Notes From Surprise: Monday

For the first time since 2019: Greetings from Surprise!

My original plan upon arriving Monday morning was to watch Texas’s A-level squads in neighboring Peoria, but one of the two games was cancelled, so I stayed in Surprise with the upper-level folks. (For those unfamiliar, the daily intersquad schedule consists of the low-A and high-A squads playing their opponents at one club’s complex, and the AA and AAA squads playing at the other. I favor the low-level guys because I won’t see them again for a year, and I can watch AAA during the regular season at my leisure.)

As always, and especially after missing three years, I was overwhelmed at the outset because I want to watch the players critically and get pitch readings off the computer and take notes and stills and video simultaneously, which is impossible, not that I don’t keep trying. Plus, I’m using new camera equipment for the first time in a dozen years and still figuring it out.

I’ve got video of Ricky Vanasco and pictures of him and others at Hopefully, I’ll have more video up during the week, but the internet at my hotel gets persnickety with tasks like actually using the internet.

Vanasco’s fastball ranged from 93-97, augmented with a decent number of curves, a few sliders, at least one change. He looked similar to last season’s end: aggressive, wavering control and command, with both the heater and curve tending to run high. Vanasco wears a collection of chains that fly up and hit him in the face on every pitch.

With impressive bat speed, Dustin Harris turned on an inside pitch for a double. In A games, he’s split almost exactly between outfield and first base, nearly only the former in the first week of spring training and almost exclusively the latter since. He played left field on Monday. If there was a play that shed light on his proficiency out there, I missed it. For some reason, my mental picture of him is always a little smaller and slower than he really is. He’ll break that bad habit of mine in Round Rock.

Lefty reliever Lucas Jacobsen tossed an inning. In 2022, Jacobsen entered his walk year as a virtual unknown to me because he’d been hurt so much. He relieved in Jack Leiter’s pro debut and immediately impressed with a fastball that touched 98, a mean, hard change, and a slow slider. Jacobsen missed a chunk of last season as well and became a free agent afterwards but re-signed.

1B Blaine Crim turned a 95 MPH pitch into a homer. 2B Luisangel Acuna (a late sub) rapped a double to left.

Lefty Joe Palumbo, signed back after a year with the Giants, was 91-93 with a 75-78 curve, all effective after an opening walk. Injuries have limited to Palumbo to 19 innings across all levels during the past three years.

One unexpected downside of the new MLB pitch clock: the Rangers-Guardians A game on Monday finished well before the minors were done, and in fact by the time I’d walked into the stadium from the back fields, the stands were nearly empty. Previously, I could count on an inning or two at the main field after the intersquad contest.

Tuesday was a camp day, meaning no games, just some workouts, so I’d planned to hike the Superstition Mountains to the east. That plan was thwarted by the most rain I can recall encountering in Arizona. It was raining when my alarm went off Tuesday morning. I got wet going to my car to grab lunch. It was raining at 9pm last night as I typed most of this and persisted through the night. Today’s back field schedule is limited to work in the cages. The intersquads are cancelled. My happiness is cancelled. Thursday and Friday are expected to be dry, so hopefully the next report will contain more on the Rangers and less whining.  

Finally, I would like to extend all the positive energy at my disposal to Eric Nadel, longtime radio voice of the Rangers, who announced he will miss the start of the 2023 season. Per a statement from Nadel: “I now find myself dealing with anxiety, insomnia and depression which are currently preventing me from doing the job I love… I am receiving treatment as I go through the healing process and encourage others with similar issues to reach out for help.” His full statement is here.