March 10, 2014
Notes from the Field
Royals/Reds/Padres (Jason Parks)
Sean Manaea (Royals): Multiple looks so far in camp; live batting practice session/two innings of live game action. Big, strong body; carries the size well; upright posture with straight/high leg lift; arm is slightly lower than standard 3/4 slot; works well; clean action and quick arm; creates good angle despite lower slot; stays over the ball; fastball has ghost qualities at any velocity; hard to square up/track; in game action, worked 93-94 in first inning; spotted east/west; best pitch was lefty-lefty with 93 on the outside black for called strike; second inning was mostly 92; some arm-side run; secondary stuff showed in live batting practice session; fastball was 89-90 (early in camp), slider was slurvy but effective; hard to track and square; changeup flashed high-end quality; could see a plus-plus future; fastball arm speed with heavy vertical life; limited look but no doubt an effective offering.
With runners on and from the stretch, Manaea lifts lead leg while rocking up hands; does not come fully set before returning leg to the ground. Idiosyncratic move will be very effective in disrupting running game. Small sample, but fastball grade will play above raw velocity; should settle in with a 91-94 mph fastball (60-grade) but command and deception could push the pitch to 70 grade; changeup will be a weapon pitch in minors/majors; slider is a little slurvy and loose, with more sweep than sharp life, but command should allow it to play above average. Number two starter profile; injury red flags but workhorse potential with plus arsenal and well above-average command.
Robert Stephenson (Reds): Body has yet to reach physical maturity; all legs; athletic on the mound; arm strength is elite; some effort in the delivery; creates some angle from the slot; fastball worked 92-97; below-average command of the offering; better pitch with more movement and command in lower velocity register; was struggling to finish out front and was working up; pitch was often flat and susceptible to hard contact; two-plane breaking ball (curve/slurve) flashed in the low 80s but was often loose and pulled across his body; swing-and-miss pitch but he was starting it on the outer third and losing effectiveness; limited look at 87 mph changeup; was noticeably flustered when he couldn’t make outs and failed to adjust; reverted to throwing/not pitching; 1.3 to the plate with runners on; held well; no PFP looks; struggled but ceiling unchanged; 70 future on FB and CB; changeup will take time but should get there; command is fringe at present; athleticism and delivery allow for average command projection; no. 2 starter type; electric arm capable of missing bats.
Michael Lorenzen (Reds): Plus-plus athlete with high-end arm speed; stays tall in delivery with a low ball pickup; mechanics can get deliberate and stiff; fastball is carrying pitch; worked 95-96 and touched 98; pitch explodes as it reaches the plate; deliberate on secondary stuff; below-average changeup in the mid-80s; telegraphed it in the delivery and release; slider was more cutter-like in the 86-87 range; not a lot of depth; more late slice to the glove side; neither secondary offering impressed; loved the fastball and the arm strength/speed; reliever all the way for me; potential for impact in that role (setup/closer).
Franchy Cordero (Padres): Wow talent; highly projectable frame; sweet swing from the left side; very loose; starts with a slightly open stance; closes on the ball without falling out of his line; very fluid with his load and trigger; seems to see/track the ball very well; shows plus bat speed at present; good lift in the stick; power potential is easy plus; capable of long bombs; shows potential to develop both hit and power tools; not sharp in the field; shows okay actions and a strong arm, but doesn’t show the instincts of a higher level shortstop; physical projection could push him to third before he reaches majors; role 6 potential as a third baseman.
Mallex Smith (Padres): Fast-twitch athlete; short but has strength; well above-average run; has a good swing at the plate; bat speed looks good; good extension and ability to drive the ball; might have some pitch recognition issues; one spot/one speed type of hitter; can drive his pitch but struggles with barrel adjustments and can get beat by location and off-speed; good defender in center with range for days; reads the ball well off the bat; didn’t show arm in game situation (that I saw); heady baserunner; speed first player with defensive chops at up-the-middle spot; bat limits upside; profiles as bench outfielder.
