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May 28, 2013

Monday Morning Ten Pack

May 28

by BP Prospect Staff

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Raul Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Royals (Low-A Lexington)
As much as I enjoy referring to Adalberto Mondesi as Adalberto Mondesi, the young shortstop has expressed his desire to be called by the first name that appears on his birth certificate, which just happens to be the same as his familiar father’s—a former rookie of the year--and his less-than-familiar older brother’s. Hey, if it works, keep working it. Raul Adalberto, which is still a cool sounding name, is one of my favorite prospects to watch, and on a short list of my favorite prospects to monitor and write about. He’s a 17-year-old playing a premium position at a full-season level, so the excitement can exist regardless of the on-the-field outcomes. Context is always a vital part of the evaluation process, as a prospect’s status or sudden rise in status can often put a spotlight on production [itself] at the expense of the specifics surrounding that production. Mondesi has struggled at times this season, and that can lead to overreactions and assumptions that aren’t tethered to the reality of the situation. Mondesi has struggled--no doubt --but he hasn’t been overwhelmed by the level of competition; he belongs at this level despite the poor statistical line. Coming into last night’s game, Mondesi was hitting an anemic .195/.205/.293 in May, which isn’t going to keep his name dripping from the tip of any Pavlovian tongue. But the talent to develop into something very special lives inside of Raul, son of Raul/brother of Raul, and it’s only a matter of time before his positive developmental steps show up on the stat sheet. He hit for the cycle last night. It’s a one-game sample, but bring the context back into the equation. Raul –son of Raul/brother of Raul—is a 17-year-old playing in a full-season league. The fact that he can show glimpses or flashes of brilliance at that level at his age is absolutely remarkable. This isn’t a normal prospect. –Jason Parks

Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds (Low-A, Dayton)
Through the first seven weeks of the season, Robert Stephenson has carved up the Midwest League to the tune of 11.6 strikeouts per nine (punching out about one out of every three batters faced) and just 2.4 BB/9, all while holding the opposition to just a .240 batting average. Stephenson was the 27th overall selection in a stacked 2011 draft class, and as impressive as his stuff was out of the scholastic ranks it has bumped up across the board in 2013.  His fastball is comfortably sitting mid-90s, climbing to 98 mph on occasion. He pounds the bottom of the zone on a tough downward plane, making him tough to square and helping him to produce a 45 percent groundball rate thus far this spring.  His breaker is a hard curve that vacillates between 11-to-5 and 12-to-6 action, working best in the 80-82 mph range. It easily projects to a plus offering, though it plays closer to average right now due to inconsistent execution, which leads to a fair share of hangers. The changeup is still a work in progress, but Stephenson has already shown improvement in his feel for the pitch compared to early April. You can see start-to-start growth in Stephenson's game, particularly in his pitch execution and sequencing, and he's doing the little things, as well, including improving his pacing and set durations from the stretch (which, combined with 1.19-to-1.27 times to the plate makes him difficult to run on).  Through 10 starts, Stephenson has made a strong case for being the top arm currently tossing in the Midwest League, and should be included in any discussion regarding the top arms in the minors. --Nick J. Faleris

Kalian Sams, OF, Padres (Double-A San Antonio)
Sams has one single in 17 games with San Antonio. He also has six doubles, seven home runs, and 13 walks, giving him a .298/.468/.872 slash line thus far. One of the most entertaining players I’ve seen this season, Sams is approximately 6-foot-2, 250 pounds of pure muscle, and he made a ball disappear last weekend. Nobody I spoke to (including myself on color commentary) saw the ball after it left the bat, much less where it landed. Later that game, Sams covered plenty of ground in right field to make this full-extension diving catch.

A career .215/.292/.443 hitter over six previous minor-league seasons, the Dutch international was recently released by the Mariners and picked up by San Diego earlier this month. Perhaps the 26-year-old is just riding an incredible hot streak. But his high-energy style is fun to watch, and with his gargantuan raw power, he could be at least something––even if it’s in Japan. –Jason Cole

Jesse Winker, OF, Reds (Low-A, Dayton)
Winker has enjoyed a strong start to his first year of full-season ball, currently sitting on a .309/.414/.525 line while maintaining a walk rate and strikeout rate each around 15 percent. Winker hits out of an upright stance with a low load and compact barrel delivery, and shows a knack for producing loud contact. The 49th overall selection in 2012 draft has solid strength in his legs and core right now and should continue to add to that as he matures. The torque generated through his core, paired with solid extension through contact and a high follow-through, should help him produce solid home run numbers as he progresses through the Reds' system, and he's already tapping into that potential this spring with seven home runs over his first 45 games (with one out of every five fly balls clearing a wall). Winker's carrying tool, however, is his potential future 6 hit, which allows him to operate with comfort deep in counts, and has thus far made him a difficult out in the Midwest League. As he improves the implementation of his already advanced approach, he should be able to maintain a solid strikeout rate as he progresses. Defensively, he's very much the player he was as an amateur, showing stiff actions and below average speed on the grass. He may have the raw arm strength for right field, but loses carry and accuracy due to sometimes choppy mechanics. --Nick J. Faleris

Ronald Guzman, 1B, Rangers (Extended Spring Training)
Sidelined since undergoing knee surgery (torn meniscus) in mid-March, Guzman is currently returning to game action at extended spring training. The Dominican first baseman made headlines on July 2, 2011, by signing for a reported $3.45 million bonus. Ranked by Baseball Prospectus as the Rangers’ no. 9 prospect, Guzman impressed in the rookie Arizona League last summer by posting a .321/.374/.434 slash line in 52 games.

