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May 11, 2015

Monday Morning Ten Pack

May 11, 2015

by BP Prospect Staff

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Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts)

Berrios is the most impressive arm I've seen through the season's first month. In Friday's start against Jackson, his fastball was 92-95 and touched 96 with late riding life. He paired it with two present above-average secondaries that flashed plus potential.

The reports that followed Berrios last season continued in this outing. The fastball is present above average with plus potential. He held his velo through eight innings with good life, but command keeps it from being present plus. It flattens up in the zone and he struggles getting consistent downward plane, and he also fights the ability to spot it glove side. He missed a few glove-side spots, and he showed some frustration with that. But the velo and life are excellent, and he can kill a batter's hands inside on the pitch.

Berrios' curveball was 76-80, flashed downward break with big depth, but was usually a hard three-quarters breaker. The depth and command wavered at times, mainly from getting on the side and sweeping it, but he kept it down and tight and maintained two-plane break. His changeup has the chance to be a 65 pitch at 82-84, touched 85 with sink and fade. The arm speed is outstanding and makes it a devastating pitch along with good present command.

Berrios has to keep the fastball down or on the corners, but I think he shows the athletic ability to improve the pitch's command enough. The mechanics aren't exactly easy, but they don't hinder him, and the arm is very fast and loose. I like Berrios' chances of remaining a starting pitcher, and if he puts it together at the big-league level, he can be a solid no. 3. –David Lee

Brett Phillips, OF, Houston Astros (Lancaster Jethawks)
Phillips saw his stock rise as much as any prospect in the Houston system after a strong 2014 campaign, and upon viewing him for the first time since he was a senior at Seminole High School in Florida, I can understand why. Phillips went just 1-for-5 on Sunday afternoon against Lake Elsinore on Sunday, but he was very impressive in batting practice, showing a line-drive stroke with above-average bat speed. Despite having a slim frame, there’s a chance for solid-average power from the right side, as the bat speed along with some natural loft and a lower half that works gives him the ability to drive the ball. He’s a plus runner as well, making him a true prototypical leadoff threat.

As impressive as he is with the bat, Phillips might be better with the glove. That plus speed gives him a chance to play centerfield—though several I’ve spoken with believe right is his more natural position—and he possesses a cannon for an arm, one that is easily plus-plus thanks to its accuracy and carry. His ceiling is an .800 OPS leadoff hitter who adds more value with the glove; and with no real weakness his floor should a be solid fourth outfielder who can play three outfield positions. –Christopher Crawford

D.J. Peterson, 1B, Seattle Mariners (Double-A Jackson Generals)
Peterson has struggled through his first 100 plate appearances this season, and it showed in this look. He pressed and looked uncomfortable in the box. He was overly aggressive and chased often, and Berrios made it worse by eating his lunch in a couple at-bats with the fastball/changeup separation. I think Peterson's struggles are recognition-oriented more than anything. The swing remains efficient with good hands and a quick path to the zone that should generate line drives around the park. He showed excellent bat speed on a fly ball to deep left field that he just got under. He's going to hit; it's a matter of finding comfort again. Peterson is playing majority first base so far this year, and it's probably his future permanent home. He still stabs the glove at times and shows some discomfort on the backhand, but he should settle into a good enough defender at first. –David Lee

Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins (High-A Fort Myers)
Stewart’s 2014 season was far from a disappointment, but the fact that he spent time on the disabled list dealing with a shoulder impingement and only logged 87 innings left some open questions on his durability, along with how the stuff trends deeper into a season. There’s no denying that the 20-year-old has the tools to develop some nasty stuff down the line. Stewart’s fastball comfortably operates 92-95 mph with hard arm-side run, while his slider flashes the look of a future bat-missing weapon at his disposal. Both the changeup and curveball also lend clues that each offering could push to better than average at full bloom to give the right-hander a true four-pitch mix to attack opposing batters with on a consistent basis. The foundation is here to round into a mid-rotation type—or better—with the repetition that comes from logging innings and building arm strength over the long haul.

Coming into the season, there was much anticipation as to how things would progress for Stewart, especially when it comes to being able to stay healthy and on the mound. After three starts in April, the righty once again finds himself on the disabled list, though this time due to inflammation in his throwing elbow. Given the nature of the position, it isn’t surprising to see an arm deal with issues of this nature, but this one comes at a time when Stewart needs a string of clean health to get the developmental momentum rolling and also prove that his durability isn’t going to hold him back. We’re in wait-and-see mode right now, but the trends are starting to at least show it’s going to be a bit of a slower ramp than initially expected –Chris Mellen

Akeel Morris, RHP, New York Mets (High-A St. Lucie Mets)
There are a lot of moving parts in Morris' delivery, in the same way that there are a lot of moving parts in a Rubik's Cube. The movement in his delivery leads to inconsistent mechanics and creates a significant amount of effort which ultimately limits him to a relief profile. Even without the effort, he'd be a reliever based on his limited repertoire. His 93-94 mph fastball is effective, though straight, but his slider is a well below-average pitch. His only real secondary offering is a changeup that doesn’t do a lot in and of itself, but he throws it for strikes and with almost a 20 mph differential from his fastball. Sitting in the mid-70s with a quick and deceptive arm action, the pitch has a chance to fool hitters and miss some bats. He’ll need it to do exactly that in order to be effective, but it has a chance. Morris profiles as a middle reliever, but he’ll need to refine his mechanics in order to gain enough consistency for a manager to trust him. Still, at just 22 and with a live arm, there’s potential there. –Jeff Moore

Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State
In a year that hasn’t had many positive developments in the 2015 draft class, one of the more pleasant surprises has been Harris. The right-hander had arguably his most dominant start of the year Friday night in a 1-0 win over Southern Illinois; throwing 7 2/3 shutout innings while allowing just two hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts in the process. In addition to the punch outs, he recorded ten outs via groundball, meaning just three outs were recorded in the air.

