November 7, 2014
Minor League Update
Surprises and Disappointments: AFL Pitchers
Most Surprising: Archie Bradley, RHP, Diamondbacks:
Bradley’s turn in the AFL has received a lot of press, but given his struggles this season and the reports of his questionable command, I wasn’t expecting much more than impressive velocity from him at the start of the Future’s Game. Without researching any changes in his repertoire before seeing him, I certainly wasn’t expecting to see a potential plus slider. His command was far from perfect, but it was much better than the rumors suggesting he might be destined for the bullpen would have you believe. Furthermore, the slider (which comes in between 88-91 mph and is more of a cutter) allows him to save the big, power curveball for when he’s ahead in the count and needs to miss a bat. Overall, it reaffirmed my belief that he can remain a starter, even with average fastball command.
Most Disappointing: Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates:
Reports of Glasnow’s command during the season were on par with Bradley’s, in that it was below average, but his velocity allowed him to get away with it. What we saw in the desert, however, is that the gap is much bigger than that. Glasnow’s velocity was diminished at this late point in the season, but that had no effect on his command, which wavered greatly because of inconsistent mechanics. He hit his target location (his catcher’s spot, not balls or strikes) with around only 30 percent of his fastballs in this outing, which is an unacceptably low amount. Additionally, he also needs to work on the consistency of his off-speed pitches, but doesn’t give himself an opportunity to do so because he’s typically behind in the count. There are many young pitchers with fastball command issues, and improvements can be made, but for a pitcher who dominated the minors to this point and will be heading to Double-A next season, he has a lot of ground to make up. —Jeff Moore
Most Surprising: Steven Okert, LHP, Giants:
Before heading out to the Fall League, Okert was just another relief prospect by my estimation. I knew the stat line between High-A and Double-A was otherworldly, but statistics for relievers in the minors often have to be taken with a massive grain of salt until the scouting backs it up. After giving me the ammunition to write this glowing report during the week, Okert made an appearance against Steven Moya in the Fall Stars Game, the result of which left me speechless. The sequence was absolutely filthy, enticing Moya to offer at two straight sliders and freezing him with another right over the heart of the plate, earning the strikeout on three straight offerings. Moya was hopeless from the start. No longer just a name, Okert has plenty of stuff and the requisite feel to back it up, leaving him as a legitimate option in the back end of San Francisco’s bullpen in the not so distant future. I never thought I’d leave the desert so enamored with a relief prospect, but Okert did enough in the right spots to force me into his corner.
Most Disappointing: Clayton Blackburn, RHP, Giants:
Having never laid eyes on him, Blackburn was an intriguing name to see in the AFL due to the solid numbers he had put up in the Eastern League this season. The Texas native did little to impress in person, however. The body, while strong and built for workload, is quite soft through his midsection and could pose a problem down the road, as any weight added to his frame would be of the bad variety. The slow-paced delivery is simple if uninspiring with little energy expended throughout, releasing the ball from a three-quarters slot. The stuff is pedestrian, pounding the zone with an average two-seam fastball in the 88-92 mph range with sink and run down in the zone. His breaking stuff loses effectiveness due to his tendency to slow his arm down, particularly on his below-average 70-73 mph looping curveball. His low-80s slider and upper-70s changeup are adequate but not consistently effective within the zone. He throws strikes, but the stuff lacks bite, and he doesn’t possess a true swing-and-miss offering in his arsenal. With this in mind, Blackburn, while fairly safe in terms of his making it to the major leagues, looks more the part of a long reliever who could spot start if needed. —Ethan Purser
Most Surprising: Jake Reed, RHP, Twins:
Drafted in the fifth round this year, Reed has quickly moved through the Twins' system and is getting extra work in the AFL. The numbers that Reed accumulated with Cedar Rapids this season were ungodly, and it makes sense once you put eyes on the stuff. Reed has a violent delivery with a big rock and a slight stab, but there is also a huge drive and an above average plane. His fastball was 93-96 in my viewing, with hard armside run that was pounding hitters inside and painting the black. He also flashed an average slider a few times. The command is erratic, but a quick delivery (about 1.30 to the plate) and hard stuff will likely help the Twins sooner rather than later. Reed could be a useful late-inning option in the near future.
Most Disappointing: Sam Wolff, RHP, Rangers:
With experience watching Wolff in Myrtle Beach earlier this season, I was interested in seeing what mechanical refinements he’d made since my last viewing. The righty had trouble repeating his mechanics in my initial look, and this cost him velocity and crispness on his stuff. My AFL viewing turned out to be the same, with Wolff failing to replicate the same arm slot and release point throughout his appearance. The stuff is good, with a fastball that cuts in the low-to-mid 90s, but the changeup has not improved, and the curveball can become loopy. It's a hard profile to envision providing impact on a consistent basis at the highest level, and I worry that he will never be able to piece it all together. —Tucker Blair
Most Surprising: Jimmie Sherfy, RHP, Diamondbacks:
Heading into the AFL, Sherfy was nothing but a name, a relief prospect whose shape had eluded me in 2014. He uncoiled fastballs at 96-97 with wiggle and a slider that has wipeout potential. Sherfy also displayed command of the strike zone with his fastball, which made the slider all the more unfair when he did uncork it. I wasn’t a fan of Sherfy’s second inning of work, but the first frame shined brightly. He’s a reliever and one with closer potential. Typically, those aren’t the guys I fall for, but Sherfy’s outing was a nice surprise.
Most Disappointing: Jefferson Olacio, LHP, White Sox:
It’s tough to describe what the 20-year-old Olacio looks like on the mound. He’s a giant of a man with long legs and an odd shape to the rest of him. His delivery is a mess as he leaks power with a ridiculously short stride for a person his size. It limited his velocity when I saw him in Arizona, as he struggled to touch 90 on the gun. He looks like someone who should throw in the upper 90s, and instead he delivered mid-80s flat fastballs and flat secondary offerings. When I combine my look with the fact that he’s allowed a ton of baserunners in the AFL, he’s easily the most disappointing prospect that we saw. —Mauricio Rubio