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April 19, 2012

What Scouts Are Saying

Young Pitching Edition

by Kevin Goldstein and Ben Lindbergh

Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike. Welcome to the first edition.

Though we're just two weeks into the season, scouts have gotten to see quite a few performances from notable prospects (and one notable player in a big-league bullpen). Here's what they're saying:

​Minor Leaguers

  • Pitching has been the story when it comes to prospects in 2011, and no pitcher has generated more hype than Baltimore's Dylan Bundy, who has struck out 15 over nine no-hit innings at Low-A Delmarva while walking just one. Obviously that's impressive, but it's hard to get a good feel for a pitcher who has yet to go through a batting order for the second time. Still, an American League scout who witnessed one of Bundy's outings says the stuff is plenty good. “He's 93-98 mph with the fastball, and he broke out a few curveballs that were very good and a few changeups that were very good,” the scout explained. “So we're talking about a 19-year-old with a 7 fastball, 6 curve and 6 changeup, so you certainly can't complain about the stuff.” While a bit short for a classic power pitcher, Bundy's linebacker build serves him well, and drew a comparison to Ben Sheets from the scout, who was sure to add, “the good Ben Sheets.” That might sound disappointing, but the good Ben Sheets racked up 264 strikeouts against just 32 walks over 237 innings as a 25-year-old.

  • While left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez can't approach Bundy as a prospect, he's another name generating some buzz out of the Delmarva rotation. A 19-year-old Venezuelan, Rodriguez has been sitting at 89-92 mph with a quality curveball, and one scout explained that a different background might make him more well-known. “He has such an easy arm and a fluid, quick, clean delivery,” he said. “He's got a chance to be pretty good, and if he were American and a senior in high school he'd be a first-round pick.”

  • Despite ranking No. 5 on this year's Top 101, Braves right-hander Julio Teheran seems to have lost some buzz after some big-league struggles last year and a spring training this year that included a start in which he gave up six home runs. The 21-year-old Colombian has fired 10 2/3 shutout innings over his last two starts, and the most encouraging thing coming out of those outings has been his ability to get outs with his breaking ball, something that eluded him with Atlanta last year. “He was opening his delivery early when I saw him, and he ended up casting his fastball and leaving everything arm-side,” said a National League scout describing a recent outing. “You could see him getting frustrated, but he adjusted by breaking out a 73-77 mph breaking ball which he shapes back and forth between a curve and a slider, and it became a weapon that night.” As impressive as the pitch was, so was the ability for Teheran to make adjustments. “It takes maturity to do that and just stop fighting the fastball. Still, he was 91-96 mph with an average changeup, and what he did that night would have worked in the big leagues.”

  • Brewers right-hander Tyler Thornburg made some noise this week when he took a perfect game into the eighth inning, and he's put together a string of three straight impressive starts at Double-A Huntsville, allowing eight hits over 18 1/3 innings while walking three and striking out 24. While that's certainly cause for excitement, an American League scout thinks it should be tempered a bit. “I like him better than I did last year, as with a 91-94 mph fastball, good curve, and change, we're talking about three plus pitches,” said the scout, who saw the near-perfect game. However, the concerns that have dogged Thornburg since being a third-round pick in 2010 continue to be a concern. “He's small, and there's so much effort in every pitch he throws,” explained the scout. “I don't mind small pitchers when they have a lot of athleticism or a lot of strength, but he's not athletic and he has already has a mature body.” While the debate over whether Thornburg will start or relieve long-term remains, his recent showings provide more optimism for the former option. “He certainly has a big-league role,” concluded the scout. “And he certainly has earned the opportunity to get there as a starter, and we'll find out if he can stay there.”

  • Few pitching prospects outside of the Top 100 have more of a spotlight on them than White Sox right-hander Nestor Molina. He became the top pitching prospect in the White Sox minor-league system after being acquired from Toronto for closer Sergio Santos, and one of the few hopes for the team among their upper-level squads. While he's continuing to throw strikes at Double-A Birmingham, walking just one over his first 16 2/3 innings, his 5.40 ERA and 21 hits allowed show there's still much work to be done. “He shows good movement on a 91-93 mph fastball and pretty good feel for three secondary pitches in a curveball, change, and splitter, but I just don't like his slider,” explained a National League scout. “He shows flashes, but still just flashes, including pitchability, but he tries to get too cute at times as well.” Still, despite overall minor-league numbers that are impressive, he's more of a command-and-control pitcher than one with the kind of stuff to make an impact, and hopes that he could play a big role with the White Sox this year should probably be set aside. “I think he could be a solid No. 4 starter,” concluded the scout. “But he still really needs to learn how to use all of his stuff, and I would be surprised to see him have success in a major-league rotation in 2012.”

