The Vancouver Canadians got their 2016 season underway last night in Spokane on the right foot, with a 9th rally rally to win 5-3 after losing the lead in the bottom of the 8th. But most importantly was the debut of 2015 3rd round pick Justin Maese in affiliated ball after spending last summer in the GCL, skipping right over Bluefield to get the opening night start. And it was excellent.
Maese went 5 shutout innings, allowing just 2 baserunners, both hits as he didn't yield any free passes. He struck out 6, which is positive in that he only struck out 19 in 36 innings last summer until a playoff game when he went off for 10K in 6 innings. He was able to miss bats, 10 recorded whiffs on 30 swings. Maese is primarily a sinker/slider pitcher, so it's not surprising that he kept most contact on the ground, but the tradeoff is that sinkerballers don't usually strike many out. In total, he threw about 75 pitches, though the totals below are incomplete since I couldn't tabulate the second inning from the broadcasts and there's no pitch-by-pitch Gameday to fall back on.
I wish I could add a little more about his stuff, but unfortunately neither broadcast was particularly good, multiple times disagreeing whether a pitch was a fastball or slider (I'm not really sure how that happens, considering sinkers and sliders move in opposite directions) when not cutting out or not actually calling the game. And the one time they both passed along a reading from the stadium gun, one said 93 MPH and the other 91 MPH, which frankly is even more inexplicable. So we can really only assess based off the box score and pitch level data, which was very good.
Maese's progress will be interesting to follow, as a popup guy last spring from one of the tougher areas for scouts to access in El Paso that sometimes consequently gets overlooked. That was compounded but having been a quarterback as well, and having a lower profile than year-round baseball players. He signed for $300,000 - less than half the slot - and so far is looking like excellent value.
With Dunedin off for the FSL All-Star break, there weren't many other prospect outings last night, and unfortunately the two there were weren't very good. Shane Dawson didn't make it out of the second inning, though a potential double play ball was booted and things spiraled. But even accounting for that, Dawson simply didn't have good or even passable command, and with a fastball that was topping out at 88 MPH, that's going to result in struggles. Brady Dragmire had what ended up as an extended relief outing since he wasn't very effective, also walking 3 with no strikeouts. John Stilson was the most effective pitcher, going 2 shutout innings with a strikeout and walk.
Tom Robson likewise struggled. The first time through the order, he issued three walks but generated weak contact to get through unscathed. The second time around he got hit hard, and they were strung together to hang 6 runs on him. The third time through, he rebounded a little to get the two strikeouts and more weak contact. The consistency just still isn't there, even if the velocity is (touched 96).