“[Harris was] sensational,” an NL front-office member. “He isn’t overpowering, but it’s a plus fastball that will touch 95 and there’s loads of sink on the pitch, as seen in the groundballs. The slider and curve both flash plus, and I saw the signs of an above-average change as well. My only concern is the effort in the delivery, but I think he’s athletic enough to get away with it. I’ve seen two potential aces if everything goes right, and Harris is one of them.”

Harris has as much heat on him as any arm in the class, and it would be an upset at this point if he wasn’t taken in the first dozen selections of the draft. –Christopher Crawford

Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
In front of Dave Stewart and Jeff Luhnow—the general managers of the two teams that just so happen to have the first and second pick in the draft—Tate had flashes of brilliance, but the overall results were mixed. Facing a so-so Cal-State Fullerton lineup, the Gauchos ace gave up three runs over his 5 2/3 innings of work with eight strikeouts, but also walked four in the process and struggled to get ahead of the CSF lineup.

“I would say it’s the worst [Tate’s} thrown this year,” an NL East scout said. “He still had the plus-plus fastballs and I saw a couple of sliders that would be 60s, maybe 65s, but it certainly wasn’t the 70 pitch I’ve seen so consistently most of the season. Because the command is below-average and there’s so many working parts in the delivery that likely make it impossible for it to be any more than [solid-average], that pitch needs to be plus-plus if he’s going to start. The overall body of work is impressive, but it’s starts like this that sort of give you some pause.”

Even with the poor outing, Tate is a lock for the top eight picks, and it would be a surprise if he got out of the top six with teams like Minnesota, Texas, and Houston still interested in his services. –Christopher Crawford

Tyler Naquin, CF, Cleveland Indians (Double-A Akron)
As a player on the cusp of the majors, Naquin's minor-league development is nearing the finish line. Now in his second stint with Akron, Naquin has demonstrated his tools are nearly ready for the majors at this moment. While the overall profile is likely that of a second-division player, there are enough skills in his profile to paint an effective picture against the best talent in the world.

I've seen Naquin a few times throughout his minor-league career, and the first thing that always strikes me is his ability to barrel mistakes. I was able to catch him once again when Akron traveled to face Bowie and Dylan Bundy. As we have noted in an Eyewitness Report and a Ten Pack this season, Dylan Bundy is back to form. From my two viewings of Bundy this season, Naquin is the only player I have seen barrel him hard. He has a fluid stroke with minimal noise and quickness through the zone. While the bat speed is only a tick above average and the swing is mostly linear, there is a chance for the hit tool to at least play average. I've seen the defensive capabilities in past viewings of Naquin, where he has flashed above-average defense and a double-plus arm from center field. When we spread out the tools on paper, some may be underwhelmed. However, Naquin is more about the package as a whole, and the skills are certainly enough to work in the majors. –Tucker Blair

Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros (Low-A Quad Cities)
There’s no way around it: the 2014 draft was a bad one for the Astros. But there is a silver lining developing in the form of a high-waisted outfielder with an easy power stroke and plus speed. Fisher has an athletic body that has some projection left. At the plate, Fisher displayed an ability to track pitches from right-handers, following the ball deep into the zone and putting together three quality at-bats against righties. When he does attack a pitch, the swing is easy and the power comes naturally. Fisher drove a pitch on the outer third over the left fielder’s head for an opposite-field double. On the basepaths, Fisher’s speed is a definite asset, and he also displays good base-running instincts. Defensively, the arm is below average in terms of raw arm strength, and while he has the speed for center he will have to keep answering questions about his defensive routes. Fisher is an impressive player with a mature approach at the plate. He might not be in Low-A for very long given his pedigree and performance thus far into the year. –Mauricio Rubio

Luis Cruz, LHP, Houston Astros (Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies)
Checking in at 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, Luis Cruz doesn’t offer the plane or physical projection that you’ll find in a typical pitching prospect. The diminutive left-hander makes his unusual frame work anyway by ably spotting four pitches to both sides of the plate and working some deception into his delivery. He hides the ball well and adds a bit of funk to his motion with a quick glove sweep toward the plate as he begins his rock-and-fire approach to the plate. He’s susceptible to over-throwing occasionally, which can make him miss down, but he stayed out of the middle of the plate in the five innings I saw him work.

Cruz has the well-rounded arsenal you’d expect from a pitcher of his stature. He works with a two-seam fastball that I saw touch 89, but usually sits a tick or two lower than that. The pitch features good tailing action, and he puts pretty good fade on his 80-81 mph changeup as well.

He also throws a slider and a curve, and while I wasn’t real excited by the former, he snapped off a few knee-buckling 12-6 benders that graded as above-average pitches. He’s not consistent with it yet—a few deuces spun feebly—but when it’s working, Cruz has two off-speed pitches he can turn to in a pinch.

The southpaw has been used as a starter for most of his career, but he’ll fit best as a middle reliever in the majors. I don’t believe he has the raw stuff to chew through a big-league lineup multiple times and I’m concerned about his durability—he hasn’t thrown more than five innings in a start this season and he tired noticeably over the course of the game in my viewing. The curve and change give him enough weapons to get righties out, so he’s got a chance to be more than a LOOGY, but it’s a seventh-inning ceiling for me. –Brendan Gawlowski

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