Captains 8, Whitecaps 1: at least the defense was pretty?



You can't win ballgames if you don't score runs, you can't score runs if you don't get hits, and you can't keep the other team from scoring runs if you're giving up a ton of hard contact. There's my hard-core, advanced analysis of Wednesday's Whitecaps game against the Lake County Captains (Cleveland Indians), which they lost 8-1.

The Whitecaps only managed two hits in the entire game, and both of those came off the bat of DH Will Maddox. After that, there's not much else to say.

In the wake of starting pitcher Spencer Watkins's 50-game suspension for using a "drug of abuse" (BTW, happy 4/20 day, everyone), Jordan Smith got tapped to take the mound, and he did a fairly competent job for a guy who threw all but one of his 17 games last year out of the bullpen last year for the Connecticut Tigers.

You want a scouting report on Smith? It's fairly pedestrian. He threw two pitches, a fastball that never cracked 90 MPH, and a slider that missed the zone more often than it hit. Still, he gave the team four solid innings, scattering three hits and two walks to go with one strikeout, resulting in zero runs. That's about all you can ask out of a guy with not-so-excellent command, a less-than-stunning arsenal, and a solid future as a AAA reliever. By his fourth inning of work, he was struggling to hit 87 MPH on the gun.

After that, Jonathan Maciel, who threw 24 starts for Advanced A Lakeland last year and is apparently now back down with the Whitecaps for an undetermined period of time, surrendered six runs on eight hits. He struck out two batters and didn't walk anyone, so there's your silver lining (squint, I promise it's there), but the rest of the scouting report on Maciel got drowned out by all those loudly cracking bats.

Offensively, the Whitecaps struck out ten times, so let's skip that and talk about the outfield.

Cam Gibson, Derek Hill, and Jose Azocar manned the positions from left to right field, and that represents some legitimate speed out there in the spacious green. Remember, speed does not always equal good defense, but both Gibson and Hill continued to show signs of above-average skill in their ability to take efficient routes and read the ball well.

In the second inning, Gibson ran down a line drive in left-center that was headed for the gap and stole an extra-base hit from Silento Sayles. In the very next at-bat, he ran down another line drive, this one the opposite direction, and caught it near the warning track in the left field corner. On those two plays, I'd say he covered -- rough estimate -- about 39,000 yards of outfield territory.

On the next at-bat, Derek Hill made a running catch on a line drive to deep right-center, so let's hear it for that superb outfield defense!

Not to be out-done, Jose Azocar also made a ridiculously good running catch in the right-center gap, showing both good tracking skills and some impressive speed. I wrote last week about Azocar's arm, and he made me look a little silly just a few days later with this play:


He also gunned down that same runner at home plate later in the game, so here's my updated report (including Wednesday's game): he's got a cannon, there's no question about it. But he reminds me a bit of 2015 Anthony Gose, who showed plenty of "rocket" that season, but wasn't always the most accurate with those throws. With a little bit of calibration, Azocar could be deadly with that arm, but until he shows more consistency, the joke at Fifth Third Ballpark is that there are two ways to get a souvenir baseball: catch a foul ball, or wait for Azocar to accidentally chuck one into the stands.

Azocar did have one decent plate appearance in Wednesday's game, amidst his usual run of high-aggression at-bats. Coming into the game, he had one walk in 46 plate appearances. After the game, he had earned himself his second walk of the season. He made the most out of it by scoring all the way from first on a double that just got past the right fielder, and he definitely showed above-average speed in the process.

Here was the real highlight of the game:



That's the "Dutch Love" -- pulled turkey with gravy, cheese curds, and fries -- the newest fan-voted menu item at the ballpark this year. Get yourself one of those, you'll love it.

The other highlight? Brett Pirtle's mustache.



Sigh. It's going to be a good 2016 in West Michigan.
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