When first receiving the starting lineups for the Salt River Rafters at Peoria Javelinas matchup on Wednesday, it did not look like a fair fight. The 3-4-5 hitters for the Rafters were Dominic Smith, Rowdy Tellez, and Gabby Guerrero. Smith came into the day hitting .519 in eight games, while the other two are top 15 prospects in their given organization and all have power. Meanwhile the Javelinas had just two top 15 organizational prospects in their lineup, Tyler O’Neill in the relatively weak Mariners’ system, and Alex Blandino, a middle infielder with a solid hit tool but below average power. Neither starting pitchers are particularly highly thought of prospects, yet this is baseball and completely unpredictable, so we saw a 2-0 pitcher’s duel in favor of Peoria that lasted just two hours and two minutes.
The Javelinas star player on the day was clearly the before mentioned Tyler O’Neill, who was on fire right from the get go. He hit 32 home runs in the hitter friendly California League this season, but went 3-for-4 on the day and stepped to the plate in his final at-bat a triple shy of the cycle, but wound up striking out. He has a smooth swing and the home run he connected on was crushed, the left fielder hardly bothered turning around, as it landed at the top of the grass berm.
O’Neill was responsible for half of the Javelinas six hits and one of the two runs they scored. The other run came on a Connor Lein RBI single in the second inning that brought in Fernando Perez. The other two hits were from Nick Torres and a well-hit double from Blandino. On the double, he showed why he was a first round pick out of Stanford, as he dropped the bat on a 93 mph fastball from Myles Smith and drove it high off the left center field wall. Blandino looks to be settling in well at second base and has impressive range for a guy who was a college third baseman. He is still listed as a shortstop prospect at many outlets, and he has enough of an arm to play there, but second base looks to be the position that suits him best. While he looked decent with the glove, it was actually the arm that got him into trouble, twice making throws that were unnecessary and off target.
On the mound for Peoria, Ryan Butler put in three scoreless innings but struggled with command, walking three and striking out two. Andrew Thurman put in two perfect innings of relief but the star on the mound was Mauricio Cabrera. Cabrera made everyone sit up and pay attention when he punched out Rowdy Tellez and Gabby Guerrero before getting Jeff McNeill to roll one over to first baseman Gabriel Quintana. Not only did Cabrera strike out two of the three most highly-touted hitters in the lineups today, he did it while regularly touching triple digits, even hitting 101 a few times.
For Salt River, they came away with only three hits, one each from L.J. Mazzilli, Gabby Guerrero, and Chris Rabago. Rabago needs to show he can hit, because he was hard to watch behind the dish today. He was not assessed with any passed balls, but starter Mickey Jannis threw three wild pitches, all of which should have been stopped by Rabago.
Jannis went five innings and allowed just one run on three hits, but his command was off all day as he walked four and was saddled with the loss.
The most impressive position players on the day for Salt River were Gabby Guerrero, whose single was the hardest hit ball of the day off anyone’s bat not named Tyler O’Neill. Leadoff man Foemon Fields found himself on base twice, once on a walk and the other beating the throw on the back end of an attempted double play. I had him clocked at 4.1 seconds from home to first on the attempted double play, and he stole second after the walk and was thrown out at third on the next pitch.