Extended Spring Training Live Looks: Late May/Early June

Helcris Olivarez (LHP) Colorado Rockies Signed in August of 2016 from the DR, Olivarez is a great athlete with a near prototype body. He is listed at 6’2” 192 but looks more like 6’4” 210 now. The delivery is extremely loose and easy with a playing catch amount of effort. He reminded me a lot of Taylor Hearn in that sense. The fastball sat 94-95, dipped to 92 and touched 97. Olivarez is raw and still learning to control his “new body”. One issue was timing his release; there were several arm side misses as a result of early release. Overall fastball control was sporadic; he struggled to find the zone with consistency, an odd juxtaposition to his excellent mechanics.

The pitch mix was fastball heavy, but Olivarez also threw a curve and changeup. The curve was extremely inconsistent, but a couple flashed 55 with 1 to 7 break and good depth; amount of supination varied drastically resulting in inconsistent break, at times not getting around on ball with arm side misses and at times spiking it glove side. Despite the inconsistency, it was hard to “un-see” the good ones; that is what the pitch could be should he figure out the release timing. The third pitch was a changeup. Olivarez only threw a couple. They were mid 80s with glove side movement: no fade and moderate depth. The velo difference to the fastball was encouraging, but it looked below average overall. Olivarez is a guy you can dream on. Would like to see the change more before committing to a grade, but the athleticism, body, delivery, and velo all point to the rotation. Command points to the pen. His deficiencies are more rooted in rawness than athleticism, which makes me want to say f*** it and write him up aggressively. He is such a good athlete, I think it’s only a matter of time before Olivarez irons things out, and he projects as something like a back end starter.

Trent Deveaux (OF) Los Angeles Angels – The Angels 2017 J2 class was headlined by Trent Deveaux who signed for $1.2 million out of the Bahamas. Deveaux is an athletic, toolsy outfielder who has struggled to find a swing that works for him. He finished last season with a 35% K% in 192 AZL plate appearances. Fangraphs (presumably Eric Longenhagen) and Matt Pullman shot video last year which show two versions of the swing. (Fangraphs Video, Pullman Video).

This spring the swing has been altered yet again. The current iteration incorporates a wider base, a moderate leg kick and a sizeable hitch: the hands come forward then pull back as Deveaux strides toward the mound. The result looks pretty disjointed and has resulted in a number of off-balanced swings in my looks. Many within the game believe Angels player development has done Deveaux a disservice by way of excessive tinkering with his swing mechanics. Regardless of whether you believe that is the case, it is hard to argue with the poor results. Deveaux looks more and more like a guy who would benefit from a change of scenery. Only 19, he is an intriguing quick-twitch athlete and the body still looks good. Teams from the outside looking in may view Deveaux as an intriguing buy-low candidate, but that is pure speculation on my part.

Sadrac Franco (RHP) – Los Angeles Angels – The short Venezuelan righty was part of the Angels 2017 J2 class. The good news: Franco has a special arm, sitting mid 90s and touching as high as 99. The bad news: Franco’s mechanics undermine his stuff; the finish was frequently off balanced, with a following through towards first base. Franco’s head drifts towards first even as he releases the ball, making consistent command difficult. Overthrowing on glove-side misses, also went hand-in-hand with his mechanics.

When he did find the zone, hitters struggled to touch him. Franco’s best secondary was his change, which was not flashy in terms of movement but played well due to respect for the fastball. I think opposing hitters were sitting heat. Franco’s curve was in the high 70s with 12-6 shape and moderate depth. The pitch was well below average in the first outing but better in the second (as good as 50 but inconsistent). The overall quality of opposing hitters in extended may make his secondaries look better than they are; the change, for example, got some swing and miss when left up. In-zone location of these pitches at higher levels is a concern. Broadly, the secondaries and overall command need work. Franco projects as a role 35 (another guy in the pen) but could be a 40 (set up man) if his command reaches 40 grade.

Kervin Castro (RHP) San Francisco Giants – Originally signed as a catcher in 2015, the Giants converted Castro to the mound, and he later went down with TJ in 2017. This was my second viewing at Castro who sat 94-96 and touched 98 earlier in extended. The body: Castro is on the shorter side (listed at 6’0” but may be a smidge below that); he is broad-shouldered/wide and the torso looks soft, very thick legs, overall stocky frame. His sinking fastball bores in on right-handed hitters and has generated a good amount of swing and miss. In the most recent outing, it sat 93-94, touching 95. His changeup (85-87) flashed 55 with quality deception; Castro repeated arm speed well for the pitch. The arm action is clean, and the delivery is low maintenance. His high 70s 12-6 curve is well below average both in terms of consistency and movement.

When scouting Indy Ball, one thing I looked for in SP to RP conversions was ease of delivery. A SP with an easy delivery is more likely to unlock extra velo by converting to the pen. Having seen him already touch 98 earlier in the spring, I suspect that would be the case with Castro. In my opinion, let him air it out in a pen and hope for the best. 40 OFP if the breaking ball can take a step forward. 35 FV as a two-pitch “just a guy” reliever if it does not.

Raider Uceta (1B) Los Angeles Angels – The Angels signed Uceta for $500k as part of their 2017 J2 class. If we are playing word association, portly is one of the first to come to mind. Uceta is a big kid, and lack of mobility is a limiting factor in his profile; this is not good weight. A scout pressed me for my estimate, and I wagered 5’11” 260. Having just turned 18 in January, evaluators may cast a skeptical eye at his physique. One scout dubbed Uceta the Dominican Vogelbach.

One seemingly relevant anecdote: I overheard scouts express similar concern with Josh Naylor during AFL 2017. It was along the lines of “He’s young and the body already looks like that.” It is not a perfect comparison: Naylor was putting up occasional 50 run times that fall. Uceta would be hard pressed to touch 30, and that worries me. In four viewings, Uceta played the outfield once and did not move well out there; he looks destined for either 1B or DH.

With a bleak defensive outlook there is a lot of pressure on his offensive game. The swing itself is interesting, one could even say aesthetically-pleasing. Uceta starts with his hands high and comfortably lowers to slot position. It features a short, direct bat path with a slight uppercut. Bat speed is around 55. After four looks, there was a surprising amount of swing and miss considering the shortness of his swing. Contact was also more of the put in play than put in play with authority variety; Uceta looks like a role 30, and it pains me to say that because I fell in love with his swing at first glance.

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