From 8/14-8/19 I sat on the AZL Dodgers Mota. Diego Cartaya and Alex De Jesus both have everyday player potential. Cartaya has big power projection and should stick at catcher. De Jesus is an emerging shortstop prospect with impressive physique for his age. Hyun-il Choi has backend starter potential; he is a pitchability guy with a bevy of pitches and a fastball that touches 95. Jacob Gilliland has an easy delivery, projectable frame and an outside chance to make it as a back end starter. I also ran into AZL Dodgers Losarda three times in cross coverage. Between the two teams there are several players who project as role 30s and have a shot at middle relief.
From 8/20-8/26 I bore down on the AZL Cleveland Indians Red. Gabriel Rodriguez and Daniel Espino both have star potential. Rodriguez is a shortstop with strong hands and plus power projection. Espino pairs premium velocity with two breaking balls that flash plus. Yordys Valdes is a quick-twitch shortstop with smooth defensive actions and great hands. I also caught the Indians Blue team a few times in cross-coverage and again in the AZL playoffs. Aaron Bracho was arguably the most-polished hitter in the AZL. Jhonkensy Noel is an incredibly strong (recently turned 18-year-old) first base prospect with immense raw power. Jose Tena is a middle-infielder with easy plus bat speed and impressive bat to ball skills.
From 8/7-8/13 I sat on the AZL Rangers. The lineup has arguably the most depth of any AZL team with a number of potential role 40s or better, all of whom were signed internationally. Heriberto Hernandez has big raw power and projects to 60 game power. Keithron Moss is a switch-hitting, bat-first second baseman with excellent barrel control and an advanced approach. Osleivis Basabe is a tool shed with borderline-80 speed, plus bat speed, and a plus arm. Keybert Rodriguez has super-utility potential and sneaky pop. Yenci Pena (3B), Leuri Mejia (CF) and Randy Florentino (C) all project to be plus defenders. There was less of interest on the pitching side, but Nick Lockhart and Kelvin Bautista are intriguing. The former is a tall, projectable righty who flashed feel for three pitches, and the latter is a short lefty with electric arm speed and mid-90s velo.
From 8/1-8/6 I sat on the Giants Orange roster. In late July I caught the Giants Black while viewing other teams; they were not my primary focus. The top talent on the Giants complex came from the international market: Marco Luciano ($2.6MM) and Jairo Pomares ($975,000) were both high-touted 2018 J2 signings. Luciano is arguably a top 30 prospect in baseball with elite bat speed and double-plus game power projection. Pomares is a bat-first corner outfielder with everyday potential. Luis Toribio signed for $300k in 2017 and has hit his way onto Giants top 30 lists. Several recent draftees show promise but have hurdles to clear to become impact players: P.J. Hilson is a speedy centerfielder with plus bat speed and Dilan Rosario is a shortstop with plus raw power.
The Dbacks #16 overall pick this June, center fielder Corbin Carroll has plus plus speed, a selective approach, and a short, smooth swing with gap power potential. Though only 18 years old, he has a high floor to at least be a big league regular, with a chance for more if he develops the power stroke.
From 7/19-7/28 I sat on the Diamondbacks AZL roster. Corbin Carroll, Arizona’s 2019 first-round pick (16th overall) was the headliner. Also notable was Brennan Malone, a 2019 comp round selection (33rd overall). Malone has a workhorse frame, easy mid-90s velo and a chance for three 60-grade pitches. The Dbacks did gymnastics with their draft spending, signing two players in middle rounds to big bonuses: Glenallen Hill in the 4th for $850K (slot value $469K) and Avery Short in the 12th for $922k. Hill is a speedy 2B prospect. Short is a pitchability lefty. Notable international signees include Wilderd Patino, Jose Curpa and Neyfy Castillo. Patino is a physically-advanced 18-year-old OF with 60 speed. Curpa is a versatile infielder with super-utility upside. Castillo flashes plus power potential.
From 7/12-7/17 I sat on the Padres 1 AZL roster. It is an intriguing roster headlined by highly-touted 2019 draftees, including 6th overall pick CJ Abrams and overslot third-rounder Hudson Head. The Padres inked Head for $3 million, which was the equivalent to end of first round dollars. The bonus placed him squarely between slot value of picks 22 and 23 for this year’s draft. Joshua Mears, the Padres second-round pick, was also on the roster. Noteworthy international signees included Miguel Rondon and Brandon Valenzuela. Rondon is an undersized but advanced Venzuelan righty with back-end starter potential. Valenzuela is a defense-first catcher with backup catcher upside.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Under Armour All-American event in Chicago. The two-day event is one of the premier showcase events and most of the premium prep talent in the nation was participating. I’m not nearly as up to date on the prep circuit this early in the 2020 draft prep, but this is a can’t miss event and one I couldn’t pass up.
