April 9, 2014
Notes from the Field
Backfield/Minor-League Game Notes, Part Two
Florida State League
OF Adam Brett Walker (Twins): Tools for days, but still learning how to use them and whether he gets there is a question; long limbs, high butt. Stands tall in the box with a quiet stance. Can get long but not terribly so for a player with long arms. Easy plus bat speed and plus power potential; doesn’t have to sell out to generate power. Generates natural backspin on ball. Over-aggressive at the plate because he can get the barrel on too many pitches, resulting in bad contact. Is willing to use the whole field but expands the zone to hit pitcher's pitches; got one pitch up in the zone and crushed it; no doubter with easy carry. He reminded me of Justin Upton with a terrible approach. –Jeff Moore
SS Jorge Polanco (Twins): Busy early in his stance as pitch is being delivered but still maintains quickness to the ball thanks to natural bat speed and quick hands/reaction time. Showed line-drive/gap power and should run into a few home runs on pitches in his zone, but power is mostly for doubles. Looked to go back up the middle and hit what pitcher gave him. Looked to bunt for a hit. Has naturally smooth hands in the infield with a quick first step. His lateral range is average at best for shortstop but would play at second base. Quick release and plenty of arm for 2B but is maxed out at SS. –Jeff Moore
RHP Michael Fulmer (Mets): Fastball sat 92-93, straight with erratic command. Featured two breaking pitches: a plus curveball from 73-76 that featured a hard downward break that he threw to hitters on both sides of the plate, and a wildly inconsistent slider that ranged anywhere from 80-86. When he threw it slower, it was extremely hittable; when he threw it harder, it lost its break and looked like a cutter. Changeup was non-existent. Built like a starter with thick legs that were made to eat innings, but his arsenal profiles as a middle reliever at best. –Jeff Moore
1B David Washington (Cardinals): Traditional left-handed stance; short to the ball for a tall player, but swing had some length to it. Plus bat speed made for easy power. Showed a whole-field approach, homering down the RF line in first at-bat, singling up the middle in his second and singling to LF in his third. Had no problem catching up to 92 on the inner half for the HR. Extremely limited full-season experience. –Jeff Moore
From the last days on the backfields…
RHP Dae-Eun Rhee (Cubs): 2007 FA sign from Seoul, South Korea; FB: 91-94; CB: 74-77; CH: 77-80; SP: 81-84. Loose arm; slim, lean build; durability to hold up over a full season’s workload a concern; easy looking, repeatable delivery; showed good feel to use his mix to keep hitters off balance; at times spotted FB down to both sides of the plate, flashing late sink; confident in command of above-average changeup; doubled it up often; same slot as FB, but can see it some out of hand; soft fade/tumble as it crosses the plate; mostly kept it around knees and below. Splitter was used effectively and most often as two-strike chase pitch below zone to both RHH+LHH; harder velo and more late bite than CH. CB used more as show-me pitch; inconsistent control; soft, 11/5 break with average depth; looks deceptive out of hand when he commands the pitch.
Rhee was in control early in his start, commanding his FB to both sides of the plate for quality strikes. Used both his changeup and split effectively for K’s and in keeping hitters off balance. On the flip side, Rhee failed to get out of his final inning, frequently falling behind hitters early in the count. Hitters had no problem squaring up his FB when he made a mistake over the plate.
Despite solid control/command of above average FB-CH-SP repertoire, Rhee has little margin for error. Lacks the build and durability to profile as a starter who can consistently turn over a lineup. I see him more as having the potential to fill the long-reliever/mop-up/spot starter role on a major-league staff. –Austin Diamond
RHP Felix Pena (Cubs): On the older side for a prospect (24 in 2014) advancing to the Florida State League; average height; physical, compact, mature, and durable build; attacks zone with aggressive approach; FB sat 90-94 through five easy innings; FB was mostly straight, but heavy; showed good control and decent command. Low-80s slider is an out pitch; often looked plus with sharp ¾ tilt; able to throw for strikes and induce chases out of the zone; changeup was presently below average, but usable; 87-89 MPH; lacked ideal velo separation from FB; flashed some late sink; didn’t see many, but showed some feel.
Some good aspects to delivery; uses legs well to maximize velo; stays balanced driving from the rubber into landing; ¾ release; loose and quick arm action; path is little long in back; soft front side on release causes finish to be rotational over land leg; throwing arm finishes with a high recoil to compensate for balance as a result.
