November 6, 2014
Minor League Update
Surprises and Disappointments: AFL Hitters
Most Surprising: Trevor Story, 2B, Rockies:
Story's prospect trajectory has been as volatile as a social media stock price, but his tools have remained intact. I expected his high strikeout totals to be the product of a terrible approach or big holes in his swing, but none were glaring. Story's bat is explosive, as is his athleticism. His baseball actions are fantastic and he's taking kindly to second base. There is still swing-and-miss in his game, but I left feeling much more confidant that he will be able to be a big league regular at the keystone than I had anticipated being upon arrival. He's a still a flawed player, but his physical ability should be enough to overcome those flaws.
Biggest Disappointment: Nick Williams, OF, Rangers:
As a fan of prospects with plate discipline, I came in with the bar set pretty low for what I was expecting from Williams. Still, given the reports I had heard from other scouts, both ours and within the game, I was expecting the good parts of Williams' game to jump out at me more. There is bat speed to go along with many of the physical tools needed to be a good hitter, but the approach is borderline comical. In order to get away with his current style of hitting, his ability needs to be elite and I don't think it's there. Simply put, I don't think he'll hit major-league pitching. —Jeff Moore
Most Surprising: Roman Quinn, OF, Phillies:
As a guy who received mostly “meh” reviews over the course of the season, Quinn stood out to me over our five-day span in the desert. The top-of-the-line speed is obvious, with digs in the 3.9 range and a jailbreak bunt at 3.58 seconds, though his approach on the bases will need to be refined as he currently runs into too many unnecessary outs. While he is a new convert to the outfield, Quinn showed surprising acumen with his reads off the bat, and while his pure speed makes up for his circuitous routes at present, he shows enough instincts to project solid routes to the ball in the future with an average arm from center. From the left side, he utilizes a short, compact swing with a slight touch of lift in the bat path and shows a decent knowledge of the zone, walking more than he has struck out so far this fall. He has sneaky 40-grade raw pop and showed a willingness to drive the ball the other way in games, sending a ball to the opposite-field warning track to collect a triple in one particular at bat. While there remains some level of subjectivity attached to the “most surprising” tag due to one’s relative expectations going in, I came away liking Quinn more than most. With elite speed, a projected plus or better glove in a premium position, and an adequate bat, Quinn projects as a very serviceable fourth outfielder who has a decent shot of working his way into a starting role at some point down the line.
Biggest Disappointment: Dante Bichette Jr., 3B, Yankees:
After putting up much improved numbers in his fourth professional season between High-A and Double-A, there was at least some hope among prognosticators that Bichette had perhaps started to put it together after floundering throughout the beginning of his career. After seeing him in the AFL, however, the former first-round pick still leaves a lot to be desired on both sides of the ball. The raw power is certainly impressive, hitting moonshots in BP that rank just slightly below the exploits of Renfroe and Judge. On the other hand, Bichette showed poor barrel control in the cage, popping pitches straight up or rolling over them on multiple occasions as a result of being off balance. His powerful swing includes a big hand hitch and leg kick and results in a lot of momentum going into the ball, but the 22-year-old struggles to adequately get his barrel to well-placed pitches on the inner third and often struggles with maintaining his balance throughout his relatively complicated swing. Despite a strong arm, he is a poor athlete in the field and will likely move further down the defensive spectrum as he gets bigger with age. The raw power is enough for him to remain intriguing, but I can’t foresee anything more than an organizational piece going forward with an outside shot that he makes to the big leagues as a mistake-mashing bench bat. —Ethan Purser
Most Surprising: Tony Renda, 2B, Nationals:
It’s easy to squeeze undersized middle infielders into the gritty, grinder mold. Doing so frequently undersells a player’s skill set as we ignore what they’re showcasing and instead concentrate on how fast or hard they’re running down the line on sacrifice bunt attempts. I was guilty of this with Tony Renda, the 5-foot-8 (generously) Washington Nationals second base prospect. Renda had a very gritty bunt attempt on which he flew down the line, adding a marker to the hustle ‘n’ grit stereotype. Renda has other skills that he showcased, however. He has a nice swing and good actions at second base. He’s a try-hard player for sure, but a pretty damn fast one who can hit solid liners and play a good second base.
Biggest Disappointment: Daniel Robertson, SS, OAK:
I’m going to temper this by saying that Robertson was a mild disappointment and not a complete disaster. This was set up by the expectations I had heading into my viewing of Robertson. I had seen him previously in Kane County during the 2013 season and was eager to update myself on his progress as a player. I thought Robertson had big potential then and while it’s not completely out of the question that Robertson still cashes in on said potential I think it’s much more likely that Robertson turns himself into a solid everyday player rather than a star one. His raw power wasn’t present in my viewings over the Fall League and he didn’t stand out amongst his peers. He’s a fine player, and I believe he’ll be a major leaguer, but I was expecting more when perhaps I shouldn’t have been. —Mauricio Rubio