August 11, 2014
Monday Morning Ten Pack
August 11, 2014
Nomar Mazara, OF, Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
The Rangers recently decided to skip Mazara past High-A, which not only speaks to the 19-year-old’s talent, but also to a strong belief in his makeup. The outfielder oozes ease, especially with his swing. Maraza has the loose hands, lift in his stroke, raw power, and innate bat-to-ball ability to grow into a middle-of-the-order thumper down the line. Beyond the tools and progress Mazara has made with them this season, the promotion presents major clues regarding his makeup. It’s a stamp of approval that Mazara is mentally ready to handle an accelerated assignment to finish out the year, one that will see him face older and more experienced competition. It’s a placement that may lead to initial struggles, but he can handle them and apply what he learns as he continues moving up the chain. —Chris Mellen
Jan Hernandez, 3B, Phillies (Short-season Williamsport)
What caught my eye was the bat speed. The right-handed hitter flashes extremely quick wrists. He has a whip-like stroke and the head of the bat gets through the zone in a hurry. The pull-side contact is loud and hard. There is also some lift that produces carry. The swing is presently geared more toward power than contact, and my early feeling is that the hit tool will consequently be only average. Hernandez will also need to make adjustments to get to that level. The 19-year-old is very aggressive, with barely a plan in place. He hacks at pretty much everything. This is understandable for a player of his experience, but still something that will need refinement. In addition, the approach is oriented toward pulling the ball; this shows in the way Hernandez lunges at offerings middle-to-away and how his head pulls way off the ball at times. The present package is raw and crude, but my vision for the long term sees the potential for a sixth or seventh place hitter with some power. —Chris Mellen
Jaime Schultz, RHP, Rays (High-A Charlotte)
Much like in the rest of the world, status matters when it comes to prospects, so, fair or not, players drafted in the 14th round have to do something special to stand out. Striking out over 14 batters per nine innings qualifies as "special," and it got Schultz a promotion to the Florida State League. He is undersized and unimpressive right up to the point when he starts throwing fastballs in the 93 to 95 mph range with ease. He's better served, however, throwing the two-seam version around 91 to 92; that pitch has plus arm-side run and better command. He needs to improve his four-seam command, but the two-seam fastball has the potential to be a plus pitch.
Schultz also throws a pair of breaking balls. The slider comes in around 82 to 84 mph and should probably be scrapped, both because of his lack of command and because of the quality of his other breaking pitch. Unlike the slider, which he consistently bounces in the dirt and which has only minimal movement, his curveball is much more consistent and shows plus potential. It's a power pitch, sitting 77 to 81 mph with a hard 12-6 break. It's a swing-and-miss pitch that complements his fastball well. He also features a changeup that sits 83 to 84 mph and is presently below average but shows some movement and feel; it could be an average pitch itself.
Schultz has the Kris Medlen starter kit and could reach that level, but command will be the separator. Shorter pitchers have less margin for error, especially up in the zone, and Schultz must improve in that area. Still, the fastball-curveball combination is enough to miss a lot of bats, regardless of his size. —Jeff Moore
Corey Littrell, LHP, Cardinals (High-A Palm Beach)
As though they needed more pitching depth, the Cardinals added Littrell to their system at the trade deadline. His ceiling isn't as high as some of their high-velocity power arms, but Littrell is yet another eventual big leaguer. With a fastball that sits from 88 to 91 mph, he'll never be better than a mid-rotation starter, but average present command that has room to improve and some cutting action that allows him to combat right-handers allows it to play up to be an eventual major league–average pitch. Littrell's changeup plays well off his fastball, with present average command and diving action that looks similar to the movement on the fastball. It can get firm and he misses with it vertically, but it has the potential to be an above-average pitch. What separates Littrell is his curveball, an average pitch with the potential for more. It's a big breaker that comes in around 74 to 75 mph, but it's tight and sharp and has the potential to miss bats on both sides of the plate.
