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April 3, 2009

Future Shock

Arizona Scouting Notebook

by Kevin Goldstein

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As spring training camps prepare to break, here's what some scouts on the left side of the country have been talking about while they wrap things up in the desert.

One player receiving nearly universal praise was White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham, who was sent down to the minors (he'll begin the year at Double-A) at the end of March after batting .270/.325/.568 in 37 at-bats. The 2008 first-round pick has just 14 pro games on his resumé, but he still almost made the team. "As a pro scout, I'd never seen him, so he came here with a lot of hype and I went in looking for something not to like," said one evaluator. "I was totally knocked out by him. He works the count like a pro, centers the ball every time up-he's just doing everything right," he concluded. Another scout who saw Beckham was equally impressed, saying that only his lack of experience was working against him when it came to roster decisions. "If he was 24 and was a guy with a couple of years in the minors," the scout explained, "he just flat-out would have made this team."

Another 2008 first-round pick earning glowing reports is Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak, who hit .280/.357/.600 over 25 at-bats in big-league camp. "He's just fun to watch-he certainly looks like he belongs in big-league games, and the team doesn't miss a beat with him out there," said one scout, who had even stronger words for the former South Carolina star when the subject of Smoak being blocked by Chris Davis came up. "He's going to be better than Davis," the scout concluded. "He's going to be an All-Star, no question about it."

The scout was also impressed with Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden, who has hit .300/.364/.700 this spring, re-kindling the debate over whether he or Jarrod Saltalamacchia should be the team's everyday option behind the plate. "Teagarden is just an unbelievable defender, and he really shuts the running game down," said the scout. "And I think he's going to hit," he added. "He's narrowed the gap offensively more than Salty, who has gotten better behind the plate defensively. It's a nice problem to have."

Indians outfielder Matt LaPorta had a tough second half of the 2008 season after being the primary talent acquired in the CC Sabathia deal. Based on what scouts saw this spring, the bat is back, and the numbers agree as he hit .361/.439/.611 in 36 at-bats before being reassigned to Triple-A. "He looked good enough to be in the big leagues to me," said one scout. "If they need a corner outfielder, I wouldn't feel uncomfortable at all starting him in the big leagues-he should be one of their first call-ups unless they decide to work his service clock."

One-Liners From the Desert

Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers: "He's been much more consistent with the glove, and the Rangers don't need much from him offensively. He'll hit .255-.260 with seven home runs and be fine."

Kyle Blanks, 1B, Padres: "I was shocked as to how good an athlete he is, but I can't get past how weird he is at the plate. I still haven't seen him really drive a ball, and I can't see how he does with that short swing."

Andrew Cashner, RHP, Cubs: "He wasn't throwing a lot of strikes, but based on just his delivery and arm action-I'm buying it."

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals: "What a monster. I love Moustakas, but Hosmer is better."

Brett Lawrie, 2B, Brewers: "He sure can hit, but I don't know what they're going to do with him now that he's not a catcher. Second base was just a joke. No way, no how he's going to be able to stay there."

Beau Mills, 1B, Indians: "He can hit, but he looks like a DH in the making. I was surprised at how bad he was at first base because, you know, he's supposed to be a professional athlete."

Carlos Santana, C, Indians: "I know there are questions about his defense, but he sure looked good to me back there."

Rising Stars From the Land of the Rising Sun

Plenty of scouts in Arizona were assigned to take a five-hour drive (scouts tend to drive fast) to San Diego to pick up some World Baseball Classic action, and the talk of the tournament was the pitching in Asia, with one scout saying, "If you let me grab the best from Korea and Japan, I'd have a legitimate major league staff." Of course, the talk of the town was Japanese ace Yu Darvish, who the scout put down as a #1 big-league starter. "I could see a Dice-K adjustment period," said the scout, "but he could be better in the end." Unlike breaking down most pitchers, going through Darvish's entire arsenal takes a long time. "He's up to 93-96 mph with his four-seam fastball, but he throws a sinker and a cutter and things in between, with the 91 mph pure cutter just being a ridiculous pitch," the scout added. "His slider is a little loopy but it would work, and then he has this slow curve, and then a slurvy thing between the two pitches, and a changeup." As if that wasn't enough, the scout also noted two other pitches in the arsenal, joking that he almost ran out of room on his scouting report. "There's a changeup too, and this kind of splitty thing. You just never know what's coming next."