Day one of the event is the showcase. All the participants are ran through the defense drills, and afterwards take batting practice. From my count every MLB team was represented and some teams sent their scouting directors (can confirm Cardinals, White Sox and Padres). I went into this event relatively blind. I had heard of Blaze Jordan and Dylan Crews but for everything else I rely on colleagues Kyler Peterson and Tom Mussa to fill in the gaps. Here are my individual notes on each player. I’ll begin with the bats and list them in how they were lined up, starting with the National squad.
Pete Crow-Armstrong- The six-foot-one lefty has a projectable frame and was registering plus run times. He only reached base once, but stole second and third (would’ve been out at second but fielder couldn’t hang on). At contact he’s in more of a crouch than when he starts with his hands up high, and he utilizes a “double toe tap” with his front foot as a timing mechanism. I’m interested in seeing him more, and is one of the better players in this game.
Zac Veen- Veen was one of the more impressive players that I saw, and from talking and listening to people around me, he’s made a rapid ascension up the draft boards. The left-handed hitter has a lean, projectable frame, and he’s already hitting for power. Stance has no wasted movement, and he’s direct to the ball. Runs well enough to play center but he’s listed at six-foot-four so he could move to a corner as he fills out. He’s a first-round talent.
Jack Bulger- Bulger was my favorite of the catchers I saw and I was more impressed with his defensive skills and accurate throwing arm when compared to other catchers. He’s a physical kid, very well built. His offensive game is built around strength and power. He registered the highest exit velocity of all the bats here while hitting in the cage according to some of the tech at the field.
Austin Hendrick- Hendrick stole the show with his double-plus raw pop. He was the winner of the home run derby before the game and took advantage of the wind blowing out to right, his pull-side. Hendrick hit one over the video board in right at Wrigley. His arm was also the best amongst the outfielders. From some of the video I saw it looks like he reworked his swing and I like the new changes. He’s more direct to the ball, but there’s still a lot of noise with the hands. He uses almost a double-load, and that combined with the length in his swing will lead to strikeout issues.
Kevin Sim- Sim stood out for his unique swing, which involves pulling the hands down as he loads before attacking. The ball jumps off of his bat. There are some defensive questions here though, but he’s strong with a quick bat. He also made that athletic slide to score a run in the first.
Jace Bohrofen- Bohrofen had the most well struck ball of the game when he ripped a double in the right center field gap. I’m looking forward to seeing more here.
Blake Shapen- Shapen was known as “the football guy” by a lot of scouts, and that’s due to his commitment to Arizona State University to play quarterback as well as shortstop. He’s very athletic and has good range and a strong arm and made a spinning play behind the second base bag. The swing is simple and powerful, and he utilizes a big leg kick for his timing mechanism. I hope someone takes him high enough in the draft to get him on the diamond full time.
Coby Mayo- Mayo is a monster, at six-foot-five, 215 pounds. From baseball powerhouse Stoneman Douglas, he had the strongest arm from third base and had the chance to display it in game. I’m not sure he has the lateral quickness to stick at the hot corner, but the power could play at first.
Werner Blakely- Blakely was one of the better defenders during the showcase. The left-handed hitter gets out on front foot at times, but I liked what I saw from him.
Alek Boychuk- Boychuk is a well built catcher. Hope to see more of the right-handed hitter in the future.
Mario Zabala- Zabala may have been the most tooled out kid at the event, but the swing is long and he struggled to make contact.
Steven Ondina- This was my absolute favorite kid from the showcase. The Puerto Rican native is next in the long line of plus defenders from the island, and he absolutely put on a show from the shortstop position during the showcase. The hands and feet are elite for his age, as is the body control. He always found himself behind the baseball despite covering a lot of ground. The arm is above average at least, may even be plus and he’s very strong despite being five-foot-eight and a listed 165 (probably a bit lighter than that). Even during the homer run derby event he was driving balls to the wall. He had a few stolen bases during the showcase event, and the plus instincts allow the speed to play up.
