Working the top of the seventh with the Phillies down by a run to the Padres, Brad Lidge pitched a perfect inning Monday in his season debut.
Lidge, who went down in the spring with a sore shoulder and later dealt with elbow problems as well, threw 11 pitches, nine of them sliders. His first fastball came in at 89 mph. The second was a 90 mph pitch that nearly hit Jesus Guzman in the head.
Other than that, it was all sliders. His first five were mediocre at best, but he got better from there, particularly with the two that proved to be strike two and strike three to Kyle Blanks. His other two outs came on grounders.
All in all, it was a positive debut. Still, the circumstances were very favorable, as the one left-handed hitter he faced, Will Venable, had three homers in 221 at-bats for the season. Hitters no longer have to be afraid of Lidge’s fastball, and good left-handers should be able to wait him out until getting a hanging slider or a walk.
ESPN’s Keith Law has released his annual top-100 prospects list. According to Law, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna is the number one prospect in baseball.
After blazing through High-A and Double-A ball last season, Acuna was the youngest player in Triple-A in 2017. He was 19 years-old all season long and put up a fantastic line of .335/.384/.534 in 486 plate appearances at Double and Triple-A. He then went on to star in the Arizona Fall League, leading that circuit in homers. Law, who is not one to throw hyperbolic comps around, says, “if Acuna stays in center and maxes out his power, he’s going to be among the best players in baseball, with a Mike Trout-ish profile.”
Acuna, who is 20 now, is likely play the bulk of the season in Atlanta, even if he’s kept down at Triple-A for the first couple of weeks of the season to manipulate his service time, er, I mean to allow him to develop his skills more fully. Or something. Given the presence of reigning Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte, Acuna is not likely to man center for the Braves this year, but Law says he’d be a plus right field defender, which could make the Braves outfield Death to Flying Things in 2018. At least when Nick Markakis is not playing.
Number two on the list: Blue Jays third base prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. As law notes, the name may be familiar but he’s not very much like his old man. Mostly because young Vlad can take a walk. Which is better, even if it’s nowhere near as fun as swinging at balls that bounce in the dirt first.
For the other 98, you’ll have to click through.