I saw the River Bandits in a road game yesterday in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on a hot and humid evening. I was with family and friends, so I wasn't in full scale scouting mode. But here are a few impressions and pictures.
Lance McCullers, Jr. was up against Padres prospect Zach Eflin. Eflin looked more the part, with his athletic 6'4" frame, but McCullers seemed to have the better stuff. The stadium radar had McCullers' fastball consistently in the 91-94 range, throughout his 6+ innings. Eflin stayed between 88-90. Especially as the innings went on, McCullers seemed to be fooling more and more hitters with his low-80's off-speed pitches. Occasionally, McCullers appeared to have problems gripping the ball well and was wild as a result, throwing several pitches in the dirt and one completely over the catcher's (and umpire's and hitter's) head. He made it into the 7th inning but gave up a HR that inning, and his night was over. The HR was a well-hit ball, pulled and deposited over the left field wall by the right handed hitter. All in all, though, it was a successful night.
Mitchell Lambson was clocked in the low 80's with his fastball, but his offspeed stuff seemed to keep hitters off balance. Juan Minaya worked at a fast pace, and hitters made a fair amount of contact against him. He topped out at 90 or 91, from what I remember.
It wasn't a great night for Astros hitters - the contact was mostly weak - but they had some timely execution and took advantage of fielding miscues to help pull out the victory. Jordan Scott looked better than I expected - not as skinny as I had heard, and faster than I had imagined. Dan Gulbransen looked short to me, but had a nice hitting stroke and placed a beautiful sacrifice bunt. He also hit a solid line drive to deep right field, which the fielder misplayed for an error. Bobby Borchering drew two walks and appeared to be enjoying the game, which was fun to see. Carlos Correa and Rio Ruiz each struck out twice and both had softly-hit singles. Correa hit a long foul ball that may have had HR distance, but he was well behind on it, so it wasn't close to being fair. Ruiz had a well hit line drive to center that was caught in his final at-bat. Both looked comfortable at the plate, but just weren't able to connect for the most part.
Correa made an error (trouble handling a sharp, bouncing grounder). But he also made two strong plays. For the first play, he caught a line-drive and then in a split second fired a bullet to first base to double off the runner. I was impressed with his intelligence, instinct, and arm strength on that one (though my friend thought that the runner was safe). On the second play, Jobduan Morales fielded a ball and began to attempt a double play, but his throw to Correa at second was well wide. Correa dove for it and caught it, landing flat on the ground, and then had the presence of mind to stretch out his leg on top of the bag. Again, it was a quick play that showed baseball-smarts and good reflexes, and it came at a crucial time in the game (bottom of the 8th or 9th - I forget which). Austin Elkins also made a challenging stop on a grounder up the middle, but his throw to first was just late.
What a great time - minor league baseball is the best deal around. And, I got an up-close look at the future (Ruiz, McCullers, Correa):
We have lots of left-handed hitters - 6 out of the 9 in the lineup hit left-handed.
Our team did not look as athletic as the Padres' team, on the whole. In particular, our guys seemed shorter and not quite as sleek (Correa being the exception), but I guess that looks can be deceiving.
Someone may have mentioned this already, but Rio Ruiz uses the Duran Duran song "Rio" for his walk-up music. Nice.
Finally, Teoscar Hernandez did a fine job as a first base coach: