow on my clock, is he really that quick?”, he simply laughed and said, “Yup, kid’s got a cannon.”
I spent a bit more time talking to the scout and learned that, while his arm has always been excellent, his receiving skills and footwork have been an issue in the past but he has put in a lot of work on his defense, and it showed. He has soft hands and is quick to get into a throwing position. He isn’t afraid to use his arm, as he was visibly upset when he tried to back pick a guy at first but his throw was on the outside of the bag rather than the inside. He was upset because he knew the throw had beat the runner, but it was not on the proper side of the bag to get the out.
Another player that jumped out to me was Jonas Lantigua. Lantigua has a body that stands out, as he is 6’5″ 205 lbs. and just barely 19 years-old. He is a left handed hitting first baseman with a smooth swing, but is not terribly athletic. He is very slow, and his leaping ability is non-existent, as I saw a couple balls sail over his head despite his long body. At the plate he is impressive, that is until a pitcher throws him something off-speed.
He got ahead in the count 2-0 in the second at-bat of the day I saw, and he jumped all over a fastball from a pitcher that was sitting 89-91 MPH. He wound up ripping it foul, but the swing was smooth and strong. It did not travel far enough to be a home run had it remained fair, but there was obvious power in the swing.
After the foul ball he took a strike, and once he has two strikes against him the at-bat is over. For the second time in two at-bats, he found himself in a two strike count and got an off-speed pitch. He struggles to recognize off-speed and flails out on his front leg. both strikeouts on the day came on a very ugly swing like the one above.
In all, Lantigua will probably not amount to a big leaguer, but the natural swing and future power in the body is something you can dream on. Maybe his approach improves and he learns to hit the breaking ball, in which case he could become a decent power bat at first base.