April 29, 2014
Notes from the Field
April 29, 2014
Florida State League
Brandon Nimmo, CF, Mets (St. Lucie)
Well built for 21, yet has a frame that will support more weight. Classic left-handed stance, quiet hands with a slight knee bend; swing is short and quick with a slight uppercut; generates natural backspin on the ball, which helps project above-average future power. He doesn't know how to drive the ball yet, but when he does the power will come and the doubles will turn into home runs. Extremely patient approach at the plate; absolutely will not expand the strike zone, even in RBI situations. Plus runner underway but not an explosive first step. Should be able to stay in center field for the foreseeable future.
Steven Matz, LHP, Mets (St. Lucie)
Explosive fastball that the lefty commanded well overall, though much better arm-side. Pulled it inside a number of times when trying to hit inside corner to right-handed hitters. Fastball sat 92-94 throughout the outing. Curveball was 76-78 with a hard, two-plane break and he commanded it well; not afraid to backdoor it to right-handed hitters, but also buried it inside at their feet; changed approach throughout the game to keep hitters off balance. Changeup is a work in progress but was effective; movement was inconsistent—some had decent arm-side fade while others were relatively flat—but even the ones that had little movement missed bats because of location, change in velocity, and arm speed. Featured a quick arm and soft landing on front leg; delivery was smooth and featured little wasted movement or effort; does a good job of getting out over his front side.
Because of his fastball command and ability to use curveball against right-handed hitters, Matz should have no problem staying as a starter. If his changeup continues to develop and gains consistency, he could develop into a no. 2 starter. Poised to move quickly now that he's healthy and shouldn't be in the FSL for long.
Corey Knebel, RHP, Tigers
Supplemental first round selection in 2013. Every bit of 6-foot-3; thick lower half; frame physically maxed. Delivery is high 3/4; good drive off back foot; max effort; rocks with high leg kick.
Fastball sat 94-95 mph; topped at 96 mph; excellent plane; can straighten out; lacks late life at times; command loose; potential 70 grade fastball with better command; 60 grade if cannot tighten command. Curveball is a backbreaker; 79-81 mph; big drop with tight spin. Legitimate 70 grade pitch with two-plane break. He is a power reliever with ability to work the back end of a bullpen; attacks hitters and has a competitive mentality; composed himself after walking a batter.
I did not see any of the immaturity concerns, but the competitive nature was extremely evident. He wants to be the man, and he wants it on every pitch. This is a legitimate reliever with two plus pitches. Knebel will be in the Tigers bullpen soon, and he can't be any worse than what Detroit is currently running out there.
Future Role: 55; late-inning reliever
Kyle Ryan, LHP, Tigers
Tall, lean frame; long arms; minimal growth projection. Average arm speed; higher 3/4th arm slot; crossfire delivery with a long stutter; gives some deception and plays up his arsenal. Lower half stiff and inconsistent follow-through. Fastball sat 86-88 mph; touched 89. Subtracts velocity at times; fringe pitch with little movement; decent plane; plus command and control. Change sat 80-82 mph; mild fade; mild feel; telegraphs it; fringe pitch. Curveball sat 77-81 mph; 11-to-5 break; casted a few times; average pitch; decent break and better working in the 77-79 range. Closer to an org guy than potential major-league reliever. Realistic role is a LOOGY. Could handle lefties well if he dropped his arm angle slightly to go along with his deception.
Future Role: 40; middle relief; specialist
Zach Davies, RHP, Orioles
Very small frame; undersized athlete; 160 pounds at most. Pure mechanics; compact delivery; natural 3/4 arm slot; quick-twitch muscles provide excellent arm speed; more arm than lower half but gets the most out of the small lower half. Terrific athlete; nimble on mound; fields position well. Charged runner tied up between third and home and kept the rundown short. Fastball sat 88-91 mph; late life; extreme arm-side run; plane is not great; hittable if located poorly; generally displays better command but was erratic on this night; fringe-average pitch. Change sits 79-81 mph; plus pitch; drops off the table; good depth and fade to arm side; tails from left-handed hitters. Curveball sits 73-75 mph; 12-to-6; solid depth; can have tight spin but will occasionally cast it.
Davies is cognizant on the mound; pitches backward; pitchability is high; displays composure even after giving up a grand slam; 45 fastball; 45 curveball; 60 change. Threw a slider last year but have yet to see in two starts this season. Not a high ceiling; back-end starter or middle innings guy. He will pitch in the majors at some point, but would not expect him to be a difference maker unless he has a big growth spurt.
