June 14, 2016
Notes from the Field
June 14, 2016
Abdullah is 19 years old and had one full-season affiliate start to his resume at the time of my viewing (also against the SB Cubs). While his mechanics and repertoire belied his age, the advanced physical profile did not. Abdullah has similar build, though less present bulk, to Taijuan Walker. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds of good weight, Abdullah is a physical presence on the mound. He looked the part of a recent AZL graduate, but I wonder if the San Diego native is still growing, and can add strength to bolster his present velocity. Abdullah sat 90-92, and touched 94 once with his fastball, which, at times, was heavy and had some run, though he commanded it poorly. He often left the fastball up, which contributed to his early exit after 2 2/3 innings. He throws a slow, looping curveball at 72-75 with decent shape that lacks tight spin. His inconsistent curve does not have enough downward snap to miss bats in the zone. He seldom threw his changeup, but when he did, it was firm and out over the plate. Throughout the start, Abdullah—an extremely raw talent—seemed very careful, cautious even, in both his mechanics and approach to hitters. His motion is balanced but too stiff, and he plants his front foot early. If Abdullah were to get more extension with his front foot, it could help his perceived velocity play up, among other things. At times with the curveball, he deliberately slowed down his arm speed, as if attempting to guide it into the zone. From a physical standpoint, there is a lot to like with Abdullah. His broad frame and physique suggests big innings totals should he develop as a starter. Abdullah is clearly a raw project at 19 years old, especially considering he was an outfielder for the majority of his high school playing career at Madison HS in San Diego. —Will Siskel
Gonzalez is another arm the Cardinals discovered in Venezuela. The 21-year-old attacks hitters from a high-three-quarters slot and utilizes his solid frame with a thick lower half to generate above-average velocity from the right side. He does feature some crossfire in his delivery along with some blocking of the front hip that he struggles to get through at times. The fastball sits 90-93, topping out at 95 but lacks life. He utilizes his high arm slot to generate good downhill plane and can locate the pitch to both sides of the plate. The pitch generates weak contact from hitters with most of them rolling over the pitch to the opposite field. He does throw a two-seamer around 87-88 that features only slight arm-side run. Still a work in progress.
Gonzalez' main offspeed offering is a curveball with bite and solid shape. He can throw the pitch for strikes and bury it down in the zone. It iss a true weapon and flashes at least plus.
His changeup is well below average at this point, lacking quality arm speed and action to the pitch. —James Fisher
Jon Harris, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Low-A Lansing)
There were some murmors in the South Bend crowd as Harris took the mound and began to warmup—have you seen this guy's ERA, a woman remarked sitting in front of me. The hushed compliments were warranted, as Harris entered his May 28th start versus the South Bend Cubs with a sparkling 0.83 ERA, and consecutive starts of seven innings and 11 strikeouts. Harris gets a lot of downward plane on his pitches and physically looks the part on the mound. The first-rounder from last year's draft, though, had yet to an encounter a lineup like South Bend's, and it showed, as he unraveled en route to an early exit. Harris came out in the first overthrowing his fastball (92-93), lacking any semblance of command. He seemed to short arm it at times, failing to follow through with the pitch, attempting for higher velo over fluidity and command. His curveball (77-79, T81) was the lone pitch Harris had a real feel for throughout the start, later throwing it for first pitch strikes. The curve, which flashed plus, was impressive, as he snaps his wrist well, and gets sharp, two-plane break on the pitch with good depth, to go along with his downward plane. Harris' fastball control, let alone command, eluded him in this start, and so too did his slider, which likely had been a major part of Harris' success in previous starts. The slider had cutter-like action, with short horizontal break and not much tilt, sitting at 87-88. It was hard to distinguish whether or not Harris was working on a cutter, or simply had no feel for the pitch on the night, as there were some sliders that did have more horizontal movement and tilt. This is a starter profile, with the ingredients for a mid-rotation arm. Harris was not able to get away with his stuff on an off-night, as even he must have been surprised that he was facing a Midwest League offense of South Bend's caliber. —Will Siskel
Max Pentecost, C, Toronto Blue Jays (Low-A Lansing)
In 2016, Pentecost has been a full-time DH, having recently come off the DL, now in his first go around in full-season ball. The long term question is if Pentecost—drafted as catcher in the first round in 2014—will work his way back from a right shoulder that has been subject to multiple operating tables. In batting practice, Pentecost showed a swing oriented for up-the-middle, gap power. Whether he was scaling it back or working specifically up-the-middle, a few of Pentecost's less-heralded teammates (with likely less injury-riddled careers) outshined his BP performance. Of course, a lot—if not all—of Pentecost's prospect profile comes down to his ability to stick behind the plate, as the bat likely will not profile in a corner outfield spot, or at first base. If he is moved off of catcher because of the shoulder, I would imagine a corner outfield spot would be out of the question because of the arm, though he doesn’t lack athleticism. Beginning the season on the DL, Pentecost has only been active since early/mid May, so this is a very raw hitter in terms of exposure to pro ball. A couple of caveats apply here: This was one look, and he is still getting into a rhythm post-surgery/lengthy DL-stint. In-game, Pentecost did not expand the zone much on offspeeds, but I would have liked a more aggressive approach. He seemed somewhat passive at the plate, but recognized spin well. The 23-year-old did not have a sturdy base at the plate, as his feet tended to shift around during and after his swings. Three of his plate appearances ended in weak grounders, as he struggled to drive the ball. There is an incredibly low bar for offensive production for major-league catchers, but it will be a testament to Pentecost's work ethic and rehabilitation if he can actually develop as a (quality defensive) catcher, which would make his present light bat profile less of a concern. —Will Siskel
There was some concern at the start of the year about the 22nd pick in last year’s amateur draft. Several scouts in attendance told of early spring starts where the 19-year-old struggled to reach 90 on the radar gun. However as warmer temperatures have returned so has the life to Burrow's fastball. On this date it sat 92-93 and once touched 95 with tilt generated by his high front-side delivery. Burrows also displayed two secondary pitches that showed potential to be above-average at the major league level. His high-three-quarters arm slot adds depth to the curve which showed nice break and sat 77-79. The changeup is still in development but showed deception and good velocity separation as it sat 80-82. —Nathan Graham
Chad Sobotka, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome)
Javier Guerra, SS, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
Brooks Pounders, RHP, Kansas City Royals (Triple-A Omaha)