Durham hosted an 11 a.m. "Education Day" game on Thursday against Charlotte, giving me an opportunity to see a few of Tampa's top prospects, including the two major names they acquired in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade.
• Durham starter Jake Odorizzi showed four pitches, but nothing was plus or even truly above average. His fastball was straight at 89-92, touching 93 in the fourth, and he struggled badly with command throughout his outing. Early in the game, he worked mostly with an 83-85 mph slider, trying to backdoor it to lefties, and an 80-82 mph straight change. Later in the outing, he flipped a few slow curveballs, with good depth but perhaps too slow to be more than a show-me pitch.
Unfortunately, none of the other three offerings is a swing-and-miss pitch -- he took advantage of a bad Charlotte lineup more than anything else. He had some success when elevating the fastball, but that's a bad formula against big league hitters who hit mistakes out of the park.
Odorizzi's delivery is very clean and simple, with a little deception from how long he hides the ball and very good extension out front when he releases the ball. He stays online to the plate with a consistent landing spot. There seemed to be a plan in place to work hitters side to side and up and down, but his trouble locating the fastball meant he couldn't fully execute it.
• Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee wasn't given much of a chance to impress Thursday, bunting in two of his first three at-bats (both were clearly attempts to bunt for a hit and advance a runner), with a first-pitch swinging bunt of sorts in the other at-bat. His fourth at-bat saw him finally allowed to swing away, and he responded with a line-drive single that broke a seventh-inning 2-2 tie.
Lee's swing looks better than it did in the Arizona Fall League last year, when he was a mess -- he's keeping his weight back much better now, which should produce more solid contact and less cutting through fastballs like he did in October. I've always believed in his defense, and he's a plus-plus runner, but he'll need to maintain this swing to be an everyday shortstop in the majors.
• Right fielder Wil Myers should have been the headliner but had a slow day, finishing with a bloop single that should have been caught, after which he was replaced by a pinch runner.
The main difference I see is with his front leg -- at the time of contact, his front foot is now pointing almost directly at the pitcher, and sometimes it's not even flat on the ground, which pulls his whole body out counterclockwise and means he's getting less force from his lower half. That makes it sound like a bigger deal than it is -- it took me a few looks at the video to pick it up -- but it's not right. Myers' swing was never picture-perfect, but it worked because he has strong, quick wrists and a very good idea of the strike zone. Rolling that front foot may be a problem for him, especially in producing power, however.
• Tim Beckham ... I remember when he had bat speed.
• Charlotte's roster was very light on prospects -- I'm not saying its players are old, but a few of them brought their grandkids to the game -- with outfielder Jared Mitchell the one name who might be of interest to Chicago White Sox fans. Unfortunately, it wasn't pretty, as Mitchell swung through 90-91 mph fastballs while striking out in his first two at-bats. I spoke to a scout earlier today who had Mitchell last year. He told me he put Mitchell in as a release candidate; I wish I could offer something to dispute that.