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April 3, 2013
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Backfields Notes: The Final Report
What started on February 22nd just ended on April 1st, as I enjoyed the comforts of my own bed for the first time in five weeks and I ordered a pizza that didn’t come with the assembly-line accoutrements of crushed peppers in a package or a clever banana pepper with insignificant aromatic function. With workouts, day games on multiple fields, and the occasional night game, finding the time while camp is in session to properly document the day’s events is a futile challenge. With the luxury of time and energy back on my side, it's time to deliver the remaining backfield notes, limited in narrative but meaty with in-person scouting meat. Jason Cole and I not only put eyes on some of the top prospects in Arizona, we were also fortunate to have front row seats to several breakout performances from under-the-radar prospects, players on the fringe of ubiquitous prospect glory who no doubt will be household names when camp starts next year. Here we go:
SS Adalberto Mondesi (Royals): Highly projectable body; wiry with good present strength; no doubt shortstop all the way up the chain; actions are very smooth; shows good reaction time; excellent lateral range; arm is plus; mechanics are casual; will throw from low-3/4 slot; whips it; good around bag/on-turn; easy 6 defensive profile at position; plus run; heady baserunner; eyes are always on the ball; I like the swing from the right side quite a bit; tracks the ball well and meets it out front; hands are very quick; natural ability to find the ball with the bat; contact isn’t always hard, but contact is consistent; linear swing; stays in the hitting zone; velocity isn’t an issue; some struggles against better breaking stuff; has big “it” factor; everything looks easy and fluid; could emerge as star prospect; don’t see big power potential, but body is going to get stronger and contact will get louder; could end up as a 4/5 power guy; 6/7 hit; 6/7 glove; 6 run; role 7 future; monster prospect in the making.
RHP Miguel Almonte (Royals): Gets better with every viewing; projectable body; long arms; very loose and easy delivery; excellent arm action; very fast and very fluid; Teheran-like body and ease of release; fastball works comfortably at 92-95; touched 98; showed ability to sit 95 for several innings; pitch has some wiggle, with both arm-side movement and some sink; can throw strikes; command needs improvement; changeup is easy plus offering at present; wears the fastball disguise; late reveal; thrown in the low-80s (81-83); lively late action; pitch dives under barrels; thrown to both lefties and righties; highly confident in pitch; curveball flashes above-average potential; not as effective or consistent as changeup; achieves tight rotation and some depth at 78-80 mph; can get deliberate in delivery; will cast the pitch; was still able to throw it around the zone; holds stuff well and knows how to pitch; rotation future and a very high ceiling; would put him in top five in Royals system and on same tier as Kyle Zimmer; breakout prospect.
OF Gabriel Guerrero (Mariners): Huge “it” factor; young Vlad physical comps are valid; long, lanky; high waist; will have major-league body/strength; old-school; no batting gloves; dirt on the hands; swing setup and mechanics similar to his uncle (Vlad); noisy in pre-swing; very loose; hands finish in great position (low); bat speed is crazy fast; makes hard contact and can drive the ball; batting practice displays shows off raw power; ball explodes off of bat; 7 raw; aggressive approach; likes to swing; will expand and chase; well above average hand-eye coordination allows him to make contact on balls he shouldn’t touch; very reactionary hitter; see ball/hit ball; easy to dream on both hit/power tools; could be 6/6 or 7/7 type at peak; fringe run at present; arm strength is solid; arm grade plays lower at present because of mechanics; doesn’t get behind the throws yet; corner profile; bat has impact potential; could be ready to explode; was most electric lower-level hitter I saw in camp; has uncommon bat speed and impressive present pop.
Taijuan Walker (Mariners): Somehow lucked into seeing him four times in camp; long, athletic body; stays in delivery despite length; excellent arm action; very fast; higher three-quarters slot; throw the ball down; gets great extension; stays balanced and has good forward explosion; fastball is plus-plus pitch; works anywhere from 93-98; very comfortable in the 95-96 range; some late action on the pitch; command is spotty, but the pitch works well in the zone; cutter is plus offering; works in the 88-93 range, with short glove-side slice; tendency to elevate; hard to locate down in the zone; curveball flashes plus and projects to get there; obvious comfort with pitch; very tight in the 75-77 range; lots of depth; not quite 12-to-6 shape, but features heavy vertical action; can drop the pitch for strikes; changeup is below average, but improved with each outing; firm in the 88-90 range; doesn’t have a lot of action; doesn’t come out of the hand as easy as other offerings; frontline projection; fastball/cutter combo can miss bats; curveball used as a change-of-pace offering; will use early in counts and can get ahead with it; needs command refinement and changeup needs work; excellent pick-off to first; can hold velo with runners on; almost ready for major-league level.
RHP Robert Stephenson (Reds): Athletic delivery; some body projection; arm is crazy quick; drops and drives; three-quarters slot; fastball sat 95-96 and touched 98; heavy sink on pitch; could end up with an 8 grade; explodes on hitters; creates some angle when he works down; not a fair offering for lower-level hitters to deal with; shows slurvy curveball at 80-81; tendency to get loose; command isn’t there yet; struggle to stay over the ball; effective, but not a wipeout pitch; changeup was stiff at 88 mph; effective off fastball and good arm speed, but lacked the sink of the heater; limited look; loved the overall athleticism of the delivery; fastball showed elite potential; breaking ball was okay, but didn’t wow; changeup only made a brief appearance; clearly has the potential to be a top arm in the minors; good candidate for top 20 in 2014.
