April 18, 2014
Notes from the Field
South Atlantic League (Low-A)
RHP Hunter Harvey (Orioles)
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)
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.
C Chance Sisco (Orioles)
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)
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)
Carolina League (High-A)
RHP Lucas Sims (Braves)
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. Follow @CJWittJr