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July 18, 2011 at 7:54 AM

The Ladder: Eastern League All-Stars

RHP Alex Wilson
Date: July 13, 2011
Team: Eastern League All-Stars

Outing: 0.1 innings, 5 hits, 0 strikeouts, 1 walk.

Take: Wilson came out of the bullpen to pitch the ninth inning of the game. Although an exhibition game, it was a chance to see how his stuff would play up in a situation where he knows that he only has one inning to pitch and can let loose a little bit more with his arsenal. For the performance, Wilson got the first batter of the inning to flyout to left field on a 94 MPH fastball, but things went south in a hurry for him. After walking the next batter, Wilson proceeded to get tagged for five straight singles prior to being lifted. Two of the hits were of the infield variety, but batters were getting very good swings on Wilson’s fastball despite sitting 93-95 MPH.

The main problem was that his heater was coming in extremely straight and he was having considerable trouble commanding it, leaving the pitch in the middle of the plate frequently. Wilson rushed through his delivery during the outing and the result was him consistently over-throwing which caused his fastball to straighten out elevated in the zone. The majority of his fastballs were middle-to-away against right-handed batters and he had little feel for commanding the pitch arm-side. Wilson attempted to mix in three 84-85 MPH sliders during sequences, but opposing batters were not biting. He held onto the pitch a bit too long causing it to break early out of the strike zone and lose its trademark late break. Looking a bit too amped up and eager to show what he can do in the setting, Wilson strayed away from how he’s kept his delivery under control this season and that is going to be something for him to learn how to reel in when he most likely converts to a relief pitcher at the major league level.

OF Alex Hassan
Date: July 13, 2011
Team: Eastern League All-Stars

2 for 4, single, double.

Take: Elected as a starter to the game, Hassan ended up playing all nine innings and logged four plate appearances. His first time up at the plate resulted in a soft lineout to the first baseman on a slider breaking away from him. Hassan was down in the count 1-2 and forced to protect. The next three times up at the plate resulted in at-bats much more typical of the ones Hassan has been having this season. His second time up, he was able to work himself into a 3-1 count before jumping all over an inside 93 MPH fastball and rock it down the left field line for a double. Hassan was extremely quick with his hands to clear the pitch out. He showed solid batspeed and fluidity with his swing to keep the ball fair. If he can add more lift through the hitting zone to create better backspin, Hassan can drive that ball out of the ballpark with more frequency.

The next time at the plate resulted in him getting up 3-2. Geared up for a fastball, Hassan got another one on the inner third at 93 MPH and smoked it right at the third baseman for a lineout. Although resulting in an out, it was almost a carbon copy swing of the previous plate appearance and extremely hard contact as a result of getting his hands quickly through the hitting zone, and using his lower body to create torque. The final plate appearance for Hassan resulted in another 3-2 count and he picked up a single against a fastball over the plate. He didn’t barrel up the pitch as well as the previous two fastballs, but was able to get enough wood on the ball by extending his arms and hit a line drive in front of the left fielder. Hassan showed off his ability to hit a fastball in the game and also displayed his grinding approach, seeing 21 pitches in his four plate appearances to get himself into situations to drive his pitch.

Player Notes

Outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang was quickly welcomed into the game on the second pitch of his first plate appearance, taking a 96 MPH fastball from left-handed pitcher Casey Crosby in the back. Chiang played the first five innings of the game out in left field and also got another chance to hack against left-handed pitcher Jeff Locke. Up in the count 2-0 against Locke, he attacked a 91 MPH two-seamer on the inner third, but the pitch was running a bit too much in on his hands and Chiang sliced it out to left field for a flyout. Balls in that spot have tended to give him some trouble this season, but when he can pull his hands in enough he is capable of driving it the other way with an inside-out swing…Right-handed starter Stephen Fife was tasked with cleaning up Wilson’s mess in the ninth inning after initially being slotted to work extra innings if the game went that far. Fife picked up two swinging strikeouts with curveballs at 77 MPH and 80 MPH. Both curves showed some sharp bite into the dirt. Fife had each batter setup by pounding the strike zone with his 88-90 MPH fastball early in the sequences…Like Chiang, third baseman Will Middlebrooks started and played the first five innings. Middlebrooks also faced lefties Crosby and Purke in his two plate appearances. After he got up 3-1 in his first time up at the plate against Crosby, he was unable to fully pull his hands in on a 92 MPH inside fastball and the result was a jam shot off the trademark to the center fielder for a lineout. Middlebrooks was guilty of over-extending and it resulted in him not being able to drive the ball well. Facing Locke his second time up, he got a 92 MPH fastball over the plate to his liking and drilled a ringing double off the top of the right field wall that just missed getting out for a home run. In this instance, Middlebrooks was able to get full extension and drive the ball with plenty of backspin.