Good morning, ladies and jellyspoons, it's great to be here in Friday Morning, VEB time. You may have missed it, what with all the college basketball goings-on and the like, but we's been having some much better baseball played of late than what we saw for awhile in camp (the last couple games notwithstanding), as our beloved boys in red round into regular-season form.
A quick interjection: has anyone else noticed Peter Bourjos is really, really fast? Like, crazy fast? He's been one of my favourite players for awhile, and one of those players I always daydreamed about getting on to the Cardinal roster somehow when there was no real baseball to think on and I was forced into hypothetical thought exercise land, and even so I've been a little shocked at his speed seeing him play on a more or less everyday basis. The triple he hit yesterday, I tried to count approximately how long it took him to reach third base, and I come up with something between eight and nine seconds from the time he hits the ball. Anyway, no other real observation there, just my own giddiness at getting a guy I love onto my team.
Anyhow, I'm showing up right now in this very unfamiliar time slot because, as you may remember, back in February, before camp even officially opened, I posted my annual Spring Surprises game post. The game, I'm sure you recall, goes thusly: you pick out a pitcher and a hitter you think are going to make a big impression in spring training, and you put those picks down on the dotted line (the dotted line of the internet, that is), for everyone to see, judge, and laugh about behind your back. Then, we all watch with bated breath to find out who made the best picks.
Well, with less than two weeks of camp remaining, those chickens are all starting to come home to roost, as we can see pretty clearly at this point which players have been, in fact, surprising. Or at least have made a good impression; the use of 'surprise' is as much about alliteration as anything. "Spring Good Impressions" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
So which players have been the biggest pleasant surprises so far this spring? Well, on the position side, Kolten Wong has made a very favourable impression, coming on strong after a shaky start that saw plenty of people beginning to at least eye the exits to either side of the bandwagon and check to make sure their flotation devices were in place. Randal Grichuk has come in and made a positive impression as well, showcasing the raw power we heard so much about, even if his strikeout rate this spring has been more than a little bit frightening.
However, the biggest eye-opener of the spring, for my money, has been one Mr. Stephen Piscotty, he of the 1.064 OPS and 6:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio. He's flashed a little leather around as well, but the bat is what has plenty of people buzzing about the Stanford product. The Cardinals came into camp hoping to see a promising rightfield prospect tearing the cover off the ball, and they've seen exactly that. Just...not the particular rightfield prospect most of us were expecting.
On the pitching side, Jorge Rondon has lasted much, much longer in camp than I expected, particularly when I've watched him pitch a couple times this spring and I really kind of don't get what the big deal is. Eh, I suppose every team needs a Kelvin Jimenez; maybe Rondon is this team's. Pat Neshek has looked quite good as well, and seems to be nearly a lock to make the bullpen this year. Which I'm quite happy about, actually; besides possessing a delivery which is just plain fun to watch, Neshek offers an appealing option to my mind for when Seth Manness does that thing where his sinker doesn't exactly sink, and, well, I think Dan Quisenberry had the best line about what happens in a case like that. When asked what the result was when his sinker wasn't working, Quisenberry responded, "I still get grounders, but the first bounce is usually about 300 feet away."
But, hey, there's really only once choice for the biggest, best story of the spring on the pitching side, and that's Baby Pedro, the Porn King of St .Louis, Carlos The Jackal Martinez. No other pitcher who has taken the mound for the Cards this spring has been as consistently excellent as Martinez; Lance Lynn had one brilliant outing and a few Lance Lynn sort of games, and Joe Kelly was really good his last time out, but no one has put together a spring like Carlos overall. His sinker has taken a huge step forward, looking more Kevin Brownish than ever, and his breaking ball has been excellent. He's even mixed in more changeups, and the pitch looks good. He's rolling up grounders at a ridiculous rate, and has an ERA under 2.00. He's been brilliant, and as much as I love Joe Kelly, if he starts the season in the rotation while Carlos toils in a bullpen role, I just may light myself on fire outside Busch Stadium like that dude from the Rage Against the Machine record. (Yes, that is the most disrespectful thing I've ever said in my life. I'm okay with it.)
If you disagree with either of those players, feel free to make your case in the comments, but to my eye I think it's fairly clear those two players, Piscotty and Martinez, have been the biggest risers in camp this year. I could see someone arguing for Wong (and by the way, I would like to point out I haven't made one single sexual pun this whole time about his name), but I think Piscotty's emergence has been the bigger story-slash-surprise-slash-whatever.
So how about our game? Who is the clubhouse leader at this moment in terms of forecasting spring brilliance?
Well, reading through that post, as well as the comments, that leader would be....me, motherfuckers. Suck it, nerds.
Just kidding. Well, not really. I did sort of call it, and now you're going to have to put up with me being completely insufferable for god only knows how long because of it. Your only hope? That one or both players crash and burn the last little bit of camp here so that I look foolish for not only picking them, but crowing triumphantly and prematurely about it this morning. Sure, you would be a terrible fan for hoping bad things happen to Cardinal players, especially ones we should really all be hoping turn into the impact players their talent suggests they should be, but really, wouldn't it be worth having to be a bad fan if it meant shutting me up? I mean, I am, after all, the absolute worst. Hell, I can barely stand to be around me, and I'm sort of stuck with me.
So what do you do, VEB? Root for failure just because I'm such a dick? Or allow me my petty, rather pathetic victory for the good of the team? I know if the shoe was on the other foot, I would be headed to Florida with a Nancy Kerrigan kind of situation in mind for one or both players. But, that's just me.
I'll update this again when spring training comes to a close and all the final tallies are in. In the meantime, I'll be back on Wednesday with more drafty stuff, which will hopefully come with a much smaller dose of assholery. Probably not, though; I'm getting a stomach tattoo that says "Baseball Genius" this afternoon. It's going to be awesome. I only regret there's no way to actually drop a microphone on the internet.
Have a nice Friday, everyone. I'll see you soon.