  • No pitcher in the minors this year has a more confusing statistical line than Red Sox left-hander Henry Owens. A supplemental first-round pick last June, Owens signed for a $1.55 million bonus based almost solely on the projection of a 6-foot-6 lefty with an athletic delivery, and the Red Sox felt he had the maturity to handle a full-season assignment at Low-A Greenville following a successful spring. In three starts for the Drive so far, he's had more runs allowed than innings pitched in each outing, yet he's also struck out a remarkable 22 batters in just 10 2/3 innings. One National League scout found himself just as confused as the numbers are. “I must have scratched my head 25,000 times watching him, but I really like his presence out there. He has a feel for pitchability you don't see much at the lower levels,” said the National League talent evaluator. “He has average velocity now, but he can really spin a curve ball and that takes arm speed, and when you combine that with his length, well, those are the kind of guys you get bumps in velocity from.” The scout concluded that Owens certainly looks like he has a major-league future, but it’s not clear in what role. “He's going to have value, and while right now he looks like a No. 5 starter, you don't know how good he could get. He'll be a level-to-level guy and there's no need to rush him.”—Kevin Goldstein

​Major Leaguers

  • After leading American League pitchers with a minimum of 60 innings pitched last season in ERA (1.08) and strikeout rate (36.8 percent of plate appearances), Yankees set-up man David Robertson is off to a strong start in 2012. The right-hander has yet to allow a run in six innings, with eight strikeouts and only two walks. Much of Robertson’s success has been credited to a deceptive delivery that makes his low-90s fastball play up. However, according to one American League scout, it’s not just the deception that distinguishes Robertson’s mechanics, but the power and repeatability that have kept him off the disabled list and helped him make the most of his fairly slight frame. “A lot of upper-body problems start when the legs tire and the shoulder/elbow has to compensate,” said the scout. “David Robertson is the baseball equivalent of a sociopathic murderbot from the future, because his legs are so strong and he uses them in an ideal manner.” Robertson wears his socks high, so those legs are always on display. “He has some sexy calves,” I said. “Some Johnny Drama bad boys,” the scout agreed.—Ben Lindbergh

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

24 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

MikeJordan23

The "good" Ben Sheets was awesome, so if he ends up being that then Orioles fans should be elated.

Apr 19, 2012 04:12 AM
rating: 6
 
bulldogcakes

Those last two quotes from Kevin were interesting, to say the least.

....Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

Apr 19, 2012 04:40 AM
rating: 0
 
Mtn Jam

Kevin, are the Red Sox going to call up Owens to the big leagues this year?

I kid, I kid.

Apr 19, 2012 05:30 AM
rating: 1
 
hmamis

Kevin,

What is happening with Gerit Cole? He has a 5.00+ E.R.A., but a 14.0 k's/9 innings. I see he had one very bad outing. Someone was quoted as saying that he had the best fastball of all college pitchers. Is he going to wind up being a closer?

Harry

Apr 19, 2012 05:40 AM
rating: 0
 
Ric Size

I predict that What Scouts Are Saying is going to quickly be one of BP's most popular regular columns. Great Stuff!

Apr 19, 2012 05:41 AM
rating: 14
 
nolansdad

I concur. Good stuff, Kevin and Ben. Love this addition.

Apr 19, 2012 08:13 AM
rating: 1
 
Behemoth

More articles like this are a good thing. This is the sort of thing that I pay my money for.

Apr 19, 2012 07:24 AM
rating: 6
 
pobothecat

Yep, BP is playing some good ball this April.

Apr 24, 2012 11:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BelongstotheReds

Great stuff on Teheran, but it leaves unresolved the matter of his fastball. KLaw recently described it as "lacking life." Is that accurate in the eyes of scouts? Has he historically had more life on his fastball than he has this year? Is that something he needs to/is likely to get back?

