A Series Review - Staten Island at Lowell
Staten Island traveled to Lowell for a three game series in early July, scheduled for 7/4-7/6. Game three was rained out, but they still took BP. This was an exciting short-season series brimming with international teenage talent and some interesting highly drafted players from 2018 and 2019. Lowell names featured include: Aldo Ramirez, Antoni Flores, Gilberto Jimenez, Ryan Zeferjahn, Nick Decker, and Jaxx Groshans. Staten Island names featured include: Everson Pereira, Oswald Peraza, Jake Sanford, and Anderson Munoz.
Boston Red Sox Short Season A - Lowell Spinners
Aldo Ramirez (RHP) – Advanced Mexican righty. Short but not small, functionally strong in a way that reminded of Alek Thomas. He is strong and compact. The body does not strike me as super projectable, but he also just turned 18 in May so some projection remains. Over three years below average age for the level, very aggressive assignment. Clean mechanics, loose arm, repeats well. The fastball was 92-94, touching 95 early. By the fourth inning it dipped to 89-91. Plus fastball command - able to work full plate and spot on corners. Fastball had some late life and produced a lot of groundball contact when thrown in on the hands of righties. Tallied 7 groundouts, 1 flyout in the game. Curveball was 77-79 with a sweeping 11-5 shape when good. Feel for the pitch was sporadic; it backed up on him when he didn’t get around on it. When good, flashed 55 plus depth but with early break. Showed confidence in mid 80s change throwing it right on right. Pitch flashed 55 with moderate fade, depth. Ramirez repeated mechanics and body speed for all pitches. High IQ player whose stuff will play up due to pitchability and sequencing. Attacks hitters and fills the zone. Worked off the fastball early and started to pitch backwards the second time through the order. Would throw any pitch at any time. Struck out Jake Sanford on three pitches: CB77, CHG86, CB78. Controlled the running game; when hitters were on base, varied time to home and kept them in check. Overall, Ramirez is a very advanced pitcher. He could have three future 55s, and his stuff plays up due to his pitchability and sequencing. More consistent mid 90s velocity may be possible as he fills out his frame. He projects as a backend starter with an outside chance to be a #3. 50 FV player.
Antoni Flores (SS) – Slick defensive shortstop who is still learning to use his bat. Wait, is that Xander Bogaerts? Body comp -> Flores looks a lot like Xander does now. At a similar age Bogaerts was much thinner. The 18-year-old is physically advanced; he looks larger than my look from instructs last September. There is probably still some more strength coming in his chest and upper body. The body is a double-edged sword for me. Flores looks like a premium athlete-dude off the bus type, but if he adds too much weight it will threaten his ability to stick as a middle infielder. As-is Flores is already posting 35-40 (4.43 best of the series) run times. He runs very upright and doesn’t look too natural in full stride. Sorry for picking nits with a player this exciting but ultimate defensive home matters. On the positive side, Flores showed impressive body control and overall defensive actions. He is incredibly flexible and athletic: I won’t forget him stretching between innings last fall when he’d oscillate between having his left and right legs completely level with the ground. At short he robbed Everson Pereira on a line drive scorched to his right; he is an instinctive, polished defender. Range is around average, instincts and path to ball offsetting below average speed. Offensively, he seems to recognize spin and have a good feel for the zone, but Flores is still learning to elevate with consistency. It is a smooth, balanced swing, but a downward bat path doomed several batted balls. Flores flashed 50 raw power in BP. There is ability here, but it has yet to translate into game action. Flores shows a well-rounded skillset and has enough tools to play every day. At this juncture, he looks like a second-division regular type.
