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April 17, 2014

Notes from the Field

Carolina League Notes (Wilmington/Winston)

by CJ Wittmann

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Wilmington (Kansas City)

LHP Sean Manaea
Pitcher’s body; 3/4 arm slot; thick lower half but comfortable; athletic; stands tall throughout delivery; crossfire action, foot lands on first base side of home; hips rotate with shoulders and back leg swings through post-release; has good momentum to the plate; keeps good balance throughout even though has back leg swing; longer arm action and arm got offline at times, varying his release point; big deception in delivery; hides ball a long time and gets on hitters fast; varies times to home to hold runners, will mix in high leg kick with slide step; front side and hips opened early, causing arm to drag through and command to get loose; was corrected after mound visit. 1.37-1.66 range. Fastball 89-96; sat 91-93 early on and touched 95, 96 twice; then went 89-90 later; missed bats at any velocity; ball jumps out of his hand with arm-side run; also throws some with sink; was still missing bats at 89; want to see the velocity tick up and sit but huge deception and movement pitch; did not get squared one time all night. Changeup 80-84; parachute action; arm-side fade; plays extremely well off fastball because of arm action; feed it to righties to get swing and misses; tough to pick up because of delivery. Slider 76-81; plus spin and tilt; good bite and late break; will add and subtract to vary break and depth; at lower velocity still had good shape and effectiveness.

2nd viewing: Sat 92-94 early; got comfortable in 89-92 range; touched 95 early; can reach back for more velocity when needed; showed ability to cut the ball at 89-90, effectively used to get inside to righties; broke Hawkins' bat with it (shocking); pitch rarely got squared; double-digit swing and misses with it. Future 70 grade. Changeup 81-84 all game; big deception; same pitch I saw first viewing. Future 60 pitch. Slider 79-84; velocity was up; plus spin and tilt; great shape; good bite and late break; added and subtracted well; varying depth and break; stays effective at lower velocity with bigger break; produces massive numbers of swings and misses. Future 70 pitch.

Role: 65; no. 2/3 starter

Manaea's biggest asset is his deception. He repeats his mechanics with ease and his command profile is solid-average to plus. I didn’t see the consistent high velocity on the fastball but it didn’t really matter because his stuff still missed bats. The slider velocity was up and it was much more effective. He adds and subtracts from it nicely and everything he throws is a swing and miss pitch. I think we’ll see him build strength and the fastball velocity will sit higher but right now he’s dominating hitters with the stuff he has now. I have yet to see a ball get completely squared off of him in two starts.

RHP Aroni Nina
Slender, tall build; not a stick figure, but slight muscle; stays tall and throws front side through; gets extreme hip and shoulder rotation; arm comes through fast; longer arm action and arm slot can vary; extremely fast arm; front side can over-rotate and arm can come through late making him lose control; well below average command profile. Fastball 94-98; arm-side life; big downhill plane; explodes out of hand; has some control but little command; saw him 90-92 last week with slower arm motion; 95-98 this outing letting it rip. Future 70 grade. Curveball 79-82; wipeout pitch; hard snap; two plane break; hard bite with depth; comes from same arm-slot as fastball; will throw in zone for strike and as chase pitch. Future 70 pitch. Changeup 87-89; arm-side sink; can get firm; won’t be effective unless fastball velocity is at its peak. Future 50 pitch.

Role: 50; late innings reliever

Nina will probably end up ditching his changeup and that’s fine. His fastball/curve combination is as good as any reliever in the Carolina League. When Nina is sitting 96-98 with life and staying on top of his curveball at 80-81, he’s deadly. The command profile is well below average, but Nina is effectively wild. His arm speed was noticeably much faster this outing and he could have been told to tone it down first outing for more command. After that didn’t work, he just let it rip. When everything is in unison, his stuff is electric. He just needs to get consistency.

SS Raul A. Mondesi
Might even be taller than listed height; noticeable added 10-15 pounds but room for much more growth; broad shoulders; plus-plus athlete; long way away from maturity.