Future Role: 50; back-end starter; spot starter/middle reliever
Matt Hobgood, RHP, Orioles
The story on Hobgood is interesting. Former fifth overall pick with his fair share of disappointment and failure in the first couple seasons of his pro career; missed a lot of time and was out of shape due to it. Last year, he came back healthy and in better shape; had a decent season and flashed brilliance at times. This season, Hobgood looks more fit for his role as a power reliever.
Huge frame; thick bottom half; pudgy top half but muscular. Max-effort delivery; uses every force of his body. Arm speed is plus; natural 3/4th arm slot; loose, easy arm action. Flies open and falls off to his left due to max effort; could lessen this a bit and still have enough oomph on his fastball. Fastball sat 93-96 mph; topped out at 97; great plane; late run with good life; loose command at higher velocity; 70 grade fastball if he can tighten command; currently 60 grade. Slider sits 84-85 mph with tight spin and tilt; bread and butter; plus-plus and commands well. Have not seen the change; might have completely scrapped it since moving into a full-time relief role.
Hobgood is a reliever all the way, which is a disappointment to some. However, he has the ability to become a powerhouse in the back of a bullpen. Potential plus-plus fastball and plus-plus slider.
Future Role: 55; late innings reliever
Jose Rondon, SS, Angels (Inland Empire)
Smallish frame; maybe 6-foot-1, a little heavier than 160; more like 175; very slightly open stance; arms and hands rock forward and backward before the pitch; good load; hands drift into hitting position; has some bat speed; quick wrists; pitch recognition is lacking; fooled by off-speed offerings from multiples pitchers; swing can get wild; not sure he has much feel for the barrel; looks fine at shortstop; actions are clean; arm is solid-average with good carry across the diamond; lateral range is good; may need to move to second base as he gets older; 4.33 to first on a grounder; average speed; perfect world scenario he’s a league-average major-league shortstop; most likely he’s a backup/utility guy because of his all-around game without any game-changing tools.
Danny Reynolds, RHP, Angels (Inland Empire)
First look: small lanky frame; 6 feet, 170 pounds is accurate; 93-96 T97; easy cheese; the ball explodes on the hitter; looks like he’s playing catch and it’s 94 mph; features plenty of run because of his low ¾ arm slot; doesn’t get much plane; needs to get downhill a little better; tends to land upright and closed, which leads to him missing up and arm side; a little loose in the zone; came out wild but settled after the first out; 87 mph cutter/short slider that has a little horizontal movement, but more of a change-of-pace pitch; not a plus offering, but it works.
2nd look: 93-96; more run at the lower velocities; really bores into right-handed hitters; going to be a bat-breaker; very hard to square; much better command in this look; has better command vs. RHH because it forces him to complete his hip rotation and get the ball to the glove side of the plate; can reach back for more whenever he wants; would like to see a better breaking ball or at least a more conventional one; the 87-88 mph cutter/slider works in High-A, but advanced hitters in higher levels will be able to crush the pitch if he leaves it in the heart of the plate; middle-reliever potential.
Eric Aguilera, 1B, Angels (Inland Empire)
Strong frame; athletic; moves well at first and on the bases; 4.33 to first on a chopper; loose hands at the plate; solid, level swing built for line drives; handles velocity well; ripped a couple singles, one off of a Vince Velazquez 95 mph fastball; had an understanding of what the pitcher was trying to do; laid off some changeups and attacked fastballs when he got ahead in the count; brief four at-bat look, looking forward to seeing more.
Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Astros (Lancaster): Solid, prototypical frame; 6-foot-3, maybe 210; body to log innings; really gets downhill; gets the most out of his length; clean delivery; fastball 93-96 touching 97 a couple times; mostly 94s; easy 7 pitch when he commands it; good control, but command was lacking; missed over the heart of the plate often, leading to two home runs; some run to the pitch; looks very easy coming out of his hand; makes the changeup an extremely hard pitch to time; arm speed is great; lots of deception; didn’t throw many because of his loose command with the fastball, but the few he threw were plus; curveball flashed, but did not exactly impress; threw it more than the changeup, but it was loopy and did not feature tight spin or two-plane break; needs to be more consistent; poise was questionable, as he was visibly frustrated after the first home run and his command got worse later; knocked out after eight hits and five earned in two innings; regardless, impressive raw stuff and his command will only get sharper with more repetitions; result was a poor representation of his abilities.