The off-speed and breaking pitch allow Littrell's mediocre fastball to play up, and his average command across the board should even improve over time. It's not a dominant profile, but the overall package should make for a back-end starter. —Jeff Moore
Dylan Baker, RHP, Indians (High-A Carolina)
High octane arms have covered the Carolina League this entire season, with almost every team having a few guys who can pump their fastball in the high-velocity bands. Baker is another pitcher who fits this description, with a fastball that can touch 95 to 96 mph as a starter. While Baker missed a large portion of the season due to a broken ankle, he has started to regain some of his lost stamina and stuff. In his latest outing, Baker was flashing that high-end velocity again. His fastball has explosion and late life, often making it tough to barrel. It lacks true horizontal movement, but he counters this with a good plane. Baker also throws a curveball, which could really be classified as more of a slurve. It's a good pitch, with hard tilt and spin. My concerns with Baker largely come from the max-effort mechanics and the lack of an efficient change. His mechanics can become messy, with the body flying open and some trouble staying balanced due to his hips over-rotating. The changeup is below-average and lacks any feel. I do not envision much improvement from the pitch, which likely means that Baker is best suited for a relief role down the road. Regardless, Baker has a legitimate arsenal that begins with the fastball. He could move quickly as a reliever and the arsenal could play up out of the pen. —Tucker Blair
Jacob Brentz, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Rookie Gulf Coast League)
Taken by the Blue Jays in the 11th round of the 2013 draft, Brentz came into the GCL last season as raw as could be. The 6-foot-2 lefty showed very strong in the arm strength department, but not much else. It was considered a success when he was able to get the ball over the plate. Brentz barely pitched in high school, logging minimal innings his junior year and close to zero his senior year, so the lack of control and feel for pitching was to be expected. Fast forward to this season and the progress has been very noticeable. The velocity is there as it's always been, but now he's not only keeping the ball in the zone, he's showing the ability to command it. Sitting easily at 89 to 92 mph, Brentz has been attacking with confidence, especially on the inner half to right-handed batters. He's able to dial it up for even more when he wants to, which was evident from his last pitch in his last outing, a 96 mph paint job on the inside corner for a strikeout looking. The aggressive mentality and mound demeanor have been impressive, as has the progress with his secondary offerings. Brentz spun a few knee-buckling curveballs in the 74 to 76 mph range that flashed plus potential, while his changeup showed some depth and deception in the 86 to 87 mph range. As good as the curve flashed, it's the changeup that really got my attention. A lefty with a good changeup is a hell of a weapon, especially when that lefty can dial it up in the mid-90s. Brentz's arm speed stayed consistent and it really did disrupt the batters' timing. There is still a long road of development for Brentz and the risk remains high, but with some body projection remaining, the Blue Jays could very well have another dangerous arm in their already loaded system. —Chris King
Miguel Andujar, 3B, Yankees (Low-A Charleston)
After posting an anemic .212/.267/.335 line in the first half of the season, Andujar has turned a major corner in the second half, slashing .324/.380/.465 through 46 games. The 19-year-old signed for $700,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 and spent his first two professional seasons in the GCL before being sent to Charleston for his first full-season assignment this spring. Physically, Andujar has a thick lower half and shows signs of adding additional mass in his upper body, leaving him as a below-average runner in the future. His above-average bat speed stands out immediately, as he takes a big rip guided by quick, loose hands with natural lift in the swing path. While his swing can become unbalanced and his lower half actions are nascent at best, Andujar shows an advanced ability to put the bat on the ball and likes to showcase this skill, aggressively offering at fastballs and at times looking foolish on soft breaking pitches away due to a slight tendency to pull off with his front side. Defensively, Andujar has above-average arm strength that is often belied by a lack of accuracy, while his actions at third base are a hair slow, with poor footwork and stiff hands.
