September 23, 2013
Monday Morning Ten Pack
Memorable Scouting Experiences
Todd McDonald, OF, Rangers (AZL Rangers)
McDonald is the strangest player I have ever had the privilege to scout; he’s the prospect poster child for the post-minimalist movement. The 17-year-old Australian of Aboriginal descent plays the game with the kind of physical effort than is hard to see and appreciate with the human eye. At the plate, McDonald stands upright, rarely wasting the energy necessary to complete a practice swing or to secure proper footing in the box; rather, McDonald just walks [stress the word: walk] into the box, looks at the pitcher, and practices his ability to remain completely still. Without any lower-half movement, he can square plus velocity by firing his hands and striking the ball. Of course, this assumes he actually decides to remove the bat from his shoulder. McDonald has a very interesting approach at the plate, as his 80-grade #slack might suggest, but it’s the pitch recognitions skills that intrigue me; rarely will McDonald chase a pitch out of the zone, as he would rather not swing and strikeout looking than actually swing the bat and miss the ball. In the field, McDonald plays with the intensity of Quaalude addict watching paint dry in an empty room, but the raw tools suggest he could be an above-average runner if he ever decided to actually run. I have no idea how McDonald will develop on the field, but I guarantee that I will never lose my fascination with his unique blend of bat-to-ball instincts and #slack. –Jason Parks
Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (Double-A New Britain)
Sano brutalized the Florida State League before reality slowed his prospect flow in Double-A, which is where I had the chance to watch him over a four-game series. His raw power is unbelievable, as the 20-year-old is strong enough to launch balls over the fence without the benefit of sweet-spot contact. The swing is leveraged and long, and despite ball/strike recognition skills, he will look for big extension in most counts and will expand his zone and chase. His hit tool could play to average at the end of the day, which would make him a ~.260 type, but enough that the big boy raw can play in games, which could make him a 40-plus home run type. The defensive profile has been a subject of debate since his professional debut, but I thought he showed more than enough at third to project at the position. For his size, he’s a very good athlete with good balance and coordination, and he is at his best coming in on balls. He struggled with some lateral movements, especially when he failed to center himself to the ball and would opt for a more casual Roger Dorn approach to fielding grounders. But I think he possesses the necessary athleticism to handle the demands of the position, and the arm is more than strong enough to bail him out of a few initial mistakes. The total package could be one of the best power hitters in the game, one with enough holes to exploit if you have a plan and can execute it, but also one who will punish you severely if you make a mistake over the plate. He’s a middle-of-the-order threat that can stick at third if he makes it a priority, and given the fact that he’s only 20, he has plenty of time to refine his game before reaching his potential. –Jason Parks
Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
Owens has had a meteoric rise up prospect lists in 2013, and if you are just scouting the numbers, you might see a future top-of-the-rotation arm on the fast track to Boston. I wanted to see a player that fit that exact description this summer, but instead I saw a more moderate future, a pitcher bound for a long major-league career that would most likely come at the back of a rotation rather than the front. It’s hard to argue with the size from the left side, so I won’t, although the delivery had a tendency to get out of whack and he struggled to repeat. When he was able to stay over the ball, the fastball had some zip, working mostly in the 90-93 range with some arm-side movement. Despite his 6’6’’ frame, I didn’t think he got the most out of this particular advantage, especially when it came to his stride length and ability to create a steep plane to the plate. The secondary stuff improved as the night aged, and I could see the changeup developing into a plus offering. The fastball command wasn’t sharp and I don’t see it even becoming sharp, and I think the inability to set the table could influence the effectiveness of the big curveball, a pitch that is predicated on the fastball getting swings. Owens has a promising profile and I think developing into a solid no. 4 starter at the major-league level is an extremely valuable achievement, but I don’t see the top-of-the-rotation upside shared by some, despite his being a 21-year-old 6’6’’ lefty who put up very strong numbers over two levels in 2013. –Jason Parks
Hunter Harvey, RHP, Orioles (Short-season Aberdeen)
When it comes to watching pitching prospects, Harvey is exactly the type who gets me amped up and whom I really enjoy getting to put eyes on. The raw stuff absolutely shined on the diamond, but it was also the way he went about executing his craft that stood out to me and made it a memorable first look at the prospect. Despite being just 18, Harvey showed an advanced feel for locating his fastball in the lower tier of the strike zone and throwing downhill. It really impressed me considering the age and level of experience. You don’t typically see that type of execution even in the more highly touted prep pitchers as well. Harvey does need some work throwing to both sides of the plate, but I see him more than capable of growing in that aspect given the athleticism and overall looseness in which he throws.
Harvey’s ability to snap off his curveball and potential he showed with his changeup earned high marks from me that night. The confidence he oozed using the secondary arsenal screamed even more. It is one thing to have the stuff, which will surely get a pitcher noticed, but it’s another to have the edge when throwing it. And that type of maturity in the present body of work hints that the future can be very special. There’s a ton to like about this right-handed pitcher, with the first look leaving a huge impression, and the time spent watching Harvey ranking at the top of prospect viewing this year for me. –Chris Mellen
J.R. Graham, RHP, Braves (Double-A Mississippi)
From a scouting perspective, Graham turned in perhaps the most enjoyable outing I saw all season when he tossed six innings of one-run ball on April 16, flashing well above-average stuff and borderline plus command. It was the kind of performance that left me prospect-giddy––and led me to upload his video and write his scouting notes immediately after the game. Graham consistently pounded the lower half of the strike zone with a lively 93-96 mph fastball that reached 97-98 whenever needed. His upper-80s slider was a 60-grade offering that missed bats, and he also showed an average power changeup with good two-seam life. At that point, the 23-year-old righty appeared well on his way to making an impact in Atlanta this summer.