Paul Blackburn, RHP, Cubs (Kane County)
Has some room to fill out in legs; 6-foot-2 with a nice pitcher’s body; clean delivery with repeatable mechanics, ¾ with a bit of deception and crossfire; consistent with release point. Life and plane on fastball when down in zone only; flattens when up, and becomes hittable. Fastball command projection is certainly there; was around the zone all day, but was getting squeezed a bit, and missing target by three to four inches; could have plus FB command down the line; control better than command at present. Was mostly 88-90 T 91 with the fastball, comfort zone around 90, aside from a dip in the third inning when he was 84-87; slowed down to 87-88 in the sixth and flattened out again. Generated plenty of weak contact via groundball, but when he missed around the thighs he was getting squared. Wasn’t afraid to come inside with the FB to left handers and right handers, and showed ability to spot to all four quadrants. Breaking ball worked 75-78 with tight spin and 10-to-4 break. Solid-average big-league curveball potential, had some command of the pitch as well. It’s not a swing-and-miss pitch at present. Needs an older catcher to guide him and help sequence. Threw way too many fastballs. Threw only one changeup, which weirdly enough was in a hitter’s count, and showed a bit of fade. Generated less than five swinging strikes all day. I know he’s worked a bit higher in terms of velo so far this spring, so I’m anxious to see him again. Back of the rotation upside right now.
Blackburn Video 1
Blackburn Video 2
Carlos Penalver, SS, Cubs (Kane County)
Wiry, lanky frame at present. Glides in the field; smooth, athletic movements. Didn’t get him on a dig, but looked to be around big-league average speed, or a small tick above. Excellent actions. Extremely good around the bag, and made three or four big-league plays in two games. Can get to balls both to his left and right, and has a strong arm. Always seems to get the good bounce. Dropped a routine pop up, but came out next inning and made a back hand play five steps to his left and threw a seed over to first. At the plate, he’s all over the place. Went from casting his hands in one AB to pulling off the ball in the next, and couldn’t deliver the barrel where he was aiming. Bit below-average bat speed; minimal power projection; poor command of the strike zone. Will need to improve on hit tool and refine approach. Raw tools ahead of where he is as a player; has some feel for the game. Realistic high role 4 due to plus defense, and could probably play anywhere on the diamond if the bat doesn’t come around.
Yasiel Balaguert, RF, Cubs (Kane County)
Bad, soft body. Not an athlete; playing the OF currently, but doesn’t project to end up there. Already a plodder, didn’t get him anything faster than a 4.6 to first. Not much strike zone awareness at present, struggled with spin. Gave away quite a few AB. Would completely leak front side and mistime breaking pitches, which was the predominant offering thrown to him. However, showed legit bat speed on fastballs, and hit an absolute seed down the LF line with huge exit velo. When he gets front foot down in time and doesn’t leak hips, will center plenty of balls. Swing doesn’t generate backspin, but looks to hit for some pop as he improves pitch recognition. Since he’s probably a 1B long term, the profile really hinges on the bat, and even if he can fake it in the OF at times it’s still a tweener profile.
Tyler Skulina, RHP, Cubs (Kane County)
Huge, intimidating presence. All of 6-foot-5 and 250. Simple wind up with quick turn. Long arm swing, slow arm. Arm struggles to catch up once he lands, as it’s around his hip and has to fire through zone. Not much velo projection left, due to slow arm and maxed-out body. Has command projection and an idea of how to pitch. Doesn’t generate much plane for his size and attack plan. Attempts to be a sinkerballer without much sink. Fastball was 87-90 and flat, but he stayed mostly in the 87-88 range with minimal life and action. Have heard that he’s been 91-94. The fastball worked when spotted correctly down in the zone, but if he left it up, was squared hard. As a college guy against inexperienced low-level hitters, he didn’t generate many uncomfortable at-bats or many swings and misses. Doesn’t attack hitters, and nibbled frequently. Breaking ball was 74-77 with slurvy action, and the first few innings the pitch floated. Had some spin-generation issues, and often wasn’t getting on top of the ball. It improved a bit in the later innings to a fringy major-league breaking ball, but the pitch needs work. Threw a couple changeups around 80. He slowed his arm down noticeably, and didn’t throw the CH with much conviction, but it had a bit of fade. All in all, I don’t believe this was his best day on the mound, and I feel uncomfortable making a projection. Skulina didn’t have major-league quality stuff on Wednesday.