The Rome Braves home opener wasn't a pitching duel for the ages. Nor was it a slugfest, despite the scoreboard showing 24 runs and 23 hits by the time the Charleston RiverDogs Garrett Mundell struck out Lucas Herbert to end the three hour and thirty-two minute marathon.
The biggest takeaway from the stacked Rome roster?
They are fast.
Really, really fast.
"Oh yeah," manager Randy Ingle said. "We've been using it so far. We got speed on this club. That's something that comes to the park everyday. Speed. I love to manage a club that has speed. When you do that you put the pressure on the other team. Even when they're not on base, we have guys that can bunt the ball pretty good."
Rome got to the RiverDogs starter Freicer Perez -- a highly-regarded Yankees prospect who hit 98 -- early. They drove him from the game after the second inning. Surprisingly, Rome put up eight runs after three with just one extra base hit.
They did so by legging out base hits and executing steal after steal after steal.
Anfernee Seymour, Derian Cruz, Christian Pache, and Randy Ventura can flat out fly. Kevin Josephina can run as well.
After Seymour's leadoff single, shortstop Derian Cruz bunted him over... and turned it into a single of his own.
And then of course, you pull off the double steal of second and home. (NOTE: I admittedly was filming the New York Yankees impressive catching prospect Donny Sands throwing, which was why I didn't focus on the runners. This still captures the magic that happened. You can see Cruz more than halfway down the line to second and at the end, Seymour does his best Superman impersonation swiping home).
Seymour is likely the fastest of the bunch.
Seymour is the Bahamas native that was drafted in the seventh round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Out of American Heritage High School in Delray Beach, Fl., the Miami Marlins chose Seymour, keeping him close to home. A centerfielder by trade, the Marlins -- understandably with one of the best young outfields in the game -- shifted Seymour to the infield. He moved to shortstop, but never really settled in.
The Marlins sent Seymour to the Braves in the Hunter Cervenka deal, and he joined the SAL Championship squad for their title run. Seymour was seldom used down the stretch, however.
That's because Seymour took a step back offensively in his first year at full-season ball. Still a threat on the base paths with his 80-grade speed -- finishing second in the SAL with 43 stolen bases -- he became more of a free swinger. Seymour struck out 118 times in 491 at bats, posting a .296 on base percentage. Those are hardly the numbers one wants from someone atop their order with that kind of speed.
The problem was Seymour was pressing. He didn't handle the switch to the infield well at all. In two years at shortstop he made 75 errors in 801 chances. He added pressure to himself, and it resulted in troubles at the plate as well.
This season, Ingle moved Seymour back to the outfield and he looks like a new player. Most imortantly, he's smiling when discussing his -- excuse the pun -- fast start.
"I'm pretty much comfortable," Seymour said. "It takes the pressure off me trying to be perfect in the infield and perfect at the plate. I'm not saying the outfield is easy, but it's less pressure for me than the infield. I get to focus more on hitting."
It has translated into a .348/.423/.522 slash line to start the season. He has eight base hits already, four of which he has extended into doubles. He's tacked on three stolen bases and has scored four runs. In other words, Seymour is causing havoc on the base paths once again.
"Skip [Randy Ingle] told me I pretty much have the green light," Seymour said. "Whenever I feel comfortable go, unless he shuts me down. It's more of a when I'm comfortable, take the bag."
He still needs to improve his plate discipline, striking out six times and walking just twice. As Rome's leadoff hitter, he is his toughest critic, which means he knows and is working hard towards those improvements.
"Sometimes when I don't get on or don't do anything, I get mad at myself," Seymour said. "I feel that once I get going, the whole team gets going."
Seymour, Cruz and Ventura all stole two bases apiece Thursday night. They scored a combined four runs and drove in three more, accounting for seven of Rome's eight runs.
You just can't teach speed.
KEEP AN EYE ON:
Ventura was arguably the most impressive of the bunch, simply because he is under the radar. Seymour and Cruz have become somewhat household names amongst Braves and prospect circles, but Ventura has made the jump from two stints -- one in the DSL, one in the GCL -- to Low-A seem easy.
The 19-year old switch-hitter has always shown speed and sound instincts at the plate and it has translated quite well in his full-season debut. He is slashing .409/.480/.455 while going 6-for-6 in stolen bases. Ventura hasn't been rattled by older pitching, as he has drawn three walks to three strikeouts. He won't wow you with power -- of his nine hits, one has been for extra bases -- but he seemingly turns every single into a double. Short and compact standing at 5-foot-9, Ventura made swiping third base look pretty easy.
Thursday wasn't the best fielding performance by anyone on the Rome roster. Paired with a small sample size to start the season, it's not fair to anoint Ventura the Braves' sleeper prospect of the year. But he has impressed thus far and I for one am excited to see where he goes.