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April 15, 2014

Notes from the Field

California and Carolina League Notes

by Chris Rodriguez and Tucker Blair

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California League

(Chris Rodriguez)

RHP Chris Stratton (Giants)
Good body; athletic and lean; high 3/4 arm slot; easy mechanics; fastball 89–92, touched 93 once; touched 92 late in the game but mostly 90-91 throughout; pitch has some run to it; was able to control it in the strike zone, but command wasn't plus; fastball got touched up often; nine hits in five innings; slider was a plus offering; around 82 mph; pitch has good late bite; can be looked at as a slurve but it worked so who cares; kept it down; got Carlos Correa swinging on three straight at the knees; very confident in pitch; flirted with a changeup late in the game; didn't throw many but the few he broke off were effective and for strikes; mid-rotation or back-end guy for me; wasn't all that impressed with the fastball and fastball command.

RHP Jeff Soptic (Giants)
Tall frame; 6-foot-6; controls body well; low 3/4 slot; loses some plane that way but still gets plenty; fastball 94-96, touched 97; arm strength for days; control was good, command was fringy but didn't walk any in two innings; hard curve 81-83; fringy pitch; not much depth; possibly due to his slot but it still got the job done; up and down reliever long-term.

CF Teoscar Hernandez (Astros)
Athletic build; lean and strong; 6-foot-1 or -2, about 185; good speed; 4.20 to first on a groundout; some juice in that bat; ripped a triple over the center fielder's head off a poor Stratton fastball; he thought it was gone so he didn't exactly sprint out of the box and still made it, sliding headfirst; swing has some miss in it; plays the game hard; very intriguing player.

2nd viewing
Some good at-bats; doubled in the gap on the first pitch he saw; stole third right after; aggressive approach; clocked 3.95 on a jailbreak; good instincts in center field; got some good jumps and reads; almost made a highlight-reel, Willie Mays–style catch late in the game that would have been amazing considering how shallow he was playing; I like the bat and I like his glove; I'd put a 5-plus on his ceiling, with a fourth outfielder as the most likely.

2B Tony Kemp (Astros)
Altuve-small; not sure I believe the listed 5-foot-6; advanced college bat; good bat speed and approach; sprayed liners all over the place; couldn't get a time on him because his three hits were clean singles and the other at-bat was a liner to the center fielder; speed seemed above-average though; actions and instincts at second base need some work but I think he'll be fine; plus makeup in the dugout; always cheering and on the top step; interesting if he can stick at second.

2nd viewing
I'm really impressed with the bat; he's handling solid-average velocity well and putting together quality at-bats; arm is fringy; keeps him on the right side of the infield; 6-plus run; 4.16 to first on a grounder; ceiling to me is a utility guy who can play second and all the outfield spots; Skip Schumaker–type player.

3B Rio Ruiz (Astros)
Medium frame; shorter guy than I thought going in; still stocky and strong; plus bat speed; slight uppercut; looks to drive the ball; beat on some high fastballs from Stratton early; went the other way for a line drive single in his second at-bat; aggressive approach; swung at some bad balls and got himself out; didn't look overmatched, however, just pressing a little bit; mixed bag defensively; plus arm but booted a grounder for an error; range is just average; young for the level, let's see if he makes some adjustments.

2nd viewing
Raw power is above average; knocked some home-run-distance foul balls; approach was a little calmer this time around; worked a walk in his first at-bat; the bat hasn't impressed but there's definitely talent there; off-speed fooled him a little bit; jammed by some fastballs on the inside half of the plate; not going to write him off after two subpar games.

SS Carlos Correa (Astros)
Tall and athletic; lean muscle; just standing at shortstop he looks the part; look at a picture of 18-year-old Alex Rodriguez: that's what Correa looks like; well-above-average bat speed; plenty of strength in his forearms and wrists; tough day at the plate; swung and missed at three good sliders at the knees from Stratton; struck out looking on a 3-2 fastball at the knees from Soptic; fringy speed; 4.47 to first on a groundout but he shut it down the last three strides; defensively, he was fantastic; backhanded a ball in the hole and showed off a 7 arm across the diamond for the out; highlight of the game was a one hopper to the pitcher, who fired to second base to start the double play; Correa had to lunge to snag the throw while tiptoeing the bag, setting his feet and gunning the runner at first.

2nd viewing
Man, I'm in love with this guy. I think he can play shortstop for the next 10 years and be at least league average; he has the instincts and athleticism; his quick-twitch muscles allow him to get good jumps and he's fluid enough to set his feet and make the necessary throws; he's going to gain 25 pounds of muscle soon, and if the Astros feel like third base is a better position for him then he could be elite defensively there; offensively, he's still getting into the swing of things; laid off some spin down in the zone, which was promising; remember he's only 19 years old in a league with pitchers three or four years older than him; he still has the impact bat, just give it some time.

RHP Lance McCullers (Astros)
Thick, muscular frame; absolutely max effort; everything is 100 percent; shows the ball in the back of his windup; delivery routinely gets out of whack; brings his landing leg into his body and really drives off the mound; landing point is consistent; release point is not; low 3/4 arm slot; looks like he's slinging it; fastball 91-94, touched 95; has some good run to it; command was below average; couldn't hit the corners with consistency but the life and velocity made it hard to square; curveball 81-85; power pitch; very tight spin and severe vertical drop; easy 7 pitch; needs to tighten up the command, but man it's a good pitch; changeup didn't stand out; 83-84; didn't throw many until the later innings; command needs improvement; the delivery, poor command profile, and lack of a major-league quality changeup lead me to believe he belongs in the pen long-term but as a set-up man; he could be a good one.

