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March 14, 2013
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Backfields Notes: Texas Rangers
After minor-league camp’s first pitcher/catcher salvo and before the legitimate backfield games commence in mid-March, teams often schedule prospect-heavy intrasquad games to put eyes on the talent and get the players back in the groove of live action. On the morning of March 10th, the Rangers occupied fields 5 and 6 on the backfields in Surprise; two lower-level minor-league squads on one field, and two upper-minors squads on the other. For a prospect lover, this was like a team-specific Futures Game, only stripped of all the fanfare and pageantry. This is a barebones scouting experience and the notes will reflect that. Jason Cole saddled up to field 5 while I took a seat behind the plate at field 6, where my radar gun almost melted onto my flesh and my phone got so hot that it decided to commit suicide when I asked it to function. Also, Jorge Alfaro hit a home rune and I giggled like a child.
Royce Bolinger (OF): Intriguing 2012 college senior draft pick; legit 7 arm from outfield; at his best on the corners; may be able to handle center in a pinch, though with fringy range; good instincts in the field; righty hitter with feel for hitting; can take the ball to all fields; showed some power to pull side; took a ball to the wall in first at-bat; took 87 mph fastball slightly up and in over left field fence for no-doubt home run next time up; could make jump from short-season to High-A out of camp this spring.
Zach Cone (OF): Big-league body; lots of strength in 6’2”, 205-lb. frame; good athlete; plus defender in corners with average arm; fringy in center; quick bat; flashes plus raw power; offensive tools play down in games due to highly questionable pitch recognition; leads to unbalanced approach; can get caught on front foot against secondaries, making it difficult to square with full authority; has the talent to succeed but must make adjustments.
Jon Edwards (RHP): Reliever all the way; worked exclusively from stretch; large 6’5”, 230-lb. righty with high arm slot; can create steep downward plane with plus velocity; worked 92-94 mph early in inning before finishing at 94-96; also mixed in plus power curve at 83-84; two legit plus pitches; rigid mechanics cause issues with repeatability and command; had trouble keeping front side square to the plate.
Note: A former outfielder in the Cardinals system, the 26-year-old Edwards was signed by the Rangers and converted to the mound full-time in 2012. Over 30 minor-league innings last season, he fanned 37 batters but issued 32 walks.
Randy Henry (RHP): Standard three-quarter arm slot; creates some deception in delivery with shoulder tilt; manipulated fastball extremely well; showed ability to both cut and sink fastball at 88-91 mph, topping 92; didn’t throw anything straight; hard cutter a definite plus; mixed in three average 83-84 mph sliders with good depth; located all three very well; started part-time in 2012 but ultimate bullpen profile.
Jose Leclerc (RHP): Smallish 19-year-old righty; worked from stretch; some effort in delivery; bullpen projection; ultra-fast arm that produced plus velocity; sat at 94 and touched 95 once in one-inning burst; spun a potential plus curveball with good shape at 72-75; arm speed with curve deliberate at times; should throw the pitch harder as he develops; cut 83-84 mph change so much it had the shape of a slider in this look.
Drew Robinson (3B): Smooth line-drive stroke from left side; mature approach; disciplined hitter with a very good eye for the strike zone; frame is close to filling out; worked full count in lefty-lefty situation before taking single to the opposite field; showed smooth actions around the bag at third; solid-average arm strength; made plays to him with no difficulty; was a bit slow with first step to both sides; range may be fringy.
Luis Sardinas (SS): Listed at 6’1”, 150 lbs; weight may be slightly north of that but remains extremely thin; must get stronger in order to stay on the field for a full season; switch-hitter with promising hit tool from both sides; worked full count hitting lefty before taking slider to left field for a single; flashed total defensive package with plus range and arm at shortstop; silky smooth actions; ranged into hole to scoop grounder before making strong, accurate throw to first on the run; little power projection but mix of hit tool, glove, and 7 speed makes him an excellent prospect.
Sam Stafford (LHP): Worked two innings; first game action since undergoing labrum surgery in February 2012; looked healthy; smooth, clean delivery and arm action; good arm speed; mechanics could enable him to stick in starting role if the command allows; fastball sat 88-91 mph, topping at 92; showed improved feel for curveball (72-76) and changeup (81-83) as outing progressed; struggled to find curve for strikes; finished outing with a sharp 75 mph curve with late break down and in on a righty; rudimentary feel for the change; pitch had some sink; difficult to judge stuff this soon post-surgery but early returns are very positive.
Alec Asher (RHP): Big kid; well built; overhead windup; high three-quarters slot; some front-side deception in delivery; stays balanced; throws on good downhill plane; fastball was stiff at 92-94; touched 95; not a big mover, but firm and thrown around the zone; slurvy breaking ball at 79-80; money potential slider at 84-87; very sharp at 87 with some angle; 83-84 mph changeup; good arm speed; not big movement; limited burst, but excellent pitcher’s body and good stuff; could develop into mid-rotation type; worth keeping an eye on.
Nomar Mazara (OF): Intimidating figure; body is legit; 6’4’’ with a frame to project; not as noisy in the box as he once was; more controlled; confident approach; swing is very easy; hands start in good hitting position; excellent hip rotation in swing; turned on 94 mph fastball for long double to right-center gap; showed bat speed; didn’t cheat or leak; keeps head on the ball during process; runs well for size; not a burner but doesn’t clog and should find more consistency when body finds maturity; glove is okay in the outfield; below average with a chance for solid-average future; doesn’t have crazy range; arm is average; another step forward could put this kid in serious prospect company; the raw power is at least a 7; the hit tool might be better than original thought.
Joey Gallo (3B): Good body; physical and very strong; can track pitches well and understands the strike zone; swing has exaggerated plane; will always have miss; lefty-lefty, took an 89 mph fastball left over the plate into the parking lot over the right-center field fence; it might not have landed yet; upper-cut swing, but has bat speed and torque to destroy the ball; legit 8 power; best in system and possibly best in minors; has 40-HR potential; hit tool and overall approach will ultimately decide his power utility; it could be very scary.
Jorge Alfaro (catcher): Plus athlete; very strong with frame to hold more; one of the best athletes in the system; ran 4.2 to first on bad ball (broken bat); slow escape from box because of bat drag; slightly open stance at the plate; fastball eyes and crazy bat speed; looks to get extended and drive the ball; high-leverage swing; keeps weight shifted to the back and explodes into the ball; hands in very good hitting position (low); crushed a 92 mph fastball over left-center fence for home run; tremendous exit velo; jumps out on soft/spinning; power is 7; hit tool is still a question mark, but bat speed is near elite; popped 1.85 from behind the plate; arm strength is an 8; utility getting better; if he wants it, he can be a star.
Victor Payano (LHP): Lanky; tall; projectable body; comes high front-side in delivery with back shoulder dip; high slot; doesn’t get most out of height in delivery; fastball has some muscle but arrives flat; works up; mostly 90-92; touched 93; curveball has depth; very long break at 70-72 mph; can throw the pitch for strikes; not an upper-level pitch in current form; good shape, but long and soft; showed a few changeups at 80-81; some hesitation in the delivery; not much action; great size/promising arsenal; left-handed; fastball needs more life.
Alberto Triunfel (IF): Keeps hands high in load; start above shoulder and chop down on the ball; late trigger; not fluid; was behind average stuff; upright and noisy; it just didn’t look very good; was 4.5 to first on groundball to shortstop; has looked better before; not sure about offensive profile; wasn’t a fan of the setup or swing; always liked his glove; didn’t see glove/arm opportunities in intrasquad.
Connor Sadzeck (RHP): Tall; projectable body; bit of a slinger; three-quarters slot; shorter arm action; aimed the ball at times; very good arm strength; fastball was easy 90-92; throwing strikes; touched 93; has 95-98 mph on resume; slurvy breaking ball at 79-82; lacked tight rotation; slowed body down on secondary; 1.5 to the plate with runners on; hard to project current version; if velo ticks up and control holds, could be very interesting.
Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @ProfessorParks