Yes! Baseball season is finally here. All is as it should be in the world, if not with the Red Sox, who have had a tough start. But that’s OK. It’s a long campaign, and we have our own team in Portland to contend with: the Sea Dogs. One of the best things about having a minor-league team is seeing the stars of tomorrow today, at Hadlock Field. With that in mind, let’s consider some of the exciting players who will be making their way through the ballpark on Park Avenue this season, with a special focus on hurlers.
KYLE DRABEK | The son of Doug Drabek (who had one of the prettiest, most fluid throwing motions that I’ve ever seen, and who won the National League Cy Young Award in 1990 as a Pittsburgh Pirate), Kyle was dealt to the Blue Jays last year in the deal that sent Toronto ace Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies. Drabek the Younger has a smooth throwing motion that befits his lineage, but according to online scouting reports, his fastball and changeup have been inconsistent. Drabek’s curveball, when he can locate it, is his out pitch. The New Hampshire Fisher Cats won’t visit Hadlock Field until the week following the Fourth of July, and then again to close the season out in September, but if you wait that long to see Drabek, he might have already been promoted to the AAA club, in Las Vegas.
STEPHEN STRASBURG | The overall number-one pick in any sports draft is bound to generate some excitement, but when the Washington Nationals got Strasburg, that organization acquired its best pitching prospect since they had a young Pedro Martinez, back when the team was in Montreal. Strasburg’s uber-agent, Scott Boras, negotiated a $15.1 million deal for his right-handed client (do you think Boras represents columnists?). For that kind of money, you can bet that the fans want to see him in the big leagues as soon as possible, but the Nats are in no rush. Assigned to AA Harrisburg to start the year, Strasburg is learning to use all his pitches, but the way he can locate an already explosive fastball has baseball writers generally agree that he’s on a fast track to the show, where he will be a consummate control pitcher. If local fans want to see him in Portland, the three-game stand the Senators have at Hadlock at the end of June is the best bet. Harrisburg will return in July, but Strasburg may have moved on by then. Remember, Josh Beckett only appeared in 13 games for the 2001 Sea Dogs. The best prospects are always just passing through.
CASEY KELLY | The Red Sox’ 2009 Minor League Pitcher of the Year only decided to peruse pitching full-time in December 2009. Until then, Kelly was a highly touted prospect for both his pitching and at shortstop. This was not Kelly’s first tough decision regarding his career, having already turned down a scholarship offer to play quarterback for the University of Tennessee (Peyton Manning’s old job). In the long run it was probably the right decision. His mechanics and command are both impressive, and the Red Sox are already stocked at shortstop, with Marco Scutaro playing in Boston and fellow MLB Top 50 prospect JOSE IGLESIAS playing short right here in Portland.
Iglesias, who reminds some of Orlando Cabrera, reportedly has the makings of a Gold Glove shortstop, but questions remain about his batting. It should be fun watching him try to work those issues out this summer. Get your tickets today.
Rick Wormwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.