2nd viewing
Had no clue where the ball was going; missed arm-side throughout the game; two hit-by-pitches; two wild pitches; only two walks despite throwing more balls than strikes (39 to 35); he slings the ball, which is one part of the problem, but he also had problems with his hip rotation—he failed to rotate enough, which left him more closed to the plate, which consequently led to his control problems; curveball is still a monster; better changeup than the game prior; got some swings and misses and it featured some dive; eighth-inning guy long-term.

RHP Mark Appel (Astros)
Tall frame; moves well; much more athletic than I thought going in; 3/4 arm slot; hip rotation is perfectly timed; his whole delivery is perfectly timed; generates a lot of torque with his lower half; wrist pronates and snaps the ball; shows the ball in the back of his delivery; advanced hitters may pick it up easier; easy velocity; 96-98 early; 94-97 from second to the third; 92-95 from then on; good two-seam run; commanded it well; moved it in and out and pounded the zone early on; got a lot of swings and misses off his slider; 86-89 with more 89s; quick, darting pitch; short break; thrown from the same arm slot so it was extremely hard to pick up; good command with it; keeps it down in the zone; can throw for strikes and chase; got a little wild later in the game but the umpire wasn't helping him out; didn't see a changeup all game; about 1.13 to the plate; tough to run on; no. 2 starter ceiling with a workhorse no. 3 as the floor.

OF Hunter Renfroe (Padres)
Tree-trunk legs; big and strong; athletic; good bat speed; quiet stance; raw power is above average at least; plenty of leverage in his swing; hyper-aggressive; only a fastball hitter at the moment; anything with spin gets him out on his front foot; Appel and McCullers handled him easily; didn't touch arm-side breaking stuff in the two games I saw; would like to see him later in the year and see if he makes some adjustments; good arm suited for right field; fired a bullet to the plate that should have gotten the out but it was dropped by the catcher; 4.46 to first base.

Carolina League

(Tucker Blair)

RHP Branden Kline (Orioles)
Long delivery and extension; arm slot is high 3/4, almost over the top; some exertion. Fastball sat 93-94 mph most of the night, topping out at 96; straight as an arrow. Power curve has bite and depth; flashed solid-average potential; sat 79-83 mph. Lacks feel for his change, which sat 82-84 mph; could not command or locate it. Kline has always been a reliever long-term for me, and nothing has changed that thought. Velocity and arsenal would play up in a relief role.

RHP Parker Bridwell (Orioles)
Maddening player. Mechanics have improved since seeing him in July last season. Keeps body more compact and does not fall of as much anymore. Four-seam sat 93-94 mph with life and a slight boring action; inconsistent release points which results in wavering command. Two-seam is similar, but sits at 90-92 mph and was very inconsistent. Power curve flashed plus with great depth, able to wrap around right-handed hitters. Change lacks feel, and does not have enough fade against left-handed hitters.

Struggles to show consistency inning to inning, but the talent is there. Without a doubt, one of the better arms in the Orioles system, but he simply cannot piece it all together. I have no problem with the Orioles keeping him in a rotation for developmental purposes, but he probably ends up in a bullpen sooner rather than later. The fastball and power curve could make for an interesting duo out of the 'pen.

RHP Dylan Baker (Indians)
Some effort in the delivery; stays compact and has natural 3/4 arm slot. Fastball is lively with explosion, sitting 93-95 mph and topping out at 96; mild movement and commanded well on this particular night. Curve is 12-to-6 variant and flashed plus for most of the night; 80-83 mph. Change lags behind and he tipped it a few times; sat 82-84 mph; fringe pitch and generally lacks feel for it. Toyed with a cutter/slider, which I was told is still a work-in-progress. Frederick's hitters were hopeless against Baker, as he tossed six no-hit innings before his pitch limit set in. He was absolutely dominant; Indians should continue on with him as a starter in the foreseeable future.

SS Erik Gonzalez (Indians)
Tall, built frame with room for muscle; major-league body. Shows poise and instincts in the field; plus arm; quick feet; serviceable hands. Range was displayed to both sides; made a quick and strong throw out of the hole. Also made a throw across his body with strength and accuracy. Can play shortstop in the majors unless his frame fills out too much. Bat needs some work. Hands show mild noise and struggled to pick up anything with break. Out in front and off balance at times on swings. Bat speed is solid.

SS Adrian Marin (Orioles)
Small frame, do not believe there is much growth left unless he has a growth spurt. Solid fielder; quick feet and soft hands; arm is fringe. Will need to move from shortstop eventually; likely a second basemen. Had a play in the hole and the arm was not strong enough to throw out an average runner. Bat speed is a tick above average, stance is straight with a slight bend at the knees. Keeps hands quiet. Contact-oriented swing, but minimal power.

Chris Rodriguez is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Chris's other articles. You can contact Chris by clicking here
Tucker Blair is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Tucker's other articles. You can contact Tucker by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor Leagues

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