April 16, 2014
Notes from the Field
Notes from Five Leagues
3B Maikel Franco (Phillies)
Doesn't possess a textbook swing; features some extra pre-launch movements and a big hand load that leads to a less-than-ideal starting spot. Bat speed is excellent anyway. Big-time power. Prone to expand his zone and chase secondaries; can also get pull happy, but his hands let him recover and square pitches up anywhere. Natural hitter with a unique style who hits rockets. Not the prettiest third baseman defensively; poor runner who looks almost bowlegged when he's under way; plus arm and good first step could still mean an average glove profile at third even if he doesn't cover a whole lot of ground. Franco is never going to exactly fit the mold of what teams expect, but what he can do well shouldn't be overlooked. Solid average big league third baseman with a chance to be an All-Star.
RHP Blake Treinen (Nationals)
Big imposing guy on the mound; ideal mature pitcher's build and size; intimidates hitters. 3/4 slot; fastball 95-96, touches 97 with sink and some tail; held velocity throughout outing (five innings); quick arm. Curveball 81-82; a plus pitch; tight spin, good depth and late break; comfortable throwing for strikes or as a chase. Circle change 80-83; showed flashes but inconsistent; some feel for pitch but often too firm. Backstab and some effort in delivery; more control than command, but missed low when he missed. Capable mid-rotation starter but stuff would also play up out of the pen in late innings.
3B Garin Cecchini (Red Sox)
Cecchini is a tough out every time at the plate; controls the strike zone at an elite level. Pretty swing with a lot of bat speed and loose hands; hits balls where they're pitched and uses the whole field. It's actually difficult to find talent evaluators who don't believe he'll hit .300-plus. Power is gap-to-gap presently but his bat speed and proclivity for squaring up baseballs should lead to at least average power at maturity. Has all the tools be an above-average third baseman but still isn't there; almost appears to have the mentality of a shortstop playing third base; not entirely surprising as he played short in high school. He wants to run to the ball, round it and play it like a shortstop instead of reacting like a third baseman would; it's as if he's more concerned with his range than his first move. I think the concerns with his glove are overstated and he'll acclimate. Has great instincts and a great mind for the game and it shows all over the field. All-Star-level third baseman.
CF Brian Goodwin (Nationals)
Goodwin looked the same as in views from previous years; does everything fairly well but nothing at an impact level. Athletic; plus runner but not a burner. Plus bat speed but limited feel for hitting; mediocre pitch identification skills offset by patient approach and solid knowledge of the strike zone. Power has only shown up at five o'clock in my viewings. Inconsistent in many aspects of his game. Don't have a lot of confidence in his bat. High 5; inconsistent regular or good second-division starter.
RHP A.J. Cole (Nationals)
Tall, lanky, athletic frame; good athlete. Some problems repeating delivery; pause in back; lead shoulder timing issues; long ball-circle. Arm slot lower than in previous viewing; low 3/4. Fastball 91-92, touched 95; fairly flat with a little sink and tail; velocity fell off to 87-89 after a few innings. Fastball command and control below average; works around strike zone but rarely hit his spots. Slider 80-81; slurvy but flashed decent tilting action. Changeup 81-82; firm and flat; sometimes showed late sink; particular trouble finding release point to turn over change. This was my second viewing of Cole and I've yet to see the "good" Cole with the big fastball. I could buy a Cole in the mid-90s as a no. 4 starter but he has not shown well at all for me.
CF Michael Taylor (Nationals)
Great body; easy plus athleticism. Raw tools are louder than Goodwin's, but I have less confidence in his bat; doesn't often square pitches up and doesn't have much feel for hitting; wraps hands and creates extra distance to the ball; lunges at pitches; swing can get long and loopy; very defensive two-strike approach. Above-average raw power but limited game utility. Good routes and covers ground in outfield. Project as fourth outfielder/second division starter but does have tools and potential to blossom into more.