Kyle Karros- The son of a big leaguer, Karros has a six-foot-five frame with plenty of room to add good weight. It’s a power over hit tool for me in my brief exposure. Looks to be limited to first as well.
Now for the bats on the American squad.
Robert Moore- Son of Royals GM Dayton Moore, Moore is a stocky but well built middle infielder. He’s a switch-hitter with a high baseball IQ that played up the middle. Line drive gap-to-gap profile at present.
Ed Howard- The local kid for this event, Howard is a product of Mount Carmel. If it wasn’t for Steven Ondina, Howard would’ve been the defensive shortstop I’d be raving to you about. He’s a physical specimen that does everything well.
Drew Romo- A switch-hitting catcher, Romo has a nice balanced swing, but he hits for more power from the right side. He has a nice frame with a good amount of projection remaining.
Blaze Jordan- This kid scolds the ball with every swing. During the home run derby he hit one that nearly went on to the roof of a building that was about 50 feet beyond the left field fence. The power is very real. He would’ve won the home run derby but the wind really picked up and started blowing in from left field. He generates plenty of natural loft and has significant power upside. He’s likely a first baseman down the line, but it doesn’t matter. The bat will play. He recently just re-classified and is now a 2020 draft prospect. Look for him in the top half of the first round based on his bat alone.
Dylan Crews- Crews has been sold as one of the best hitters of the class for a while now, and I see why. He’s a strong and athletic kid, but he struggled during the game and looked like he was caught in between. He will seemingly always has some contact issues, but it just depends on the rest of his game how much you can tolerate, and it looks good so far.
Robert Hassell III- The lefty has a smooth swing and the range to stick in center. Besides Hendrick he had the next strongest arm and was the favorite of a certain AL East teams representative at the game.
Slade Wilks- Wilks is a power threat, and looks the part. Filled out six-foot-two frame, he’s a presence from the left side of the box. Corner outfield profile, and runs decently well for his size. Strong kid.
Tanner Witt- Witt made a nice play on the infield during the game, and he moves pretty well despite his six-foot-six frame at his young age. Big time raw power, but it’s just a matter of getting to it consistently. Hopefully he doesn’t completely outgrow third, because he’s an athlete.
Robby Ashford- Ashford is the TOP athlete here, and was incredibly an Under Armour All-American in football as well. Above-average power and speed, the ceiling for Ashford is immense. Just need to keep him off the football field.
Yohandy Morales- Tall, lean build but has some power he was showing off during BP and the derby. The swing is long and he starts his hands high, and most of his natural power was to right center. The right-handed hitter has good hands and showed off a strong arm. (Eddy’s Editor Note: Shout out to my high school alma mater G. Holmes Braddock Senior High)
Daniel Susac- Susac’s older brother is a former top prospect behind the plate, so it’s only fitting that his younger brother is also a legitimate catching prospect. Susac is a switch-hitter that brings himself down to a crouch before the pitch, and uncoils with nearly unmatched raw power. He put on a show during the derby but ultimately came up short as the runner up.
Cayden Wallace- Wallace didn’t have a standout tool in my view, but also didn’t have a glaring weakness. He will be an interesting infielder to follow. He can go so many different directions.
Nolan McLean- McLean was the only two way player to perform both in the field and on the mound in this event. He’s also a highly thought of high school quarterback, so he obviously is a plus athlete.
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.
A storm of top pitching prospects blew through the greater New England area over the last week and yours truly put aside all of my “adult” responsibilities and headed out to the parks to uncover the best live looks I could manage.
May 18, 2019
Patrick Weigel, RHP (Atlanta Braves)
Big body at 6’6” 245 lbs, broad shouldered, large, but well maintained frame. Longer arm action, but arm is quick and whippy. Hides the ball well before delivering from a higher three-quarters arm slot. Uses closed off front hip, tight leg lift, slight bend in back leg, and lower backside to drive from his lower half while keeping his long limbs in sync.
There is certainly some effort in the delivery, and at times his release can be somewhat violent. Returned late in 2018 from a June 2017 Tommy John Surgery, prior to that he was one of the biggest risers in the Atlanta system. He only went four innings but the velocity and stuff were back. He sat 92-96 mph on his four-seam fastball, with spin rates in the 2372 - 2495 range. He showed good command of the pitch landing it high and low in the zone, and effectively to the glove-side and arm-side. The pitch is relatively straight but shows some rise high in the zone.