Hit: Left side: hands drift in load; plus-plus bat speed; natural bat-to-ball skills; swing has slight natural lift through hitting zone; will use the opposite field and loves going to left-center; often makes loud contact; can get tied up inside at times. Right side: hands more quiet; plus-plus bat speed; swing is more linear with less lift; still learning to use the right side; presently makes more weak contact than hard from this side. From both sides of the plate, shows an advanced approach; comes up with a plan and will adjust to the situation; plate discipline and idea of strike zone is plus; identifies spin early and tracks ball deep into the hitting zone; can barrel quality spin and velocity. Future 60 grade.

Power: present gap-to-gap pop; shows ability to backspin the ball in batting practice; presently more doubles power from bat speed and lift with home run power coming with added strength. Future 50 grade.

Glove: silky smooth actions; soft hands; great reactions off the bat with quick first step; range is plus-plus; can make backhand pick in the hole; plus instincts on the field; lightning quick transfer from glove to hand; collects himself well when throwing on the run; presently a 60 but with reps could even get better. Future 70 grade.

Arm: strong, accurate throws; made deep throw in the hole to first; fast arm with clean arm action; added strength has helped; 60 grade.

Run: gets out of the box quick and accelerates; long graceful strides; has a serious second gear; 3.88, 3.94 on jailbreak bunts from both sides; 4.0 range on ground ball from right side; instinctive base runner; makes good reads on balls in play; added weight has helped. 70 grade.

Role: 65; first division regular/All-Star

There’s big risk here because Mondesi is still a very young player with a long way to go with the bat. He shows great promise at the plate with how dynamic he can be and could develop into a star. His defensive profile is much more advanced than his offensive profile but what he can do at the plate will be more than enough for a premium defensive position. There is a present gap between the top-flight shortstop prospects and Mondesi but don’t be surprised if he enters that conversation.

RHP Christian Binford
6-foot-6, broad frame; very filled-out; thick lower half but athletic build; has very good control of limbs; high leg kick and hands get high in unison; small arm stab to a long arm action; comes to high 3/4 slot every time; long stride and good momentum to the plate; hips and shoulders rotate in unison; falls off to first base side often; repeats mechanics well for how big he is; can stiffen in delivery and land on stiff front leg.

Fastball 89-92, touched 93; creates big downhill plane; arm-side run; uses all four quadrants effectively; command profile plus. Future 55 grade. Slider 80-82; late, sharp break with some tilt; flashed plus; best thrown to righties away; can get soft with it and breaks early allowing hitters to see it early; not a completely swing and miss pitch; comes from same arm slot as fastball. Future 55 grade. Changeup 80-83; arm-side fade with vertical drop; noticeable arm speed difference from fastball; can get firm and lose effectiveness; presently below average; could play to average with work. Future 50 grade.

Role: 50; back-end starter

I saw Binford with his best stuff. He punched out 10 over seven innings and he was enjoyable. He repeats well, surprisingly, but doesn’t have the dominating stuff. He creates good plane on his fastball with run and spots it well. His command was plus all night and I think he fits well in a back-end starter’s role. This could be a guy who can sneak into the Top 10 Royals prospects next year.

Winston-Salem (White Sox)

SS Tim Anderson
Shorter than listed 6-foot-1; very athletic build; filled out well in lower half presently with more room for growth; plus-plus athlete; just started playing baseball junior year of high school; super raw; looks good in his uniform.

Hit: wide setup; loose, easy hands; Brandon Phillips–like preswing setup (bat wiggle); small wrist lock before starting swing; explosive hands; plus-plus bat speed; swing has natural lift; has natural bat-to-ball skills; great strength in wrists and hands giving him good barrel control; exceptional hand-eye coordination; presently still learning to use the right side; often makes hard contact and can square velocity; needs refinement in approach and plate discipline; free swinger currently; will expand the zone; recognizes spin but unable to barrel it; has trouble with anything down in the zone; has shown the ability to adjust game-to-game but still super raw. Future 60 grade.