Jose Urena (Padres): Very impressive present strength; body could be high maintenance; not bad (at present) but hips/midsection show expansion potential; good stroke at the plate; plus raw power; swing looks the part for power; some plane; comes under the ball; hits the fastball well; feasted on middle-up; fooled on soft/spin away; limited look in the outfield; didn’t show arm; made routine catches without significance; intrigued by the power potential; could be prototypical corner player with over-the-fence bat. —Jason Parks
Orioles (Tucker Blair)
Josh Hart (Orioles): He is a plus defender with quick bursts, plus agility and a good first read on the ball. His route running has already improved since I saw him in his brief stint with Aberdeen. He was battling the high sun and inconsistent winds and making terrific adjustments. The other fielders were dropping balls every other play. The arm may only be average, but I can live with that if he continues to play out of his mind defensively.
The swing has just improved so much since last year. I originally pegged him with solid-average bat speed, but it has improved since last year. He has tremendous control of the bat head and barrels up everything. Hart will occasionally become unbalanced in his lower half, but his ability to control the bat head diminishes that to an extent. It will be interesting to see how that plays out against good secondary offerings. He was hitting line drives to all fields and even showing a little pop down the lines. I love players who can use the whole field, and Hart constantly displays that he is willing to drive the ball all over.
Chance Sisco (Orioles): Sisco is an intriguing talent, as he does not scream athlete on first impression. He is not the tallest or strongest-looking player on the field, but his bat removes a lot of that doubt.
The swing is short and compact with the barrel gliding through the zone. He has solid-average bat speed with quick wrists. There is no excess movement in his hands, feet or hips. This is a different tune from what I had heard in the past, with his hands being too noisy at times. He has a pure and beautiful swing that is perfect for making a lot of contact. Sisco has terrific bat control and it makes a ton of sense why the Orioles snagged him in the second round. The kid can hit. The power might come, but right now he looks to be more of a line-drive hitter with the occasional bomb threat.
The real concern comes from Sisco defensively. He needs to work on his footwork and framing. They are both lagging behind at this point. The might end up splitting time with him and Jonah Heim at Delmarva to start the 2014 season. —Tucker Blair
Braves (Ethan Purser)
Victor Caratini (Braves): A second-round selection last summer, Caratini is spending this spring completing a transition from third base to catcher after making his pro debut in the Appalachian League at the hot corner. There is plenty of strength in his compact, sturdy build, though he is maxed out physically with little to no room for added mass. The good news is that his frame is nearly ideal for a catcher, and while drills were the only medium of observation, Caratini showed off an easy plus arm with developing, if nascent, lower-half actions throughout.
From the left side of the plate, Caratini sprayed balls all over the field via a short, line-drive-oriented stroke, and while his swing from the right side is quite similar to his left-handed stroke, it features a bit more length due to more bat wrap and less bat speed, though he is still able to send balls to both gaps with ease. The over-the-fence power will play below average, as there is minimal lift present and he seems content to send line drives to all fields rather than selling out for power to his pull side. This trait should allow him to collect tons of doubles down the line, however. His overall development behind the plate will determine the level to which his prospect star will shine, as the bat profiles well for a catcher but the lack of power potential will leave him exposed if his glove is forced back to third base.
Jose Peraza (Braves): On a field with players who were, on average, two to three years his senior, Peraza stood out for the overall polish of his game. His defensive chops at shortstop continue to impress with each additional viewing, showing the requisite footwork and soft, fluid hands to profile as a no-doubt shortstop long-term. The arm is a weapon from the six spot with plenty of carry and a quick release. His skills on this side of the ball could speed up his timetable to the majors; he looks like a major leaguer in the field.
At the plate, Peraza has a compact swing, which, coupled with his impressive hand-eye coordination, yields contact by the truckload. Though he does seem to have added a bit of muscle mass to his upper body over the offseason, the overall contact still seems to be light, and the 20-year-old failed to impress in a live batting practice matchup versus fellow top prospect Lucas Sims. He was able to put the ball in play but failed to sting anything and was badly fooled on one particular hammer curve thrown by Sims, ending this particular session on a sour note for the young Venezuelan. While Sims is a tough card to draw during live BP, this matchup highlights the concerns surrounding Peraza, worries that have held him back from reaching the upper echelon of prospects in the minors. The plus to plus-plus speed will certainly help the hit tool play up, but I’m still not convinced the bat will be a factor against premium stuff as he climbs the ladder.
