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August 4, 2006

Future Shock

Scouting Notebook, 8/04/06

by Kevin Goldstein

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Not sticking to one league this time, let's go around the country to see what scouts are saying about some of the top prospects in the game... and some not so top prospects as well.

  • We start in Oklahoma, where one scout recently caught the Rangers' 1-2 punch of Edison Volquez and John Danks playing for the Triple-A Redhawks. The 23-year-old Volquez has a 3.21 ERA in 21 starts, and has limited Pacific Coast League batters to a .203 average, giving up just 86 hits in 120.2 innings while striking out 130, including a season-high 11 in his last start on July 28th before going on the disabled list with a strained calf muscle. "It's going to come down to how much conviction you have that he can be a Pedro Martinez-lite kind of guy," said the veteran scout. To earn that status, the Dominican righthander will need to throw more strikes, as he's handed out a league-leading 72 free passes. "It remains to be seen as to whether he's going to have the command and durability to be a front-of-the-rotation kind of guy," added the scout. "You can't not like him; it just comes down to how much you like him. He's very athletic and was touching 97 mph with good life, and threw a plus changeup and a solid breaking ball."
  • The 21-year-old Danks has a 5.90 ERA in eight starts and has surrendered 10 home runs in just 39.2 innings, but the scout still walked away impressed, feeling that the former first-round pick still has adjustments to make, as he's been moved aggressively through the Texas system. "He's just not going to be ready in the next year or so," said the scout. "He's sitting at 91 mph, but it's straight and often up, so he's throwing a ton of fly balls and that's where the home runs come from. But the velocity is good, he's got a strikeout curve and an above-average change. I really like him."
  • Before missing three weeks with a serious ankle sprain, Cleveland outfielder Trevor Crowe was having a breakout campaign in his full-season debut, batting a combined .328/.442/.462 across three levels, including 52 walks in 253 at-bats and 38 stolen bases. One scout who saw Crowe before the injury saw a player he had no problem with projecting as a major league contributor. "He can fly, and he's a solid center fielder with an above-average, accurate arm," said the scout. "There are certain guys out there, and Crowe is one of them," the scout added. "You see them walk up to the plate and the way they carry themselves and go about their business and handle the strike zone and swing the bat-- they just look like big leaguers."
  • While Crowe was the 14th overall pick in last year's draft, the Tribe took San Diego high school outfielder John Drennen with their next pick, 33rd overall. While Drennen has already had his 15 minutes of fame after taking Roger Clemens deep in The Rocket's first rehab start of the year, one scout sees more good things ahead, but warns that Drennen is more of an average hitter than a real power threat. "He really can hit," said the scout about Drennen, who is batting .317/.406/.456 in 78 games, and has 12 hits in his first 11 games for High Class A Kinston. "Everything they throw up there, he hits--I think he's a .300 hitter in the big leagues and put a 70 [on the 20-to-80 scouting scale] on his bat." Despite the home run that was a constant fixture on ESPN for 24 hours, the scout projects Drennen as no more than a 15-20 home run hitter in the big leagues, and also felt that the center fielder would eventually need to move to a corner outfield spot. "He throws ok and he's an average runner with barely enough range now," the scout added. "I have a lot of trouble thinking he can stay there."
  • Another Indians farmhand, 2004 third-round pick Scott Lewis had logged just 21 innings as a pro entering the 2006 season due to a variety of injuries, but the 22-year-old lefty has had an outstanding year at High Class A Kinston, leading the minor leagues with a 1.41 ERA in 89.1 innings, while allowing just 66 hits and 18 walks and striking out an even 100. One scout who recently evaluated Lewis saw a pitcher for whom the stats did not match the stuff. "He doesn't have what you'd think he'd have based on those numbers," said the scout. "His fastball is 87 mph but he's striking guys out with it and has a big curveball." The scout was not convinced that Lewis' repertoire would work at the upper levels, however. "He gets tons of swings and misses on balls outside the zone--more advanced hitters might be laying off those pitches."
  • To the west coast we go, where one scout recently caught the Lancaster JetHawks and outfield sensation Carlos Gonzalez. The 20-year-old Venezuelan is batting .310/.367/.566 and when he ranked as the No. 3 corner outfield prospect in the minors this week, I wrote about how all scouts use the word 'easy' when describing Gonzalez--and this evaluator was no different. "He has a real easy swing and he never panics at the plate or rushes things," said the scout, "He has a lot to like--he almost reminds me of Carlos Beltran." At the same time, the scout has some concerns about Gonzalez' approach. "I'm not ready to anoint him yet," he joked. "He's got holes both in and away because he tries to pull the ball too much--he's got some adjustments to make." The scout does have one piece of unsolicited advice for Arizona, however, concerning their young prize. "He has great instincts defensively and is very good going back on balls--why not try him in center field? I know Chris Young is pegged there for the future, but they could always move Gonzalez back."
  • The current center fielder at Lancaster is 22-year-old Chris Rahl, and the 2005 fifth-round pick is batting a nifty .343/.374/.530 and leads the minor leagues with 147 hits. The scout, however, was not impressed with what he saw. "He's a fringy guy for me--those are way inflated numbers," he said. "He has no power, no plate discipline, he's just OK in center--I know he's on a roll, but I'm not jumping on that bandwagon."
  • The scout was equally uninspired by JetHawks second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, despite his impressive .320/.371/.435 line. "He can fly, no question about that," said the scout about the 21-year-old Dominican who leads the California League with 44 stolen bases. "But he has too many strikeouts for a speed demon and he's not a great defender, so there's no versatility there. If you can't project him as an everyday guy, he's fringe, because he can't play on the left side of the infield."

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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