Four Games with the BlueClaws (and Bryce Harper)

This is a little late in arriving, and I'm no scout, but I did watch 4 consecutive BlueClaws games (June 12 - 15) in Lakewood, and had a few very thumbnail thoughts from a fan's perspective.

Seeing four consecutive games meant that I witnessed almost all of Lakewood's entire rotation: Buchanan, Manzanillo, Biddle, and Claypool. Each of them pitched fairly well, and the BlueClaws won all 4 games (I told my girlfriend that we were good luck and could never return to Philadelphia).

As a side note to my observations on Lakewood's team, the BlueClaws were playing the Hagerstown Suns, home team of the recently-promoted/departed Bryce Harper, who was the one player who caught the fans' imagination and attention more than anyone else. Young kids knew who he was, fans heckled him, blew kisses at him, and autograph-hounded him more than any Lakewood player. Harper was, by far, the biggest celebrity at the ballpark.

As for the BlueClaws, a few things jumped out at me over the course of the four games (in no particular order):

++ I like Zach Collier. He had a good stroke, hit the ball hard, and played a steady left field, though I didn't really get a chance to see his throwing arm. Collier also has a presence about him-- a "brightness". He was cheerful and energetic and confident. In short, he looked like a ballplayer, and after a poor start in April (171/244/268), his numbers in May, June, and July (combined 193 ABs: 306/374/420) are fairly encouraging.

++ It was interesting to compare Anthony Hewitt and Domingo Santana. They took turns playing RF (although Hewitt played CF in the last game of the series with Collier sitting out after being hit on the hand by a pitch) and both looked strong defensively-- covering a lot of ground (Hewitt made the defensive play of the series with a really sick diving catch), taking good routes to the ball, both with really strong throwing arms. At the plate, however, they looked much different. Santana was much more patient (more patient, perhaps than his BB % would indicate), much more balanced and made much better, consistent contact than Hewitt (who, as a reminder, is, what, 3-4 years older?). I think Santana has far surpassed Hewitt already, which was encouraging to observe (though disappointing to observe of Hewitt).

++ Lakewood fans LOVE Jim Murphy.

++ Jesse Biddle was throwing a lot of strikeouts, even though he was not throwing very hard. His fastball was consistently in the mid-80s. It looked like he was throwing a really good curveball though-- in the low 70s, with a lot of sharp break on it. But I was surprised at the lack of speed on his pitches.

++ David Buchanan reminded me a lot of Kyle Kendrick, though not in a bad way.

++ Lendy Castillo was throwing harder (94-96 mph) than anyone from either team, and by A LOT. The ball coming out of his hand just looked different than everyone else.

++ Garret Claypool ended up with a bad pitching line, but he was BABIP'd to death. Bloop city. His FB was in the upper 80s/low 90s, with a decent curve ball and pretty good change.

++ Colby Shreve and Tyler Knigge were the only other pitchers to get into the low 90s.

++ Chase Johnson got a lot of swing-and-misses on a pretty good slider.

++ Edgar Duran was really impressive defensively. He ranged well, was sure-handed, had a strong, accurate arm. He definitely looked like he could stick at SS.

There were lots more that I took in, that I'd be happy to try to answer if anyone has any questions about what I saw. I'm not going to pretend that I'm anything more than a fan, but I know it's fun to get an eyewitness account of things, even from a relatively un-informed perspective (mine).

Beyond all that, the Lakewood ballpark is hugely fun. If anyone is in the area, I highly recommend catching a game. As with most minor-league stadiums, there is not a bad seat in the house, and all the tickets are $ 10 - 15.

As a bonus, they actually served Shiner Bock beer, which I haven't had since I left Texas 4 years ago.