April 13th: Bradenton Marauders 3, Fort Myers Miracle 2
I was a recipient of some good fortune last week, as my trip down to Florida coincided with the Pirates awful 1-6 start to their West Coast road trip, saving me the agony of watching their floundering offense, at least in real time. I was able to get down to Bradenton for two games, the first of which was Jameson Taillon’s second start of the season for the Marauders.
Taillon is quite a physical specimen. At 6’6, 225, it is not hard to project him as a dominant innings eater. Facing the Fort Myers Miracle of the Twins organization, Taillon looked like a man among boys in the first three innings, blowing fastballs past the Miracle hitters and inducing weak contact. In the fourth inning, however, the Miracle were able to string together two straight hard hit balls to produce a run. Whenever Taillon has been hit hard, the stock response has been that he has a tendency to elevate his fastball. From what I observed in this game, a more accurate depiction would be that he throws his fastball excessively. Facing him for the second time, the Miracle hitters were just sitting dead red; it didn’t help many of them, but a few of their better hitters were able to barrel up Taillon’s fastball.
After their brief success, the Miracle went down quietly in the next inning, leaving Taillon with a line of 5IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 0BB, 6K – not a bad night’s work at all. Taillon threw both two and four seam fastballs with explosive movement; it was good to see him miss so many bats. As I mentioned earlier, I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t throw his curve ball much at all during this start, and the few that he did throw were unexceptional. Perhaps he just didn’t have a feel for it, or he felt he had some command issues to work on with his fastball – given that this was only his second start – and was confident he could get by with it. Hopefully, he is not still subject to limitations on his secondary pitches.
As for the rest of the Marauders, I was very interested in seeing Alex Dickerson for the first time. Dickerson, a top college hitter from the University of Indiana, was off to a slow start going into this game, with no extra base hits. In his first at bat, he woke up the crowd by crushing a titanic fly ball to dead center; although the wind was blowing from left to right, the ball was caught in front of the 400 foot sign. What was impressive about this at bat was Dickerson’s power stroke. Most hitters at this level hit the occasional line drive that carries enough to get out of the park; few have a genuine home run loft to their swing. This was a Jim Thome type fly ball that he got under just a bit too much.
This made Dickerson’s subsequent at bats, and his current stat line, even more puzzling. He hit sharp ground balls in his other at bats, and so far he has a 55.6 GB%. His GB/FB% of 1.88 is much higher than last year’s rate. Dickerson swung early in the count in this game, and in fact, is seeing less than two pitches per plate appearance thus far. This suggests that he is not waiting for pitches that he can drive, but is instead swinging at the pitcher’s pitch early in the count. He has always demonstrated a superior approach, walking more than he struck out in his junior season at Indiana, so the Pirates’ hitting instructors need to work with him on getting back to it.
Dickerson is not the lumbering behemoth one may expect from a big guy who was not known as a good defender in the outfield before his conversion to first base. He displayed decent footwork and soft hands, and he appears to be comfortable at the position. He also was able to avoid a double play with decent speed down to first.
The Marauders were stymied by B. J. Hermsen, a prototypical Twins pitching prospect who doesn’t throw hard but changes speeds and commands the strike zone. He allowed only two hits in six innings of work, but the Marauders were able to rally to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, and eventually win it in extra innings when the Miracle botched Gift Ngoepe’s sacrifice bunt, allowing Benji Gonzalez to score from second with the winning run. Not a glamorous way to win, perhaps, but a victory nonetheless.
You can view photos of Taillon and Dickerson in the accompanying post.
Soon, a report, with photos, of Hunter Strickland’s very impressive performance two nights later.