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September 2, 2014

Monday Morning Ten Pack

September 2, 2014

by BP Prospect Staff


Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown)
Two weeks of "you need to go see Reynaldo Lopez pitch" texts finally sent me on a journey to Hagerstown. Surprisingly, Lopez displayed one of the most exuberant pitching performances I have witnessed all season, sitting 94 to 98 mph with life, a biting curveball, and developing changeup. In fact, it is quite interesting how a player of this caliber can be so hidden from the public eye. I wrote a scouting report on him, but wanted to shed some light on the backstory.

Lopez was signed out of the Dominican Republic for $17,000, nothing relative to many international bonuses. From all reports I've received, Lopez routinely sat 88 to 91 mph when he first signed. The Nationals began to make mechanical changes, specifically with how he held his glove on delivery. Lopez dealt with an injury that shut him down in Short-Season Auburn, so he did not have much time to audition for the state-side crowds. Now, fully healthy, he has taken off. He is the definition of a "pop-up" prospect and everyone should remember his name moving forward. This is one of the best pitchers no one is talking about. The journey is still long, but the raw talent is undeniable. —Tucker Blair

Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (Double-A New Britain)
It’s been a season of lost development time for Buxton, as he first dealt with a wrist injury that kept him on the shelf for months and then suffered a concussion that ended his year after just 31 games. The consolation is that the 20-year-old will be ready to play in the Arizona Fall League, but the additional plate appearances are far from enough to make up for what Buxton missed. It’s more of a ramp into the offseason. But make no mistake: The status and hype for this toolsy, ultra-athletic prospect were more than warranted entering the season. Buxton has a special look. Whether it’s the way he glides in center field or how the head of the bat effortlessly rips through the hitting zone, the game seems to come naturally to Buxton. It can be mesmerizing. Now, I’m very much on board with Buxton as a .300 hitter in his prime with home run totals in the twenties, but the shine can’t change that this choppy season of development time will stall him. Whether it’s brief will be the question. –Chris Mellen

Bralin Jackson, OF, Rays (Short-Season Hudson Valley)
Jackson caught my eye a few years ago at fall instructs, but the progression thus far in pro ball has been slow. Tampa Bay has brought the 20-year-old along methodically, mainly because his pitch recognition and approach were raw coming out of high school. Jackson can swing the stick, flashing above-average bat speed with some leverage at the point of contact. When I’ve seen Jackson square up an offering, there’s a distinct sound and backspin that points to the ability to do some damage at the plate. The issue is how frequently Jackson actually does square up. He’s routinely way out on his front foot trying to hit secondary stuff and is defensive in the box, especially when hitting with a strike. The club has been wise to bring him along at a reduced pace, but I wonder whether Jackson has enough ability to pick up spin. Growth in this aspect is the key to unlocking his offensive talent. Players like Jackson always intrigue me because it can suddenly click after very subtle signs. It’s a long shot, but worth a slow marinade to see if a legit hitter emerges. –Chris Mellen

Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox (Complex Gulf Coast League)
Even as the team's youngest player, Devers stands out as the best player on the field. Already well built, he doesn't look like a 17-year-old who has only been playing in the country for two months. In the box, he shows plus bat speed from the left side as well as plus control of the barrel. He is already comfortable in the run-producer role, looking to drive the ball with authority in all counts. He can over-swing at times and can get rotational, but it's nothing that can't be chalked up to being a teenager. Once he learns to stay through the ball and use the entire field (something he already shows signs of doing), he has the potential to be a great hitter. Despite his aggressive nature, he has a patient approach at the plate and is comfortable hitting in deep counts. He already shows good power and should eventually have plus in-game power. Defensively, he moves well at third base for a player with a solid lower half, and while he may eventually have to move off the position, he at least has a chance to stay there throughout his twenties. He has a plus arm that plays up nicely on the left side as well. Devers is still quite far from the majors, but he's considerably closer than most of his peers. If he were born in this country, he would be an early draft pick in next year's draft, perhaps in consideration for the first overall selection. He has the potential to be an impact talent. –Jeff Moore

Dante Bichette Jr., 3B, Yankees (Double-A Trenton)
After slugging .271/.352/.410 in the Florida State League, Bichette was finally promoted to Trenton to see how authentic his talents really are. Bichette has an open stance at the plate, which seems to help him keep balance and keep his hips rotating with torque. He is able to push the ball well to the opposite field and displayed strong gap power to right-center in batting practice and in-game. However, his issues stem from his ability to pull his hands in and connect with mid-to-high velocity. He does not have the quick-twitch muscle to manipulate his barrel in this manner, which causes issues for any pitcher who can run a fastball in on his hands. His issues with recognizing spin also prove to be detrimental at the plate, as he opens his stance even more and becomes extremely unbalanced. His feet shuffle too much, causing unnecessary movement in all phases of his swing. Bichette has plus raw power, but his ability to make consistent contact will be tested at Double-A next season, and he will need to make serious adjustments in order to become an impact player with the bat. –Tucker Blair

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