Japan's other top starter, Hisashi Iwakuma, while not in Darvish's league, was also generally seen as a solid big-leaguer. "It's average stuff, but he can really pitch," explained one scout. "He has superior fastball command to both sides of the plate, and I saw him go three innings without throwing a fastball out of the strike zone, so despite ordinary stuff, he could be a fourth starter."

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

Related Content:  The Who,  Scout

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Jack G

Do you think Darvish is serious about staying in Japan or is that the kind of problem that could be solved by sending a dumptruck full of cash to his house?

Apr 03, 2009 09:19 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

It's really impossible to say -- none of us are in Darvish's head. Think of all the things you wouldn't do for a million dollars . . . I bet you'd change your mind on some of them if one million dollars was actually put it front of you. So there's just no way of knowing. Keep in mind that over in Japan, he is a MONSTER celebrity, pure superstar and as likely to appear in entertainment and gossip rags as he is the sports section due to his marriage to Japanese actress/gurabia aidoru (basically idol -- like in the Lindsay Lohan/Paris Hilton category) Saeko.

Apr 03, 2009 09:39 AM
 
Matthew Avery

KG-

Any chance Cahill or Anderson will have fantasy value this year in a league counting IP and QS?

Apr 03, 2009 09:35 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Yes.

Apr 03, 2009 09:39 AM
 
Matthew Avery

Suppose you had to pick just one.... :-)

Apr 03, 2009 11:54 AM
rating: 0
 
Ira

I guess you missed Feliz and Holland in your trip through Suprise :)

Apr 03, 2009 09:47 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I didn't want to overwhelm you with Rangers stuff, but here you go:

Feliz: "Every bit as good as advertised -- he was up to 98 mph when I saw him. If I have to find something not to like, sometimes he's a little flat through the zone and he needs to learn how to adjust to getting hit and for now, he just tries to throw harder."

Holland: "I saw him all list year and he just looks more and more polished each time I see him. He topped out at 96 mph for me and his breaking ball was much better."

Apr 03, 2009 10:03 AM
 
Wyomissing

One more Ranger player question.. What about Max Ramirez? Will he play AAA? Is he still in the mix with Teagarden and Salty? Are they thinking more of 1B for Ramirez?

Apr 05, 2009 22:39 PM
rating: 0
 
mswain784

A lot of very positive stuff here- anybody come to camp overweight and out of shape?

Apr 03, 2009 10:13 AM
rating: 0
 
gilgamesh

Anyone else particularly disappointing who came in well-touted?

Any good stuff on Viciedo & Logan Morrison? Thanks.

Apr 03, 2009 10:13 AM
rating: 1
 
mswain784

I'd like to hear about Viciedo too, what is his ETA after seeing him in camp? A comp maybe?

Apr 03, 2009 10:15 AM
rating: 0
 
yonkosmj

I have a few guys that seemed to have a great camp that I would like a little more input on.

Kendry Morales, Travis Snider, Cody Ross, Nick Adenhart, Brandon Wood.

With the loaded Angles team, is there any possibility they move Wood for an arm to cope with the Santana and Lackey injuries?

Apr 03, 2009 10:48 AM
rating: 0
 
mswain784

They need all the hitting they can get if they want to beat those Saxons.

Apr 03, 2009 10:55 AM
rating: 3
 
FRL

Thanks Kevin, love the scounting notebook format. Looking forward to another season of Future Shock.

Apr 03, 2009 13:07 PM
rating: 0
 
jarjets89

Do scouts like Angel Salome? i know he doesnt have a normal body and i just read moneyball and he seems like the perfect example of a guy who would be underappreciated by the scouts who ignored jeremy brown in moneyball. Don't get all mad at me saying im stupid and moneyball is my bible and stuff like that.

Apr 03, 2009 17:10 PM
rating: 0
 
evo34

I agree with fredlummis. This is a great format to relay info. we would never otherwise see. The more you can supply direct scout opinions, the better.

Apr 04, 2009 00:09 AM
rating: 1
 
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