1B Matt Skole (Nationals)
Standout raw power; big, strong left-handed hitter; generates lots of backspin and loft. More patient than selective at the plate; ugly swings on breaking balls and looked largely lost against left-handed pitching; guilty of sometimes dropping his back shoulder and selling out for pull power. Played first base and didn't move well; previously seen in Cape and New York-Penn Leagues and had thought a 40-45 glove at third was possible. Unexciting profile at first.
RHP Lester Oliveros (Twins)
Undersized but sturdy, stocky right-hander. Hard to pick up; hides ball and stays closed; flashes ball late with a quick arm. 3/4 arm slot. Plus fastball up to 90-93; features some arm-side run. Fastball command below average; often works up with heater and challenges hitters; major leaguers will punish his mistakes. Tight, tilting slider can be very good chase pitch; also mixes in a change against left-handed hitters. Attacks hitters with a late-innings mentality but control more suited to the seventh or eighth.
Florida State League
RHP Trevor Williams (Marlins)
A big, strong kid with thick legs; generates good downward plane. Four-seam fastball sat 92-93, hit 94 twice, but lost a few ticks by the fourth inning. Two-seam fastball sat 89-91. Didn't command either well and was behind in the count all night. Two-seamer had minimal arm-side run, not enough to generate a lot of groundballs. Curveball was in the low 70s, and has the potential to be an average to above-average pitch with its hard downward break. He left it up a few times but generally commanded it well. It's not a power curve at 72-73 mph, but the break is sharp enough to miss bats when he keeps it down. His slider was erratic and frequently missed down. It doesn't have a ton of break and the movement is more down than side-to-side; was a below-average pitch on this night. His changeup was his best pitch, and he threw it with an arm action that was consistent with his fastball. It featured enough arm-side run to stifle left-handed hitters and if he can generate a little more movement, it can be a plus pitch. It will also play up if his fastball command improves. He did not throw the change nearly enough, though that could have been because he was behind in the count most of the night.
Williams has a two potential above-average pitches with his curveball and changeup, so the biggest improvement he needs to make is with his fastball command, which still has a way to go. He doesn't have the velocity to get away with missing his spots, but has enough to be effective if he spots it well and mixes in his other pitches. Has a long, stiff-armed takeaway that could prevent him from ever having plus command, but it can still improve, and will need to in order to remain a starter. If the fastball command improves, he can be a mid-rotation starter. Otherwise he'll be destined for a middle-relief role.
RHP Matthew Koch (Mets)
Koch is a much better pitcher right now than Williams, but offers little in the way of projection. He threw three different fastballs—four-seam, two-seam, cutter—and showed plus command of all three. His four-seam was 92-93 while the two-seamer sat 89-91 and the cutter was 86-87. He showed a slider at 80-81 that was below average and had to be spotted perfectly to be effective. Got in trouble when he threw it to left-handed hitters. Koch threw a few changeups, but it showed little movement and relied on the deception from his quick arm action and the change in velocity to work; below-average pitch.
With plus fastball command and no extra baserunners, Koch is able to dominate A-ball hitters. Without the development of a plus off-speed pitch, however, he will struggle with advanced competition. His fastball command will give him a chance to compete despite a lack of premium velocity, but he'll need at least one average off-speed pitch to keep hitters honest.
OF Jabari Blash (Mariners)
Athletically impressive physical specimen with legs up to his neck; showed easy plus raw power in batting practice; slightly open with simple feet throughout; loose hands at his back shoulder before loading; hands can get hitchy during load; swing has length due to early extension of the lead arm; plenty of wrist strength; barrel is in and out of zone quickly with a short extension path through the ball; sharp left turn of hands/wrists after contact; little room for error and has to trust pitch recognition and timing in order to barrel balls; showed a surprisingly mature approach throughout the game; made adjustments on breaking balls low and away both in sequence and from at-bat to at-bat, culminating in a line-drive grand slam to right-center field; had great at-bats all evening despite middling results beyond the homer; tools-based ceiling still remains high, but swing-and-miss issues are always going to be present and will limit ultimate role; up-and-down, fifth outfielder type who teases with raw physical gifts.