Weigel mixes three secondaries: a slider, curveball, and changeup. The best of the bunch is his slider, a tight breaking pitch with glove-side sweep. He sits 84-85 with the pitch with spin rates in the 2850-2900 range. Did not get any swinging strikes on the pitch in my look, but stole a few strikes on the outer corner to right hand batters, kept hitters off balance working off his fastball, getting lots early swings from hitters on top of the pitch, leading to grounders down the third baseline. His changeup was used effectively versus left handers used inside in tandem with his fastball, the pitch didn’t have a ton of movement and the spin rates backed that up coming in between 1200-1300 rpms. He broke out his curve ball versus two left-handed hitters in Brock Holt and Josh Ockimey. Versus Holt, he threw two in his second plate appearance versus the MLB vet, stealing a strike on the outer half in a 0-1 count. The pitch had nice 12-6 break, the movement was backed up by the spin rates in the 2600-2700 range. Weigel spotted it well in its limited use, while velocity sat in the high 70s, between 76-78.
Huascar Ynoa, RHP (Atlanta Braves)
Making his Triple-A debut in the bottom of the fifth, following four near perfect innings from Patrick Weigel, Ynoa was piggy-backed as the second starter. The 20-year-old right-hander went two innings and showed promising stuff despite getting knocked around for a few runs including a home run off the bat of Josh Ockimey. He’s listed at 6’3 175 lbs, but looks more 6’3 200-210 lbs, with a thick lower half, and filled out frame.
He threw exclusively from the stretch, showing an explosive motion where he drops and drives off of his back leg showcasing good balance. An upper three-quarters arm slot with a crossfire follow through tips his slider and changeup, while his arm slot on his fastball tended to be over the top. He messed with timing on a few occasions holding his front leg for an extra second. He has a fast arm which results in some effort throughout his mechanics as he explodes toward the plate. His momentum carries throughout his body as he tends to fall off to first base in the conclusion of his follow through.
His fastball was his best pitch sitting 94-98 mph with downward plane and some glove-side run. Spin on the pitch was somewhat below average sitting between 2100-2200. He mixed a pair of secondaries including a slider in the 84-86 mph range with tight two-plane break. This was his most effective swing and miss offering. His changeup showed fade and drop in the few times he did use throw it but was heavily fastball-slider. Might have a chance to start if he develops his third pitch, but very much looks almost ready for a major league pen.
May 19, 2019
Kyle Wright, RHP (Atlanta Braves)
Tall, lean, athletic build, high-waisted, prototypical pitcher build. Easy and fluid mechanics, over-the-top arms lot, some effort at the point of release, repeats his motion well. Wright’s fastball was his best pitch, sitting 95-97 touching 98 on three occasions. Through the first three innings he commanded the pitch well, getting strikes looking and swinging, driving weak groundball contact and lazy flies when batters did square it up.
Throughout the first time through the lineup it looked like one of the better fastballs I had seen, and his command was excellent of his secondaries, mixing a sweepy slider in the 83-84 mph range, with good movement, and high-spin readings as high as 2871 rpms. He landed it well to the back foot of lefties and snuck a few in the back door on right-handers. He mixed his changeup in to varying results, each time it was used in the first three frames contact was made. He generated mostly grounballs with the pitch. He broke off a single curveball, but it showed limited shape, and didn’t spin much.
The second time through the order Wright became undone. First working down to Brock Holt 3-0 pitching backwards starting him off with a curveball, changeup, fastball, before hanging a changeup middle-middle that Holt jumped all over planting in deep right-center field for a homer. He got deep into counts with both Pedroia and Travis, yielding a single and walk. His command betrayed him and he left several fastballs center cut that turned into predictably hard contact on balls in play. Wright has the stuff of an ace but he lacks the command and seems to let things pile only magnifying his mistakes.
May 20, 2019
Casey Mize, RHP (Detroit Tigers)
This was my second look at Casey Mize in the course of a month. I caught him in Florida while he was still a member of Lakeland against a weaker Palm Beach lineup. He cruised, working mostly with his fastball that day, never really challenged by any of the opposing hitters, mixing his slider, splitter, and cutter as needed. This time around Mize was facing a tougher Double-A lineup in Hartford in front of a packed house.
