I had a chance to sit on several Florida State League and Gulf Coast League games in the month of August. Based out of Tampa, I’m familiar with the Tarpons, the Yankees High-A affiliate. But I finally got a chance to get out to the Yankees facility for some 10 am and noon weekday games, something that my previous job made impossible. Here are my impressions on players I felt I got a solid grasp. Every player here could use more live looks, but at some point, you just got write.
Note: The good news is I have video on almost everyone listed here. The bad news is I won’t update this post with said video for another 2-3 weeks because of work laptop inconvenience. I‘ll be sure to tweet this out again when it’s updated.
Florida State League
Clarke Schmidt, RHP (NYY) - This was my fourth look at Schmidt this season and I feel like I’ve seen a good range of his performances, from a six inning, nine strikeout shutout performance to the seven earned run start I saw in August. Schmidt maintained a medium build all year, there’s little projection left on the body. He has an easy 3/4 delivery that’s clean and repeatable. In this start against the Wander Francos (aka Charlotte Stone Crabs), Schmidt was playing with a tweaked arsenal. Traditionally a fastball-slider pitcher, I received word that the team wanted him to shelve his tight slider and work on his curve more. What resulted was a slurvy pitch that sometimes resembled a slider and other times a curve.
His fastball sat 95-96 T97, which is a tick harder than the other times I saw him. He held the velo through his 64-pitch outing. It’s a pitch he’s not afraid to use for swings and misses up in the zone and he can locate on the outer half to righties when he has feel for it. His normal slider is a tight pitch coming in 81-83 and his best offering. It’s a plus pitch that he uses to torment RHH on the outside of the plate for a strikeout but that he can backdoor to lefties as well. I don’t quite know if it’s a problem, but it’s effective enough against RHH that sometimes he became too predictable with it. His last offering was a changeup that varied in speed. In this start he was at 90 mph, too firm in my opinion.
He got tossed around here because batters squared up his fastball and a couple of slurves. It’s worth noting that it was extremely hot and humid that day, so ball grip could have been an issue. I’m optimistic that Schmidt remains a starter long term. Over the course of the season he’s shown a little more confidence in the changeup and I think it can be an average offering. I’ll be curious about the development of his curveball relative to the slider. He has two potential plus offerings in his FB/SL that elicit plenty of swings and misses (particularly the SL), so the foundation for a starter is close.
Luis Gil, RHP (NYY) - Tall, I guessed 6-foot-3 which is his listed height. Bordering on lanky. Throws from a low 3/4 slot, almost looks like he’s slinging through his delivery. Minimal leg kick, small head whack at the end particularly with his fastball. Considering the premium velocity it’s an “easy” delivery. Gil’s FB sat 96-98 T99 and he complemented it with an 83-85 SL and 85-87 CH.
The fastball is too true for me and it elicited just three whiffs that night. Even at this level it’s hard to get away solely on velocity. He missed gloveside with it more often than not. It’s still a really tough pitch to square up in the zone, and he got Franco to ground out on high fastballs the first two times he faced him. Gil’s slider flashed above-average a couple of times but he didn’t have strong command of it, as it lost shape and depth. He isn’t afraid to deploy it high the strike zone, which initially I thought was poor control but it happened often enough that it seemed intentional. Naturally, it lost shape in that area and I think that’s a dangerous game he was playing.
I think the FB/SL pairing can be deadly given the large velo gap, but it was 40 control that night for both offerings. He finished with 4 IP, 4 BB, 4 K and 0 ER. Right now I think he’s more likely to end up in a bullpen where he can focus on his two best offerings.
Wander Franco, SS (TB) - Franco is built, I was surprised at how thick his lower half was. I think it limits projection for how much he can add on and I’d hazard he's probably 90 percent of his peak size right now. From both sides he sets up quiet at the plate, hands on shoulder with a slight crouch. The first thing that stood out is his bat speed and trigger. They’re lightning quick, you can't get a fastball by him anywhere in the zone. He will spoil it until it's to his liking or at worst roll over on one if the velo is good enough (see Gil above). In eight at bats he saw about 20 pitches and swung and missed just once — on a 80 mph CB from a LHP that I think he just wanted to send to the moon. That came from his right hand side. He’s extremely comfortable in two-strike counts thanks to his innate ability to discern balls and strikes. He notched four hits in eight plate appearances when I saw him, all singles. He grounded out twice, walked once and was called out on a pitch that wasn’t a strike.