SS Ketel Marte (Mariners)
20-year-old with fewer than 100 at-bats above Low-A, starting in the Southern League; assignment hints at overall maturity of game and team's confidence in the player; compact athlete; more lower-body development than expected, though there is room for an added 10-15 pounds on his frame without impeding his actions in the field; 4.22 to first from the left side on a 4-3 putout after pulling up three steps from the bag; comfortable classifying him as an above-average runner; simple swing from both sides of the plate; small stride to his toe, then plants his heel as the lower-half trigger; very similar swing from both sides with a bit less overall strength and bat speed from right side; compact stroke; contact-heavy approach with a quick entry into the zone; looks to make contact and use speed; extremely linear with little to no lift present; can get choppy at times; limited leverage or torque with soft lower-half actions; exhibits some hip slide on occasion and can get lungy; hit tool projects as fringe-average to slightly above at maturity; over-the-fence power will not be a part of his game; 30-grade future power; good actions at short; hands are soft and lateral agility looks above-average; above-average future glove; arm strength is a hair underwhelming but plays up due to quick release; 45-grade arm strength; projected future role is a second-division starter or utility infielder; good under-the-radar prospect.
RHP Trevor Miller (Mariners)
Command/control arm; 3/4 slot; short arm action and some natural deception with his lead leg; steps over an imaginary block during his stride; throws slightly across his body; 87-91 mph fastball throughout start; manipulates the pitch horizontally; shows both cut and two-seam looks; lost life in the upper quadrants; lost command as the start progressed; average future pitch; curveball sat mid-70s, up to 78; had a visible hump and could be picked up out of the hand, wrapping the pitch; below average future offering; changeup 78-80 mph via a split grip; showed a bit of natural dive to the arm side; hanging changeup was pounded for a long homer; not an impact pitch; below-average future offering; little room for error due to lack of outstanding stuff; will be exposed in upper minors; organizational arm.
RHP Carlos Frias (Dodgers)
Wiry frame with virtually zero lower-body development; 3/4 release point; short arm action; rocks into balance point slowly and explodes down the rubber, achieving separation by leaving his upper half over the rubber as his lower half strides out; worked 88-92 mph, with some natural cut in the upper-80s; began working up and flattening out midway through this start; showed a below-average curveball in the mid-70s; slowed arm noticeably; threw a handful of sliders in the low-80s, up to 84; better of the two breaking balls with a bit of late bite; average future pitch; tons of recoil after delivering the ball; tends to open up early, and as a result, the offerings seemed visible out of his hand; could see more velocity out of the pen where his stuff could play up; middle reliever profile.
OF Scott Schebler (Dodgers)
Compact frame that is maxed physically; was surprised to pull a plus time (4.1) down the line; tall, upright stance with a simple leg raise to gather weight to his back side; swing displays length; bat speed is merely okay; hands can get a bit hitchy, which can cause him to trigger late; hit a hanging changeup a long way for a homer; mistake hitter who will be challenged with velocity on the inner half; 40-grade hit (future); fringe-average future power potential, which is a grade lower than raw power due to expected issues with premium stuff; arm is not a weapon; left field profile puts weight on the development of the bat; player is not expected to have a major-league future; grades out as an organizational bat.
South Atlantic League
RHP Carlos Salazar (Braves)
Third-rounder in 2013 out of California high school; not physically imposing (in terms of height); maxed physically with wide hips/shoulders; already has plenty of strength throughout legs/core; has the makings of a power pitcher's build; will need to monitor further weight gain; 3/4 slot; delivery is quite segmented and requires pristine coordination to repeat; gets early separation after reaching his balance point; leads well with his front hip and achieves great separation between his halves, but hops to his front side in an awkward move to shift his weight; looked to be rushing his lower half, which caused his upper half to lag behind; some violence in follow through, particularly with a big head jerk; arm was routinely late coming through; long arm action with a fairly wide arm circle; release point wavered; fastball ranged from 88 to 92 mph throughout outing with a little arm-side run; fastball control was well below average; missed in all directions with the pitch, mostly high and to the arm side; mid-70s breaking ball flashed above-average potential with sharp break; spiked the breaking ball multiple times and displayed well-below-average control of the pitch; changeup also flashed in the upper-70s with good arm-side fade and velocity separation; flashed more in warmups than in actual game; shows a three-pitch mix that would lend itself well to the rotation in theory, but he looked like a bullpen arm in this viewing; very young, but a long way to go in terms of the delivery and control of all his pitches.
RHP Robert Gsellman (Mets)
Big, tall right-handed pitcher with extremely long legs; lanky; shade higher than traditional 3/4 slot; arm action is a tad long and exhibits a bit of a wrist curl at the bottom of his arm swing on occasion; collapses back side and dips upper half over the rubber a bit; limited extension out front after landing on a staunch front leg with virtually zero bend; limits release-point depth; 1.3 seconds to the plate out of the stretch; fast worker; worked 88-92 mph and touched 93 in this start with a little downhill plane; command flashed above average, working both sides of the plate with ease; 74-76 mph curveball was secondary pitch of choice, throwing it mostly early in counts for get-me-over strikes, spotting the pitch well; began casting the pitch a bit in the latter innings; could fool hitters at the Low-A level, but was a little loopy with visible hump out of the hand and projects as fringe-average or slightly above at the major-league level; straight change showed a little depth in the 80-82 mph range with good deception via natural fastball arm speed; liked it more than the curve in this outing, though he opted to employ the breaking ball more; above-average future potential; with three pitches that will linger around average, Gsellman looks like a back-end contributor down the road who relies on a solid command/control profile to miss barrels; no. 4/5 starter potential; realistically an up-and-down strike thrower.
C Bryan De La Rosa (Braves)
Small, portly, compact catcher with intriguing tool set; natural body comparison is Carlos Ruiz; doesn't project to add height and will need to watch his figure as he continues to develop; huge forearms; very loose hands at the plate with very simple heel raise/plant trigger; simple loading pattern with his hands, though it can get a hair deep and drifty at times; generally compact stroke that leads to midfield line-drive contact at present; best contact was to right-center in batting practice; surprising bat speed; high finish and good extension through the ball; currently swinging through below-average breaking stuff; needs to harness aggressive approach; projects as an average hitter with below-average over-the-fence pop, though he is currently far from those projections; shows good defensive tools with (at least) an above-average arm behind the dish; short arm action, quick release; popped 2.0 passively between innings, mid-1.9s in-game; decently athletic behind the plate and shows some lateral agility in order to block balls in the dirt; intriguing player due to positional scarcity; has the defensive tools to stick, but needs to slow the offensive game down in order to realize his tools on that side of the ball.
SS Johan Camargo (Braves)
20-year-old Panamanian "shortstop"; lower half is currently underdeveloped, as is his upper half, though he's starting to show some mass through his midsection; not the prototypical young shortstop body; at the plate, starts slightly open with low hands, showing looseness in his hands with hardly any help from his lower body throughout his stroke; little upper/lower body separation to speak of, which limits his ability to stay back on breaking stuff; very arm-y, linear swing that is hyper-focused on contact; can put wood on the ball with regularity and shows a decent approach at the plate; power isn't currently part of his game and doesn't project to have more than 40-grade pop; home-to-first times were routinely below average as a left-handed hitter; left-side arm strength (55 grade), but does not project to stay at shortstop; feet are heavy/clumsy in the field and his hands aren't incredibly soft for the position; looks a little slow laterally; weird profile, as he has to hit if he's relegated to second base; projected role is a utility guy who could handle second, third, and even a little left field if necessary.
Al Skorupa is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @alskor