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March 11, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Backfields Notes: San Diego Padres

by Jason Parks

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Thanks to Randy Smith and the magic of the internet, I found out that the Padres were going to throw 10 of their youngest and brightest arms in a controlled backfield game against Indian Hills junior college at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. These are the scouting situations I dream about, and Jason Cole and I arrived eager and early to find we were the only non-team personnel on the scene, a duo of emotion soon resulted: Anxiety. Are we allowed to be here? Why are we the only ones here? Excitement: We are the only ones here!

Set-up: each prospect arm would get one inning of work. It was a controlled game, which just means the on-site team personnel could roll an inning if a pitcher exceeded his pitch count or if the bats were simply destroying the opponent, which would be the case on a few occasions during the 10-inning affair. I didn’t focus on the bats, although several promising sticks graced the field during the game, and I didn’t pay much attention to the Indian Hills team. These are the bare-bones scouting notes I took. Take them as snapshots of an early March afternoon and not the canvas that will one day hang in the majors. Normally, I would just keep these notes for personal use throughout the year, but I was so impressed with the young arms on the field that I needed to voice these thoughts at the earliest possible convenience. I’m not sure any org in baseball can brag on lower-level pitching like the Padres. Here are the notes:  

1st inning: (RHP) Matthew Wisler

Herky jerky mechanics; head snaps on follow-through; offers deception with noisy delivery and low-hand setup and late break; despite some effort, stayed in a good line to the plate; release point was consistent; everything worked; fastball was lively pitch in the 93-94 range; touched 95; appeared to jump on the hitters; hard to pick up out of the hand; slider was hard at 85 mph; good tilt; curveball was 78 with tight rotation; changeup was firm at 88 but arm speed was good and it missed a barrel; showed the ability to throw four pitches for strikes; fastball had some muscle; two distinct breaking balls; worked fast and attacked the zone. Baseball Prospectus ranked Wisler no. 8 on the Padres Top 10, and he looks like a pitcher that could be in the top five in a year.

2nd Inning: (LHP) Frank Garces

Lower three-quarter slot; limited height; bit of a slinger; brings a high leg in the delivery; high balance point before drive; fastball was 91-92 and touched 93 twice; fastball command wasn’t sharp; curveball was big and showed depth at 75-77; plus potential pitch; 80 mph changeup had some action to the arm-side; ~1.5 to plate from stretch with runners on; short lefty with a good fastball, good curveball, and some feel.

3rd Inning: (RHP) Joe Ross

Highly projectable; long arms/legs; higher arm slot; high three-quarters; good angles created; Beckett-like mechanics; lots of torque; arm is crazy fast; fastball worked 93-94 and touched 95 on last two punchouts; struck out the side; very easy; good late arm-side run; explosive; slider was 84 and sharp; missed a barrel; a little deliberate in release; lots of swings and misses in brief inning; didn’t see changeup; didn’t face lefty; hard to ignore raw stuff; very impressive young arm; high ceiling/impact potential.

4th Inning: (RHP) Justin Hancock

Long legs; athletic; three-quarters slot; worked fast; fastball was lively; easy plus movement (arm-side burst); worked 92-94; pretty easy; flashed a plus potential low-80s changeup; bat misser to lefty; low 80s slider that he dropped for strike on a righty; blew 96 by the final hitter for the punch out; wow stuff from tall, projectable arm.

5th Inning: (RHP) Erik Cabrera

Full overhead wind-up; comes high-front side; creates some angle; falls off to first base side in follow through; opens up; standard three-quarter slot; arm is quick; fastball was 93-94, touched 95; throwing across body and missing to glove side; showed promising 79-83 slider; missed barrels and was thrown in the zone for strikes; appeared to manipulate the pitch; could add length/velo; was 1.4 to plate with runners on from the stretch/no windup.

6th Inning: (LHP) Brandon Alger

Favorite delivery of the day; very smooth; good timing/balance; standard three-quarters release; from the stretch; two-seam fastball was 89-90; good sink; wasn’t locating early, but command improved; could spot on glove-side corner; dropped 72 mph CB for strikes to lefty; long break; 80-81 slider looked good; good slice; missed bats with pitch; thrown for strikes; didn’t see changeup.

7th Inning: (RHP) Leonel Campos

High three-quarters slot; comes high front side; some effort; fastball was 92-93; loose command; dropped vertical breaking ball that looked like standard three-quarter curve at 86 mph; it was extremely nasty and I can’t really explain it except to say it really did look like a violent curveball; nastiest secondary pitch of the day; I’m still thinking about it.

8th Inning: (LHP) Max Fried

Easy; smooth; high three-quarters slot; good balance; good timing; maintains a good line to the plate; looks comfortable; owns it; fastball was 90-93; touched 94; velo was ticking up; started 90 and closed out touching 94; good sink on fastball; command was loose, but was getting squeezed for strikes; one curveball at 71 mph; very long; best CB at 77; very good feel for pitch; lots of depth; 83 mph changeup; good fade; good release; showed three pitches with above-average potential; loved the composure when obvious strikes were called balls; hammer is legit; strong showing.