Power: sneaky plus raw pop; has present gap-to-gap pop; more pull-side power presently; raw pop comes from natural lift and plus-plus bat speed; has the ability to backspin the ball; will be plenty of doubles with homer potential. Future 50 grade.

Glove: has soft hands; exceptional hand-eye coordination; good footwork around bag; doesn’t react well off the bat; instincts are lacking but has speed to make up for it; range is limited; couldn’t get to ball in deep shortstop hole; collects and gathers himself well up the middle; has the hands to stay in the infield; needs repetition; presently below average at short but with reps could play to average; would feel more comfortable with a move to second. Future 55 grade. He’ll get every opportunity to stay there and it will be interesting to see his progress later in the year. I need more convincing.

Arm: makes throws on a line to first; fast, clean arm; quick transfers to throwing hand and quick release; has trouble making throw from hole; arm is not a strength on left side. 50 grade.

Run: consistently in 4.04 to 4.07 range from right side; gets out of the box quickly and accelerates; still raw on bases; instinctive baserunner but needs work reading pickoff moves; will be a threat on the basepaths. 70 grade.

Role: 60; first-division regular/All-Star potential

There’s extreme, extreme risk here because Anderson is a different kind of raw. He has probably played in fewer games than everyone he’s playing against. He needs reps and reps and reps. He has electric hands that could let him stay in the infield but I don’t love his range at short and his arm lacked the strength to make the throw in the hole. At the plate, this is probably the first time Anderson has seen consistent breaking balls. He recognizes spin early and tracks the ball but hasn’t shown the ability to barrel it. Presently, he still loves to pull the ball and is learning the use the right side. He makes consistent hard contact when balls are put into play though. I am confident he can make the necessary adjustments to adjust to spin and barrel it. He’s not off balance when he’s swinging; Anderson just doesn’t look used to them yet. He’s super raw and a long way away but if he puts it all together, he has an electric profile.

OF Courtney Hawkins
Shorter than listed height; wide hips with extremely thick lower half; broad shoulders with big muscular chest; short arms; body is maxed out and no more room for growth; high maintenance body going forward and has potential to add bad weight as he matures.

Hit: excellent bat speed and leverage; bat comes through hitting zone at upward angle; much calmer hands and load; small toe-tap timing; hands much lower than last year; swing itself is long; can get great extension post-contact on mistakes; also can extend early; has habit of shifting weight from anchored back leg to front side early; mistake hitter only; have serious questions about natural bat-to-ball skills; needs refinement in approach and plate discipline; will still expand the zone at any count and anywhere; has little idea of the strike zone; most swings front side flies way open early and barrel drags through the zone; does not recognize secondary offerings; does not recognize breaking ball spin at all; gets off balance often and has ugly swings against off-speed; does not stand a chance against quality breaking stuff; will not hit enough to get to the highest level. Future 30 grade.

Power: plus-plus raw power; great strength in wrists and hands; has bat speed and leverage; will crush mistakes; back side collapses often trying to maximize power; quality of hit tool will limit power. Future 50 grade.

Glove: questionable reads and routes to the ball; does not react well off the bat; had trouble backpedaling and getting to ball in the gap; limited range due to lack of reaction and limited speed. Future 40 grade.

Arm: plus arm strength; made throws on a line; used correct footwork and whole body to get behind ball when throwing. 60 grade.

Run: clocked in the 4.3 range; athletic for size; had trouble getting out of the box clean; bad weight could slow him more. Future 40 grade.

Role: 40; Quad-A player

This is a very similar Courtney Hawkins that I disliked last year. He doesn’t recognize off-speed well at all. I have serious questions about his natural ability to hit the ball and his hand-eye coordination could be subpar. His body does not project well for me. He is thick in every aspect as a 20-year-old and that will be high-maintenance going forward. He’s not a defensive asset and I don’t think Hawkins will ever hit enough to reach the highest level.

CJ Wittmann is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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