With MLBPA members currently locked out of Spring Training and team facilities, the union has set up a facility in Arizona so that players can attempt to replicate a normal spring training experience. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at the situation, which includes some surreal details, such as softball, pickleball players and children also making use of the equipment near the MLB players. “The Players Association has done an incredible job setting this up,” Nico Hoerner says about the setup. “Hopefully, more players start showing up, because it’s about as nice a place as I’ve ever worked out.” As noted by Slusser, Kyle Hendricks, Shane Bieber and Mark Melancon are just some of the other big leaguers present there.
Elsewhere, Alex Wood is working out in Georgia with his fellow Giant and battery mate Joey Bart. With no firm timeline on when Spring Training or the regular season will get started, it makes it difficult for players to decide how to prepare. “I’m slowly ramping up,” Wood said. “I’m going to continue to build volume in hopes that in the next two weeks or so we hopefully get a deal. Once we head to camp, I should be ready to get in games pretty quickly.” Hoerner similarly feels he won’t be far from readiness once the lockout is over. “Give me my 30 at-bats and I’ll be ready to go,” he said.
Elsewhere around the league…
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times takes a look at the trajectory of right-handed pitching prospect Taj Bradley, who was selected by the Rays in the 5th round of the 2018 draft, when he was still a teenager. “I remember when Taj Bradley showed up on campus when he was 17 years old, and I think he was throwing 86, 87, 88 (mph),” minor-league field coordinator Michael Johns said. “We’re all kind of scratching our heads like, ‘Ooookaaaay.'” But Bradley took a huge step forward in 2021, logging 103 1/3 innings between A-ball and High-A, with an ERA of just 1.83, along with an excellent 31% strikeout rate and 7.8% walk rate. Based on that performance, he’s now considered the #58 prospect in the game by Baseball America. Bradley tells Topkin about the steps he’s taken to get where he is today, which includes keeping a journal of his progress. “I just start off with a quick, like, ‘You had a great game. You had a good outing. This is what you did well. You’ve been working on this. You did it. You succeeded,'” Bradley says. “And maybe with, like 0-2 pitches or put-away pitches or my cutter, just the development of it — not a con so much as improvements need to be made.” Bradley is not yet on the Rays’ 40-man roster, meaning he will be able to continue his development in game settings when the minor leagues begin in April, even if the lockout were to linger beyond that time.
- Like Bradley, Adam Kloffenstein was also selected by an AL East team in the 2018 draft, when the Blue Jays drafted him in the third round. But unlike Bradley, Kloffenstein had a miserable season in 2021, putting up an ERA of 6.22 in 101 1/3 innings at High-A. Keegan Matheson of MLB.com spoke to Kloffenstein about getting over the disappointing results of last year and moving into the future. “I was young when I was drafted. I’ve always been blessed, always been successful in this game — which has made it a lot of fun,” Kloffenstein said. “Last year, I didn’t have as much fun… Obviously, I’m bummed out about the season. I’m 20, 21 years old, and we’re going to look back on this in a couple years and it’s going to be the most important season I ever had.” Prospect evaluators have pointed out that the Blue Jays’ system is lacking in upper level pitching prospects, now that Alek Manoah has graduated to the big league team. If Kloffenstein can right the ship in 2022, he could potentially fill that hole for the organization. Having not yet landed a roster spot, Kloffenstein will be unaffected by the lockout, with Matheson noting that he could start the season in the rotation of the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.