Victor Reyes (Braves): In terms of Braves position players in minor-league camp, Reyes is easily the most exciting. The 19-year-old possesses a lanky 6-foot-3, 170-pound frame, featuring virtually zero upper-body muscle development with long legs that stood out due to the potential for added muscle mass throughout his glutes and thighs. During fielding drills, he showed off what could be an average to slightly above-average arm once he learns how to properly utilize it, displaying long strides when tracking fly balls and during baserunning drills. Presently, he’s a slightly above-average runner, but his speed will diminish as he continues to add strength and mass to his frame over the next couple of seasons.
His batting practice display showcased his potential more in form than in results. Despite a bit of wrap behind the helmet, Reyes displayed a short swing from the left side with quick, simple hands that remained in a good position during his loading phase and were smooth into the zone, producing very easy bat speed. The hands are so quick through the zone and he already shows the ability to control of the barrel with ease. His bat stays on plane with the incoming pitch for an extended period, producing line drives to all fields. While he’s listed as a lefty, Reyes even took some hacks from the right side in one of his later rounds, displaying impressive hand-eye ability and similar actions despite lacking the natural bat speed he generates from the left side. The feet are simple throughout, though he can get lungey with his weight transfer, leading to contact that is often weaker than desired. The session was very opposite-field oriented, which has been one of the few knocks on him to date, but he did rip a few offerings to his pull side, flashing the natural bat and hip speed to turn on pitches despite the current tendency to spray to the opposite field. The power requires more envisaging than the hit tool, and while it is not yet part of his game, the strong hit tool should allow the power to flow naturally once he a) inevitably adds strength, b) learns to consistently identify and turn on pitches on the inner half instead of serving them to the opposite field, and c) adds more loft and leverage to his line-drive stroke.
A full-fledged breakout is doubtful in 2014 in his first taste of full-season ball, but a year as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League should be a good developmental step for Reyes—regardless of the statistical output—while the incipient body continues to mature. —Ethan Purser
Phillies (Steffan Segui)
Deivi Grullon (Phillies): Grullon, who turned 18 last month, is very advanced defensively behind the plate for his age and level. He has soft hands and a fantastic accurate arm. All his throws were between 1.90-2.03. His blocking is outstanding, moving side to side very well and angling his chest down to keep balls in front. Offensively, he hits like an 18-year-old. He has a rotational swing and often pulls off the ball, especially versus spin or slow. He has a mature body that could end up similar to that of Carlos Ruiz. Weight could be an issue in the future. He isn’t a good runner; he beat out an infield single in the hole but ran a 4.8 to first base. In his other at-bats he chased a breaking ball for a strikeout and pulled off a ball and popped it up to shallow CF.
Cord Sandberg (Phillies): Sandberg has the perfect build: big and well built, which should produce power and allow him to stay athletic. Showed an excellent eye at the plate and walked three times. It seems his lack of aggression may actually hurt him a bit; when he does have to swing to protect, he struggles to fight through at-bats and make solid contact, swinging through two straight changeups down below the zone. His swing is nice, short stroke off a slightly open stance with only a tick of barrel lag. His current issue is timing; starts the process too late and that’s where he has trouble deciphering between pitch type and location. Defensively, an average corner OF with an excellent arm.
Gabriel Lino (Phillies): Lino has a leaner build than his fellow catcher Grullon, and was much less impressive defensively than Grullon. His throws were slow—2.15+ both on steals and pre-inning—and all were to the third-base side, and never on the bag. Offensively, Lino seems to be adopting a more patient approach, working deep in a strikeout while also earning a walk, which was rare for him last season. His overall mechanics are good; his stance is a bit open at the plate but he manages to stay linear and not pull off when his bat is in the zone.
Jose Pujols (Phillies): Pujols is a wire-thin prospect who is still only 18. His frame has a ton of room to grow. Given $600k out of the Dominican a couple years ago, Pujols possesses lightning-quick bat speed that allows him to have some of the best raw power in baseball. He showed all the good things and bad things that are usually associated with him. Pujols had two hits including a double but also struck out chasing breaking balls twice. The double was an absolute laser to left that he stretched into a double by hustling. The strikeouts were bad, however, with one coming on a curveball the catcher never had a chance (Pujols reached first). On his single, he was caught off balance by changeup but managed to keeps his hands back and dump the ball into center field. His swing is rotational off a substantial load, where all his weight goes back on his back foot and top half rotates closed and wraps a bit. He does manage to maintain plate coverage well and stay through balls which allows his power to play when he makes contact.
Video of Gullon, Sandberg, Lino and Pujols against team Canada: