A run through Ralph’s live looks over the last month between the New York-Penn League and the Eastern League.
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.
We all dig the long ball, but what do 100 mph fastballs do for you? I personally get pretty excited, however, when I see a pitcher back up the heater with a 79 sweeping curveball, now we’re cooking!
The Welsh here with a live look at one of the hardest throwers in the Arizona Fall League, Nate Pearson. I’m lucky enough to live out in Arizona, where baseball seems to never take a break.