(GAME DATE – Feb. 26, 2020) — The Bull League kicks off Spring Training today, and players and GMs are anxious to play some baseball once again.
The off-season was quiet, with just a handful of big name free agent deals, and not too many trades, as teams worked on developing their talent internally and making adjustments as we move into the second year of full 162-game schedules.
As we preview 2020 Spring Training, many eyes will be on two big-hitting sluggers who will be making spring appearances for their respective clubs. John Rambo, the current #1 prospect who was drafted in 2019 by the Chicago Pit Bulls, is making a spring training debut after closing out 2019 at AAA-level Milwaukee Pugs.
Rambo had a strong draft year at Arizona State, batting .419 and blasting 34 homers on his way to being named NCAA Player of the Year for the PAC-10/SEC group. He was selected first overall in the June draft, and was consistent at AA and AAA through the rest of last summer, with plus-.950 OPS’s at both levels.
Depending on his health this spring, he could see Opening Day in the Pit Bulls lineup, though most scouts believe he still needs another year to develop at AAA.
The other big name we will be watching will be last year’s #3 prospect John Heart, who was drafted in 2016 by the Dallas Deputies (then called the Lawmen). He was a 2nd overall pick that year, and has had a slower development track than Rambo, but is expected to get to the same place.
An outfielder, like Rambo, Heart has a huge power swing but has demonstrated an ability to hit well with it less consistently, with just 37 career pro homers, and a .260 career average. Heart spent 23 games at AAA-level Fort Worth last season, after a successful AA campaign, but it thought to need more time in the minors to season his swing mechanics.
Heart will make a spring appearance for Dallas, but is not likely to break into the Opening Day roster.
Another college name to watch is Branden Cassidy, a right-hander for the Boston Brawlers organization. Cassidy came out of the Can-Am College League’s Utah State U Preachers, where he threw a no-hitter, and was drafted 20th overall in 2017.
Since then, he worked his way at lower levels within the Brawlers system, finally demonstrating some dominance in late 2018 with A-level Lexington, where he held a WHIP of 0.98, allowing just 8 walks and 33 hits while striking out 37 batters in 42.0 innings. On the back of that campaign, he was bumped up to AAA-level Halifax in 2019, and crafted a record of 11-3, with a 3.42 ERA, breaking 100 strikeouts.
Cassidy’s contract was purchased from Halifax last October, and as a 40-man roster player he could make the Opening Day roster this year if he continues to project good things for Boston in spring.
Boston has made drasting roster improvements this off-season, adding pitchers Andrew Ward and Jon Courteau along with reliever Yardbrook Rooks.
The Montreal Metros have also had a string of positive moves since the end of 2019, including the signing of former Ohio relievers Chris Kimbrough and Chris Soundgarden, veteran arm Ivan Morillo, and picking up 1B Glen Bedard in a trade with Nevada.
Spring Training will run for 5 weeks, with Opening Day slated for April 1, 2020.