9th Inning: (RHP) Tayron Guerrero

Looks 7 feet tall on the mound; listed at 6’ 7’’; incredibly long limbs; lanky; gets crazy extension; basically slapping hitter with his release; smooth for size; easiest release I’ve seen on backfield since Neftali Feliz; might even be easier than Feliz; started at 92 with fastball but it looked 82 because of ease; hit 95 on next pitch; sat 94-95 after that; touched 97; was on his way to triple digits; instructional league reports had him working 97-99 and touching 100; command wasn’t sharp, but wasn’t as wild as expected; dropped two sliders at 80 mph; both for strikes; FIL reports had slider up to upper-80s; looks to have elite closer potential because of fastball; no idea if he can find command with that wingspan; no idea if secondary arsenal is major-league quality; fastball is high-impact pitch; makeup reports are very strong; big-time sleeper prospect.

10th inning: (RHP) Walker Weickel

Tall; lanky; thin lower half; lots of room to fill out; overhead windup; high three-quarters; good angle; easy release; fastball was 88-90; good sink; more velo in that arm; 68-72 CB; very long break; as the arm ticks up, the CB is going to be a plus pitch; showed a 78 CH; some fade; good overall profile.

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

boatman44

Thanks Jason, great piece, sounds like Tayron Guerrero maybe very exciting in the future.

Mar 11, 2013 02:16 AM
rating: 0
 
tmangell

Professor: thanks for the recon on these young arms. By the way, heard you on WGN's Cubs Weekly program yesterday afternoon - outstanding job! They should book you on WGN more often.

Mar 11, 2013 05:09 AM
rating: 0
 
Schaffpa71

Question on the mechanics. Which of these guys do you think are most at risk for injury based on how they throw? I've liked what I've read about Wisler in the past, but phrases like "herky-jerky" and "noisy delivery" give me some pause.

Good stuff overall!

Mar 11, 2013 06:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

I can't predict injury in a 30-game sample much less a one-inning burst. Some pitchers can just make it work. While some deliveries were better than others, I don't think it would be responsible to discuss injury risk without a much longer sample/evidence that suggests a trend in the stuff/command.

Mar 11, 2013 08:30 AM
 
MikeyVoges

On Leonel Campos's curveball... is 86 a typo? I've never heard of a CB with that velo and that break. I find myself trying to imagine it and can't. Was it a very hard slider down? Was it like a vicious splitter that just fell away? Would love to hear more about it.

Very interesting piece.

Mar 11, 2013 08:04 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Not a typo. It had the shape of a CB but was thrown at 86 mph, and I was told he calls it a CB. It's funny. I thought it was a slider and it might be a slider, but it looks like a traditional CB on steroids.

Mar 11, 2013 08:25 AM
 
BP staff member Joe Hamrahi
BP staff

I saw the same thing with Archie Bradley last week. I thought it was a slider and yet, according to the D-Backs minor league pitching coach, it's a 12-6 curve. The pitch was thrown as hard as 88 mph. He said Bradley doesn't throw a slider, but instead, a (strong) power curve.

Mar 11, 2013 08:40 AM
 
MikeyVoges

I'm drooling. I hope I get a chance to see this.

Mar 11, 2013 11:27 AM
rating: 0
 
Behemoth

How many of these guys do you think are likely to be major league contributors (assuming health etc hold up)?

Mar 11, 2013 08:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Honest answer? They all have major league projections; most of them have legit impact potential at the highest level. It's pretty sick.

Mar 11, 2013 08:58 AM
 
Behemoth

Thanks for the reply. Curious what sort of projection you'd put on Garces. He's someone I'm not very familiar with.

Mar 11, 2013 16:17 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

He has the arsenal to start, but the limited size and whippy arm might best be suited for the bullpen. It's hard to say at this point and I certainly wouldn't rule out a rotation outcome, but if I had to project him, I'd feel more comfortable calling him a reliever, possibly a 7th inning guy at maturity.

Mar 11, 2013 16:28 PM
 
Craig Goldstein

Great piece. Just wanted to point out that it's Walker Weickel so it could link to his player page.

Mar 11, 2013 09:47 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Fixed.

Mar 11, 2013 10:06 AM
 
Craig Goldstein

I like to imagine Ross as a potential high-2. Is that an unreasonable thought on such a young arm? Thanks for the write up.

Mar 11, 2013 09:55 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Not unreasonable; legit ceiling.

Mar 11, 2013 10:04 AM
 
fahlstrome


Good to hear more info on lesser known guys like Hancock, Guerrero and Campos. Have you heard or seen anything on Eflin or Lockett this spring? The Padres low levels have some serious arms.

Mar 11, 2013 10:16 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

I stood behind them during the backfield game, but I haven't seen them pitch yet.

Mar 11, 2013 10:18 AM
 
ttt

is "Beckett-like mechanics" a good thing?

Mar 11, 2013 10:34 AM
rating: 0
 
DWHennessy

Also interested in this question.

Mar 11, 2013 19:24 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

I don't think its good or bad. Just a visual comp.

Mar 11, 2013 20:30 PM
 
LynchMob

Why have them pitch to JC hitters ... rather than their own minor leaguers?

Mar 11, 2013 12:20 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

It was just an opportunity to get the arms additional work in a controlled environment. Most teams do arrange sim games like this on the backfields during camp.

Mar 11, 2013 15:19 PM
 
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