He’s a plus runner underway but I didn’t get any good home-to-first times. I judged an average arm from SS. He threw someone out from deep in the hole but it was a very slow runner. Glove work looked average, he only had routine plays at him. I feel my looks on the field of him weren’t enough to form a concrete opinion. Overall he didn't look challenged at this level and I think he’d be replacement level if not a touch better in the major leagues right now.
Tobias Myers, RHP (TB) - Myers, who turned 21 just days before, opposed Gil in this start and bested him. The former 2016 sixth rounder had a medium build, 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. He comes in with an over the top delivery with a drop and drive. Long arm action and gets good extension that allows his FB to play up from its below average velocity. FB 89-91 T92, CB 77-81, SL 85-86. Lives low in the zone, command of fastball was mediocre, spiked a few of them. Medium effort in the delivery. None of his pitches stood out in this start, lacking movement and therefore ability to induce whiffs. But his delivery and extension, paired with strong control, do a good job of buttressing the arsenal. Also has a pretty darn good pickoff move for a righty.
Edgar Barclay, LHP (NYY) - Barclay is a 15th-round selection from 2019 and the 21-year-old has been shuttled back and forth between the GCL and High-A a couple of times this year. He came on in relief after Luis Gil for his first taste of the Florida State League. Short, thick, no projection. Knee to chest, stays upright through delivery, head whack at the end. 3/4 delivery that looked easy to pick up initially, but he hides ball well enough to be deceptive. FB 88-90 T92 with some tail. CB 75-77, 1-7 shape pretty loopy, he has average command of it and relies on it heavily. Opened up nearly 90 percent of his at-bats with a curveball. Reliever future, looked like an org guy.
Drew Strotman, RHP (TB) - 22-year-old fourth-round pick from 2017. Medium build. 3/4 delivery, quick arm. Strides forward and finishes with hind leg flaring up. FB 92-94 T95 but was very flat and lacked deception. Tampa hitters were barreling it up. CB 77-80 has nice depth, 12-6 action. CH 85-87. Willing to give him benefit of the doubt on velo and command because this was just his sixth start back from Tommy John surgery (where he needed just 13 months to get back on the mound).
Gulf Coast League
Kevin Alcantara, OF (NYY) - Signed out of DR for around $1 million in 2018, spent less than a month in DSL this year and moved stateside in June 2019. Long, lean, high waist. 6-foot-6, the projection in the body is easy to see. Big leg kick and has plenty of plate coverage because of his size. Currently geared to hit balls to the pull side leaving him susceptible to offspeed. Struck out on a SL outside once. Takes a while to accelerate out of the box but good speed under way. In centerfield he glides thanks to his long legs, has solid instincts, should be able to cut it there thanks to above-average speed. Has an average arm but he spiked one throw in, still working on accuracy. Didn't see him barrel a ball in my look but I imagine it's got to look good. Like many GCL talents, very raw. Needs to work on plate discipline, excited to see how his body morphs.
Alexander Vargas, SS (NYY) - The Cuban-born Vargas had the same exact timeline as Alcantara as the two traveled to the U.S. on the same day. Of all my GCL looks, I was most impressed with Vargas. Switch hitter, lean build, his body doesn't portend to a lot of projection. Small, maybe 5-10 (listed 5-11). Hands at the letters with a very quiet load, stands upright. Fantastic eye given his age. Lays off outside pitches, simply doesn't chase away and always works the counts. 11.63 triple down the line that he slapped toward 3B line, looked 50-55 speed. You can beat him with well-placed corner heat, but then again, even major leaguers get caught with that. Didn't get a chance to see any power so I can't speak much to power projection but I'm tempering my expectations for now. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see him learn to start barreling pitches given how selective he is at the plate.
Raimfer Salinas, OF (NYY) - Signed for $1.85 million in 2017, arrived to GCL in 2018. 18 year old, out of Venezuela. Medium build, looked a touch shorter than his 5-11 listed height. Sets up with hands at head with slight waggle, gets into a crouch. I was impressed with his quick hands, his load and trigger is efficient with little wasted effort. Contact skills let him execute a hit and run. Still learning to lay off high heat and offspeed low. 4.39 on an infield hit which grades out to 40 speed but another scout confirmed with 4.40. Maybe wasn’t busting it all the way? Certainly doesn’t jive with the 55 speed reports. Working on base stealing instincts, took off early before pitcher even made a move and got caught in an easy rundown. Big hacks on pitches down and in, seems like that's where he likes his pitches. Turns on inside quick. Doubles and warning track power right now. I like his future power projection thanks to his quick bat.
