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October 15, 2012

Monday Morning Ten Pack

October 15

by BP Prospect Staff

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Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (Low-A Lake County)
The best shortstops in baseball all share a similar skill set, and this is as true at the lowest levels of the game as it is at the highest. To play on the left side of the diamond, you need the arm, you need the fielding actions, you need the range, and, most importantly, you need the instincts. You might be able to placate the defensive Gods with an average arm, or sloppy actions, or even less-than-desirable range, but what can push a skill set beyond its physical state (or limit it to the simple actions of that state) are the feel and instincts for the game itself. Francisco Lindor is as instinctual on the field as any prospect you will find, existing in his surroundings like he was born and raised in the dirt-filled area between second and third. He moves in this space like I move in a bar. His baseball intelligence and makeup are off-the-chart, and even when you create a new chart specifically designed to measure his baseball intelligence and makeup, he’s off that chart as well.Jason Parks  

Zack Wheeler, RHP, Mets (Triple-A Buffalo)
Often pitchers with plus stuff can get away with mistakes, especially when they’re in the low minors, or else they consistently lean on a pitch or two because they are that much better than their competition. The progression into higher levels typically forces them to either adjust quickly or hit the proverbial wall. I caught Wheeler during his time with Double-A Binghamton this year and the stuff was exceptional. He toyed with the hitters, using an electric arsenal: a 92-96 mph fastball, a tight mid-to-high 70s curveball with deep break and finish, an 83-86 mph slider, and a low-80s changeup. Wheeler also showed the ability and knowledge to utilize his whole repertoire, often setting up batters with varied sequences or ruthlessly exploiting weaknesses. I did come away from the outing with some needs going forward, mainly in the form of improving the fastball command due to being late with his delivery at times. The heater can stay up in the zone, but I kept coming back to the pitchability Wheeler showed for a 22-year-old. He pitched like a mature veteran and player with a lot more experience, consistently poised and in control. The knowledge or high IQ of how to execute the craft, rather than just relying on pure stuff, is a positive sign pointing towards both growth going forward and the ability to adjust once he does reach the majors.Chris Mellen

Austin Hedges, C, Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne)
Despite only nine games of professional experience, the Padres elected to send their 2011 second round pick to the full-season wolves in 2012, an aggressive move, especially given his developmentally demanding position. But when you talk to scouts about instincts and feel for a defensive craft, you won’t find many catchers in the minors who can live up to the intellectual perceptions that Austin Hedges has created with his defensive acumen; he carries himself on the field like a seasoned veteran, and his preternatural understanding and execution of his defensive responsibilities are more than just precocious, they are worth the price of a ticket. Catching is the most demanding position on the diamond, both mentally and physically, and it takes more than just raw tools to excel at the highest level. Under-the-hood, the best catchers have the ability to manage the psychological climate of the game, playing numerous roles and utilizing numerous skills. Unfortunately, you can’t teach a player how to use the force; they either have it or they don’t. When it comes to minor league catchers, the force is very strong with Austin Hedges, and if the bat can find a way to play, the defensive skills could make him a first-division talent and among the best backstops in the game.Jason Parks

Albert Almora, OF, Cubs (Boise, Short-season A)
On tools alone Albert Almora projects to an above-average regular on a first division team, but it is his feel for the game that gives him an All-Star ceiling.  Almora may be able to play an above-average Major League center field right now off the strength of his reads and routes, which combine to allow his above-average speed to play almost a full grade higher. He plays with a high degree of comfort that also comes through on the bases and at the plate. While he isn’t blessed with excessive physicality, he has a clean, fluid swing with enough bat speed and plane to project to solid power. Through high school, USA Baseball stints on multiple teams, and his first summer of professional ball, he has consistently earned high grades for his work ethic and commitment to furthering his understanding of the game.  While “high baseball IQ” is generally noted as a trait that helps lift an otherwise limited player, in Almora’s case it may be the variable that allows a good talent to eventually grow into a household name.Nick Faleris

Rougned Odor, 2B, Rangers (Low-A Hickory)
Odor is a prospect that has more polish than high-end projection, and the age-to-level significance of his status often receives more attention than his tools; even though he’s not a classic toolshed, the 18-year-old infielder can boast several above-average physical weapons, like a hit tool that projects as a 6+, an arm that is a 6, and a glove that has the characteristics of a plus tool. He lacks a  wide gap between the present and the future of his tools, which allows him to play against much older competition, but it also clouds his future image: how much better will the tools get?  Regardless, the tools as they stand now already play up in game action thanks to a mature approach on all sides of the ball; a certain feel for baseball that’s hard to describe. When a ball is hit, Odor is the type of fielder that is already shifting towards the ball before you even realize it was hit. It gives him range beyond his initial quickness and speed. At the plate, he tracks and reacts in a way that can’t be taught, and his feel for making contact is very natural and easy. Usually, second basemen who receive the “gritty” and “grinder” labels are built on the sum of their parts, and are forced to break expectations at every stop along the way. Odor breaks jaws and he breaks hearts, but he’s bringing a high baseball IQ and legit tools to the table, so what you might see as grit is really just #swagger and a confidence that comes from knowing the game you are paid to play. Jason Parks 


