April 1, 2015
Notes from the Field
Seven Days and 32 Prospects in the Desert
Al Skorupa just returned from the Cactus League. Here's who he saw on the backfields.
Christian Arroyo, SS, San Francisco Giants
Arroyo lacks imposing tools and physicality, but is a solid all-around player. Arm is sufficient for shortstop, but actions and footwork are lacking. He puts the ball in play with a simple, contact-oriented swing. He has a good feel for hitting, but the power is more to the gaps than over the fences. There’s a lot of tweener to this profile, but Arroyo does enough well to be a role-5 type who could be a solution for a team in need at any of a few positions. His feel for the game and hustle lets the entire package of tools play up some.
Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Arcia was one of the best prospects I saw in Arizona. He’s a smooth, easy defender and a plus glove at shortstop. He demonstrated excellent athletic actions and body control to go with good hands, a quick release and a strong arm. Arcia has great instincts on the ballfield and a natural feel for the game. He has plus bat speed and his swing was reminiscent of his older brother’s—which is very much a good thing! I saw a guy who put together tough at-bats. Arcia is a selective hitter who uses the whole field and tracks pitches well. He has a good body and a chance to add some more good strength without losing his plus running tool. It’s often difficult to bear down on a hitter during spring backfields, but I loved what I saw from Arcia and I think he has a chance to be a role 6/All-Star shortstop. The gap between Arcia and the best shortstop prospects in the game is not at all as big as many would expect.
Roberto Baldoquin, SS, Los Angeles Angels
Baldoquin very much impressed me. He’s a fast-twitch athlete whose actions at shortstop were better than advertised. His hands were quick but inconsistent and he fumbled a couple balls. I’m not 100 percent sold he can play short off the look I got, but he’s either a solid defender at short or an asset defensively somewhere else. The arm strength isn’t top of the line, but his quick release and accuracy make the tool very effective. Baldoquin has great bat speed, tracks pitches very well and squared up a couple balls nicely. Shortstop who can do something with the bat are pretty valuable pieces. I’m also a big believer in players who demonstrate this kind of feel for the game. It will be interesting to see how Baldoquin develops and transitions to stateside baseball.
Tyler Beede, RHP, San Francisco Giants
This was my first look at Beede since seeing him in high school. He was very much the same pitcher, which I mean in a mostly positive way. The Giants have made some fairly minor changes trying to simplify his windup and stride. The raw stuff remains strong. Beede threw an easy 91-94 FB that can tough higher. The curve and change both flash as plus pitches, but command and consistency need to improve. The talent is here for at least a mid-rotation starter. Furthermore, Beede seems a great fit for the way the Giants develop pitching.
Michael Blazek, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Blazek commanded a low-90s FB very well in my viewing. There were a couple lapses where he lost his delivery and release point, but he managed to gut through them. His 78-81 curve was also sharp and he had a good feel for setting up hitters with it. He also flashed a decent changeup. The stuff wasn’t overwhelming and I’m not sure the fastball will be big enough on days his command is a half grade less. If I had seen more of Blazek I might be more comfortable projecting a bigger role for him, but I’d say he could be a back-end or swing starter. Out of the 'pen I saw either a good middle reliever or perhaps a set-up.
Jed Bradley, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Bradley was 87-92 and it’s a below-average FB. I saw 40 command of a sinker that doesn’t miss bats and is far too hittable. Average SL as well, and he mixes in a CH... and it all probably adds up to a middle relief arm. This profile of arm does work in the big leagues, but it's rarely average and almost never impact. Bradley gets a boost for being a competent left-hander, but I don’t know that his skill set is particularly good at neutralizing left-handed hitters, either.
Lewis Brinson, OF, Texas Rangers
Brinson’s natural gifts are immense. There’s a plus runner here who plays plus center field. The bat speed and raw power are both easy plus tools. Am I confident Brinson will hit? Not at all. I saw a nascent approach at the plate. He appeared to be the sort of guy who can coast at the lower levels on his natural tools without having to develop those tools into skills. He seemed to tinker a lot at the plate. Brinson worries me and I can’t give him a strong recommendation, but this is just not the type of talent you can give up on despite a long developmental path ahead and a boatload of risk.
