Incredible defensive plays in Spring Training are always well-received – we’ve been waiting for them for so long! – but they also always give me a moment of pause. Being that the primary directive in Spring Training is to stay healthy and get the body physically ready for the regular season, going all out on a diving catch or something is probably not ideal. At the same time, you do want players to start getting into the mode where they’ll be themselves on Day One of the regular season, so it’s probably hard to tell them in the heat of the moment to take it easy.
Fortunately, when it comes to defensive highlights, there were two great ones yesterday that didn’t really imperil anybody’s health.
On a rocket shout out to center field, future Gold Glover Albert Almora did what he does, which is draw an immediate bead on the ball, get to where he needs to be to make a play, and then make that play:
As usual, Almora makes that look easy, but I expect we would see with more camera angles that, off the bat, the ball clearly appeared ticketed for the wall. But Almora knows where he needs to go SO quickly and takes SUCH clean routes that the gap between his body and the expected landing spot disappears in an instant. He reminds me a lot of Jason Heyward in that way (though Heyward is a little faster, and Almora might be a little quicker).
I cannot wait to watch him work this year, and I really hope he takes that center field job and runs with it. (With apologies to Jon Jay, who, hey, could still be a very nice reserve outfielder on this team.)
Meanwhile, there was a sterling defensive play by a shortstop that resulted in a double play, and no it wasn’t Addison Russell:
Heck, if I excluded Russell, and I told you there was a killer double play in the infield in the game, and Javy Baez was involved, you’d naturally assume he did something incredible. But not this time, as Baez as merely the humble recipient of Kawasaki’s sliding, rolling, tossing play (and then, well, yes, Baez made a nice turn and firm throw to first).
We haven’t had a chance to see it much, as Kawasaki spent the vast majority of his 2016 season at Iowa (and on the Cubs’ bench), but he’s long been considered an excellent glove man at a variety of positions. And he’s clearly still got it at age 35.
With flashy skills like that, Kawasaki could probably carve himself out a nice career as a commercial spokesman. No, seriously, he could – because he has, and his latest commercial is amazing, even if I don’t know what it’s about or for.