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March 20, 2014

Notes from the Field

Spring Scouting Notes, 3/20

by Jason Parks and BP Prospect Staff

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(3/19) LHP Julio Urias (Dodgers)
Okay size; probably closer to 6’1’’ than listed height (5’11’’); strong build; definitely more body than listed weight (160 lbs.); could end up being high maintenance but not a problem at present; in delivery, lifts leg high before brief (straight) extension; soft landing; stays very balanced; everything looks very easy and repeatable; stays over the ball from ¾ slot; creates angle; fastball ranged from 91-95 in three-inning pop; mostly worked 93; command was solid-average to plus; line to the plate veered a little into the LH box; tendency to miss arm-side/up; showed excellent feel for altering movement; was cutting the ball and making it run; fastball is easy plus at present; could play even better with sharper command.

Slider was weapon pitch; 82-86; fastball disguise with late vertical hook; showed mature command of and confidence in the pitch; could throw it for strikes or drop it in the dirt for chase; plus pitch at present; very strong offering; changeup was 81-82; turned over one and buried it in the dirt as an out-pitch; the others were a little flat and up/arm-side; fringe-average right now; most likely a plus outcome.

High role 6 profile; the pitchability is well above-average; the stuff is plus; the delivery and arm action are plus; needs to build innings and stamina, but looks near-ready for major league action; despite current performance and polish, I don’t see a frontline ceiling; more present than projection; most likely a no. 2 starter; extra skin over the left eye doesn’t affect him and is non-issue; market could make him a star. –Jason Parks

RHP Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays):
Sanchez's consistency is better than I have ever seen it. It seems that he has found a happy point in his delivery where he doesn't have to worry about the short stride or stiff front leg and can repeat it consistently, greatly improving his overall command. The stride, slight inversion of the elbow, and stiff leg are all there, but if he can continue to be consistent with his command, his stuff is so elite that none of that will hurt him.

I have little concern about his durability because of how easy he pitches; very few guys sit 95-98 with little to no effort as he has been both times I've seen him this spring. He can throw his breaking ball to both sides of the plate for strikes, and his hard change stays down. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to repeat and command the fastball as he gets into higher innings totals this season. –Steffan Segui

Video from last week vs. Canada

RHP Joe Jimenez (Tigers)
Jimenez, a big, thick kid with rotational mechanics, looks like just another low-level arm at first glance, but as you watch him you realize that he can flat-out pitch. He is very advanced for his age and level and can command all three of his pitches, working in the low 90s with a fastball that has heavy run.

Jimenez’ slider is sharp and two-plane, and he has a good feel for his changeup, so his floor is high. He just turned 19, and as long as he doesn't get too much bigger, it’s safe to assume that the Tigers will clean up his mechanics. The immediate comp is Ricky Nolasco; if Jimenez can be close to that, he’d be a steal, considering Detroit signed him for less than 100k. He’s definitely someone to watch in an otherwise thin system. –Steffan Segui

3B Hunter Dozier (Royals)
I’ve seen Hunter Dozier take one swing, which resulted in a fly out. I’ve seen him field exactly zero ground balls in game action. That was enough to convince me that he’s a big leaguer in waiting. The physical tools are all there, and I’ll break those down at a later date. But what made Dozier stand out was his approach to the game. The guy was born to play baseball.

In the field, Dozier takes the same routine before every pitch. You can almost see him clearing his head as he smooths out the dirt in front of him with his cleats. He then pats his glove a few times before taking a Pedroia-esque bunny hop before the ball reaches the plate. In Wednesday’s game, Dozier did something that made him stand out without showing up in the proverbial box score (or the actual one). The Royals’ pitcher bounced a curveball, and before the ball had even skipped in front of the plate, Dozier was on the move to cover third. Once he reached third, he shifted his eyes to the baserunner. He doesn’t react to other players; he reacts to the game. It’s a small difference but a very meaningful one. In warmups, he booted one ground ball. Instead of wasting a chance to work on his fielding technique, he took the time to retrieve the ball, set it in front of him, and properly go through his footwork and throw.

