May 12, 2014
Monday Morning Ten Pack
May 12, 2014
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Shane Peterson, OF, Athletics (Triple-A Sacramento)
I’m not in the habit of hyping 26-year-old prospects, especially ones who aren’t dripping with impact-level tools, and perhaps its even dishonest to put the prospect label on the player to begin with, given the fact that Peterson has more than 2,300 plate appearances in the upper minors and did, in fact, reach the major leagues for two games worth of coffee in April 2013. But just because this isn’t a premium talent—the kind that encourages fan excitement and page views—doesn’t mean you can’t find value in the profile and project a major-league future, a future that is likely to eclipse a majority of the “complex level, tools first, game skills second” types that I frequently choose to write about. Peterson can play all three outfield positions, although his physical skill set is a better fit in a corner spot, and he can definitely play first base, but the bat obviously falls short of the offensive standards at that position. Peterson is an attrition hitter; he forces pitchers to work for the privilege of an out, and despite a lack of over-the-fence power, he can sting mistakes with his left-handed stroke, should a pitcher eventually make one through the course of the sequence. He’s not a burner but he’s a smart baserunner, and along with the willingness to walk brings secondary skills to his power-limited offensive profile. He’s a prototypical A’s player in most regards, and even though he’s likely a tweener at the highest level, he’s still a valuable player if you can limit his limitations and maximize his positive attributes. Oddly enough, I’m pretty high on Peterson, despite the lack of plus tools or his lack of being a Dominican teenager. –Jason Parks
A.J. Jimenez, C, Blue Jays (Double-A Manchester)
When a catcher progresses into the upper levels, the focus begins to shift toward the development of the finer points of the position. The interest usually centers on how well he can handle a staff and manage the overall game. The assertiveness of the player can also be a leading indicator as to how the defensive game is coming together and whether it is approaching major-league caliber. I’ve had a chance to see Jimenez a handful of times this season, and the defensive polish is there. Not only is the backstop firm with his receiving skills and fluid with his movements behind the dish, but the game management skills stand out. Whether it’s having the feel for when to go out to the mound to settle down his pitcher, working to set the pace of the game, or taking control of situations with the infielders, Jimenez has in some shape or form showed me with each look that he’s trending toward being ready to play defensively in The Show. The bat has left me with some questions, mostly surrounding how well it can handle quality velocity and stuff, but the glove should be good enough to give Jimenez a good chance at sticking around on a roster in some capacity to carve out an extended career. –Chris Mellen
Henry Ramos, OF, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
Boston selected Ramos back in 2010 out of Puerto Rico, and it’s been an interesting development path for the outfielder. A soccer player growing up, the 22-year-old was more of a project when the organization signed him, but there were some raw tools there that had the potential to be sharpened. When I first saw Ramos the physical projection with the body really stood out, along with the chance to develop some power. His overall rawness, driven by his helter skelter nature on the field and lack of a clue for what was being thrown at him, equally stood out as well. The switch-hitter has definitely come a long way from his early career, and has also made some improvements from when I saw him last season. The big thing that stands out is how much better Ramos sees the ball. The outfielder is keeping his weight back longer, while not showing as much fidgetiness as in the past. His swing, and the contact produced, looks a lot better as a result. Now, I do have some concerns with the swing-and-miss Ramos shows against good stuff above the belt, and wonder whether he can tone down his aggressiveness enough to not get exploited by good arms. Those are areas I'll continue to watch going forward, but this is an “under the radar” prospect to keep an eye on, as development strides are showing. There's major-league potential here. –Chris Mellen
Courtney Hawkins, OF, White Sox (High-A Winston-Salem)
Not many prospects draw as much ire as the thick-framed Hawkins. This is a player who was rushed through the minors sooner than he probably should have been, and the results last year were quite poor. While he has produced much better this year, he clearly has a ton of in-game conditioning and adjustments left. This weekend, I saw him do something that I have never seen or heard happen. Parker Bridwell threw Hawkins a 92 mph fastball inside-middle and Hawkins pulled his hands in, using his leveraged swing and plus bat speed to crack the ball out for a home run over the left field fence. Even better, this came when he was down 1-2 in the count. Hawkins went on to flail a couple grounders and strike out on a well-located change, so the day was typical for him. However, this was the first time I had ever heard or seen Hawkins cut back his elongated swing. The pitch recognition is still very worrisome, as he had trouble with Bridwell's curve and change, but he showed what happens when he doesn't sell out for the big blast. –Tucker Blair
Michael Taylor, OF, Nationals (Double-A Harrisburg)
The 23-year-old Taylor is a terrific athlete with plus speed, agility and a good second gear. He has all the tools to become a mainstay in center field down the road. The bat has always been the question, mainly whether he will ever hit for enough contact. Taylor has an inconsistent swing that can become elongated and the hands can become too noisy. However, the pure skills are present. The bat speed is plus and the power is plus, both of which have finally started to flash in the past few weeks. Some mild compaction in the swing has obviously gone a long way, and he is starting to correlate his fixes into on-the-field results. Taylor has always struggled with a good change from a right-handed pitcher, and he was routinely abused in the beginning of the year by it. The strikeouts are always going to be there, but he is beginning to show the good with the bad and is turning himself into a potential late-season option for the Nationals if they need a fourth outfielder for a playoff run. –Tucker Blair
Gabriel Guerrero, RF, Mariners (High-A High Desert)
If you are familiar at all with Gabriel Guerrero’s uncle Vladimir, you know what kind of a talent those bloodlines carry. While Gabby does not have the upside of Vladimir and carries almost extreme risk tied to his high strikeout totals and low walk rate, he has demonstrated talents that can certainly carry him up the chain. His bat speed is very impressive and the looseness in his hands and body in general allow him to whip the bat head through the zone with impressive quickness. He has a knack for putting the barrel on pitches that he probably shouldn’t and hit them hard (sound familiar?) which demonstrates his crazy hand/eye coordination and strength. That strength was put on display in my last look at him, when he demolished a 1-0 fastball on the inside-corner. The ball was struck so well it disappeared over the lights for a brief moment and came down behind 40-foot trees behind the left field fence. Pitch recognition and plate discipline will be his downfall if he does not click, but with solid run, good athleticism, and an above-average arm in the outfield, Guerrero has the tools to make an impact at the major-league level. –Chris Rodriguez
Brandon Dixon, 2B, Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
The third round selection by the Dodgers out of last year’s draft got a brief look in the Midwest League last year, and it did not leave much room for optimism; he slashed .185/.227/.261 over 228 ABs with 65 strikeouts and dreadful defense at the hot corner. Six months and a move to second base later, Dixon has not done much to temper the concern for his bat. Early looks had him late on any fastball thrown his way, as he frequently punched out on back-to-back-to-back heaters. Fastballs on the outer third of the plate gave him fits and he just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger fast enough. He seemed completely overmatched the first five games I witnessed and I was ready to drop the org. label on him.
