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July 28, 2014

Monday Morning Ten Pack

July 28, 2014

by BP Prospect Staff

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The Monday Morning Ten Pack is brought to you by Sidsgraphs.com. SidsGraphs specializes in memorabilia and game-used items from baseball's top prospects! Visit Sidsgraphs.com today or visit their retail store in the south suburbs of Chicago.

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Michael Conforto, OF, Mets (Short-season A Brooklyn)
Conforto is a man among boys in the New York-Penn League, as his polished game and field utility make him look like a major leaguer playing a pickup game in the park against weekend softball warriors. The fact that he stands out is both good and bad; the former is great for the Mets, as they clearly drafted a player of merit, but the latter is bad for scouting, as it's hard to get an accurate picture of the player when he is facing highly erratic talent that doesn’t offer much of a challenge. I like the swing, as it's fluid and easy, and the ball jumps off the bat with some volume. I like the raw, although I’d peg the power in the solid-average range rather than a middle-of-the-lineup masher with a plus or better distinction. The defense in left field has been fine, as he shows off athleticism and an accurate arm. He isn’t a burner but he runs well enough for the position and while on base, and he carries himself like a player who not only knows the game of baseball from a fundamental level but brings those skills to the field on all fronts. But it's difficult in this particular context to see how bright his star will really shine, and based on a limited three game sample, I’d say the profile will be more solid-average than star. —Jason Parks

Aristides Aquino, OF, Reds (Rookie Billings)
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in early 2011, Aquino has been a slow comer, spending the better part of three seasons at the complex level, with only a 15-game taste of the Pioneer League coming into the season. The 20-year-old is a scouting dream, with a body borrowed from Vlad Guerrero and the raw tools that make the hand shake when documenting the potential. This is a prototypical corner profile, complete with big arm and big raw power, and so far in his return trip to Billings, the young outfielder is bringing the tools to the field, with 24 extra-base hits (including 10 bombs) in only 36 games. The developmental process has been—and will likely continue to be—slow and steady, but the ceiling is of the first-division variety even though the risk is clearly substantial. I love the long and strong types like Aquino, the types with the potential to impact the game at the plate and in the field. While that outcome is a long way off and anything but a certainty, the raw potential makes Aquino one of the more intriguing sleepers in the low minors. —Jason Parks

Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
Player development comes in all shapes, forms, and sizes. There's no blueprint, no magic formula. But some prospects immediately show themselves to be ahead of the curve. Swihart’s talent was apparent in his early days as a professional, but there was a ton of projection and assumed growth when looking at his ceiling. The catcher had a substantial gap to close, but he has taken a strong step forward developmentally this season, rising in prospect status as a result. The breakout has been years in the making, however: The 22-year-old switch-hitter has moved ahead steadily after experiencing early difficulties. Some of the steps have been subtle, and are a good example of the challenges of projection. It requires multiple looks, forward thinking, and patience. Swihart exemplifies the importance of that last trait, showing how a player might need to marinate before all of the tools click in unison. There’s still more work in front of him, but a role as a major-league regular isn’t far off. —Chris Mellen

Tyler Ybarra, LHP, Blue Jays (Double-A Manchester)
On a night when the starting pitching matchup was the main draw, it was Ybarra coming out of the bullpen who intrigued me the most. Prospects like this require you to see the forest for the trees. The left-hander sat 93 to 95 mph with life and late movement on his fastball. He needs work keeping the ball down and out of the middle of the plate, but I loved the way he came after hitters with his fastball. There’s a mentality to challenge and some attitude. Checkmarks for an arm that can potentially pitch in high-leverage situations. Ybarra primarily stuck with the heater, though he did snap off a handful of sliders at 84 to 85 mph with some tilt. It's an average offering with the chance to get some chases due to the change in pace from his fastball. Ybarra is a reliever all the way and they’re volatile and tricky, but my gut says he'll get a chance in late innings in the bigs. —Chris Mellen

Josh Bell, RF, Pirates (Double-A Altoona)
The Texan destroyed the Florida State League this season and is now getting his first test at Double-A. The Eastern League can be hell on a young prospect, with a good blend of crafty organizational pitchers and power arms gassing it up to 95 mph. This weekend, Bell showed tools, but an inconsistent bat. The raw power is a tick above plus, and the ball screams off his bat due to plus bat speed and slight lift. He shows more power as a left-handed hitter, as the swing is more consistent with less noise. In general, there is excessive noise in all phases of his swing. It starts pre-swing and sometimes leaks into his actual swing. He has a wide stance that helps him stay balanced, but the noise is detrimental and does not allow for his greatest strengths at the plate to be maximized. This is especially true as a right-handed hitter. He needs work from that side of the plate, and will likely stay at Double-A for the entire season next year. The defense is also adventurous, mainly due to footwork issues and route running. He does display a plus arm. Overall, Bell has two plus tools in the power and arm, but the swing still needs some time before he is close to the majors. He has the ability to be a first-division right fielder. —Tucker Blair