When back at full strength, Guzman is expected to join an already ultra-talented Low-A Hickory lineup. The 18-year-old prospect provides an imposing physical presence. He already shows an advanced lefty swing and approach, and he flashed plus raw power in a recent batting practice session that’s shown in the video below. Guzman will also be featured in our prospect video interview series at BP later this week. –Jason Cole

Video of Guzman

Christian Colon, 2B, Kansas City Royals (Triple-A Omaha)
Colon was picked fourth in the 2010 draft after Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon, and Manny Machado, and ahead of Matt Harvey, Yasmani Grandal, and Chris Sale. Colon was never considered the most purely talented player at the fourth spot, but he was thought to be a fast moving player who could help the Royals in short order. After hitting modestly during his first three seasons, Colon’s stock has dropped considerably. In 41 games this year Colon has hit just .256/.303/.360 but he has started to pick things up a bit recently. Prior to back-to-back hitless games over the weekend, Colon had notched base hits in 14 of his past 17 games with multiple hits in seven of those contests. Colon’s defense has also been solid at the keystone this season and scouts who have seen him recently are trending back toward him being a solid major leaguer. As Chris Getz hits just .208/.259/.307 at the big-league level, Colon’s first opportunity to reach Kansas City nearly three full years after being drafted could be on the horizon. –Mark Anderson

LJ Mazzilli, 2B, Connecticut Huskies (College, Big East)
Mazzilli may be best known for his baseball bloodlines as the son of former big leaguer Lee Mazzilli, but he has done plenty over four college seasons to make his own name among baseball observers. After going 6-for-15 with a double, a home run, five walks and just two strikeouts throughout the weekend’s Big East tournament, Mazzilli has posted a .364/.419/.534 line as a senior. Having scouted Mazzilli countless times over the past four years, I will concede that he does not project as an impact-level player, but his instincts and feel for the game are second to none and I believe he will exceed expectations and outperform his likely 6th to 8th round draft projection. For a team looking to save a little money in the 4th or 5th round, Mazzilli could be a quality find as a potential average hitter with good gap power and an ability to work counts. He is a decent runner who can swipe some bases thanks to impeccable jumps, and his defense at second base has come along to the point that he can be an asset in the field. Mazzilli isn’t a future star but he is the type of senior sign who suddenly shows up in the big leagues after a couple of solid minor league seasons. –Mark Anderson

Addison Russell, SS, Athletics (High-A Stockton Ports)
After moving all the way up to Single-A Burlington as an 18 year-old, the Athletics top prospect and golden boy Addison Russell looked ready to take on some older, more mature baseball competition. Without hesitation, the Athletics pushed him to the High-A California League, a hitter’s paradise but also a league containing more advanced players. Despite some above average tools, Russell was quickly mired in a deep slump, and seemed to be losing some of his luster.

An ankle injury early might have contributed to the slump, and when I saw him on May 11th he was on the verge of breaking out of it. In five plate appearances he had four good ones, showing plate discipline, a super quick bat, and plus power. His swing does have some miss in it, and I’m not sure it’s something he will grow out of.  In his third trip, he homered to right-center after laying off some decent off-speed. Defensively, Russell shows a plus arm and glove, and he’s pretty athletic, which leads me to believe he can stick at the position for the long haul. Despite his early slump and some questions about his readiness for the level, I don’t think he’s overmatched by any means. Over his past 10 games through the 24th of May: .255/.314/.532. The tools that made him a top prospect are still there and the numbers will soon catch up. Anxious A’s fans can relax. –Chris Rodriguez

Mac Williamson, OF, Giants (High-A San Jose)
Mac is a big man. A big man with a big swing. After crushing short-season ball the year before, Williamson moved to the California League with the expectation of doing the same. While he shows a bunch of plus tools (plus power, arm, fast for his size), there have been some questions about his hit tool. Williamson does have some problems with quality off-speed pitches. Facing Dodgers prospect Garrett Gould, Mac was out in front of Gould’s plus curve in two at-bats, striking out both times. He didn’t seem to pick up the curve and tried to sit on it, which caused him to be late on Gould’s 90-91 MPH fastball the second time up. Pitchers with a plan (and a good curve) can have a field day with Williamson, due to his slow trigger and long swing. If he can make adjustments at the plate and shorten his path to the baseball, I can see a future major leaguer, especially with his solid peripheral tools. If he doesn’t, he may not make it out of Double-A. Just like at the plate, Williamson is boom or bust. –Chris Rodriguez

Mason Williams, OF, Yankees (High-A Tampa)
I was anxious to get my first glimpse since spring training of the Yankees’ top prospect. His stance is open and very balanced, but his swing seemed long at times, causing him to be late on a good amount of fastballs. He still shows power to all fields, but as he advances and faces tougher pitching I'm not sure if that power will translate into the 15-20 home runs that some scouts I've talked to suggest. Williams still shows a patient approach at the plate and did a good job staying in versus lefties. On the bases he has the speed that can cause all types of problems for opponents, although he'll need to work on his basestealing approach. In his career, Williams has stolen 55 bases (six this year) and been caught 30 times. Obviously there is work to be done. Defensively he seems to have natural instincts that you can’t teach. The reads he gets are excellent, as are his routes. It's a natural ability he has to be able to see the ball coming off the bat so well. Those instincts, route running, and speed will make him a major defensive weapon in center field. The kid oozes confidence from the moment he steps on the field, from batting practice to actual game action. He doesn’t get too down on himself when he struggles, like he has so far this season. Williams has a slash line of .243/.333/.335, but he has drawn 22 walks while striking out 31 times. The season is still young and if he wants it enough the tools are in place for Williams to turn into an exciting big leaguer. –Chris King

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