RHP Archie Bradley (DBacks): Prototypical size/strength for power arm; good deception in the delivery; brings a high leg; keep glove high with late hand break; high three-quarters slot; gets over the high front side and throws downhill effectively; stays balanced and has good forward explosion; premium arm strength; four-seam fastball works 93-96; can get it whenever he wants; can come across the body some, but shows ability to locate pitch inside to righties; not a lot of movement on four-seamer; shows two-seamer in low-90s; some arm-side run; knuckle-curve at 80-83; power pitch with heavy vertical break; shows confidence and command of offering; held velocity and command with runners on; 1.15 on delivery; found some barrels with the four-seamer; curveball was swing-and miss pitch; didn’t show changeup to right-hand-heavy lineup; my favorite sequence of the outing: (RH): 81 (CB) b; 93 (FB) foul; 95 (FB) b; 83 (CB) b; 94 (FB) K/L; 96 (FB) K/L. As hitter was walking back to the dugout, he said, “I can’t hit that.” Bradley has rare top-of-the-rotation potential; fastball looks were both plus; curveball is easy plus; delivery is clean and repeatable; shows advanced feel for pitching; command was a little loose, but should be a strikethrower with at least two knockout pitches; could move quickly once it comes together.
IF/OF Junior Lake (Cubs): Have to like the body and tools; played center field in the ‘B’ game before moving to third base in the ‘A’ game later that day; misread a line drive directly at him in center; lacks experience there so it’d be harsh to judge too much yet; big arm strength; good-looking swing and plus bat speed and intriguing raw power; rough around the edges in all aspects but played well overall.
3B Michael Antonio (Royals): Will repeat Low-A to begin the 2013 campaign; beastly body; has added a lot of strength over the last year; makes loud contact when he squares up, but didn’t do that with consistency in game action; played third base in every look; stiff actions; hands certainly weren’t soft; although the body has really developed and he showed better at the plate than last year, there’s still a lot of development remaining in all areas.
RHP Bryan Brickhouse (Royals): Drop-and-drive delivery with some effort from 6’0” frame; sat 91-93 with a little sink; popped 93-94, sniffing 96 to finish his final inning; firm 84-85 changeup lacked movement; well below average pitch at present; spiked one breaking ball in the dirt at 77; promising fastball; secondaries lag behind; might be a reliever.
LHP John Lamb (Royals): Three looks spread throughout camp; showed the same stuff every time; fastball anywhere between 85-89 mph, sitting in the middle; slow looping curveball was 65-69; changeup in the low-70s; delivery looks fine, but very little arm speed and doesn’t appear to be fully letting it go; getting far enough removed from surgery that it’s becoming worrisome; opening the year back in High-A.
RHP Aroni Nina (Royals): Under-the-radar arm heading to Low-A; lanky, long-limbed 6’4”, 178-lb frame; hasn’t filled out much and turns 23 later this week, so hard to see him adding a ton of bulk; produces easy velocity from standard three-quarters slot; sat 93-95 in first inning with sink and arm-side action; worked down in zone; may lack the strength to hold velocity through starts; started dipping in third inning, but touched 94; shows potential to spin a breaking ball but very inconsistent with it; was up to 98 in the complex league last summer.
LHP Sam Selman (Royals): High three-quarters arm slot with high front side; good athlete but somewhat rigid, disjointed delivery with deep arm in back; must make sure he gets over the front side to enable command; stuff was solid; fastball sat 90-92, reaching up to 94 in three-inning appearance; curveball flashed plus, though inconsistent; good ones were 78-81 with depth, late snap, and two-plane break; showed feel for an 83-84 mph changeup with some sink; potential three-pitch mix is present; delivery/command profile will determine whether he can start.
RHP Kyle Zimmer (Royals): Saw three starts on the minor-league side; lots of polish; flashed four-pitch mix including fastball, curveball, slider, changeup; easy velocity; fastball sat in plus-plus range; a little late wiggle to fastball; delivery is ultra-clean but lacks deception; fastball found a few too many barrels given the velo and life; sat 94-96 mph with consistency and reached up to 99 in first outing; pounded lower half of zone with fastball; potential 70-grade curveball with late snap and two-plane break; commanded it well; showed ability to bury in the dirt with two strikes; flashed occasional mid-80s slider as usable second breaking ball; 86-87 mph changeup could be average; will start in High-A but may not be there long; mature arsenal with a feel for pitching and should move quickly; no. 2 starter potential.
LHP Jed Bradley (Brewers): Pure stuff showed a small tick better than last season but still found barrels in a late-camp High-A game; fastball sat 88-90 mph, touching 91 with slight arm-side life and sink; worked mid-plate between the thighs and belt too often; fringy slider had good shape but was just soft; 78-80; flashed one average 81 mph changeup with similar life and arm action as the fastball.
RHP Lisalverto Bonilla (Rangers): Worked from the stretch; high-three-quarters arm slot; fastball consistently 92-94 mph with good late run to the arm side; some effort in delivery with loose fastball command; swing-and-miss changeup at 83-85; highly deceptive offering; fringy 79-80 mph slider that he showed for strikes; reliever all the way; potential seventh-inning profile with two plus pitches, but must improve fastball command; will open the season in Triple-A.
3B Joey Gallo (Rangers): Legitimate 80-grade raw power; hit a number of tape-measure home runs during camp, including one in a big-league game; also lots of swing-and-miss; drops back shoulder and can miss fastballs in zone, particularly up; serious strength; produces major torque in swing and fires quickly; streaky hitter; mature discipline at times; goes into stretches where he expands the zone and gets overaggressive; plus-plus arm strength from third; unlikely to stick there; lots of work to do in terms of overall footwork and accuracy of the throws; wouldn’t be a shock if he hits 35 home runs and strikes out 160 times in full-season ball this year.