Gilberto Jimenez (OF) – 80 runner with some bat to ball skills but an overall unrefined game. It starts with the speed for Jimenez, who registered blazing run times as low as 3.86 from the left side. There is some step in the bucket with his lefty swing which helps him get down the line faster. Jimenez gets low and shrinks the zone in his base stance. It is a fairly wide base, and he keeps his hands back. The swing is very short to the ball but also inside-out and slappy with little intent to hit for power; Jimenez seems content with slapping low line drives the other way and does not use his lower half much. I have yet to see him pull it with authority. Jimenez has a bigger load when hitting righty lifting his front leg more; it looks more capable of producing power, but it is still only 30 raw. The bat to ball skills were pretty good and Jimenez has a decent feel for the zone. Jimenez is still learning to use his speed as a base runner: he had poor reads on both pitcher pickoffs and a stolen base attempts, getting gunned on a 2.24 pop. Last year he only stole 16/30 in the DSL, a league with pitcher/catcher batteries that should inflate SB totals. Defensively his speed plays big in CF, excellent rage. The routes were not the most direct, but they weren’t terrible. Jimenez also flashed a double-plus arm, throwing an absolute laser to third base in Friday night’s contest. That’ll play! Overall, we are looking at a potential everyday player. His pitcher reads should improve with more reps and coaching. How Jimenez develops as a hitter will determine whether he is a role player or plays every day; he needs to show he can pull the ball with authority to succeed at higher levels.
Nick Decker (OF) – Physically-advanced right field prospect. The physique really stands out when you see this kid. The Red Sox 2018 2nd rounder is still only 19 years old (until October). Decker starts with an open base stance and closes with a moderate leg lift and load. His swings don’t look high effort; he lets his strength play. The hands stay high through slot and swoop through the zone in a “u-shaped” path. Decker made pitchers work and had a couple of lengthy grinder type at bats. A twelve-pitch at bat against Anderson Munoz stood out. Decker ultimately grounded out but fouled off a number of pitches and was a general pain in the butt. Decker moves well for his size in the outfield. He is about an average runner and projects to be fringe average going forward as he further fills out. Decker projects to 60 raw and how much he can tap into his power will determine his future. I don’t feel comfortable projecting him off a two-game sample, but he has striking tools and everyday upside.
Ryan Zeferjahn (RHP) – Tall righty who may be a pen arm. Zeferjahn threw Friday night for Lowell and was piggy-backed with Kelvin Sanchez (so Big Z only went two innings). The Sox took Zeferjahn in 2019’s 3rd round out of Kansas. He showed a three-pitch mix: FB, SL, CHG. The mix was fastball heavy, and it was dominant, sitting mid 90s and touching 97. Zeferjahn also seemed to manipulate the pitch to cut or run; he has good feel for it. The slider was his best secondary. It flashed plus with big two-plane break in the 81-83 range. The change was around average. I’d love to see Zeferjahn throw in a longer stint to see how he sequences and attacks hitters, especially the second/third time through the order. The mechanics looked a bit reliever-y to me: he has some spine tilt and a cross body arm action, the head also moves more than you would like at foot strike. Still, the stuff was nasty. My gut shot reaction said reliever but a longer look would be needed for a more definitive conclusion.
Jaxx Groshans (C) – Well-rounded catcher with no real standout tool. It was a one-game look at Groshans so it’s quite possible this assessment strays from the industry consensus. Groshans played with Zeferjahn at Kansas, making me wonder if the Red Sox have an area scout they really trust in that area. To invest two of their top five picks in Kansas players stood out; it seems too much to be coincidence. Defensively, Groshans moved well behind the dish: nice lateral movements and agility, overall good blocker/receiver, quick out of crouch. The hands were below average. He dropped a few balls he should have had. Groshans threw out Oswald Peraza in the third inning. The arm looked good: throw on a line and accurate, but I missed the pop time. Offensively he has a big leg kick and drives the ball well for a guy who is not huge. Raw power grades to around 50/55. I would love to see this kid more to round out the look.
Other notable guys:
Marino Campana (OF) – Strong, athletic body with 65 raw power but long levers that make it hard for him to get to it. Hit a walk off homer, crazy high launch angle moonshot in 7/4’s game.
Joe Davis (1B) – First base only type with good bat to ball and 60 raw power but no defensive value. Can dream on a 60/60 hit/power, but he will need to mash at every level and prove himself.
