Peoria — While rain disrupted plans for the Cactus League opener and a scheduled short day on the field for the minor league players in minicamp, there were still some sights and sounds of note around the Peoria Sports Complex Saturday.
In addition to the 50 prospects participating in minicamp and 31 non-roster invitees on the big league side, several dozen other minor leaguers are already at the complex. Between rain showers, lefties Cullen Dana, Drew Mitchel and Brady Feigl all got bullpen sessions in. Mitchel, the club’s eighth-round pick out of San Jose State last June, didn’t see action after signing. Dana, who despite being drafted a year earlier is nearly a year younger at 22, has a big-breaking curve that stands out. Feigl, selected out of the Rangers organization in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, has logged time in Triple-A the last two seasons.
New catching instructor Brian Whatley certainly didn’t wait to get settled in. The former Delta College coach worked with a group of receivers that included Blake Hunt, Kyle Overstreet, and Juan Fernandez on the finer points of different set-ups behind the plate. Michael Cantu and Overstreet both appear to have shed some of the extra weight they carried last season.
I noted in my Top 30 list that the most important stat for Jeisson Rosario this year might be his reporting weight. He came in at 205 pounds, up about 15 pounds from his listed weight. He still doesn’t look filled out. Conversely, Joshua Mears cut an imposing figure doing drill work in the indoor batting cage. The Washington native, who spent his offseason at home working on keeping his weight back during his swing, reported at a muscular 241 pounds. He’s put to rest any concerns his body might go backwards.
Edward Olivares, part of a big league camp group who shared the cages with minor leaguers, was also visibly bigger in his upper body. The outfielder, who had 18 homers for Amarillo last summer, made a ton of loud contact in his rotations. Last year at this time, Olivares was behind four other right-handed hitting outfielders on the 40-man roster depth chart. Today, only Tommy Pham and perenial trade-rumor favorite Wil Myers stand in front of him.
Righty Mason Thompson is throwing from flat ground, but doesn’t have a timeline for getting on the mound. The big hurler, who merited a $1.75 million signing bonus to bypass the University of Texas in 2016, looked stellar last spring, but got hit around in April in Lake Elsinore before he had to shut down for three months with elbow soreness. He returned to the Cal League in August, but managed just two appearances before again shutting things down out of an abundance of caution. Thompson had Tommy John surgery in high school.
Anderson Espinoza should begin his throwing program within the week as he starts to slowly work his way back from a second Tommy John surgery last April. The talented hurler has missed the last three full seasons, but will still turn just 22 next month.
On Sunday, the big league club will try again to get underway with a contest against Milwaukee in Maryvale. The minicamp group will hit the field for their first full workout.