In his past 10 games the bat has heated up, slashing .356/.375/.578 with two home runs. My most recent looks showed Dixon more comfortable at the plate and making more frequent hard contact. I’m still fairly pessimistic about his future, however. He unleashes the barrel on a certain plane, and really can’t make an adjustment if the pitch is out of that window. Arm-side spin can get him out in front and flailing, which can consequently make him late on well-located fastballs immediately after. Dixon is a good athlete and still has time to make some adjustments, but I’m hesitant to change my opinion because of his poor pitch recognition and holes in his swing. The hot streak needs to be more than just a 10-game stretch. –Chris Rodriguez
Ryan McMahon, 3B, Rockies (Low-A Asheville)
After slashing .291/.396/.696 in the month of April, McMahon has since slowed down considerably in May, posting a .601 OPS with 11 strikeouts heading into Sunday’s contest. The Rockies' number five prospect flashed both the good and the bad in this matchup. McMahon has an aesthetically pleasing stroke from the left side with plus bat speed and fine lower-half actions, creating bountiful leverage and torque from which he produces easy plus raw power. The two doubles were barreled and were loud off the bat, as he was able to get his hands inside two fastballs on the inner half, one of which was against arm-side pitching. On the other hand, McMahon’s stroke is a bit angled, which opens up holes in the upper quadrants of the zone. He also displayed a propensity to chase breaking pitches off the plate and showed no willingness to shorten up and alter his approach with two strikes. A refined approach shouldn’t be expected from a 19-year-old in his first full-season effort, but his willingness to expand the zone on breaking pitches and a noticeable hole above the belt are noteworthy revelations given his recent tailspin. –Ethan Purser
Chipper Smith, LHP, Marlins (High-A Jupiter)
You don't find too much production out of the 38th round and even less from Cumberland University, but the Bulldogs might be looking at their most productive—and second ever—major leaguer in Smith. Working primarily as a reliever over two-plus professional seasons, Smith was making a spot start on the night I saw him and cruised through four innings of work thanks to a true plus changeup that A-ball hitters simply couldn't touch. He commanded the pitch extremely well, and it featured plus arm side-fade and downward diving action. His ceiling is limited, with a fastball that sits between 90-92 (though it does have good movement), and a below-average curveball will limit his ability to be a left-handed specialist down the road. For Smith, the entire story is about the changeup, which was one of the best versions of that particular pitch I've seen in some time. It is a true 70 pitch and looked good even when up against Jose Berrios' plus rendition on the same night. Smith may not get a chance to do much starting, but his frame and arsenal would allow him to have some success in the back end of a rotation. More likely, however, is that he finds a niche in a bullpen with the ability to miss bats despite only average velocity. –Jeff Moore
Clint Frazier, CF, Indians (Single-A Lake County)
While Frazier might not be an intimidating physical presence (I believe he's closer to 5-foot-11 and 175 than his listed 6-foot-1 and 190), his tools certainly shine. At the plate, Frazier's bat speed is second to none; his large forearms and strong hands and wrists help make up for his lack of stature. He's got present pull-side power and barrels balls hard to left and left-center. The contact is loud, and the ball jumps off his bat. He's also an above-average runner, clocking at 4.2 from the right side, and is a quick-twitch athlete to boot. His jumps and reads are adequate in CF, and while I'd like to see more of it, there's a possibility he stays in the middle of the diamond. The arm is an asset. Right now, the only hole in Frazier's game is his front hip leak at the plate. He has a tendency to slightly open his hips at landing, which costs him all of his ability to go to right field/right-center field with any authority. Pitchers have been trying to exploit that weakness with spin on the outer half of the plate, and succeeded in my viewing. Frazier tracks the spin well, and isn't fooled, but with this small mechanical flaw he can't barrel balls on the outer third. If he can fix the hip leak and start driving balls the other way with authority, look out; the ceiling is an all-star. –Jordan Gorosh
Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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