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August 18, 2014

Monday Morning Ten Pack

August 18, 2014

by BP Prospect Staff

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Cole Tucker, SS, Pirates (Rookie Gulf Coast League)
The Pirates snagged Tucker in the first round (24th overall) in this year's draft. Based on multiple viewings this season, he may be a steal. My first look left me wondering about his arm strength, as he was really struggling to throw on a line with any zip or carry, but I was later told he was dealing with arm soreness. Since then, those concerns have been put to rest. Tucker has plenty of arm from the left side, whether it's deep in the hole or off-balance and on the run going to his left. He has quick, fluid actions and soft hands. At times he loses concentration and rushes his feet, booting some routine plays, but that is fixable.

Tucker's 6-foot-3 frame is impressive. He has wide, broad shoulders that will be able support more mass as his body matures and fills out. This could also lead to a move to third base, but there is no rush. The switch-hitting shortstop has shown very strong bat-to-ball skills from both sides of the plate; while there isn't much power now, the projection left in his frame should allow that to come along. The swing is level and line drive–oriented right now, but as he gets stronger and the bat speed improves, he should be able to apply leverage, which will allow him to drive the ball more. While Tucker isn't a burner, he's still a 50 runner with long strides that allow him to make up ground after a mediocre first step. He shows strong baseball IQ and picks his spots wisely when stealing bases. Tucker is a well-rounded player in all aspects of the game who should provide the Pirates with a strong defender at short or third base, while contributing with a decent batting average and respectable power. —Chris King

Patrick Leonard, 1B, Rays (High-A Charlotte)
You probably know Leonard as the last guy in the James Shields/Wil Myers trade. He wasn't a throw-in, but he certainly wasn't the focal point of the deal. Almost two years removed, it's time to at least make note of Leonard in a weak Rays system. There were questions about his hit tool as a younger player, but the 21-year-old appears to have figured some things out at the plate. He stays tall and uses his 6-foot-4 frame well, and displays strong pitch recognition, identifying breaking balls well from same-side (right-handed) pitchers. His size helps him generate average power despite just average bat speed. He has a tendency to let his swing get long, but when he keeps it short he can get to inside pitches and generate backspin. The issue with Leonard is that he's now a first baseman, where his bat doesn't profile to have enough impact. If he could remain at third, where he played with the Royals, he would profile as a potential regular, but the Rays have already shifted him across the diamond. At first base his bat will be below average. Still, Leonard does enough things well to carve out a major-league career. —Jeff Moore

Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals (Low-A Peoria)
Reyes entered the year with limited professional experience and an arsenal that was in the infancy stages of being refined, but the vision of where Reyes' arm could take him firmly placed him in the top half of our offseason Cardinals Top 10. While the 19-year-old had ups and downs this year, his recent performance is a strong clue that he's making developmental strides. Reyes’ strong finish down the stretch not only speaks to his high-octane stuff, but also the ability to lock in with continued repetition. A key strength is an easy, loose, repeatable delivery that may lead to improved command and control. Reyes is certainly still on the wild side, often overthrowing his fastball, and isn’t there yet with spotting on the corners, but flashes of more consistency in both areas to close out the season have been encouraging. This is the type of developmental momentum that can be a launching point, and when it comes to candidates to bust out in a big way in 2015, Reyes is at the top of my list. —Chris Mellen

Cord Sandberg, OF, Phillies (Short-Season Williamsport)
Sandberg immediately passes the eye test. The 19-year-old’s 6-foot-3 frame oozes athleticism and carries his filled-out body with ease. From a physical standpoint, my mind drew comparisons to Josh Hamilton. Sandberg has the body to pack on another 20 pounds as he moves toward his mid-twenties and develop into a physical monster. The offensive skills, however, do need improvement. I did like his loose swing: He has the ability to keep his hands inside the ball, which shows in the way Sandberg currently goes the other way with authority. On the other hand, he struggles barreling the ball up hard when trying to pull. His top hand breaks early, often because he’s coming forward too much during his stride. Sandberg’s pitch recognition also needs work to keep him from lunging. He is very much a work in progress, but one who showed me flashes of potential to be a regular. Expect things to take time, with improvement controlling plate appearances an early marker that Sandberg is taking steps forward in the low minors. —Chris Mellen

Hector Veloz, 3B, Orioles (Short-Season Aberdeen)
I’ve seen a handful of games from Veloz this summer in what amounts to my first true exposure to him, and I am left feeling both impressed and highly skeptical. Few times in my scouting career have I seen a player so interested in the social elements of the game and so seemingly disinterested in actually participating in the contest. That’s not to say Veloz has “bad makeup,” but that he’s just enjoying his own little world on the diamond. Veloz is the epitome of a bat-first prospect, one that, despite a powerful right arm, I give almost no shot to stick at the hot corner. At the plate he seems comfortable. He starts from an upright stance with very high hands, but his trigger is quick and consistent and his barrel often enters the zone on time and with plenty of speed. He likes to swing and works mostly to the pull side, but when he gets pitches in the zone, he is capable of putting a charge in the ball. I’ve watched him turn on 90 and 94 mph fastballs this summer, launching them over the left-center-field wall. It is going to be a difficult profile when he eventually moves across the infield to first base—where his enjoyment of the social side of the game will play well—but when you project for at least an average hit tool and easy plus raw, you have a chance to make it work. —Mark Anderson

