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April 2, 2010

Future Shock

Grapefruit League Scouting Notebook, Part 2

by Kevin Goldstein

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Some more thoughts from scouts as camps wrap up in Florida...

While power right-hander Wade Davis has been designated the fifth starter for the Tampa Bay Rays, he's been highly inconsistent this spring, allowing 31 hits over 21 1/3 innings with a 7.17 ERA. One scout who has been on the Rays all spring projects the same kind of on-and-off struggles to continue once the games count.

"I've seen him four times thing spring, and when he's on he has awesome stuff and he's locating his fastball and a pretty nasty slider,” the scout said, "and the next time out he's missing up in the zone, and he's really struggling."

"The issue is that he just doesn't have much of changeup, and that makes facing lefties a struggle," added the scout, who didn't seem especially optimistic about Davis' ability to address the off-speed problems. "I've seen him for years, and that change hasn't gotten any better since I saw him in A-ball."

While further away from the big leagues, another arm in the Rays system earned a pair of glowing reviews from scouts. Acquired from the Angels last year in the Scott Kazmir deal, left-hander Alex Torres was especially impressive during his brief big-league showing.

"He's a little guy, and you watch him take the mound and you think he's just some extra guy in a trade," said one scout. "You don't expect much, and then he comes out touching 95 mph with an above curve."

"I had no idea what to expect," said another talent evaluator, "but he's got an above-average fastball and this real hammer curve that he's throwing strikes with. He really knows what he's doing out there, and my eyes were opened."

Also acquired in the Kazmir deal, Sean Rodriguez has been the Rays' best player this spring, batting a whopping .467/.508/.883 in 60 spring at-bats while spending time at a variety of positions. With those kinds of numbers, scouts find it hard not to like him.

"How can you argue with what he's doing?" asked one scout. "The thing I like about him is that he stands out in batting practice as well. He's athletic, he has a short swing, he can play all over, and he's going to fit in very well with Tampa."

Another scout was just as impressed, commenting, "I like the fervor that he swings the bat with. Defensively, the left side is a problem, but he's a pretty good athlete who can play second, left, and right. I'd certainly carry him."

While the Twins have their catching situation locked up long-term with Joe Mauer's recent extension, they still have one of the better catching prospects around with Wilson Ramos, a player one scout thought was the best catching prospect in Florida.

"He's as good a catching prospect as I've see out here, no doubt," said the scout. "He's really strong, he can hit, he can throw, there's a chance he could really be the whole package."

As for his future, the scout thought he needed more seasoning defensively, but he didn't think Ramos was far from big-league ready, observing, "His defensive issues really are more of a matter of maturity and concentration that anything else, so he'll be fine. I don't know what they'll do with him in Minnesota. I guess he'll be the backup there one year and then they'll trade him... I know I'd be interested."

With it becoming official that Mets shortstop Jose Reyes will begin the regular season on the disabled list while recovering from a thyroid condition, talk goes to who will be his temporary replacement. While it looks like Alex Cora with get a majority of at-bats, 20-year-old Panamanian Ruben Tejada has made some noise this spring with a .328/.400/.414 line, and one scout thinks he's a better option thanks to an overall game that is polished beyond his years.

"He's such an accomplished player," gushed the scout. "He's already making the routine plays routinely, and he can make the difficult ones as well. He's a fast-forward defender who knows how to slow the game down and let things come to him."

As for his offense, the scout also thought he'd be fine, as long as one tempers expectations: "He doesn't have the tools to be a star, but he works the count, makes contact and should be more than good enough to hold his own."

While the Red Sox' outfielder situation is certainly set for 2010, many see upper-level prospects like Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish being a big part of their future. One scout agreed while setting expectations well below that of star level, noting, "Reddick is athletic and can do a lot of things, but I'm just not sure he's a guy you can lean heavily on. I still think he's the third-best outfielder on a championship-level club, which makes me wonder if he's a keeper for the Red Sox."

While Reddick has a big spring, putting up an OPS well over 1000, Kalish struggled in his brief playing time with the big leagues, but the scout still saw them as similar talents. "Kalish is really kind of in the same boat as Reddick," the scout said. "Both are athletes, both can play center now but maybe not long term, and both are good but not great. I'll tell you this much, I love how hard Kalish plays, his makeup is off the charts."

One-liners

  • Pirates OF Jose Tabata: "He's not less fat, he's not a little chubby, he just plain looks good and he's holding his own in center field. He looks like a big leaguer."
  • Cardinals OF/1B Allen Craig: "I like his approach and everything about his bat, but where are you going to put him? He plays first base and left field, neither of them well, and the Cardinals have some pretty good players at those positions, no?"
  • Cardinals RHP Shelby Miller: "He's sitting here 93-94 mph, touching 96, and getting a lot of shape and a nasty power breaking ball. We're talking about a kid who has barely pitched, but he wasn't overwhelmed in a big-league game."
  • Rays SS Tim Beckham: "He's lost weight and he's in much better shape. He's still relatively raw, but the body looks better, he's moving better, and I'd give him a much better chance to stay at shortstop."
  •  Red Sox SS Jose Iglesias: "He's built like a 12-year-old, but he makes consistent hard contact and I don't think it's going to hold him back. Obviously, he can really play shortstop."  

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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