While the risk is extreme, one can dream on Andujar’s average power potential at the plate and make a case for a role-5 third baseman down the road. The more risk-averse evaluator will temper expectations by citing his aggressive approach and the potential for below-average defense as his body continues to add mass. An additional three-game look at the end of August will give me the opportunity to determine which side of the fence I’m on in terms of Andujar’s future potential. —Ethan Purser
Dorssys Paulino, OF, Indians (Low-A Lake County)
Paulino's prospect pedigree has allowed him some slack as an 18-year-old at Low-A, but he's repeating the level in 2014 and it hasn't gotten any better. The notoriety he's gained has, in my viewings anyway, never caught up with his play. In a decent sample, approaching 20 plate appearances over the last two years, Paulino has never stuck out to me in the field or at the plate. The Indians sent him back to extended spring training earlier this season to learn the OF, as it just wasn't working at shortstop. At the plate, Paulino starts with his bat resting on his back shoulder and has a small leg kick. He doesn't generate much torque or power, nor does he make frequent loud contact. The approach leaves a bit to be desired as well: Higher level pitching will attack him, and his walk numbers should drop. He's a tick below average as a runner, and a middle-of-the-road athlete. In left field, he looks uncomfortable, and nearly misplayed a can-of-corn fly ball on Friday night. Paulino's overall package is that of a utilityman at best, and right now, there aren't any tools that I would project as major league–average. —Jordan Gorosh
Cadyn Grenier, SS, Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, NV)
Grenier is a rising senior at a high school known for producing power bats, but he works outside that mold. At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, you wouldn’t expect much power, but his ability to barrel balls should lead to frequent doubles. Hitting from the right side, he has a quick, balanced stroke with loose hands. He hit lines drives all weekend long at the Area Code Games. Even when the best high school pitchers in the country hit their spots, Grenier made hard contact. He works gap to gap and profiles as a no. 1 or no. 2 hitter at his ceiling. He isn’t a burner out of the box but he is light and quick on his feet. He plays a mean shortstop with a good first step and knows how to properly align himself to best use his above-average arm. He projects to have at least three average-or-above tools (hit, field, throw) with enough speed to keep him in the middle of the diamond. Grenier was one of the most impressive prospects this weekend on both sides of the ball and has helped his draft stock immensely. —Ryan Parker
Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Hagerty High School (Oviedo, FL)
Mountcastle was another of the most intriguing prospects from this weekend’s workouts and games. He has a solid frame, standing 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, with room to grow. Most of his value will come in his bat, as his work at third base is average at best, even with his solid throwing arm. His speed is also average and will allow him to find a spot on the field that isn’t first base. But the bat could be special. The swing is not as polished as most of his peers' but his physical traits are exceptional. He has the rare combination of lightning-quick hands and flexibility throughout his lower half. When he lined up his swing the ball seemed to carry and carry. That said, he had trouble lining up his swing even in batting practice. In game action he always seemed to hit balls hard even with the obstacles in his swing. His bat gives him a lofty ceiling but there is a very large gap he must cross in order to reach that projection. —Ryan Parker
Chris Betts, C, Long Beach Wilson High School (Long Beach, CA)
Prior to seeing him play at the Area Code Games in his home town, Betts received rave reviews from scouts who saw him earlier in the summer across the nation. Reports were that his bat had above-average potential and that he has a solid chance to stick behind the plate. Betts is listed 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, which is at least 20 short of his true weight. He's a big boy, but he can certainly swing a quick stick. His batting practice was solid, and he followed that up with a couple of line drive hits up the middle and pulled past the second baseman. It was an impressive week for Betts at the plate, giving me enough confidence to put a future 6 on his bat. Unfortunately, behind the plate he didn't look comfortable, with slow feet and below-average pop times on multiple occasions. His blocking ability was tested many times and came back with mixed results. This creates a tough profile, as he has the bat and the frame for power but I don't think he can stick at catcher. If other scouts believe he can catch, though, he could be a first-round pick next summer. —Chris Rodriguez