Jacob Lindgren, LHP, Yankees (Double-A Trenton)
The Yankees selected the small lefty out of Mississippi State with the idea that he could be a fast-moving bullpen option who could potentially help their big-league club in the immediate future. Lindgren mowed down three levels before Double-A, and has now begun to dominate there as well. He is not an intimidating presence on the mound, at least until he begins to pitch. Lindgren has a quirky delivery, which may help his stuff play up by causing timing issues for hitters. He has a slight rock and pause, followed by an exerted drive in which he keeps his upper body mildly stiff. It truly is a weird delivery, but Lindgren is able to stay fluid and in unison towards home. It works for him. His fastball sat 90 to 92 in my viewing, showing late life and cut. The pitch explodes out of his hand and creeps up on hitters. The Bowie lineup had difficulty timing the fastball, and that was exposed even more once he began to flash his secondary offering. The slider is a potential plus-plus pitch, displaying hard tilt with excellent spin sitting in the 82 to 84 mph band. This combination makes Lindgren a filthy reliever who will absolutely be in the Bronx bullpen next season, and it would not be crazy if he was up with the big league club in September. His stuff is that good. —Tucker Blair

Mason Williams, OF, Yankees (Double-A Trenton)
This year has been a disaster for the former top prospect. Williams struggled mightily with his stint in Double-A last season and the struggles have only intensified this year. At the plate, Williams is all over the place. The swing has become loopy and noisy, with the arms flailing and the back shoulder dropping. His feet are unbalanced and he is routinely out on the front foot. Williams has problems keeping himself composed at the plate, which is ultimately the largest reason for his struggles. He looks defeated before he even steps on the field. He drops his head after every strike, every bad at-bat, and generally looks like a player who feels he has failed. The game is not easy, and many players see their careers end at Double-A. He has been moved out of center field for Jake Cave, and this has likely added to the mental stress. At this point in his career, Williams is closer to a non-prospect than anything else. —Tucker Blair

Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (Longwood, FL)
While Daz Cameron has been the well-known name in the 2015 draft for some time, and rightfully so, Rodgers has a strong case as the draft's top prospect. The college crop lacks a clear-cut alpha, and it remains to be seen whether Brady Aiken will attend junior college and become eligible for the draft again in 2015. Rodgers comfortably profiles up the middle defensively with enough arm strength to stay on the left side. The potential to stick at shortstop is enough to land a prospect on the top 100 of most draft boards, regardless of offensive ability. But what make Rodgers so appealing is that he brings a high offensive ceiling to that premium position. There are prospects in the 2015 class with more power potential and a more polished hit tool, but very few boast the impressive combination of the two that Rodgers does. Those who are most bullish say he has a chance to be the next Troy Tulowitzki, and while his maximum ceiling suggests that kind of statement isn't blasphemy, JJ Hardy is a more realistic comparison. —Todd Gold

Malik Collymore, 2B, Cardinals (Rookie Gulf Coast League)
After struggling some in his first taste of professional ball in 19 Gulf Coast League games last summer, the Cardinals’ 2013 10th-round selection has shown steady progress across the board this year. The production speaks for itself, as Collymore is hitting .352/.425/.524; more importantly, he is putting together quality at-bats and demonstrating an ability to piece together a plan at the plate. He has seen his strikeout rate drop from 38 percent in 2013 to 18 percent this year while improving his walk rate and isolated power. A plus runner once underway, Collymore is putting those wheels to use as he works the gaps, leading the GCL in triples while showing improved feel on the bases. There is some upside here, with the potential to grow into an offense-minded second baseman with pull-side pop and a propensity for hard contact. —Nick J. Faleris

Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Brewers (Rookie Arizona League)
A divisive prospect heading into the 2014 draft, with scouts split on whether he'll end up in a rotation or handling late-inning work out of the 'pen, Medeiros came off the board slightly earlier than most expected, with the Brewers popping the lefty with the 12th overall pick and ultimately inking him for $2.5 million, a slight discount on slot allotment. After getting roughed up in his early outings, Medeiros has now run off four straight scoreless appearances, totaling 10 innings in which he has struck out 17 batters, walked just three, and allowed five hits.

While the production is good to see, Medeiros’ recent performance has meant little to those who still view him as a future bullpen arm thanks to below-average command in the zone, inconsistent execution of his secondaries, and a non-traditional near-sidearm slot. While those shortcomings persist, so too does his ever-dancing arsenal, featuring a wipeout slider and darting fastball capable of stymieing bats in both boxes. It’s dangerous to read too much into post-draft showings, particularly in the complex league. For now it will have to suffice that we are very much seeing the player we expected to see in his first taste of pro ball, which means there is still an awful lot we don’t know. Provided he is challenged with a full-season assignment next summer, his run through the Midwest League should help bring the picture into better focus. —Nick J. Faleris

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