Jackie Bradley, OF, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
In scouting Bradley this season the physical ability certainly did stand out: quick wrists that generate plenty of bat speed, a plus-to-better arm out in center field, above-average athleticism, and a polished batting eye. These traits give Bradley a strong foundation towards rounding into a major leaguer, but it’s another one that really enhances his overall game: the instincts. Despite not possessing above-average speed, Bradley covers tremendous ground in center from gap-to-gap. He seemingly moves before the crack of the bat and is always heading in the right direction at contact. Rarely does he look pressed when tracking fly balls, often making difficult plays look routine and doing so in a graceful fashion where he always appears to be gliding at one speed.  Without a doubt Bradley is a physically talented player, but it is this innate sense that puts a stamp on the overall package. There’s a strong feel for the game that continues to show when scouting him as he moves up each rank of the minors. It allows him to slow things down, think plays or pitch sequences through before they happen, and most importantly make the necessary adjustments when needed. When looking at Bradley and the high baseball IQ he brings to the table, it leads me to believe he’s going to be a player that fully maximizes his talent and reaches his ceiling.​Chris Mellen


Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
Pederson looks the part of a baseball rat, from the high-octane style of play, to the sweet and short left-handed stroke at the plate, to the dirt caked on the uniform, to the fundamentally sound approach he brings to all sides of the ball. Watching Pederson is watching baseball. But the physical image of a gritty player is only half the equation, and Pederson is more than just an assembly line jock [read: Joc] with a pedigree and a penchant for hustle. Pederson has legit baseball skills, rounded out by legit baseball instincts, which gives his game the type of maturity that allowed him to play at a high level at a young age. Pederson will bring his gamer brand to the Double-A level in 2013, where the 21-year-old has the necessary combination of mental and physical tools to take the next step towards the major leagues.​Jason Parks 


Deven Marrero, SS, Red Sox (Lowell, Short-season A)
Marrero shows an understanding of the shortstop position that is rare. Scouts will often note his “instincts” in the field, which is another way of saying that he has an elite ability to calculate the appropriate action in the field, including the awareness to adjust accordingly as the play unfolds in front of him. He figures to play a plus to plus-plus short at the Major League level due to a left-side arm, excellent body control and good range accompanying his feel for the position. He has enough bat speed and a simple enough approach to project to an average hit tool which, combined with his defense, could make him a top 10 shortstop at the Major League level if all develops accordingly.​Nick Faleris


Robbie Erlin, LHP, Padres (Double-A San Antonio)
Robbie Erlin is the most cerebral minor league pitcher I’ve ever been around, and his approach to the art of pitching and the science of learning about pitching is on another level. Not gifted with the physical presence to intimidate or an arsenal to terrorize, Erlin built his game on pitchability and intelligence, opting to beat hitters by knowing more about their shared battle than they do. A few years ago, Erlin was charting in front of me and I noticed he had a separate notebook under his team chart. Erlin, who was scheduled to pitch against the same opponent the next day, was taking notes on how to exploit his opponents. Here was this ~20-year-old kid, taking notes in addition to his team-required task, in order to better himself against a Carolina league team. You just don’t see that kind of individual effort very often. Erlin’s profile isn’t sexy, as most undersized command/control types have small margins for error and not much (if any) room for arsenal projection. But Erlin’s baseball intelligence and approach are 80s on the 20-80 scale, and if it comes down to a battle of preparation and wit, the diminutive southpaw will have a much needed advantage.​Jason Parks


Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
It took Hernandez four years to escape short-season ball, but he has been on the fast track since making his full-season debut in 2011, reaching Triple-A for the first time last August. He set career highs in doubles (30), triples (12), and total bases (215) this year while hitting .291/.329/.404 between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, earning Eastern League All-Star accolades along the way. Despite the spike in extra-base pop, Hernandez will never have better than gap power, the chief reason some scouts peg him as a future major-league utility infielder. He has good speed, but poor instincts on the base paths, leading to a 64 percent success rate (44-for-69) in stolen base attempts over the last two seasons. In the field, Hernandez draws praise for his smooth actions and strong throwing arm, and most believe he could provide at least average range at shortstop, though he hasn’t played the position since he was a 17-year-old in the Venezuelan Summer League.​Bradley Ankrom

Related Content:  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor League Baseball

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