Mike Yastrzemski, OF, Orioles (Double-A Bowie)
Bloodlines and nepotism have always been in baseball. They always will be a part of the draft. However, sometimes we need to put that aside and realize when a player truly has the talent to make it to the majors. Yastrzemski may not have the true tools that we often fawn over in prospects, but he has elite makeup and hustles more than any player I have seen this season. This weekend, Yaz made the best play I have seen all year. A ball was hit in the right-center gap, but he got a terrific first step and took a full-effort dive on the warning track to make the catch. His natural instincts are excellent and he takes terrific routes in the outfield. The speed is average and the agility and burst are average at best, but the instincts and hustle make up for some of the missing natural ability. I think he can stick in center field, although it's likely as a depth option more than a starter. At the plate, he displays average bat speed and the swing is compact with a slight lift. He has fringe-average raw power, but displays a nice gap-to-gap stroke. He has some issues picking up left-side spin, but he shows the ability to recognize and refine his approach during the at-bat. Overall, I think Yaz has the ability to be at least a fourth outfielder, but it would not surprise me at all if he has a solid career as a second-division starter. Sometimes we need to overlook the tools and give a prospect credit for doing all the right things. —Tucker Blair

Lane Thomas, OF/3B, Blue Jays (Rookie (Gulf Coast League))
I wanted to shine some light on a player who seems to get overlooked when discussing the GCL Blue Jays. The Blue Jays snatched up Thomas in the fifth round of this year's draft and so far he's given his organization plenty of reasons to be happy with their investment. Batting primarily out of the leadoff spot, Thomas has ideal tools for the role. He's an above-average runner who shows patience at the plate with solid pitch recognition skills and rare zone-expansion. His approach is simple and effective. He uses the entire field with his line-drive stroke and makes loud contact on a regular basis. At present, his in-game power is limited to the gaps, but he has shown improved bat speed that, coupled with strong hand-eye ability, could lead to more pop in the future. Defensively, Thomas is a good fit in center field, where he can fully utilize his speed and athleticism. He looks comfortable roaming from gap to gap cutting off balls. His arm is a tick above average and is plenty strong for the position. The Blue Jays have given him some spot starts at third base, but let's just say he doesn't look nearly as comfortable there. His footwork is sloppy and gets erratic, but he has the hands and enough arm to eventually make it work. There are a lot of natural instincts in his game both on offense and defense that help his tools play up. When evaluating players at this level, consistency is something to look for, and Thomas has been a poster boy. With his bat-to-ball skills, baseball intelligence, plus makeup and natural overall ability, Thomas has a lot of positives. He's a ballplayer, and one Blue Jay fans and prospect enthusiasts alike should start getting familiar with. —Chris King

Marco Hernandez, SS, Cubs (High-A Daytona)
There is no system in baseball with more shortstop depth than the Cubs', which is unfortunate for Marco Hernandez, who is as blocked as any minor leaguer in the game. Hernandez will never be Chicago's starting shortstop, but he probably won't be anyone else's starting shortstop either because he doesn't profile to have any impact with the bat. He's a slap hitter from the left side who makes no effort to drive the ball, understanding his role as a speed-based player. He puts the ball on the ground repeatedly but he will never have better than an average hit tool with no power. Where Hernandez makes his name is in the field. He's a plus-plus shortstop who can be a true asset both with his glove and his arm. Smooth and fluid on routine ground balls, he also features plus range to either side and natural creativity on tough plays, regularly flipping the ball behind his back or between his legs on double play turns when necessary. Hernandez won't hit enough to play regularly on a good team and is about the fifth best option for the Cubs at the position, but his glove should be enough to carry him to the majors and allow him to carve out a Freddy Galvis–like role. —Jeff Moore

Duane Underwood, RHP, Cubs (Low-A Kane County)
Underwood works with a simple step-back delivery and a 3/4 arm slot. The arm whip is fast and crisp, though he does create an inverted W with his upper body. Underwood worked in the 92-95 mph range with his fastball. It had two-seam action lower in the velocity band, but he had trouble locating it all night. The curveball had some sharp bite beneath the strike zone but he was unable to locate it effectively for strikes. Underwood showed a few changeups, including a few backdoor changes that flashed plus fade, but overall it looked like a show-me pitch that will require work. The raw ingredients are there for Underwood to succeed but he’s going to have to work on fastball command first and foremost; everything else will play up if he can locate his fastball effectively. The curve command will have to come along as well, as he will have to learn how to throw the pitch for effective strikes. At present, it’s just a chase pitch and the higher levels will lay off. Underwood is intriguing, but he’ll need refinement. —Mauricio Rubio

Shawon Dunston, OF, Cubs (Low-A Kane County)
An 11th-round pick in the 2011 draft, Dunston was clearly selected to be a slow burn. His first couple of seasons brought moderate success in short-season ball, but the jump to full-season wasn't so kind. He'd been playing sporadically and didn't look comfortable at the plate, finding it hard to get in a groove. After the All Star break, however, especially in the wake of Jacob Hannemann's promotion to Daytona, Dunston has found himself getting everyday reps and the results have followed. In July, he's hitting .410/.426/.525, and it hasn't just been BABIP luck: In the last two games, Dunston has stung the ball five or six times. As the son of a major leaguer, it's no surprise that Dunston is a good athlete, running times around 4.2 seconds to first. He doesn't feature his father's 80 arm; it's average or a tick below. Overall, Dunston does not have an impact profile, but he has put himself firmly on the prospect radar. Even though there isn't much power potential, as the hit tool manifests, there's the possibility he becomes a solid extra outfielder. —Jordan Gorosh

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