Day two in Peoria started with a trip to the Padres’ practice fields around 10 AM. Batting practice on field 3. Jabari Blash was hitting in a rotation with Jose Pirela, Brett Wallace, and Travis Jankowski. Here’s what I saw:
Pirela worked on skills. He practiced bunting. He hit the ball to the opposite field. Had a nice little stroke, and seemed to know what he wanted to do on each swing.
Jankowski had a tough day in the cage. He was beating the ball into the dirt. He was popping it up into the top of the cage. He managed a few line drives, but he was clearly the weakest hitter of the four today.
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Wallace looked like the .302 hitter that he was last year. His nice easy stroke resulted in line drive after line drive. Give this guy a full-time job, and he might lead the league in doubles. Or we can just wait until Myers hits the DL.
Blash. Day-um, this guy is fun to watch. Towering fly balls come off his bat and land very, very far away. I think 60% of the balls he hit came within 20 feet of the outfield fence. A half dozen hit the fence on the fly, and another half dozen cleared it, a couple by a wide margin. If he makes the team, people are going to start coming out to games early to watch his BP the way they used to when Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds came into town. I just hope he can hit well enough to earn 400 ABs. Look for Blash jerseys to become a hot-selling item in the Padres store.
When this group of hitters was done, I wandered over to field 6 to watch a few veterans hit. Wil Myers was crushing the ball. It was like watching Blash, but without the popups and grounders. At one point, he hit four straight balls to the exact same spot – deep in the left center field gap. If Wil can stay healthy (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) and hit like this, he’ll be playing in the All-Star Game at Petco Park in July.
Yangervis Solarte was also in the group, and the man just likes to have fun. He’s always smiling, laughing, joking with whoever is next to him. Hits the ball all over the place in BP, with no apparent strategy. Just swings hard. I generally tend to like more disciplined players, but Solarte’s smile and laugh is pretty infectious. And he hits a bunch of doubles and triples, and that’s a good thing to get from your third baseman.
Cory Spangenberg looked great. Lots of line drives, long fly balls, screamers down the line. Hoping for a strong sophomore season for the second baseman.
Jemile Weeks came out a little later, and he’s quite the little sparkplug. Small frame, but all muscle. Like Melvin Upton that way. Weeks has been hot all Spring, leading the team with a .484 average. And he looked great in the cage. Not much power, but he looked like he could put the baseball wherever he wanted. He found every gap, he worked on his bunting from both sides of the plate, and they were well-placed bunts. The only other player I saw working on bunts was Alexi Amarista, and the Little Ninja just didn’t have the skill that Weeks showed. Weeks has got to be the odds-on favorite for the utility infielder spot based on what he’s done so far.
If I had to rank the hitters based on what I saw today, it would go like this: