Extended Spring Training Live Looks (Late May)

Jeremiah Jackson (SS) Los Angeles Angels – Very athletic shortstop with a high variance hit tool that threatens to limit profile. There has been a good amount of swing and miss in my looks between MiLB ST and XST. Chalk up some of it to adjustment to pro-caliber secondaries, but my principal reason for concern is the moving parts in his swing; it looks difficult to time. Jackson starts with a wide base, narrows with a toe tap as he shifts his weight back, then pulls his hands back as he approaches. He looks flat-footed through much of this. Removing the toe tap may make the swing easier to time.

Don’t let this read too negative; there is a lot to like with this kid. The bat speed is double-plus, and he goes to the plate looking to do damage. When he connects, contact is loud, and the raw power (60) is impressive for a kid of his size; it is largely the product his bat speed and excellent hands. The max effort nature to many of his swings is another contributing factor for swing and miss.

Defensively he shows easy actions with a plus arm; he looks like a player who will stick in the infield but probably not at short. The range and first step are below average. Yet to get a max effort run time on Jackson; he looks like a fringe average runner who is faster under way. Good makeup kid. Second-division regular OFP with bat heading the profile. Realistic role – David Bote-esque four day a week player (strictly playing time comp) spelling regulars at various infield spots. Can pass at short stop as a filler, but you probably do not want him there every day. 

Junior Sanquintin (SS) Cleveland Indians – 2018 J2 class, $1.25mm sign. The Indians are loaded with middle infield depth in the lower minors, and Sanquintin is another spoke on that wheel. He showed good feel for the zone and a fairly advanced approach. In 4/30’s game he fought off a 0-2 changeup, grounding it to third on a would-be G5.3 (Sanquintin reached on an E5). In isolation this play wasn’t that impressive, but its context caught my attention. Sanquintin swung and missed at a 0-0 changeup earlier in the same AB and made the necessary mid-AB adjustment. Most 17-year-olds in extended struggle vs quality secondary stuff so Sanquintin holding his own is actually pretty meaningful. Later in the game he fouled off five pitches en route to a nine-pitch at bat and a walk. Sanquintin is a switch-hitter and the swing relies on rhythm and sway.

Some scouts believe his defensive home is at third. Run times were around 4.40 (40 grade) from the right which supports this idea. Overall, Sanquintin looked smooth at short with good footwork and quality throws on the run, but range was below average. He made all the routine plays. The arm plays at short and please let me raise the question -> is arm strength projection a viable thing with a player who just turned 17 in January? I think yes. While he isn’t rail thin, Sanquintin doesn’t have his man muscles yet and could see significant weight gain the next couple of years. He is already back in the Dominican prepping for the DSL so proximity to the majors is a big risk factor, but the prevailing opinion among scouts is he will be an everyday player.

Gabriel Rodriguez (SS) Cleveland Indians – 2018 J2 signing out of Venezuela (#8 Overall Badler’s List). He signed for $2.1MM according to CBS Sports. The body: thin but very projectable, listed at 6’2” 175 lbs. Powerful hands, drives ball with easy loft when he connects. Homered and pulled a ball to deep left warning track on swings with little lower half use. Impressive power just from hands, bat speed and bat path. Several off-balance swings in my looks, especially on breaking pitches. He widened his base with two strikes and took more contact-oriented approach.

Rodriguez looks rife for significant weight gain and projects for big power to the tune of 60 raw. In a Thursday morning INF drill, Rodriguez moved in a well-coordinated, controlled manner. He did not look flashy, but he looked nimble enough to stick in the middle infield in some capacity, whether that will be short or second. Overall good body control. The bat is his meal ticket to the show, though.

Alexis Ramirez (RHP) Milwaukee Brewers – Intriguing under-the-radar Dominican righty. About a month ago I wrote about Ramirez. After another viewing, he has grew on me. Ramirez has a somewhat slender 6’2” frame but is a good athlete. The fastball sat 93-96 early and stabilized around 90-93 later in the game (he went 5 innings). Ramirez gets solid extension due to stride length. The overall motion looks a bit whippy (with long arm action), but he also has surprising balance with minimal head movement. The subsequent finish and follow-through is out of control at times, but it did not impede his command.

A high 70s curve was his most heavily-used secondary, flashing 55. Shape was close to 12-6 with moderate depth, and Ramirez spotted it effectively to both sides; he back-footed a couple nasty ones to lefties. His slider flashed 60 but was only used a few times. It was 82-83 with good two-plane break. The change was around 40 grade and flashed 50. The pitch had decent fade/depth but not a ton of velo differential at 87-89. With four potentially playable pitches, Ramirez has a legit chance to start. He generally works quickly, but after walking a hitter and getting to 2-0 on the next batter he slowed his tempo, a seemingly conscious choice to settle himself down. And it worked. I love his pitching acumen. When Ramirez left the game I asked a scout, “How do you think he would fare in the MWL”? With little hesitation: “He’d be ok”.

John Rooney (LHP) Los Angeles Dodgers – Tall college lefty with easy mechanics, plus extension. Rooney was a 2018 third-round pick out of Hofstra. He took care of business in the desert before getting promoted to the Midwest League earlier this month. Rooney does not throw exceptionally hard, but he has a good feel to pitch. He worked the full plate and lived on the corners with his 88-90 mph fastball; it may have played up a bit due to his extension, but I think the younger hitters were more so overmatched by Rooney’s command. The fastball also had decent sink to it. The secondary offerings were a slider with moderate two plane break (81-84) and a mid 80s changeup. The changeup had some depth but no fade. Rooney has excellent balance and body control for a big man, and his head remains stable through release. Expect him to throw a lot of strikes, and he will need to live on the corners. The Dodgers may be hoping he is more projectable than the average 22-year-old due to his size. The margin for error with his present stuff feels razor thin. If forced to grade on this single viewing, I would give him a back end starter OFP (40) with an up/down guy realistic role (35).

Carlos Carreno (RHP) Cincinnati Reds – Aggressive, physical pitcher with bull dog mentality. Carreno has thick upper legs and a strong lower half. The delivery features big torque, transferring lower half strength through the hips and enabling mid 90s velo. There is some effort to the delivery resulting in an off balance finish and follow through toward first and head whack at foot strike for several fastballs. The fastball sat 94-96 with occasional natural cut when thrown glove side. The slider ranged from 83-87 and was more effective due to late break than big movement, cuttery shape. The slider usage was heavy and Carreno spotted it to both sides of the plate, looking very comfortable back-dooring lefties. A high 80s changeup flashed 40 but was way behind the FB/SL combo; it has a chance to be a steal-a-strike pitch. Carrero looks like a reliever, but that is not meant as a knock. He filled the zone and flashed two plus pitches in his fastball and slider.

Ismael Aquino (RHP) Oakland Athletics – Dominican righty with average height and frame. Mechanics - clean arm action but incomplete finish on landing leg. Body swivels over top of front knee which remains bent, limiting effectiveness of lower half. Low vertical release point, out front with good extension. Fastball sat mid 90s and touched 96 with sporadic run. Unable to tell if running action was intentional or just happened as a result of arm action, but the fastball was much better when it did run. Straight four seamer was squared up. Mid 80s change was best secondary with several hitters out front swinging over the top. Hitters sitting FB and making Aquino prove it with secondaries. SL/CUT 85-87 flashed average. Projects to be middle innings pen arm with command the likely limiting factor. Room to be high leverage reliever if he throws more strikes or if slider can take a step forward.