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August 11, 2006

Future Shock

Scouting Notebook, 8/11/06

by Kevin Goldstein

Cameron Maybin led off yesterday's center field rankings, so he'll pull double duty by leading off today's scouting notebook as well. The 10th overall pick in last year's draft has had an outstanding year in his full-season debut, batting .320/.401/.477 for Low Class A West Michigan, and one American League scout who recently caught Maybin walked away very impressed. "He can run... real fast," said the scout. "He has two styles almost, in that he rockets down the line, and when going from first to third he takes these big loping strides." Despite the impressive statistics, the scout saw plenty of room for improvement, particularly in the power department, as Maybin has just six home runs in 300 at-bats. "He's raw, but the power is going to come with his kind of size," he added. "There are some holes in his swing, but once he learns how to let the ball get deep into the strike zone and trust his hands, he'll hit plenty of balls out."

Also getting some late-season attention in the Midwest League is Twins lefthander Alexander Smit, who may be in his fourth pro season at only in Low A, but is still just 20 years old and has blossomed in a late-season move to the rotation, going 4-0 with a 2.52 ERA in nine starts while allowing just 30 hits in 50 innings and striking out 66. "He's completely changed my mind about him," said an American League scout, who saw Smit last year as well, when he had a 5.84 ERA. "Last year he was like 83-85 mph and now he's suddenly 89-92 and pitching very well." While Smit fired seven one-hit innings last night with 11 strikeouts, the scout still thinks he'll need to make some adjustments as he moves up. "He really pitches off that fastball and has plenty of deception, but as he advances, he's going to have to tighten up his secondary stuff."

Another relatively unknown pitcher at Beloit who is now getting some attention is 22-year-old Venezuelan righty Yohan Pino, who has closed, started and pitched long relief for the Snappers, compiling a 2.31 ERA in 70 innings while allowing 55 hits and amassing an impressive 80/16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. While Pino's stuff isn't overwhelming, his ability to mix things up and throw strikes gives him a chance, according to the scout. "He's 89-91 mph and he sinks it and cuts it--the cutter he uses against lefties as a really good pitch," said the scout--and the stats back it up, as left handers are betting just .200 in 115 at-bats against Pino without a home run. "He has good command and knows how to set up hitters," the scout added. "You don't have to have great stuff at this level to get guys out--so we need to see how it plays at more advanced levels, but he's an interesting guy."

Many predicted a breakout campaign from Devil Rays righthander Wade Davis this year, and he certainly was on his way during the first two months of the season; after 10 starts, the 2004 third-round pick had a Gibson-esque 1.00 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 54 innings. What has happened since remains a bit of a mystery, but the 20-year-old Davis has a 5.16 ERA since and one scout who recently saw him saw a pitcher with reduced velocity and control. "I had heard a lot about him going in, but he only got it up to 94 mph for me," said the scout about Davis, who was routinely getting into the mid-90s earlier in the year. "He didn't have command of anything really and he was forced to overuse his breaking ball to get guys out. He didn't pitch for me, he was more of just a thrower."

One pitcher who started the year in the Midwest League but is now pitching well in the California League is Angels righthander Nick Adenhart. One of the top high school arms going into the 2004 season, Adenhart missed most of his senior year when he injured his elbow and required Tommy John surgery, but while most teams assumed Adenhart would play college ball at North Carolina, Angels scouting director Eddie Bane selected him in the 14th round and signed him for $710,000. While he was not able to pitch until 2005, it now looks like the bargain of the century, as Adenhart had a 1.95 ERA in 16 starts for Low Class A Cedar Rapids before getting bumped up to Rancho Cucumonga, where he has a 3.21 ERA in eight outings and has allowed just three runs in his last 20 innings. "When I watched him pitch I was reminded in some ways of Matt Cain when he was here," said an American League scout who saw the 19-year-old Adenhart earlier this month. "They have two things in common--age and deception," added the scout, who then went into detail about how Adenhart's unique arm action mimics Cain's. "Both guys do it really easy and the arm is quick really late, as it only starts going once it passes his head and gets out front. From behind the plate there doesn't look to be a ton of life so you wonder how he's getting so many swings and misses--you don't really get a good feel for how quick the arm is because it's so loose and easy. But from the side, you see the easy part of the arm swing and that once it gets up by the head it gets really fast, really quickly."

Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus was also ranked yesterday, and while he's struggled to a .219/.310/.350 showing at High Class A Palm Beach after tearing through the Midwest League, one National League scout still saw plenty of potential in last year's first-round pick. "He was a better athlete and a better runner than I expected," said the scout. "He's got a loose and lively body and there's no doubt in my mind that he's a real center fielder who can stay there." On the season, Rasmus has 14 home runs, and the scout thinks Rasmus could end up with enough power to hit 15-20 home runs annually in the big leagues. "He's very slender right now, so he's still going to fill out. But the bat speed is there now, and that's the most important thing."

Pitching for Palm Beach is 20-year-old lefthander Jaime Garcia, who has been one of the breakout performers in the minor leagues this year, going from a 22nd-round pick last June to the Futures Game in July. The National League scout who saw him recently insisted that his performance this year is anything but a fluke. "I wasn't sure what to expect, but his first pitch was 93 mph and I was like, 'Hello!" and then he held onto the velocity all night." While Garcia is very good now, the scout didn't have much projection for him, however. "He's kind of stocky and mature physically for his age, so I don't think his stuff is going to get much better, but what he has is pretty good. You are talking about a lefthander with a plus fastball, plus curve and a chance for a plus change--he could be a number three starter, so that's a hell of a find." Though the scout did have concerns about his workload. "I'm surprised at how many innings he's thrown for a guy who just got drafted. He's probably in the 130s now [136.1 to be exact] and when I saw him he was gassed in the sixth but they pitched him into the eighth. I'm now sure why they are taking that risk."

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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