Over The Weekend In Viera

So what’s it like to see a game or two in the Florida Instructional League?

With web traffic being what it is, I’m republishing TBRfan’s comments on the games she saw in Florida so more folks can see this first-person, eyes-on-the-ground account…

Hello all— got to watch the instructs game vs. Detroit today…

Oduber had an interesting fielding day in center, seemingly misjudging balls. But in his defense, the sun was wicked bad and two of the hits were tailing away. He really reminds me of Justin Maxwell.

Bryce Harper looks to me like the real deal. Didn’t have many balls hit to him, but his arm is strong and accurate. Played good backup defense to Oduber. He had a monstrous home run hit over the right field wall that probably carried 400+ feet. The right fielder just turned and watched.

J.P. Ramirez had a steady fielding game. Souza had his typical error-prone game. I just don’t know what the Nats see in him. Adrian Sanchez made some super plays at second. Catching was a platoon of Norris and… Can’t remember the name. Both catchers threw the ball well and tossed out runners at second and third.

As for batting… The team was shut down by the Detroit first round pitching prospect [Jacob Turner]. But my Lord: He was throwing smoke. None of the Nats came close to hitting that guy. He’ll be in the bigs for sure. Amazing pop of his pitches in the glove and incredible command.

The Nats “lost” 3-2 I am pretty sure. No scoreboard at all. Just the way I like it.

A few comments about yesterdays game: The score was actually tied 3-3 and it was a no hitter until the 7th for the Nats. After talking to a fan at today’s game that was at Lakeland last night, he had heard that Harper’s home run was one of the longest they had seen there in years and most agreed it was 430+ feet. The pitcher for Detroit was named Jacob Turner. Be looking for him in the majors. Now for today’s game, against the Astros…

Today didn’t treat the Nats that well and they lost by 8-3 or something close to that. Catching was a platoon of Flores and Leon. Flores looks really svelte… he’s been working out a lot. Both catchers had a good game behind the plate. Lombardozzi was at second and had a super game. At third was King. The not-so-funniest play of the game came in the top of the first. Grace was pitching and getting mildly rocked. A routine fly ball was hit to center and Eury Perez. And don’t you know? He dropped it, half-assing the catch with one hand. He was immediately pulled from the game and sent to a side field where he shagged fly balls from the machine for the remainder of the game. The coaches did not allow him back on the bench. The entire game all you could hear was Eury yelling “I got it” three times before he’d catch the ball. After that, I was impressed with the Nats coaching staff for making him an example.

Bryce Harper had a so-so game. Nothing real spectacular of note. Was steady in the field.

Pitching was Grace, Estevez, Navarro, Jenkins, Smoker, Morris. Grace was hit relatively easily by the Astros kids. Navarro wasn’t much better. Jenkins was pulled after only ⅔ inning and don’t know why. I was sitting next to three Nats pitchers and they didn’t really express any concern when he came out. Smoker was good except for a mammoth home run to left center. Now, A.J. Morris had it working…. good pitching and good command. The man behind me agreed that his stuff is good enough to get to the Nats next year.

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of NationalsProspects.com. Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

15 thoughts on “Over The Weekend In Viera”

  1. So Harper hit a big home run? Glad to hear that. How else did he look offensively? Any video links, like for the first game? I’ve read about – and seen – his struggles at the plate in the first game, which whetted my appetite for hardcore day-by-day instructional league news, but it’s hard for me to find any updates on how he’s done in the days since.

  2. To let everyone know, again – sorry for typos. Everything sent was from my tiny iphone, so the typing skills were challenged with a tiny keyboard. :o)

    Going to instructs was amazing fun. I met some great people/fans/players/coaches while down there. I think it’s the cheapest vacation i’ve ever been on. Games are free – the biggest challenge is usually figuring out where the game is and what tiny side gate they have open for you to wiggle through to go watch the game. I got two foul balls off of Harper in Lakeland, and a super autograph, too. :o) And yes – BRING your OWN FOOD! There are no concessions, nothing…sure you can leave and come back – but who wants to??

    Apparently this year they were re-doing the turf inside the Nats stadium, so the games at Viera were just played on one of their instructional fields. If I hadn’t seen the tour bus over there, I might have wandered to the big stadium and missed some game time.

    I spoke to many fans like me, and they tell me that either instructs or the first week or two of spring training are the best times to come down there. The players are really open and willing to chat/autograph stuff. At the Viera game, I sat on a tiny metal “high-school” bleacher behind the plate. I had 4 Astros players behind me with the radar gun, 3/4 Nats players next to me charting, and a fun assortment of retirees and fans. No scoreboards, two umps, and a whole lot of fun. And yes, if you didn’t have a roster, you had NO idea who was playing. Now, they did have their names on their jerseys, but a host of players were around (mainly pitchers) with just Nats issue shorts/shirts on. Talk about challenging!

    After this trip, i’m definitely going back next year. In my eyes, it’s perfect baseball. You can keep the crowds, packed stadiums, loud music, carnival rides, and I hate to say – the beer. It was baseball nirvana. :o)

    1. Thanks again, TBRfan! I had never even thought about FIL before as a destination vacation, but you sure make it appetizing.
      Glad to see your earlier post about Sanchez, he’s another product of the Dominican academy (he’s Venezuelan) that looks to be on the fast track. Very much look forward to seeing him next year in Hagerstown.
      Badmouthing beer at a baseball game — that’s almost downright unamerican!

