March 28, 2013
Notes from the Field
Four Prospects with Work to Do
Each year I head down to spring training to begin building my scouting knowledge base for the upcoming season. This year I saw four organizations over the course of a week in Florida, which gave me a large pool of players to cover.
With two or three games going on at once out on the backfields, the scouting looks are a little less in-depth than the opportunities you get during the regular season, but it’s still possible to pick out strengths and identify areas of weakness. For today’s report, I’ve highlighted a player from each of the teams I saw who needs work in one particular area. I’ll be watching for signs of development in those areas during subsequent trips to the field throughout the season.
Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
The smoothness of Buxton’s stroke, his ability to create bat speed via explosive hands, and the strength in the forearms are impressive. This is a prospect with offensive ability, but to translate that ability into in-game performance, he’ll have to pick up the spin out of the pitcher’s hand more quickly. That’s going to take some time.
Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox
When the lefty gets leverage and stays above the ball, the heater shows late life and works down in the zone. The curve flashes tight break and bite down through the zone as well. However, Owens does not repeat his arm slot well at this point in his development, and both offerings have a tendency to get flat. That leaves the fastball elevated and causes the curve to roll. Progress toward gaining a better feel for his delivery and reaching his ceiling will go hand in hand.
Nick Delmonico, 3B, Orioles
I took it as a positive sign that Delmonico sees the ball well and also has an idea of what he wants to accomplish when he’s at the plate. He’s on the advanced side for his age in those areas. However, he needs to do a better job of driving his hands down and through the ball to stay inside of it. That will be important for him as the level of competition rises, especially with better pitchers putting rising velocity on the inner third of the plate. Delmonico’s ability to make that adjustment to his swing and improve his extension will be leading indicators as to whether his hit tool is progressing.
Alvin Toles, OF, Rays
However, Toles’ timing needs work. The outfielder begins in a deeper crouch, with some pre-pitch bat wiggle. He then straightens up and utilizes a leg kick to get himself going. There are a lot of moving parts to his swing, and he doesn’t consistently keep his hands back in a good position to explode on the ball. Toles showed both ends of the spectrum in consecutive plate appearances. During the first one, he perfectly timed a 95-mph fastball, rocketing a double into the gap. His hands were well positioned, his stride was smooth, and his swing was pretty. But on his next trip to the plate, the left-handed hitter got caught striding toward the pitch early and came way far forward with his hands, resulting in an ugly swing and a weak grounder to second. Keeping his hands back will help his game move forward.