One of the greatest things about baseball is the atmosphere and character that each ballpark brings to the table. There are no two stadiums that are exactly alike. I'm sure most of you remember David's article about his trip to Whataburger Field, or Phil's trip to Fenway Park, and how enjoyable that was for them because of the atmosphere and the park themselves. I was really looking forward to my trip to Greer Stadium in Nashville, which is literally fifteen minutes from my house, to watch our Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate, the Round Rock Express, take on the Milwaulke Brewers' Nashville Sounds, and to see everything they could do to dress up a stadium in the theme of The Music City. Greer Stadium, like every other stadium, provides it's own bit of flavor in Music City Fashion. The highlight is that awesome scoreboard you see above.
After the jump I'll include the wonders of the entertainment between innings as well as some of my thoughts on a few of our prospects including Jack Shuck, Wladimir Sutil, Brian Bogusevic, and Drew Locke.
Being that Lynchburg, Tenn., the home of the Jack Daniel's Distillery, is just right down the road, there were also plenty of Jack Daniel's banners hung up around the place. The atmosphere is definitely enjoyable and is a relaxed family atmosphere. The mid-inning entertainment brought a few laughs as well. We arrived in the second inning (for those of you with wives, you know what that's like) to a guy with a Yankees shirt standing on the Express dugout having to continue singing a song after it stopped playing. Well, unexpectedly, he really knew the song and sang the entire song without the music! The guy walking around with the microphone (what do you call those guys) had to play a cruel little trick on a little girl. He had her announce who was coming up to bat during the home half of an inning and catcher Martin Maldonado was coming up. I don't think I could have pronounced that name the first time I saw it, much less a 5 year old girl. The greatest entertainment though was when they took two guys out onto the field with a bungee coard strapped to each others backs! I'm sure you know where this is going. They had to run in opposite directions and grab giant apples to bring back to the middle. So that was fun to watch as one guy gets more momentum and pulls the other one away from grabbing an apple.
I did the majority of my "scouting" on Shuckers, Sutil, Bogey, and Locke, since those are the main ones who really have a chance to see time at the major league level. Ozzie Navarro and Edwin Maysonet both have some talent but you have all already seen what they play like at the major league level and have your own opinions of them. I missed the first inning and caught the last out of the second inning and we got rained out in the middle of the eighth. We stuck around for 30 minutes but gave up on the rain stoppage. They continued the game about 20 minutes after we left.
Here are my notes from the game.
- The second Express at-bat was Shuck's second. I was impressed with how comfortable he looked for his second Triple-A at-bat in which he was already thrown in as the lead-off batter. He worked the count to 2-2 and took a high fastball to the opposite field for a long fly-ball out. It was just short of the warning track. I think he has a little more power than your average slap hitter.
- Shuck's third at-bat was less impressive. He fouled off a few, but struck out swinging.
- Shuck's fourth at-bat was not a good one. He got the fastball he wanted on the first pitch but couldn't do anything with besides pop it up to left.
- Wladimir Sutil's second at-bat started off with a drag bunt attempt that popped right up into his chin and bounced foul. That brought out some good laughs from the Sounds fans in which I was surrounded with. He ended up getting jammed and flew out.
- Sutil's third at-bat was a grounder straight up the middle that Erik Farris (John Sickels called him a rangy, plus-defensive second baseman) just couldn't seem to get to. He advanced on Bogey's single. Chris Shelton singled on the following at-bat, which was a grounder up the middle and Sutil showed off his wheels by making it home from second. It was slightly aided by CF Lorenzo Cain fumbling the grounder, but I don't think it would have mattered.
- Sutil's fourth at-bat showed a little power to the pull-side warning track. It was a solid line-drive that would have been an easy double had it been closer to center field.
- Bogey struck out looking in his second at-bat and his third at-bat was ruled as a single on a line-drive but more of a broken bat blooper over the short-stop's head. He was then nearly picked off at first by the catcher.
- Locke provided the offensive excitement in the sixth. He launched a line-drive no-doubter over the left field wall that the fielder didn't even bother jogging for. The left fielder just stood and watched it sail over his head. I really liked Locke's swing, it's very easy.
Overall, I was impressed with Shuck at the plate. He didn't pick up any hits but he knows what he's doing at the plate and takes what the pitcher gives him. He has an advanced approach and can drive the ball when he likes a pitch. It'll take a little time for him to adjust to better pitching, but I'm much higher on him at the plate than I was.
- The first play I got to witness was Bogey making a nice sliding catch at his shoelaces in left. He quickly popped up and threw Luis Cruz out at second, after Cruz thought the ball landed first.
- Shuck wasn't given much of a chance to show his range in center. He was given the opportunity to showcase his arm, though. He attempted to throw Maldonado out at home on his advance from second on a ground ball to center that was just out of Sutil's range. The throw was a little late but it was pretty dead-on as Edwin Bellorin had to only take a step out from the plate. I wouldn't say his arm would play in right but it is good enough for center IMO.
- Sutil's range is as good as advertised. He made a great play ranging to his left on a ground ball and gunning out the runner at first. One play that stuck out for me was a soft grounder to short by Lorenzo Cain. Sutil hesitated for a moment before charging the ball and one hopping it to Shelton. Cain was safe, but he is one of the most athletic players I've seen and has excellent speed. Sutil's release was really quick but the throw was weak. The ball floated a little and really lacked any zip on it. When he is allowed to set up, he really has a strong arm.
Bogey is pretty athletic and I as impressed with him. I was a little surprised that he was in left and Locke was in right. I wish I could have gotten a chance to read Shuck's range better, but from what I could tell that he gets a pretty good jump on the ball and reads pop-ups well. Sutil is the defensive standout I was expecting.
- As I stated in the Minor League Recap Sunday, Josh Banks was hittable. That's not surprising, being that he's a pitch to contact type of guy, but he gave up some bad contact in the form of two home runs. He was pretty efficient and forced nine ground-ball outs. He also made some mistakes and gave up those homers.
- Jeff Fulchino made his last rehab outing Saturday and was sharp. He made quick work in one inning. He forced the first two batters to ground out to Ozzie Navarro and struck out the third batter. I'm assuming one of the pitches was a change-up since the batter was way out in front of the pitch.
I was disappointed that I didn't get to watch the bottom of the eighth and all of the ninth since it turned out to be full of action. I was also disappointed that I didn't get to see Mark Melancon's debut, nor did I get to see Danny Meszaros pitch. I will be attending tonight's game as well and will meet up with Astros County there and hopefully be able to bring you some more insight to our Triple-A team.