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April 18, 2014

Notes from the Field

A-Ball Notes

by CJ Wittmann and Tucker Blair

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South Atlantic League (Low-A)

(CJ Wittmann)

RHP Hunter Harvey (Orioles)
6-foot-3 accurate; nice broad shoulders and beautiful frame to add good weight; great physical projection; very athletic; 3/4 arm slot; uses high kick to create good momentum toward the plate; stretch: 1.40 to 1.53 range; has slight crossfire; also can open early and land toward first-base side; front-side glove can get big, creating deception before throwing front side through; ball explodes out of his hand; hips and shoulders rotate in unison and arm comes through fast; easy release; low-effort delivery; stays over top of pitches well; uses tall frame to create plane; repeatable mechanics; presently more of a thrower than pitcher and needs work with pitchability; very good demeanor and killer mentality on the mound and I love it; also plus-plus hair flow.

Fastball 90-95; a lot of 93, 94; uses tall frame to create downhill plane; arm-side life; can cut it at 90, 91; ball explodes to plate and gets on hitters quick; gets good fastball extension; presently command better to arm side; command profile overall is solid-average and will get to plus; generated double-digit swing-and-misses; could see a velocity tick from where he sits comfortably with added strength. Future 70 grade.

Curveball 78-82; power breaking hammer; great shape with tight spin; hard vertical action; late, sharp hard snap coming from loose wrist; really snaps the breaker; shows good bite with great depth; comes from same arm motion as fastball; has ability to throw for strike and as chase pitch; true swing and miss pitch. Future 70 grade.

Changeup 82-85; best when in 82-83 range; great arm action; plays well off fastball; arm-side fade with vertical action; easy arm with loose wrist (noted from curveball), can improve depth and deception; needs to improve command profile in zone but has bat-missing ability; present below average but work in progress. Future 60 grade.

Role: 70; no. 2 starter

There’s high risk here because Harvey is young and there’s much more development to go. His floor is lower than his fellow pitching prospects in the Orioles system, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. But Harvey was amped to pitch against fellow top prospect Lucas Giolito. His fastball was explosive out of his hand and got on hitters quickly. He generates easy velocity from plus arm speed and a clean delivery. He would bust righties inside with 94, then cut it away at 91 with the fastball and it was sick. His curveball is a true hammer and will be a weapon at the highest level. The changeup is a work in progress but I trust the development of it because of the arm action. Harvey is presently more of a thrower than pitcher and the overall command profile needs refinement but Harvey has the skill set and determination to do that. The things that stood out to me the most were Harvey’s demeanor and mentality. He kept cool and collected but was pissed when he gave up a hit and hit two batters. Not to the extent of it being inappropriate but he was mad at himself for not blowing it by the hitter. Also, he has a killer instinct on the mound. He has a “here it is, come and hit it” mentality and that’s what I want from a pitcher. I love this guy.

RHP Lucas Giolito (Nationals)
6-foot-6, big boy; muscular build throughout; dreamer’s body for an innings-eater horse; elite arm strength; stays tall throughout delivery; arm stab in back to a high 3/4 arm slot; creates extreme downhill plane; has high leg kick but momentum varies to the plate from the windup; stretch: 1.2 to 1.3 range; has extremely long stride and keeps good balance throughout delivery; hips and shoulders rotate and explode fast toward plate; can land toward first-base side and hips open early; ball explodes from hand; delivery has a bit of effort; can get violent at times when reaching back for extra velocity.

Fastball 92-97; sat comfortably at 92-95 but could reach back for 96, 97 when needed; extreme plane; late, late life and bores on hitters; explosive out of hand; changes eye level of hitters extreme amount; command is below average presently; with command improvement could be elite pitch based on extreme plane and life making it nearly impossible to square. Future 80 pitch.

Curveball 80-84; wipeout pitch; extreme depth in pitch; looks like a fastball half-way through then dives; has true hammer 11-5 shape; tight, tight spin; massive snap and bite with two-plane break; only threw a handful but they were extreme; elite-level offering. Future 80 pitch.

Changeup 82-88; best in 82-84 range; comes from same arm motion as fastball; arm-side sink with deep vertical action; bottom falls out; very loose command; presently can get firm and lose effectiveness at higher velocity; mostly effective because of fastball fear; presently average; with development could to get to plus-plus. Future 65 pitch.

Role: 80; elite starter

There’s extreme risk here obvious with TJ on his resume. Giolito could very well be the top pitching prospect by year’s end and rightfully so. That being said, he’s not perfect. The command profile is fringy and needs work. Giolito could very well have the most elite arsenal in all of the minors but tends to nibble too much around the plate instead of attacking hitters. His fastball is an elite offering that he will dominate with at the highest level to go along with an elite curveball. The changeup is a work in progress but when he gets it, it may be the most effective pitch he’ll have based on fear of the others. Giolito is something special.

