Staring out my window all I see is half-melted show and footprints from the last time I had to schlep through the yard to clear it away from the oil spout.
It’s early March in central Massachusetts and baseball couldn’t feel further away. At least in the physical form. As all of the local college programs pack their schedules with games in exotic places like Arizona, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina, I watch from my couch doing all I can to gain as much from my viewing as possible.
With MLB spring training under way, the novelty of far off prospects facing proven MLB talent helps to pass the time, but there’s an overall “instructional ball” feel to spring training for me. So I’ve poured myself into catching as many college streams as I can on the weekend. Here’s a collection of couch notes from the weekend, some players I observed and my general thoughts on them. Couch scouting at it’s finest really. As a bonus I hit on some general Spring prospect thoughts. I’m really bored, but that’s obvious isn’t it?
Player To Watch: Like a heat seeking missile Arizona State’s Hunter Bishop is rising up draft boards and into our collective consciousness. Over the course of the past eight games, Bishop is 17-for-33 with seven home runs, 18 RBI, and 16 runs, as he pairs with super sophomore Spencer Torkelson in the middle of the Sun Devils order.
I got two looks at Bishop last season, but nothing really stuck out in two uneventful games (0-7, 5 K, BB). In fact I thought he was a tall athletic OF with long levers, but a lack of barrel control. Essentially my impression was, “three true outcome type with some speed.” Bishop, the younger brother of Mariners prospect Braden Bishop, is a specimen at 6’5” and a strong 210 pounds, but the swing and miss concerns entering the season suppressed his value. However, with the season underway, conference play beginning, and a fair sample of 16 games (62 at-bats) Bishop has significantly cut down on his strikeout rate while tapping into more power, and increasing his walk rate. That’s a difficult combination to maintain as the conference schedule begins but the outfielder has built momentum. At the moment Bishop is rocking a K/BB of 10/13 with .534 ISO. Yes, wide-eyed emoji face to that one.
Josh Smith, SS LSU - Leadoff, LHH - Contact hitter with all-fields approach. Stayed back on a breaking ball off the plate in the third and took it the other way for a single. Overall more of a slap hitter than a power guy, but he went yard this weekend. The Texas series was a tough weekend for the Tigers overall.
Zach Watson, CF LSU - Two hitter, RHH - Took second pitch fastball at 94 back up the middle. Linear swing path, stays back on ball. Good burst, heads up base runner, with the speed to impact the game when on base. Speed plays in center as well, made a few great catches including an acrobatic play on a drive to the right-centerfield gap.
Antoine Duplantis, RF LSU - Three Hole, LHH - Senior, gets exposed on spin in on his hands. Considered one of the better senior signs this year. Definitely has the plate skills to carve out professional career. Showing better power this year after being a high contact, low strikeout, low power guy.
Daniel Cabrera, LF LSU - Cleanup, LHH - Good swing mechanics from the left-side, hose for an arm. Considered one of the better sophomore hitters in the country, definitely on my radar for 2020 boards. Didn’t do much in my looks, but the eye at the plate stands out, great feel for the zone, tough at bat that will make pitchers work. Shows some pop in the bat, could develop into a 60 hit/60 power if all goes well. Got four games in Bourne last summer, hoping he gets a dozen or so games down the Cape pre-College National team.
Bryce Elder, RHP Texas - Cutter, bulldog, thick prototypical pitcher build. Friday night starter as sophomore. 93 mph, armside dive and run, 81 MPH curveball with loopy break, cutter at 87 is devastating in on the hands of lefties, as it dives back foot with late drop and slight glove side run. Struck out Antoine Duplantis on a nasty cutter in the first inning. His command on the pitch is still iffy, as he overthrew one the following at bat that broke too hard for a wild pitch. The catcher from Texas really struggled to keep the cutter in front of him, allowing consecutive cutters to bounce. This poor blocking allowed LSU’s Zach Watson to score with little difficulty in the first.
He definitely manipulates the cutter/slider staying in a similar velocity range but with sharper and softer break. Isn’t scared to throw the fastball high, and shows nice sink when he works low, my guess is there’s two fastball grips. Gets lots of groundball contact with the softer breaking slider. Really worked over a good LSU lineup exiting the game after 94 pitches with two outs in the seventh.
Zach Hess, RHP LSU - Tall and fall delivery with little effort. Sitting 93-94 touching 96, curveball at 79-82 with inconsistent break, fastball command was iffy, has a tendency to over throw his pitches. Tends to struggle when he loses his release point, overthrows and begins to spiral, easy to read his body language.
Zach Linginfelter, RHP Tennessee -The University of Tennessee’s has been impressive in the early going as the Vols Ace.
Noah Song, RHP Navy - The first live baseball I catch this season will be a start featuring Noah Song starting for Navy. If you’re not familiar he’s the best senior prospect in the country, and also one of the hardest throwers. Song mixes an upper-90’s heater with a plus breaking ball, and currently leads D1 in strikeouts. There’s a catch, he has a service requirement and likely will not see the field for two years. I’m sure there’s an alternative but I have yet to hear it discussed. More Song looks to come.
UVA vs Duke
Noah Murdock, RHP UVA - Fastball at 94, nasty changeup, retired first six batters. Tall and slender build, athletic delivery with big leg kick, high three-quarters arm slot, more of a tall and fall delivery, really worked over the Duke lineup. Outpitched Stinson, working around the zone all day with command of his arsenal.
Graeme Stinson, LHP Duke - Hung sliders 0-2, then a wild pitch in another 0-2 count, threw a wild pitch, then came back in on Rivoli with a slider that induced a pop-up. Then came back with a trio of nasty sliders to strikeout Simmons with a runner on third. Mostly sliders, fastball velocity still down 87-88. Four out of five strikeouts via the breaking ball. Really struggled in the fourth, loaded the bases before allowing an RBI double to end his day. An inconsistent performance from Stinson.
Tanner Morris, OF UVA - Sat back on a hanging slider in a two-strike count and drove Stinson’s pitch to the opposite field gap for an RBI double. Sticks out in the UVA lineup, as he did in the Harwich lineup in my look this summer. Good bat to plate, strong approach, developing power at the point of impact. Looks like a natural hitter that adds power in the coming years, easy to forget he’s just 20. Not much range at short, should move to second or third, but the bat should profile at either. Draft eligible sophomore with some offensive upside.
Texas Tech vs. Wichita State 3/8
Gabe Holt, IF Texas Tech - Lefty leadoff guy, slightly open, takes at bats deep into counts, reminds me aesthetically of Cavan Biggio.
Luke Ritter, 2B Wichita State - Upright simple setup at the dish, hands held chest high and tight to back hip, moderate leg kick. His swing is short to the ball, shows quick hands, linear bat path with a fair amount of topspin on contact.
Stanford vs. Texas
Erik Miller, LHP Stanford - Big lefty, stands 6’5” strong build, neither slender or thick. Works low in the zone, consistently around the plate. Fastball, curveball. Command comes and goes, tends to nibble, will allow walks, but looks difficult to square up and barrel. One of the more uncomfortable at bats in Division 1.
Kyle Stowers, OF Stanford - Same guy I saw down the Cape. Power, pretty swing, tons of bat speed, and the body of a power-hitting corner outfielder. The strikeouts are down, the walks are up, and he already has nine homers. One of my favorite players from the 2018 Cape League, and in the 2019 draft.
Spring Training Notes
Matt Strahm, LHP San Diego - The new heat on the street, if you’re not jamming to that new Chris Paddack joint, you’re likely blaring Strahm from your car stereo. I get it, I’ve been a fan of Strahm since his Royals days, because I’m a prospect hipster, and because the skills were very easy to spot. The lefty mixes four pitches all above-average or better, with his changeup taking a big step forward in 2018 earning a +5.7 value per Fangraphs. He pairs three quality metrics that I like: the ability to miss bats (12.6% SwStr%), chases outside the zone (30% O-Swing), and low contact (73.5% Contact%). He entered the season training to be a starter. Google ‘Matt Strahm eggs’ when you have second and you’ll see he’s off to a good start. The lefty has gone nine innings over three appearances striking out 12 to a single walk. Looks like one of the best sleeper arms in fantasy leagues, though more than likely the cat is out of the bag.
Sandy Alcantara, RHP Miami - Caught a little bit of Alcantara on Sunday and man that changeup dances. If he can show the sort of command he did yesterday, Alcantara has a chance to make an impact in Miami in 2019. It wouldn’t shock me if he breaks camp in the rotation, I’d expect some games that make your head explode, but there will be moments of brilliance. Classic January-July rookie arm, but with a great park and some upside, he’s got my attention.
Corbin Burnes, RHP & Brandon Woodruff, RHP Milwaukee - The number five starter in Brewerland is one of the more hotly contested camp battles in progress. At the moment Woodruff has my vote as the guy that gets the job. Though I think sooner rather than later both Burnes and Woodruff end up in the rotation, it will be interesting to see who comes away victorious in the short term. Burnes has pitched more in the spring, and despite the poor ERA (6.75) his 9/1 K/BB is excellent.
I’m leaning Woodruff based on track record and experience, plus he was excellent last season. Though I should clarify, Woodruff was excellent out of the ‘pen last year, because he was pretty awful in his four starts. Both Burnes and Woodruff possess excellent fastballs with mid-90s velo, and a bag of average secondaries, though Woodruff’s slider was plus in 2017. Burnes misses more bats in the ‘pen, and honesty his stuff may play up more in that role. I’m not going to act like I know how this one shakes out but Woodruff is my pick. Roster Resource has Burnes listed into the rotation.
Peter Alonso, 1B Mets - April 11 the Pawsox open their home season against Syracuse, will Alonso be on the roster for the new Mets International League Affiliate? I’m placing my bets on yes, but it’s tough to make sense of a brand new GM’s style this early in his tenure. Regardless, Alonso is mashing right now. Slashing .406/.457/.813 with three homers and 5 K to 3 BB, looks every bit the Rookie of the Year contender.
Tyler O’Neill, OF St. Louis - Can we free my boy already? Let O’Neill eat! He might never hit for a high average (though I’ll die on the .260 hill), but O’Neill can provide significantly more offense than Dexter Fowler and is likely his equal or close in the field at this point. Don’t forget O’Neill is a plus runner with a plus arm, and a kamikaze mindset in right field, seemingly going hard after everything, but rarely overplaying his hand. He’s still striking out, but he’s walking more, and his continuing to mash. Do the right thing Cardinals, Ozuna, Bader, and O’Neill for 2019!
Garrett Hampson, 2B/OF/SS Colorado - The 2019 People’s Champ is doing all he can to earn the everyday job in Denver. For those of you doubting that avoid Rockies rookies hear me out before you go. Yeah, this was a shameless plug to get you to read my last post. Hampson has my vote to get the job out of camp. His positional versatility and offensive upside might be too much for the Rockies to resist. If Hampson gets the everyday job he has the ability to shoot the gaps and wreak havoc with his legs.