Through the first two frames Mize lacked command of his fastball, his slider and cutter bled together, but he used the former to perfection. From the third inning on Mize dominated, working his fastball to both sides of the plate, landing his slider for swinging strikes, while landing his splitter low in the zone as he pleased. He took advantage of Colton Welker’s aggressiveness, going right after him in his final two at bats versus the slugging third baseman, attacking him with two high fastballs and a back door slider. But the standout of the night was his final at bat versus Welker, starting him off with splitter on the outer part of the plate for a nasty hack, followed by another back door slider, the coup de grace coming in the form of a 97 mph fastball high and tight for a swinging strike three.
Mize’s fastball sat 93-95 touching 96 and 97 on a few occasions. He struggled to command the pitch early but got in the zone following the second inning harnessing the pitch. He leaned more on his secondaries the second time through, and it certainly played up his fastball which can get flat at times. His slider was every bit as good as I remember sweeping in on lefties and away from right-handers with late break tunneling well with his fastball.. The consistency with his release point and all four pitches is one of his strongest attributes.
May 25, 2019
Nate Pearson (Toronto Blue Jays)
Promoted to Double-A at the beginning of the season, the 6’6 245 lbs right-hander has been alternating between five-inning outings, and two-inning outings. Unfortunately I caught a two-inning turn. Pearson is every bit of his listed height and weight, one of the biggest humans you’ll spot on a baseball diamond. His mechanics are simple and deliberate, not many moving parts for a big guy. Over-the-top arm slot, with a pull down motion, Pearson gets good extension, dropping and driving through his motion.
Slight tilt combined with his size and release point create significant downhill plane, causing Pearson’s fastball to work primarily low in the zone. His arm slot on his fastball and curveball lineup, but his arm slot is slightly lower on his slider making it easier to pickup. Hartford hitters seemed to pickup on that, particularly Tyler Nevin. Pearson threw entirely from the stretch which caused me to wonder if they were working with him on not only throwing from the stretch, but potentially for a relief role. That’s pure speculation, and more than likely they’re looking to improve his delivery from the stretch.
His fastball velocity did not disappoint sitting 95-99, touching 101 on one throw. The pitch features significant downhill plane and slight glove-side run, making it a deadly pitch to left-handed hitters. His command was inconsistent, but the best of his heat that day was a hard 70. Pearson mixed a hard slider in the 88-91 mph range showing two-plane movement. Due to the aforementioned release point, the YardGoats lineup laid off the pitch for the most part. His second breaking ball is a hammer curveball with 11-5 break, and top of the scale velo for a bender in the 83-86 mph range. Tough to get a great feel for Pearson’s pitchability, but the stuff is elite.
Josh Ockimey (Boston Red Sox)
Josh “Ock” is who I thought he was, a big power-hitting first base only, with future DH written all over him. Hit the hardest hit ball I saw over the last week, driving a Huascar Ynoa 98 mph fastball in on his hands for a massive 420 ft home run that flew off the bat at 109.6 mph. Pitchers know Ockimey’s weakness and attack him off the plate with breaking stuff. This will lead to loads of strikeouts, how many will determine his future role. The power and on-base ability of a three outcome DH is there, but so are the contact issues that could ultimately plague his profile.
Travis Demeritte (Atlanta Braves)
Demeritte gets the most out of his plus bat speed, looking to ambush fastballs early in the count and he did just that to smashing (literally) results in my look. Average height with lean and athletic build, swing is fluid, quick hands and really strong wrists. Bat path is slight uppercut, that combined with his mediocre pitch recognition skills led to some strikeouts. Hit only fastballs in my look, noticeably avoiding breaking stuff. Hitting two homers and sending multiple balls deep into the outfield grass. Played the corner outfield spots and moved well, tracking everything hit his way. Wasn’t really challenged. Could be a second-division regular with power.
Alex Jackson (Atlanta Braves)
Big bodied catcher, strong, and maxed out body. Not sloppy, but slightly stiff upper half at the plate. Tons of raw power and leveraged, raw strength drives above average bat speed, strong hands and wrists. Swing gets grooved, lack of ability to adjust mid-swing to manipulate bat head. When Jackson does make contact he hits the ball hard. Plus approach at the plate, grinds out at bats, took five to nine pitches per at bat, good sign for a potential three outcome hitter.
Behind the plate Jackson’s defense was noticeably solid, and exceeded expectations. He handled three arms with good stuff in Wright, Weigel, and Ynoa, kept everything in front of him, and stole strikes on fastballs and sliders on the corner. Lack of movement in glove when receiving, didn’t struggle even with Wright’s best spinners. Looks like a potential backup catcher with power, and I believe he could fit that role as soon as later this season.