On the batting side, Dozier’s swing is solid, and his approach is even better. Due to hit third in an inning, he came out of the dugout, essentially made his own on-deck circle, and started working on dialing in his timing. Once he was officially on deck, he used the time to perfection. Between pitches he took some practice swings and got his mechanics nailed down. Once the pitcher started to deliver, he focused on finding a timing point to get his heel down and into a strong position to launch his swing. When the ball was released, he tracked it closely to get familiar with its velocity and movement.

Once in the dugout, Dozier was constantly locked in on the game, watching the pitcher and rehearsing some small timing mechanisms even after he was removed to let another Royals hitter get an at-bat. At one point a Royals video guy came over and showed some video to someone else on the team. Dozier walked over to learn something, and when the hitter tried to mimic what the video guy was suggesting, Dozier stepped in to help his teammate.

Dozier is the definition of a baseball rat. It’s rare to see a player with his physical gifts who combines those gifts with such a fervent desire to seek improvement. –Ryan Parker

(3/18) OF Gregory Polanco (Pirates)
Polanco is a physical freak. On the field, he looks like an optical illusion; the eyes reject the notion that a man so large could be so quick and nimble. As I joked on Twitter, Polanco is built like the love child of Twins prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, and he shares some strengths and weaknesses with those two. He has tremendous strength and leverage in his swing, plus premium bat speed, and he doesn't need to square the ball up to drive it. (I saw him drive a ball that came off the end of his bat to the warning track in right field.)

Polanco likes (and needs) to get his hands extended, and that trait could be exploited as he sees more advanced pitching. He has impressive barrel awareness and bat-head control for a man with such long levers, but his game should still feature some swing-and-miss. He’s a fairly patient hitter who has some understanding of the strike zone, but he did expand his zone in a fastball count.

Polanco covers ground in the outfield, but his jumps, routes, and reads are all currently subpar. He does have a strong arm, and his build should fit well in right field. Polanco’s competitive nature and loud tools make him an exciting prospect with the potential to be one of the best players in the game if he puts it together with the bat. –Al Skorupa

(3/12 & 3/13) 1B Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays)
Big, strong frame; not much athleticism; 1B/DH only; passable defensively at 1B; very impressive BP session; pre-swing is much more quiet than last summer; stands tall in the box; keeps hands high and is loading quicker; making a conscious effort to go opposite field more often; bat speed is good; strong wrists and much improved barrel control; gets the bat in the zone quicker and keeps it there longer; cut out some of his uppercut; was getting his front foot down early, causing some bad timing; needs to work on staying more balanced throughout the swing.

Simplified his approach; making more consistent loud contact; power to all fields; not as pull happy as he's been; can go deep at any time to any part of the park; power is starting to carry over into game action; pitch recognition is still a work in progress but has gotten better; took out a few windshields on cars parked behind the RF wall. –Chris King

(3/13) RHP Alberto Tirado (Blue Jays)
Athletic frame with some projection left; high-3/4 slot; mechanics are pretty fluid and repeatable; finishing square to the plate more consistently; will still fall off to glove side occasionally; FB 91-93; not much movement; batters squared it up a few times; control was decent, but no command; SL 82-84; some bite but wasn't very sharp; had trouble locating for strikes; flashed a CH a few times; consistently left it up; was rushing his delivery all day, wreaking havoc with his release point; arm speed was good; still battled even though it wasn't his day; moves so well off the mound he could play in the infield. –Chris King

3B Aderlin Rodriguez (Mets):
Large human being; uses size to his advantage sometimes, but at other times it's a hindrance. Sets up at the plate with a tall, quiet stance. Has plus bat speed which, when combined with his size and strength, makes for plus power. His swing can get long because of his size and arm length, but it's relatively short for a player of his stature. The power comes easy, and he does not have to over-swing.

Struggles with pitch recognition to the point that it will hold him back. Failed to recognize breaking balls in bottom half of strike zone and below during simulated game. Hit tool is below average and will limit power. In the field, he is stiff and upright at third base. Does not have the hands or range to stay at the position. Has plenty of arm, but unloads from a 3/4 sling angle, causing erratic throws. Should probably already be at first base, and if he fills out any further will be there for sure. The power is for real, but unless he improves his pitch recognition, his hit tool will remain too far below average to allow the power to play, especially at first base. –Jeff Moore

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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