Hunter Dozier, 3B, Kansas City Royals
I had never seen Dozier before, but the appeal was easy to see. He definitely looks the part in a uniform. He has a great baseball frame; a prototypical third base frame. He’s very athletic for his size with quick hands and excellent coordination. Dozier got caught in between hops on a chopper he had to charge. While he didn’t get the out it was a very tough play, and he fielded the ball quickly and cleanly and fired a rocket to first. He never really had a chance at the runner, but he had to rush and still made a very good play on the ball. At the plate he didn’t execute in the at-bats I saw, but I liked the thought process and could see the bat speed and leverage in his swing.
Brandon Drury, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Drury is a third baseman who works defensively in the mold of a less-mobile guy with a big arm and good first step. In my look, Drury worked pitchers well and showed an advanced feel for hitting. The hit tool is there and while his swing plane isn’t oriented for over-the-fence power, it always seems guys with this kind of strength and the ability to square balls up consistently tend to run into at least average home run power (along with plenty of doubles). The hit tool will have to carry Drury, as the rest of his skill set reads more average than impact. I see him as a role 5, maybe a high 5.
Cameron Garfield, C, Milwaukee Brewers
Garfield has a great build for a catcher and he’s at least a solid-average defender. He features a strong and accurate arm. He moves well behind the plate, while his blocking, receiving and hands are all average. Garfield possesses some bat speed, but showed a stiff lead and wasn’t short to the ball. The expectations for a backup catcher’s bat aren’t high, but Garfield has some adjustments to make in order to get there.
Terrance Gore, OF, Kansas City Royals
I’m not sure off this look where Gore fits, but man… he can fly. I felt I would be remiss not to mention him since he gave me my fastest run time ever off a bunt in his first AB. He reached first in 3.47 seconds. There’s no effort in his running and he laid down a very nice bunt to boot.
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
This was my first look at Hedges. He has often been compared to a prospect I’ve seen a lot of: the now injured Christian Vazquez. Hedges has a reputation as an elite defender, and he was excellent, but probably a half step behind Vazquez in most areas. The pop times were just plus, not HOF like Vazquez—but I was told I didn’t see him really let it fly. I never thought a whole lot of Vazquez’s bat. Hedges worries me just as much. I saw a player who looked lost at the plate. I saw a batter with no confidence in his swing at all. Hedges wasn’t trying to do damage up there—he was trying to not strike out or pop up. A 70 defender at catcher with a 30 hit tool still plays in the big leagues. Will Hedges even hit that much, though? His swing and approach are a long way from where they need to be.
Luke Jackson, RHP, Texas Rangers
This is a big arm with plus raw stuff. Jackson was 93-95 and missed plenty of bats. The secondaries are all strong, though I liked his hard slider more than his straight curveball. The slider works better for him and he had a lot more success commanding it compared to the curve. Jackson has starter stuff and his velo held up over multiple innings. There are elements to his game that may portend a bullpen future. As the day wore on Jackson’s delivery broke down and his release point drifted up. Already showing a stuff-over-command profile, Jackson becomes far too hittable when he loses his delivery.The stuff is good enough and his strengths are strong enough that I’d give him every chance to figure his delivery out. He might be no more than a few pitching coach adjustments from unlocking his mid-rotation ceiling.
Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Jungmann is a low three-quarters right-handed sinkerball pitcher. He throws a two-seam FB 91-94 with good, late sinking action. Jungmann throws his heater with good downward plane, to arm and glove side and to the bottom of the strike zone. He throws strikes and understands how to pitch but lacks a consistently above-average secondary offering. The CH was thrown with good arm speed and featured plus drop but he did not show me much feel for the pitch, and it often was thrown too firmly. The SL (74-77) was more of a slurvy pitch with rolling, early break. He threw the SL for strikes when he wanted, but it’s not a pitch that will fool hitters or miss bats. The SL was ineffective as a chase pitch, too. Overall, Jungmann looked to have pretty run-of-the-mill stuff and nothing really resembling an out pitch. He seemed to know his strengths and stuck to them, though, and that’s the kind of profile that makes for a solid back-end starter. Role 45/no. 5 starter
Corey Knebel, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
I first saw Knebel pitch for Collegiate Team USA as a rising sophomore. It was easy to peg his delivery, arm action, stuff and personality as a package that fit best out of the bullpen. In this game Knebel was 93-96 with below-average FB command. His heater still misses bats and his low-80s curve gives him the kind of plus two-pitch mix that works really well in the late innings. Sometimes a guy getting traded multiple times before the age of 24 is a bad sign. Other times it’s a sign of how much teams like a guy. If Knebel stays healthy I expect him to be very effective set-up guy or closer.
Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego Padres
Liriano has muscle and raw pop on his side. I did not at all like what I saw at the plate. He’s not a total free swinger, but It was less selectivity and more passivity. Liriano got a cookie fastball over the plate twice in obvious fastball counts and swung through each of them. I saw no real plan of attack from him. He didn’t see spin or soft well and there’s some length in his swing.
Yoan Lopez, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Cuban import was mediocre in my look. He was 89-92 with a heater that generates groundballs and misses bats down, but straightens out and gets hammered when he leaves it up. On this day at least he left a bunch of them up. There’s a SL and CH here that had flashes but were very inconsistent—and he often telegraphed them. There’s some talent and pitchability here, but the raw stuff is good and not great while the command is a major issue.
Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
Mazara was the best prospect I saw in Arizona. The game comes easy to him. He trackes pitches exceptionally well and he gave that impression good players give where it appears they’re seeing the game in slow motion. Mazara is a strong, physical presence and backs it up with good, natural athleticism for a guy his size. He fits well in right field with a strong arm to go with solid jumps and reads. He does not cover ground like a gold glover, but he’s probably something resembling an average defender out there. His strength is clearly his bat, though. Leverage and bat speed combine in his swing and the result is baseballs rocketing back the way they came. I’d normally be very reluctant to give such a strong recommendation off a spring look, but Mazara gave me every indication that he has a chance to be a star.
Yohander Mendez, LHP, Texas Rangers
A tall, lean, athletic, projectable lefty, Mendez worked 89-93 with weak command. I liked the changeup much more than his slider. The changeup is a legitimate weapon that Mendez has precocious feel for— typically a great sign in a teenage pitcher. Mendez flashed some feel for spin a couple times with his slider, but he needs to learn to extend and throw it harder. The biggest issue here is the strong need for physical development. Mendez simply needs to add muscle and weight. Getting stronger would help him repeat his delivery more and improve his command. This was a very appealing profile and I saw a lot of attributes in Mendez that could lead to a mid-rotation future. It’s going to be a long path, but Mendez could be worth the wait.
Keynan Middleton, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Middleton immediately exudes athleticism, but it’s still a reliever delivery with plenty of effort and a back stab. He’s a 3/4 right-handed pitcher armed with a low-90s FB that shows arm-side run and some sink when thrown low. Constricted shoulders and other timing issues lead to a constantly drifting release point and harm his fastball command. It’s hard to have much confidence with this profile, but athletic pitchers tend to be able to put things together late. The arm strength is there.
Adam Miller, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
25-years-olds who haven’t made it above Low-A aren’t typically all that interesting as prospects. Miller is your prototypical late bloomer, though. He lost two years of college development at BYU to a Mormon mission in Mexico. Most importantly he throws his fastball in the upper 90s. The command and control are a big project (present 20 command), but the potential for a plus or maybe even double plus fastball is here. Right now Miller needs to work on repeating his delivery and finding the strike zone consistently. The mechanics and stuff look to be a fit in the bullpen eventually, but if you can wait on the development there is the potential for a nice big-league piece here.
Luis Ortiz, RHP, Texas Rangers
One way to get my attention in a minor-league game is to show me plus stuff and velo. Another way is to perform against a big leaguer. Ortiz did both these things two minutes into my first view of him. Ortiz struck out Carl Crawford swinging in a four-pitch at-bat where Crawford looked badly overmatched. Ortiz worked 91-95 with his fastball before falling off a bit later. It’s a plus fastball that misses bats with late run and sinking action. The slider flashed double plus at 83-85 and Ortiz showed tremendous feel for and confidence in the pitch. Ortiz used the slider as a chase, threw it for strikes and dropped it in backdoor. He didn’t go to his changeup much, but it shows promise as a third at-least-average offering. The mechanics are a little clunky with a backstab and a full turn where he shows the batter his numbers. As long as Ortiz stays healthy and on top of his weight the potential is here for an above-average starting pitcher.
Victor Payano, LHP, Texas Rangers
Left-handed pitchers with size (6-foot-5) and arm strength (91-95, t96) are sought-after commodities for obvious reasons. All the same, Payano was a very frustrating pitcher to watch. There was very little FB command here. Payano worked mid thigh and up, missing spots regularly. His high three-quarter to over-the-top arm slot resulted in a very straight, hittable low-90s. Payano was overly passive, too, and didn’t attack hitters at all. His curveball was an offering that wouldn’t cut it with high school hitters. It was a soft, loose low-70s pitch with early break.
Michael Reed, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Reed looks the part in the field with a good body, strong arm and a plus run. He has some bat speed and he went up to the plate with a plan. I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in the bat off what I saw, though. The bat path was a bit loopy and the bat head lagged. Reed doesn’t get any torque from his lower half either. It’s very much an upper body swing. As a guy who can run and play all three outfield spots he profiles nicely on a big-league bench. I’m not sure off what I saw that he will hit enough or offer enough in the way of secondary skills to start every day.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres
I’m not confident Renfroe will hit for average, but there’s power, patience and athleticism enough to make a starting right fielder. Renfroe worked the count well. His homer-hungry swing and lack of a two-strike approach left me with concerns about the amount of swing-and-miss here. But he left me with a very positive impression overall and I don’t know he needs a 50 hit tool to be a productive major-league regular. The contact he does make will be hard contact.
Victor Roache, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Roache is a big, strong player with easy plus raw power. The ball jumps off his bat when he squares up a ball, but the raw power doesn’t play fully. Roache’s pitch identification skills are lacking and there is a significant amount of swing-and-miss in his game. He’s prone to expanding his zone as well, and there is some extra length in his swing. He does not run well. He has a very thick lower half and is slow out of the box, but he’s still a below-average runner even once underway. The run tool plays a bit better in the outfield than it does on the basepaths. At this point Roache appears to fit as an Up/Down option rather than a regular. I’m just not sure he’s going to hit enough and he does nothing else well. He’s a below-average right fielder whose only useful skill is right-handed power—and that’s something he can’t consistently get to in games.
Ty Ross, C, San Francisco Giants
In my views of him as an amateur Ross always struck me as a potential solid backup catcher. Nothing I saw on the backfields this spring really changed my opinion of him. The glove work behind the plate is fine. He’s a quality receiver and blocker—albeit not particularly mobile back there. He controls the running game well with his solid-average arm and good accuracy. The bat might come up short. There’s some juice in here. He’s not a slap hitter, but he’s more of a strong kid who punishes mistakes than anything. He’ll need to refine his approach at the plate to reach his power and give a team a reason to carry him on the bench.
Yasmany Tomas, 3B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
On the positive side, Tomas is capable of putting a charge in the baseball. I have big doubts as to whether he will be able to do that consistently. I saw Tomas play over three days and got a tremendous amount of at-bats since they had him batting third every inning of the minor-league games. Even with that many looks I only saw him hit one ball with any authority and I did not see him even come close to pulling a ball. He was late on everything—including some out and up, meatball, mid-80s “heaters” from low-minors pitchers. Tomas swung aggressively and early in the count, too. His idea of the strike zone and ability to identify secondary pitches is going to be a big issue. His physique was concerning, especially for a player purportedly capable of playing third base. Tomas doesn’t move well at the hot corner and his arm was inaccurate coming from a slow release. I really don’t think Tomas can handle third, and I think he might be more first baseman than left fielder with his noticeable lack of footspeed. Evaluators I talked to were overwhelmingly negative about Tomas and his profile. The player I saw does not have a role to play on a big-league club this year and I’m not sure where he fits in the future. I do have to wonder if he’s having trouble adjusting to baseball and life in this country and that’s negatively affecting him.
Wei-Chung Wang, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Wang is an athletic three-quarters southpaw with three average-ish pitches and some natural deception. He employs a rocking, full-windup, Asian-style delivery. The rhythm and delivery make for a bit of a tough pick-up and may help the entire profile play up some. FB was in the low 90s with cutting action. FB command profile is presently below average, but I can see some potential for improvement there. Improved command and control would be an easy case to make given that he’s a Tommy John survivor. Wang’s best secondary offering is a low-80s CH. It’s a pitch he probably should throw more often. I would have liked to see a firmer CB, but the pitch had good shape, fairly tight spin and he located the pitch well in all different counts. One concern I have is that with a cutting FB everything he throws moves away from left-handed hitters and breaks into right-handers. I do think there’s enough pitchability and feel here to mitigate that. As a lefty with solid stuff and average velocity, it’s fairly easy to see Wang helping a MLB staff. At the very least he’s a fit in middle relief, but there’s a chance here for him to emerge as a quality mid- or back-end starter with improved command.
