The Eye Test – Summer Catch-up

Really? Has it really been six weeks since I sat down to write about what I’m seeing at Coca-Cola Park and First Energy Stadium? It certainly hasn’t been a lack of games we’ve attended. I can count at least eight off of the top of my head. I guess at this point in the season, most of what I’m seeing is a re-hash of what I have been seeing all season. So, rather than regurgitating the same reports, I’ll try to collect some notes I have from the games I’ve been to recently. Here’s what I saw:

Jesse Biddle – My most recent trip to CCP was this past Sunday. Not only were we treated to a rehab game for Chase Utley, but we got to see one our family favorite, Jesse Biddle, as he made his 5th AAA start. After Jesse’s debut on 7/8, he’s settled in quite nicely in his new surroundings. A new friend of mine with some inside information tipped me off that I was about to see Jesse attack the Norfolk Tides with a steady diet of 2-seam fastballs and changeups, very likely his fourth and 5th best pitches. That was exactly what we witnessed. As uncomfortable as it may have been for Jesse, he performed quite well. He did surrender a home run to Henry Urrutia on a curveball, but I still haven’t figured out how Urrutia managed to muscle it out. He was so far off balance at contact it is a credit to him to have hit a ball that far after being fooled so badly. But again, I left a Jesse Biddle start impressed that he doesn’t allow things to snowball on him like he did the past few seasons. I really like how he is progressing as he matures.

Zach Eflin – I have only gotten to see Zach pitch in person one time this season. I have barely gotten to see him on either so I was excited to run into his most recent home start on 7/27. Continuing his recent trends, Zach seemed to struggle a bit with his feel for the bottom of the zone, resulting in getting roughed up a bit. His evening ended prematurely when he attempted a bare handed stab at a comebacker. He told me later that he was fine ten minutes after it happened, but it was numb when the trainer checked on him so he was pulled as a precaution. Zach seemed to be throwing fewer two-seamers and using his four-seamer more often. I also believe I saw more changeups than normal in lieu of his slider. All of this lends more credence to two things: 1) EVERYONE at this level is working on something at this point in the season 2) Minor league stats are truly meaningless.

J.P. Crawford – As I watch JP’s average continue to dip and I hear everyone around me complain that here is another prospect not showing consistency, I’m still in awe of him. He’s clearly being asked to alter his approach at this point to work on honing his craft and his numbers are suffering because of it. But it’s still plain to see this kid isn’t a normal 20 yr old at the plate. My only fear is his fielding. He looks so smooth at times and other times he seems lazy, missing balls that should be routine for him. Honestly, it’s taking me some effort to find a complaint. This kid is special.

Andrew Knapp – I think I’ve seen him three or four times since his call up and I’m liking what I see. Honestly, I knew his name but didn’t much about Andrew when he was called up. What I see is a kid with an excellent approach at the plate. He sees a lot of pitches and is very aggressive on pitches in the zone. He fouls off pitches well with two strikes and extends at bats, making himself “pesky” to the opposing team. He’s also starting to show more pop as he gets more comfortable. Overall, I like this kid. With Gabriel Lino’s season returning to Earth, Knapp and newly acquired Jorge Alfaro provide some hope in a post-Chooch world.

Aaron Altherr – What an amazing improvement from last year. He has not missed a beat in his time at AAA Lehigh Valley, as I’m sure everyone has noticed. The only time I saw anything resembling a struggle was when facing knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa. Aaron just could NOT pick it up well enough. Otherwise, as a fanbase, Altherr is exactly what we’ve been hoping for, a right handed outfielder with promise. Has anyone noticed how good he is defensively, by the way? I feel like I don’t hear it often enough.

Kelly Dugan – I got to see Kelly’s first two games in Lehigh Valley following his much deserved promotion and there’s nothing new to report. I wish he showed more pop, but his patience and hit tool are VERY good.

Quick Hits:

Edubray Ramos – I only got to see Edubray once so far, I believe his second appearance for Reading. His velocity was good and his breaking pitches seemed tight. He was a bit wild, which I think is uncharacteristic for him, but he seems to have settled in since then. I’m excited to see him a bit more.

Adam Loewen – We seem to catch Adam a lot lately and he’s been fun to watch. He’s also very easy to root for, a nice guy with a great story. I’m really hoping the club finds a place for him on the 40-man in September and beyond. He has been a strike out machine in the closer role for the Pigs.

Colton Murray – I have to add Colton at least once this year and I’ll admit it’s partially selfish. My son and I have chatted with him a few times and I like his make up. He deserved his recall to Lehigh Valley, where he displays more confidence this time around. He simply challenges hitters to hit his stuff and I admire that bravery. If his breaking pitches continue to develop, he shows me something.

That’s all for now, and that’s plenty. I promise I won’t wait another six weeks for the next one. If you made it this far, thank you! I really enjoy doing this.

Author: chrislabarge


Chris is a husband, father, electrician, baseball fanatic, if you’re into labels. Born and raised in the Lehigh Valley of eastern PA, but in his heart, he knows he doesn’t belong there. In the meantime, Chris will attend every Iron Pig/Fightins game he can.


  1. Aron

    Any impression on Knapp’s skills behind the plate?

  2. Romus

    Good report Chris.
    Also good to hear the Biddle information and development pattern

  3. chrislabarge

    We’re headed to Reading tonight to watch Eflin throw again and I’m hoping Knapp catches again. If he does, I’ll try to pay attention. He does seem to struggle a bit with blocking balls in the dirt but I can’t say I’ve studied him back there…

    • Romus

      Enjoy the game……on Knapp…October ’13 he had TJ surgery….people/pundits claim his arm is weak…..probably only the last few months has is it got back the strength and velo prior to his pre-TJ days. So interesting to see how you report on Knapp.