      1. TBR may very well be referring to the beer fans that come out for the Thirsty Thursdays at the Muni. At the Pfitz they make their presence known around the 7th inning or so.

  3. TBR – Thanks again for the dispatches. I can only hope you’ll have an excuse to go in late March.

  4. Ok, all flaming aside on the beer comment 🙂 I honestly think the beer distracts from the game sometimes. Heck, I know i’ve missed runs/innings because the beer goggles came on. And yes at the Muni i’m getting tired of the thirsty thursday 20-something crowd that pays their “cover charge” via general admission ticket and then sits in the beer garden and gets whacked by foul balls. LOL

    The purist baseball fan would appreciate the instructional league. The fan that goes to the Muni or the Pfitz as “entertainment” would leave instructs after 2 outs. If you don’t love the game and purely the game, you won’t like instructs. It was like watching a high school game but with some amazing players. I almost likened it to the field of dreams movie. 🙂

    As for Harper, I wanted to try to get video, but all I had was my iphone. Thank my wonderful teenager for that one (insert curse words here). What my eyes saw was a hitter starting to get in a grove. Some at bats he was out on the front foot (i.e. that first snippit of video clip of his first at bats), but i’d say at least 75% or more he was swinging confidently and from the back foot. And that home run was major league material. It’s amazing to me to see a “child” of 17 posess the skills and moxie he does. He doesn’t act/look/play like 17 at all. I am not sure if he needs more coaching or guidance at this point, and I don’t know if i’d even call it “raw” talent. I think the Nats and the farm system are in for a real treat for a bunch of years to come.

    Harpers fielding was steady, played good backup to whoever was playing center (platoon of Oduber and Perez mostly) and seemed comfortable. He was always in the right position, even backing up first one time on a ground ball.

    Adrian Sanchez made some super plays, and played 7+ innings of both games I saw and was relieved by Blake Kelso, who also played ok.

    ***Forgot to type this: ~~possible rumor mill info here~~

    Straight from a coaches mouth: all outfield from Hagerstown is going to Potomac, plus a vast majority of the infield, incuding Bloxom. Most likely Tarasco is going to Potomac, possible LeCroy going back to Hagerstown (unsure)…hagerstown team will be almost brand new players from GCL and Vermont (Albany).

    Harper: spot is still open for his involvement in the AFL. If he goes and does well, the scuttlebutt was he would start in Potomac and not Hagerstown. Again, rumor mill – behind the home plate – high school bleachers chat here. But I found it quite compelling and plausible.

  5. I’ll defer to those who saw a lot of games @ Hagerstown, but I thought both J.P Ramirez & Destin Hood were iffy for Potomac, as their numbers didn’t say ‘instant promotion’.

    I’d be stunned if Harper doesn’t at least start at Hagerstown; let him show some success first before his promotion. Don’t want ‘Rhinehart syndrome’ to rear its ugly head again.

  6. The end of March is a great time to go to spring training! Minor leagues are playing games at that point. Hang out at the minor league complex and just go from field to field. The players are friendly, will sign stuff.
    Mornings are usually drills, etc – yes they have them! Games in the afternoon. You will sometimes see the big boys either in the batting cages or working on extra at-bats.
    However, if all you are after is autographs, please don’t come – as a fan, you ruin it for the rest of us

  7. As a fan that saw 99% of games at the Muni and 5-6 on the road, JP is promotion worthy, Destin Hood is not. Destin couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in the second half and some of his at-bats were so horrible I think a caveman could have done better. 🙂

    I am patiently awaiting the end of instructs to see what happens to Harper. This could make for a great sports-soap-opera winter for the Nats.

  8. Thanks, TBRfan, I was hoping for some clarification on both these guys. I’m still hoping for a growth spurt from Ramirez, would love to see updated stats on his height.
    The good news on Hood is he’s still very young and another year at Hagerstown isn’t a deal killer.

  9. Sue, kind of sick reading about you bashing Souza. You should truly check your facts as the Organization see great power from him. He had some serious HR’s during instructs and all of the staff was very impressed. I guess you can do better so thats why you write crap like this. You see, he prove all of you wrong.

    1. Perhaps Jim, you might not have noticed that this particular article was a reprint of a Hagerstown fan’s account in person. I’m sure she’ll chime in, but she’s seen Souza more often than I have so I reprinted her comments based on that standpoint. I also have another contributor from Hagerstown who wrote the following regarding Souza “A bad June balances out a May that showed hopeful signs. Power is up this season as is RBI (season total to date higher than all of last season), but I just am uneasy about hitching to this wagon as a prospect. I still think that he could be the type of player that will play better against higher levels of competition.” You can read the rest of the article here.

      In an earlier post (unfortunately, one that posted before the changeover in hosting in late June), he wrote this about Souza: “[He] seems to be putting it together and as he should with spending his third year with the Suns. I was told… that a member of the Nationals farm management thinks ‘Souza is the best athlete that is in our entire system and if it clicks, watch out.’ He will never be Ryan Zimmerman at third, but has the athleticism to possibly an above-average fielder, although he kicks too many routine plays now. What gives me hope for Souza is the amazing attitude change. He has changed from borderline surly to one of the team’s most fan-friendly players and the in game tantrums that he was noted for have gone away as well. His swing still needs to be shorter, but for a guy that I was ready to give up on at the end of 2009, Souza has somewhat revitalized himself.”

      I’m aware that friends and family read this blog and I appreciate the passion that you’re able to bring to the table, but the ad hominem attacks are uncalled for, particularly when they contain that much chutzpah.

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