Bo Way, OF Los Angeles Angels
Way is a potential leadoff type with little projection and some profile limitations, but he can play. He’s an easy plus runner and a very good athlete. Way uses a short, quick, simple swing and puts the ball in play. He laid down a nice bunt and reached first in sub 4.0 seconds. There’s not an impact big leaguer here or anything, but this is a prospect who looks like he can help a big-league team in a couple years. I would have liked to have seen more of the bat to get a better read, but the nature of this kind of coverage makes that tough for us. Power and extra-base hits are not going to be a strength of his game. He likely fits best as a bench/fourth outfielder.
Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers
Williams has some bat speed and quick hands at the plate, but he’s getting by on his natural talent right now. His hands load high and tight near his neck and it gives Williams a bit of a stiff lead while also causing his bat path to come in steep. Williams was aggressive at the plate and expanded his strike zone. While the tools are loud I get the feeling Williams will hit a wall with one of these promotions. At that point we’ll see if he has the ability to make the adjustments he needs to make to get to big-league pitching.
Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres
Wisler seemed mostly focused on establishing his fastball command when I saw him. He didn’t go to his secondaries much. Thought to be fair, he didn’t really need to. His low 90s FB didn’t overwhelm hitters, but he threw it in good spots to both sides of the plate. When Wisler misses with his FB he missed in the right spots, too. The changeup he only threw in warmups, but it teased me with the look of a real plus offering. The slider similarly showed in flashes. It’s not hard to see the profile of a mid to back end starter here.
Other Impressions: Jeremy Baltz (SD OF) has big-time raw power, but I don’t know if he can hit enough for it to play. He’s a power-only guy whose bat speed renders him a mistake hitter. Travis Demeritte (TEX 2B) is another typical Rangers athlete with bat speed. I very much liked Demeritte and Ti'Quan Forbes (TEX 3B), but I didn’t want to repeat myself too much after discussing Brinson and Nick Williams. All four players are talents but all four players are also big projects and I’m not sure they will figure it out at the plate. Both Forbes and Demeritte have impressive raw power to match their athletic ability and the ceiling is an above-average player for each. Alex Dickerson (SD 1B) is another raw power guy who has a long lead and can’t handle velo inside. The raw power is real, though. I’m not sure this profile works, but other mistake hitters have eked out a nice enough career with this skill set. Was surprised to see Kyle Farmer (LAD C) behind the plate after seeing him as a shortstop in college. He’s surprisingly good defensively as a backstop. He needs polish and lots of reps back there, but a backup catcher profile isn’t out of the question. Andrew Faulkner (TEX LHP) got hit hard, but I thought he was pretty unlucky. He’s got a quick arm and was deceptive at 89-94 mph with two quality secondary pitches (SL & CH). He could be a good second lefty out of the pen working middle innings. Another Rangers lefty, Jose LeClerc (TEX LHP) had a similar profile. LeClerc has a chance to pitch later innings, though, as he had more velo and the change up flashed out-pitch potential. Matt Jones (LAD OF) is one of those XXL build guys who stands out on a baseball field. I wasn’t surprised to see him hammer the ball in batting practice. I was surprised to see him move well on the basepaths and line a good pitch back up the middle without trying to do too much. Jones is a very good athlete for his size and the bat intrigued me. Brett Martin (TEX LHP) is one more Rangers arm for you—they rolled out one interesting guy after another for me. Martin had the best chance to start of this group. His frame and easy arm action screams projection and the curveball projects as an easy plus offering. Martin was 90-92 but there’s probably more here. Evan Marzilli (ARI OF) is an ideal fourth outfielder but could definitely start for someone in the right situation. He runs, throws and fields well. He plays hard and hits the ball where it’s pitched but the lack of over-the-fence power limits his profile. Michael Medina (LAD OF) stood out on the backfields with raw tools, but didn’t do much for me once the game started. One of the hardest throwers I saw out in Arizona was Jose Valdespina (TEX RHP). Valdespina is a reliever all the way, but with great size (6-foot-6), a mid-90s fastball and a tight, mid-80-s power slider he could help a big-league 'pen fairly soon.
Al Skorupa is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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