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March 28, 2014

Notes from the Field

Backfield Scouting Notes, 3/28

by Jason Parks and Jordan Gorosh

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Kansas City Royals

RHP Miguel Almonte: Limby righty with a very fast arm; from 3/4 slot, slings the ball, achieving above-average movement to his pitches; delivery requires a lot of coordination and balance, and is torque-heavy with a power generating letter-high frontside and hip rotation; struggles with opening up early and missing everything to the arm-side; started to lose his delivery later in the start and couldn’t find his release point; excellent extension when he finishes and stays over the ball.

Fastball is easy plus offering in the 92-94 range; can show both hard boring action into righties and heavy dive lower in the zone; command could eventually push this pitch above the plus distinction; changeup is money offering; solid-average to plus at present; 83-85 with excellent arm speed and heavy vertical action; pitch has both deception and movement and can be deployed in any count against any stick; slider is below-average at present; could get to average with more command and a sharper break; pitch in the upper 70s with some tilt, but its more slurvy and loose than tight, and it often starts to break too early on the arm-side and sweeps across the zone; low-70s curveball is actually tighter pitch with more bite but wasn’t utilized in the start.

Because of high leg and long arm swing, struggled with his release times and wasn’t effective controlling the running game; routinely 1.5 to the plate with runners on; struggled with pace and rhythm in the start; works too fast without runners on and can lose his pitchability; slows with runners on to the point of frustration; some concerns about the physical requirements in the delivery necessary to repeat and be consistent with location; fastball is a lively plus pitch; changeup is a now pitch and a very good offering; breaking ball is still lagging behind the other offerings and lacks the type of projection to really elevate his ultimate ceiling; no. 3 starter type if the command refines and breaking ball gets to a 50 grade pitch; bullpen future as a floor because of the uptick in fastball velocity in bursts and major-league quality changeup. Good arm but wasn’t blown away today. –Jason Parks

Detroit Tigers

RHP Jake Thompson: Physically mature build for a 20-year-old. The delivery has some deception, and there were quite a few uncomfortable at-bats. The fastball has a bit of life, but he has a lot of arm-side run on the two seamer at 88-91. He also throws a four-seamer that's in the 90-92 range, but it can get a bit flat. Thompson throws two breaking balls, one I'd classify as a curve at 74/75, and a slider at 79-81. He can throw either one for a strike or as a chase pitch and has extremely good command of each. I'd grade both breakers as plus, and the slider has some plus-plus potential. He generates spin really well.

In the two outings I saw, spanning nine innings, Thompson used the changeup much more frequently and threw it with much more conviction. It has some good downward action along with velocity separation, and even generated some swings and misses. He's got an extremely high IQ on the mound, and has a really good idea of how to sequence and set up hitters. He throws plenty of off-speed pitches, even his changeup in fastball counts, and keeps hitters off balance. He's wise beyond his years and has excellent poise.

However, at around the 50-60 pitch mark in each of the two outings Thompson started to tire a bit. He's physically in good shape, but the arm slowed down a tick, and the fastball dropped to 87-89 and tended to flatten out. He can still pitch and get by at that speed, as the breaking balls each still play, but the fastballs were getting barreled, whereas in the first couple innings of each start he barely allowed balls out of the infield. This might be something to monitor going forward. I wouldn't get too concerned, as it's only his second full year of pro ball. If he can hold velocity, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the top 101 at some point. –Jordan Gorosh

Houston Astros

RHP Mark Appel: High-3/4 arm action, with a gorgeous pitcher's body. Looks the part. Loose arm swing, and live arm. Fastball was 94-96 with a bit of wiggle and good life. His FB command was spotty on that day, and speaking to a couple scouts, it's been better recently. He was having trouble spotting to all four quadrants. In the first, he left two up around the thighs to two organizational guys, and they each hit doubles in the first two PA against him. I wanted to see Appel get angry and pitch inside. I wanted to see him drop an F bomb, or smack his glove, or do something, anything, to show some emotion. He didn't.

The breaking ball was wipe-out at times, and it's got two-plane break with tight spin. It's a shorter pitch, and doesn't have huge shape, but right handers had trouble with the offering, and it flashed plus-plus potential. I'd probably grade it around a 6 right now, but he snapped off a couple that were nasty. His breaking ball command isn't quite there yet, and that will come later. Appel definitely has feel for a change, although he doesn't quite throw it with absolute conviction or trust yet. It's definitely got potential, and he can spot it down and away to lefties. The arm speed on the pitch is extremely good, and it's probably a plus pitch in the future. I see Appel as a no. 2, and a good one at that, but he just doesn't have the requisite "shove it up your you-know-what" attitude for me to consider him a potential ace. –Jordan Gorosh

RHP Jandel Gustave: Dream pitcher's body; Six-foor-four with loose limbs and still has room to add more to the frame. Easy arm action, and looks like he's playing catch. Fastball is anywhere from 95-98, and it explodes out of his hand; unfortunately, it's straight, and hitters timed it relatively easily. I saw him throw twice, and didn't see many uncomfortable at bats, against Low-A quality hitters. The fastball was barreled frequently, and I counted seven or eight line drives off Tigers' bats in five innings of work on Wednesday.

Gustave also features a slider, but it's well below average, and he has some work to do on that front. He doesn't trust it very much. Same with the changeup, which he threw a handful of times. The change is a ways off, and even though he does have really good arm speed, I don't see that pitch becoming part of his arsenal. In the future, Gustave should work out of the pen as a two-pitch guy, probably in a high leverage scenario. I'd like to see him throw some more two-seamers, and hone up the command profile. The fastball is way too good, and frankly, way too fast to be getting barreled by low-level hitters. –Jordan Gorosh

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

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