I had an awesome time watching two of the premier pitching prospects in the game duel. Both seemed hyped up for the occasion and it showed. They punched out a combined 13 while only giving up three hits. They also broke three bats combined. If I had to choose one, I would choose Giolito based on the elite power stuff. But if it were Game 7 of the World Series and I want a killer on the mound to win it all, give me Hunter Harvey.

(Tucker Blair)

C Chance Sisco (Orioles)
Lean frame, growth left in lower half; projects for more power. Watched batting practice and saw a game of at-bats. Swing is short and compact; line-drive oriented. Quick wrists; flicks them. Sometimes over-extends on outside pitches; slight lunge but still barrels the ball enough for sufficient contact.

Five bases stolen on him in the game I saw, two from Avery Romero. Sisco was not responsible for two of the stolen bases, as righty Luc Rennie was relatively slow coming home, with times over 1.5. The three throws he had, Sisco registered pop times of 1.96, 2.03, 2.06. Average arm strength, accurate throws. Footwork has improved since my brief looks at Aberdeen and in spring training. Still needs more work, but small improvements noted.

OF Josh Hart (Orioles)
Small, wiry frame; might fill out lower half a little more, but nothing large. The swing displays above-average bat speed with quick hands and a small load. His batting practice consisted of a barrage of line drives. During the game, he slapped a double down the left field line; great hand extension, balanced swing, barrel on the ball. He always seems to barrel up the ball in my times seeing him. Hart also put down a beautiful bunt single; perfect execution; clocked a 3.99 time from home to first. Hart knows his game and sticks to it. He does not project for much power, and displays an approach that is crucial for a contact-oriented hitter. He locked up on a decent breaking ball; clearly needs to see more repetitions at the plate to put together more consistency. This will be what holds him back from shooting through the system.

Hart is a plus-plus center fielder defensively. Tremendous range; excellent reads; agile and shows a wonderful baseball sense. Arm is fringe, but the other skills make up for it. I have fallen in love with his defense. He is a Gold Glove–caliber fielder for me.

2B Avery Romero (Marlins)
Small frame; thick lower half; physically maxed out. High and large load; potential issue against higher velocity. Not a problem against 90-92 mph. Fringe-average power; bat speed is average. Contact-oriented swing, although the load is a hindrance on this approach. Hands stay relatively calm through the entire swing. Might be one of those players that can get away with a big load, but would need to see more to justify this. Shows ability to drive ball to all fields, extends hands well for pitches on outside corner. Some troubles recognizing average breaking balls. Speed is a tick above average. Decent defensively at second base; solid arm; average range. Romero was the best player on the field for the Grasshoppers. He was the one that stood out the most.

Carolina League (High-A)

RHP Lucas Sims (Braves)
Nice frame; strong legs; muscular top. Mild room for growth. Mechanics are very clean, stays compact and repeated his delivery almost every single pitch. Arm is smooth, solid arm speed. Big leg kick. Nineteen years old and pitches like a 24-year-old; pitchability through the roof. Hard to even imagine this is a teenager still. Absolutely loved how he attacked hitters the entire night. Quick on the mound; quick to home plate; determined and pissed off when he gave up a hit. It was everything I want to see from a pitching prospect.

Fastball sat 90-93 most of the night; topped out at 94. Thick air with a storm coming in likely sapped some velocity. Fastball displayed late life and some giddyup; enough movement to throw off hitters and the Frederick lineup was often late. Commanded the pitch well most of the night, worked it quick and pounded all corners of the plate. I loved how he was attacking hitters inside. Wynston Sawyer was able to pull his hands in on a 91 mph fastball and hit it for a homer. Otherwise, the pitch was spot-on the entire night.

Changeup was 81-84 mph; topped at 86 mph. Shows some fade, decent feel; arm-side run. Really drops off the table at times, although still fairly inconsistent. Brenden Webb hit a change with poor fade over the right field wall. The pitch flashes plus potential, but needs the most refinement out of his arsenal.

Curveball sat 74-78 mph; 12-to-6 break with great depth; absolute plane-breaker. Easy strikeout pitch with plus potential. He threw one curve that Joel Hutter might still be wondering what exactly happened. The hour drive to Frederick was worth this one pitch alone. He was inconsistent with the command and release point with the curve, but the effective ones were exceptional.

Overall, Sims was great on the mound. Outside of the two homers, he was tremendous. Tip your cap to Wynston Sawyer on the first homer, but Sims was able to limit the Frederick offense in every other way. I loved it, and that was exactly what I want to see from a potential no. 2 in a rotation, which is what I think Sims has the potential to be.

CJ Wittmann is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see CJ's other articles. You can contact CJ by clicking here
Tucker Blair is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Tucker's other articles. You can contact Tucker by clicking here

6 comments have been left for this article.

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