Wilfredo Flores, 3B/OF (PHI) - 19- year-old diminutive player but has thump in his bat (he’s a lefty). Sizable leg kick lets him get some good gap power. But he also spoils plenty of pitches, even if it means chasing them out of the zone. Strong bat control leads me to believe he won't strike out too often, but I could tell he was aggressive, pouncing on first pitches. Won't walk much. Pleasantly stood out thanks to quality of contact. Likely settles into an outfield spot.
Kyle MacDonald, 1B (NYY) - 23-year-old 2019 draftee in the 27th round. Relies on upper body strength for his power, big and filled out already at 6-5, 240. All or nothing swings, has a hitch with a waggle. 45 bat speed. I think numbers lie based on what I saw vs. his stats as I was truly floored when I saw he had a 7/7 K/BB with 1.067 OPS. Keep in mind he’s three to four years older than his competition. I expect him to get exposed as he ascends.
Alfred Vega, RHP (NYY) - 18-year-old out of DR that signed in 2017. Like many Yankees right-handers, traditional delivery with standard leg lift that's repeatable. Has a head jerk at the end, works quick. From windup he closes up the delivery. Good extension. FB 87-88 T90, has some tail at the end when it's low in the zone. But it can get very flat in the upper half of zone. He was missing armside with it. Uses a CB as his primary secondary, 76-77 range. It lacks a consistent shape, but can be developed into an 11-7 offering with good depth. Was getting a feel for both pitches in this start 2.2 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.
Denny Larrondo, RHP (NYY) - 17-year-old out of Cuba who signed last year and was assigned directly to the GCL. Long rotation as he winds up with his back to the batter. Whippy, long arm action, cross body. 90-92 FB. Has a slider but couldn't get velo readings. Lots of moving parts makes it a deceptive delivery and he hides ball well as it explodes on you. Misses glove side with fastball thanks to nascent command. Big CB, got a swinging K with it. Loopy, but has some bite. RP future.
Here are some quick hits on players that I didn’t get a good read on but just wanted to share first impressions (and I guess last ones too, thanks Hurricane Dorian!).
Dionys Vallejo, 3B (NYY) - Signed in 2018 out of DR, currently 19. Long limbs and legs, 6-2, 158 pounds. Third baseman that made two slick plays at the corner, covers ground well laterally, can see a plus defender there. Strikes me as a defense and speed first player, little power projection.
Angel Rojas, 2B (NYY) - Small, 5-8, 160. Type of player whose uniform looks big on him. Crouches in the box to shorten the zone, big hand waggle. True slap hitter, tries to bunt for base hits. 70 speed down the line.
Deurys Marte, RHP (NYY) - 20-year-old out of DR that signed last year. Listed at 5-11 on the roster sheet but easily a mistake, looked more 6-2, 6-3. Tall, projectable, high waist. HTQ delivery, 88-89 FB, 75-77 CB, 86 CH that he uses on RHH. 35 control. Looked like release point would slightly change. 2 IP, 1 H, 1 K. I’m intrigued given the body.
Pedro Diaz, C (NYY) - 21-year-old that’s been toiling in the GCL for three years running. Big frame, thick lower half. Properly built out for his position, to say the least. Looks to do damage with each swing and lift the ball. Makes him susceptible to upper half of the zone. Swung and missed on high FB.
Maiker Feliz, RHP (NYY) - Feliz actually signed seven years ago with the White Sox but never made it past AZL. Yankees signed him as a minor league free agent in April. 22-year-old has low TQ delivery, likes to sling it. The delivery lets him hide the ball. Thick lower body, particularly thighs. Large leg kick. Cross body. 89-91 FB, 83 SL, 84 CH needs control and command.
Juan Geraldo, RHP (PHI) - Signed in 2017 out of DR, now 18. HTQ delivery, looked like a high-spin fastball that sneaks up on hitters. 91-92 T 94, leans back before he delivers toward the plate. I think I picked up a cutter against a RHH at 93 that could be a weapon. 83-86 SL, backdoored one to a LHH. Command of it improved as time went on. 2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Like Deurys, also intrigued about development.