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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

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