May 4, 2015
Monday Morning Ten Pack
May 4, 2015
Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks)
Correa historically has walked at a higher rate than the eight percent in a small sample that he’s shown this year, but with the consistent hard contact against Double-A pitching that he’s shown so far, he hasn’t had much reason to take. While Correa’s currently striking out at a higher rate than he has in previous seasons, nothing in the sample I saw suggests that this is more than an early-season aberration, and his feel for hitting should assert itself in the numbers soon. Listed at 6-foot-4, and weighing 210 pounds, Correa certainly towers over the average shortstop prospect, but has an extremely quick first step and the arm to make plays from all over the infield. The Astros have had a long way to go from the laughingstock of baseball to hopeful contender, but the potential shown by Correa will help them stay there. –Kate Morrison
Ozhaino Albies, SS, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome Braves)
Albies shows feel for both sides of the plate, though he looks a touch more natural from the left side. He has excellent bat speed from quick hands to the zone. He can bail out of his swing at times by not finishing and settling for the soft ground ball, which results in poor barrel authority. Power will never be part of his game, but the swing projects for a lot of contact, and it’s easy to see why some are already prepared to slap a potential 6 on the hit tool.
I might be a little higher than most on Albies’ defensive profile, but he impressed me greatly over a recent series to the point of giving him plus-potential marks across the board. He has a natural feel for shortstop and should easily stick. The future potential is a first-division player. –David Lee
JaCoby Jones, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates (High-A Bradenton Marauders)
Jones is playing shortstop at the moment, though it won’t be his long-term home. His athleticism gives him the necessary range, but his arm is below average for the position. He can make the routine plays, but he doesn’t have enough to make the throw from the six hole. Third base could be an option, where the routine throws are shorter, but he’d struggle to make the backhand throw there as well. He could play either in a pinch, giving him some utility versatility in the future; however his best home will either be at second base or in the outfield.
The swing is similarly unorthodox, starting closed with a wide stance and moving open to start. The swing can get long which will cause him to swing and miss some, but he makes up for it with plus bat speed. The path needs to be shortened, but his natural skill helps him make up for his lack of refinement. He struggles with recognition of breaking balls from right-handed pitchers, which will ultimately limit his utility and could force him in a platoon role.
There are flaws in Jones’ game, but his size/speed combination is intriguing. His versatility in the field, pop at the plate, and speed on the bases could make him a valuable role player in a Sean Rodriguez/Justin Turner/Mike Aviles type of mold. –Jeff Moore
Lance McCullers, RHP, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi)
Four innings of utter dominance and tenacity entertained me. McCullers was attacking the Frisco hitters and the strike zone pitch after pitch. With a fastball range of 94-97 mph and slider that left knees either buckled or broken, I sat and watched with jaw wide open. McCullers’ line at the end of it all was four innings pitched, four hits, one run (zero earned), no walks, and nine strikeouts. The stuff was there, a 70-grade fastball with 70 slider; two big-league bullpen ready pitches. His changeup was a little hard for my liking (89 mph) but was more of a show-me pitch than anything, something to keep hitters honest. His mechanics were fluid and easy, and he loaded up his backside well, getting all he could out of his frame. His arm was quick and whip like, showing me he stays very loose throughout his delivery.
What impressed me the most was his plan of attack and purpose with each pitch, identifying weaknesses in hitters’ swings and taking advantage of them. Pitchers often give hitters too much credit and deviate from their plan, but McCullers never did. With a bulldog-type mentality and a “you can’t touch my stuff” attitude, I came away thoroughly impressed by this first-rounder. I’m honestly surprised he’s still in Double-A at this point as I’m of the mind frame that organizations should promote consistent, hot arms like his. Who knows, if the Astros maintain the battle for the top of the AL West, McCullers could be an easy and worthy addition down the stretch. –Colin Young
Preston Tucker, OF, Houston Astros (Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies)
At the plate, Tucker stays balanced and works with a violent swing that produces plenty of power. He isn’t particularly adept at finding the barrel—I wonder if he’d benefit from toning his swing down by about five percent or so—although he has enough bat speed, natural strength, and loft in his swing to do damage even when he doesn’t make perfect contact. He’s average in the field, and he has a strong enough arm to play in right, although Fresno has used him more in left this season. Tucker isn’t a quick runner, but he’s heady on the bases: on Friday, he stole his first base of the season, timing slow-to-the-plate Forrest Snow perfectly and swiping the bag with ease.
While Tucker currently leads the PCL in homers, Astros fans hoping to see him in Houston soon should pump the breaks. The left-handed slugger is still learning how to barrel advanced breaking pitches and despite his improving plate discipline, Tucker is still prone to expanding the zone too often. One scout I spoke with acknowledges both the developmental road ahead and Tucker’s ultimate potential to impact games with his bat, saying, “He’s still chasing too often, and big-leaguers will exploit that. But he’ll hit.” –Brendan Gawloski
Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox (MLB)
We don’t know how long Swihart will stay with the big club and whether the plan will be acquire someone with more experience so he can continue to refine his game at Pawtucket, but I fully expect the youngster to be able to hang behind the plate. The makeup here grades high, with the way he goes about his business on the field and approach to the game sticking out as a big positive. Sure, there could be some awkward moments or plays for the rookie, but it’s all part of the learning process, and the experience logged, whether it’s a few games or stretch of weeks, will go a long way towards leaving Swihart with the impression of what exactly he needs to do to be successful in the long-run at the big-league level. –Chris Mellen
Austin Wilson, OF, Seattle Mariners (High-A Bakersfield Blaze)
Wilson once oozed athleticism—and he’s still a decent athlete despite his massive stature—but the athletic swing that he possessed as a prep at one point in 2014 was nowhere to be found. There was some head movement and he didn’t stay balanced, and that, along with slowing bat speed, makes it difficult to project even a fringe-average hit tool at this point. The size and ability to transfer weight still give him a chance to hit for power, but the flat plane (no, he doesn’t suffer from the Stanford swing, his one saving grace) bring it from plus-plus territory to plus, maybe even just above average.
He’s still a decent corner outfielder with a strong throwing arm, though he’s not going to remind anyone of Jayson Heyward in right. What was once a potential middle-of-the-order bat now looks like a situational player, and that’s pretty disappointing. –Christopher Crawford
Tyler Marlette, C, Seattle Mariners (High-A Bakersfield Blaze)
While Marlette certainly has the offensive upside to be an everyday backstop, the defensive profile is still a work in progress, to put it mildly. He’s not a great receiver and his below-average athleticism along with an only average arm and below-0average footwork make him more detriment than asset when it comes to shutting down the running game. If he can become even a below-average defender he’s got a chance to start for someone behind the plate, but as is, I see an offensive-minded backup. –Christopher Crawford
Cole Tucker, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates (Low-A West Virginia Power)
At the plate, Tucker displays barrel control from both sides, with the left side currently more slap-happy than drive-happy. He displayed plus bat speed and quick hands through the zone, and the ball jumped off the bat more than I was expecting for a player that is so wiry. The Pirates may have been aggressive with their assignment of Tucker, but the results on the field will begin to turn more heads than the assignment. –Tucker Blair
Victor Reyes, RF, Arizona Diamondbacks(Low-A Kane County Cougars)