In what was a brief first viewing, my impression of Pena is that he has a chance to continue starting through the upper minors, but profiles best as an aggressive, strike-throwing set-up man, using his hard FB and plus SL to get outs in shorter stints. –Austin Diamond
CF Jake Hannemann (Cubs): Drafted in 2013 by the Cubs in the third round out of BYU; went on a mission while in school, but still the same age as other players from his class (22 this April); athletic; average height; fully developed, lean, muscular, build; straight-on set-up at plate; medium width base; simple, short hand load and stride; has bat speed, but swing gets a little long and loopy; some swing/miss in the zone; seems to lack natural rhythm; used the whole field; hit some balls hard with line-drive approach; I would project to hit less than 10 HR in full season of ABs based on swing and approach;
Didn’t see a lot of opportunities in the field, but movements were very fluid; easy running style; covered ground easily; above-average speed; on the only challenging opportunity I saw, he got to his spot well going back for a deep fly ball, but lost his balance upon seeing that the storm level winds that day took the ball in a new direction. The ball dropped, but a minor-league pitcher watching the game told me that type of error was an aberration. I question if Hannemann will hit enough to become an everyday major-league CF, but he appears to have the athleticism and glove to profile as a 4th or 5th OF. –Austin Diamond
3B Brandon Drury (Dbacks): Breakout first season with D-Backs as 20-year-old repeating Low-A; strong, fully developed, stocky buld; balanced, upright stance; holds hands by back shoulder with relaxed bat wag; Has rhythm to simple load; enough bat speed; direct and loose swing; uses legs well to generate power and leverage; aggressive early on FBs; at times showed good feel for the zone with balanced takes; seems to struggle recognizing breaking pitches; also lost focus after bad 0-1 strike call, giving away the AB on the next pitch; Instinctual on the bases, despite well below-average running speed.
In the field, Drury is engaged and shows feel for the position; looks like he works at it; has some natural body control to his actions; decent hands; above-average, accurate arm; set-up is a bit narrow on contact; slow first step; below-average range; makes the routine plays.
A slow-footed 3B, with feel to make contact and drive the ball, overall skill set is similar to Nolan Arenado. However, due to a body that looks like it won’t age well, combined with below-average foot speed, I question whether he will be able to maintain the quickness to play 3B at an adequate level in the majors. His pitch recognition still needs to develop, but he has potential to hit .280-plus with 20 homers. All-Star potential as a 3B, but I think it’s more likely he ends up as a second-division regular at 1B or a good bench/platoon/DH type. –Austin Diamond
2B Jamie Westbrook (Dbacks): Westbrook has a strong, compact, athletic build that would fit well on a football field; high waist; below-average height; lower center of gravity; strong lower half; lacks projection; good body control and balance; has present strength; strong wrists/hands; average to above running times down the line; wide, balanced, crouched set-up at the plate; somewhat similar looking to Albert Pujols’ stance. Simple mechanics; short stride, hand load; showed a patient approach; short, direct path to the ball; generates power through hip rotation and lower half leverage; quick hands, but they lack rhythm; occasional timing issues; fails to generate consistent extension with hands on contact; tendency to open hips early; showed off potential above-average raw power; deposited a towering, wind-aided bomb over the LCF fence on an 89 mph fastball down the middle.
Limited viewings in the field; shows instincts and actions to play 2B; limited defensive versatility. Well below-average arm strength; bat will have to carry; intrigued by approach and potential to hit for some power, but the lack of consistent rhythm at the plate gives me pause. While I think he can handle 2B defensively, lacks ideal skills for utility role. Westbrook is not a guy I would look to acquire as the main piece of a trade at this point, but he has the potential to be an above-average everyday player. –Austin Diamond
3B Joe Munoz (DBacks): Intriguing player; projectable, physical frame; starting to fill out; can see some resemblance to A-Rod in uniform; plus power potential; soft hands; strong throwing arm; shows some baseball instincts; looks like a potential impact player when in his comfort zone; does damage to fringy fastballs on the inner half; looks smooth in the field when not forced to rush; present weaknesses show up more often then strengths.
Crouched stance at plate; exaggerated lower half inward turn on load; swing gets long; works around pitches on outer half; loses plate coverage with early front hip leak. below-average runner; slow-footed in the field; okay jumps of the bat; can cover ground to left; below-average arm accuracy; looks off balance with a difficult to repeat arm action.
I question ability to maintain athleticism; has added thickness to lower half; seems to have issues controlling temper with umpires; has upside as potential RHH power bat, and could put it all together with a toned down approach, but ultimately has enough flaws where I think stalling out in Double-A is the more likely outcome. –Austin Diamond
SS Andrew Velasquez (Dbacks): Speedy, diminutive infielder drafted in the seventh round by the D-Backs in 2012; plus runner; quick feet; plus range at SS; below-average arm; more suited for 2B; has to crow hop when he fields the ball to make throw across the diamond; shows good feel to play hops so he fields the ball with momentum moving toward 1B; made the most impressive infield play I saw this spring—ranged to left, dove to field hard chopper up the middle, got to his feet quickly, and made an accurate throw to first for the out.
Switch-hitter; only saw as LHH; stands still in his stance with narrower base; holds bat straight up, out from back shoulder; 20 raw power; listed at 5-foot-8 and a scrawny 175 pounds, but gets way too big with swing early in the count; big leg kick; longer swing; loses some bat control with more swing/miss as a result; looked much better with two-strike approach; shortens swing; scraps leg kick; controlled, more contact-oriented swing; plus instincts/energy help tools play up; fun player to watch, but see him as an emergency/up-and-down guy to serve as depth at the end of a major-league roster. –Austin Diamond
OF Stryker Trahan (Dbacks): I did not see Trahan in the field, but in the few ABs I saw he showed a very quiet, patient, and professional approach. With a strong, thick, stocky build, I can only think of a younger Matt Stairs with a mix of Jason Kubel in making a physical comparison. –Austin Diamond