Thanks!

Apr 19, 2012 07:31 AM
rating: 1
 
Ian Miller

One more Teheran-related question for either KG or Ben: can you explain what "casting" means w/r/t a pitcher's mechanics? I assume it's related to casting with a fishing rod, but I can't quite figure out how to apply that to a pitcher's mechanics.

thanks!

Apr 19, 2012 08:36 AM
rating: 1
 
pobothecat

In golf, it's a premature uncoiling, a disconnect, an out of sequence arms/hands move at the top of the swing.

The key to power and accuracy in golf is the retained angle -- the 90-ish-degrees between left arm and shaft that is maintained well into the downswing. Casting is the opposite of that. The club shaft is "cast" from the top, power is dissipated, path is lost.

Because the golf swing is as much a throwing action as it is hitting, I take the baseball version of this to be a similar disconnect, where shoulder and arm trigger early, before legs, hips and core have fully uncoiled.

All throwing and hitting action moves from the ground up, from lower body to upper, from big muscles to small, weight shift first, hands last. It is a pulling action, from the ground up. A cast is a flail, a pushing action from the top down.

One more point. Casting isn't just a loss of power. It's a loss of path. In golf, it's only a slight exaggeration to say that power IS path. Efficiency of path results in power AND accuracy, simultaneously. The path on which power is most easily transferred from coil to uncoiling to lever to release* is also the path from which the ball is most likely to find its target.

Point being, a pitcher or golfer who's casting isn't just weak. He's weak and wild.

("release" has slightly different meanings in golf and ball, but, y'know, you get the idea.)

Apr 24, 2012 12:54 PM
rating: 0
 
bhalpern

Checked out Eduardo Rodriguez's milb.com page and noticed something odd going on.
Runs/Eearned Runs
2010: 26/17
2011: 20/12
2012: 4/2
What's up with that?

Apr 19, 2012 07:40 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Ground-ball guy with spotty lower-level defenses behind him?

Apr 19, 2012 07:49 AM
 
gilgamesh

Haven't read an awesome calf comment like that since Chad Billingsley came up.

Apr 19, 2012 08:05 AM
rating: 1
 
ttt

Huge fan of this - great addition and great work!

Apr 19, 2012 08:15 AM
rating: 0
 
tim270

Ben-
Exactly right.

I've been a big fan of E-Rod (haha, see what I did there?) since I read intital reports about him in the DSL last year, and saw the success he had. I think he's a big time sleeper. As in, I think he could be a top 100 prospect w/i a year. That may be delayed as the article suggests by who he is or where he comes from, but the talent seems to me to be there. FWIW, I think he compares favorably to Britton at this point in his development.

Apr 19, 2012 08:16 AM
rating: 0
 
Brock Dahlke

For those of us who couldn't care any less about minor league prospects, will there be more of the scouting reports on Major League players? or will it usually be more minor league oriented like today? I simply can't get enough of what scouts think of established Major League players

Apr 19, 2012 11:59 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Kevin talks to scouts about minor leaguers more than major leaguers, but we'll aim to offer a mix of both.

Apr 19, 2012 12:00 PM
 
Brock Dahlke

Thats reasonable

Apr 19, 2012 13:43 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

It's great to get a scouting report on Major Leaguer. I see the attraction for getting reports on prospects who haven't "made it" yet, but I would be just as interested in hearing about Major Leaguers who haven't reached their peaks, yet.

Apr 19, 2012 13:39 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member King Kaufman
BP staff

“So we're talking about a 19-year-old with a 7 fastball, 6 curve and 6 changeup, so you certainly can't complain about the stuff.”

What scale is he using? 6 or 7 out of what, 10? Or is he using shorthand for the 20-80 scale and he means 60 and 70?

Apr 20, 2012 23:11 PM
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

The latter, I believe. Sometimes those extra syllables are just too tough to say.

Apr 21, 2012 00:00 AM
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Yes. Many scouts go 2-to-8.

Apr 21, 2012 09:29 AM
 
pobothecat

Looking forward to scout comments on Derek Norris, Michael Taylor, Drew Smiley and Joe Wieland. (Not asking, just saying.)

Apr 24, 2012 11:49 AM
rating: 0
 
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