Nick Northcut (3B) – Rhythm hitter with plus bat speed. He sways using rhythm and timing to his advantage. Aesthetically pleasing swing with good hands. Not sure what he is yet, just know I like the swing and hands. VIDEO
New York Yankees Short Season A – Staten Island
Everson Pereira (OF) – Polished defensive, raw offensive centerfielder. This series was loaded with talented teens and Pereira may have the highest upside of any of them. It should be noted Pereira is very young. He just turned 18 in April, very aggressive short season assignment by the Yankees. This is the equivalent of a high school senior playing against college Juniors. In my eyes the defense heads his profile. While it was only a shortened two-game series, he displayed a couple of excellent jumps and made good reads off the bat. The reads/jumps coupled with above average speed result in easy plus range in center. His defense would be fine in the upper minors now. The bat lags behind. Some bat wrap and a last-second hitch bring his hands back up near his head, adding length to his swing. It reminded me of Alexander Canario, except Pereira does not have Canario’s elite bat speed. Pereira is more like a 50-55 type of bat speed guy. The swing mechanics are a bit concerning and threaten to limit Pereira’s power which flashed 55 in 7/6’s BP. Plus centerfield defense with 40 hit and 50 power at maturity is a realistic outcome. That would be an above average regular. I want to see Pereira more to decide whether the bat can get to 40. The bottom line is he looks overmatched right now, but shows much more promise in BP than he does in game.
Oswald Peraza (SS) – Underrated middle infielder with a chance to play every day. Very smooth defensively, manned shortstop both games in the series and looked good there: well-coordinated with excellent body control and infield actions, solid around the bag. Overall, fluid, easy movements. Plus range and good instincts. Had him 4.26 on a max effort run from the right -> plus run. Came away from the two games really liking his bat. He has a chance to be a 50 hit/40 power guy. He showed fringe average raw power in BP and homered in a game on an 88 mph Kelvin Sanchez fastball, in essence supplying the power himself. The swing mechanics should be conducive to limiting swing and miss as he climbs through the minors: Peraza draws his hands back to slot position -> on time, good hip rotation through point of contact. There isn’t much wasted effort in his swing. The bat to ball skills look solid, and he has around 50/55 bat speed. I think he is somewhat of a sleeper right now. 50 OFP with 40 FV feel like appropriate grades from this short look.
Jake Sanford (OF) – Impressive physicality, strongest guy on the field, arm wrestling contest favorite. Sanford was the Yankees 3rd round pick in this year’s draft. You don’t have to be a scout to see why. His frame is incredibly muscular. Fun BP -> dips back shoulder and leans back. His frame allows him to generate substantial power with minimal effort. Easy load and stride, bat path is geared to do damage. At least 60 raw, probably more. In game Red Sox pitchers attacked him with changeups and breaking balls away with success. He moves well for his size, around a 50 runner with 4.19 to first on a max effort grounder to third. I did not get a good feel for his defense in this look. Overall, it is an interesting bat-first profile.
Anderson Munoz (RHP) – Undersized (5’8”) Dominican righty who sits 92-94 and touches 95. The fastball was straight but Munoz had good command of the pitch. Overall he threw 55/83 pitches for strikes (66%). Munoz has good body control and repeats his delivery. Clean, short arm action without good use of lower half and overall not much effort. The repeatable mechanics allowed him to find the zone consistently. The shortness of the arm action made it tougher to see the ball out of Munoz’s hand. Munoz threw a slider 86-88 with cuttery shape that was occasionally loose, and the pitch overall was below average. His mid 80s change was also around 40 grade. There was also a pitch 88-90 that was pretty straight. It could have been a 2 seam fastball. While the secondary stuff didn’t wow, Munoz repeated his arm action and arm speed for all pitches. This flies in the face of his 6.4 BB/9 last year, but I think he profiles as a guy with plus command which may allow his stuff to play up. If I am wrong, this will be a fun one to revisit later.
Other notable guys:
Carlos Narvaez (C) – Cather with raw power around 55. Keeps hands back, twists front knee away from pitcher and uncorks swing with powerful hip rotation (plus he is already strong to begin with). Homered off Aldo Ramirez on an inside fastball, great piece of hitting to keep his hands inside. Did not get a good feel for him defensively, my focus was on other things, but his bat is very intriguing. VIDEO
Ezequiel Duran (MIF) – Infielder with elite bat speed but pitch recognition issues on non-fastballs. He swings for the fences seemingly every time and misses a lot. When he connects the sound is beautiful and contact is hard.