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July 2, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Scouting Notes: New Britain vs. Reading

by Jason Parks

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A four-game set between New Britain (Twins) and Reading (Phillies) was just what the heart needed: an occupational vacation to the resorts of the Double-A level, sipping radar gun readings on the beaches behind home plate. New Britain is a casual little town in the middle of Connecticut, slightly southwest of Hartford, and slightly southwest of being a city I ever want to find myself in again. But the action on the field swept me away, and the Rock Cats’ staff were some of the friendliest people I’ve encountered on the minor-league scene, so I will no doubt find myself on an Eastern League holiday again very soon. Here are some observations from the experience.

New Britain Rock Cats

3B Miguel Sano

Series Stats: 5-for-15; 3 HR; 4 K; 1 BB

Notes: I’ll be writing a full scouting report on Sano this week at BP, but I’ll drop a few notes here as a tease. First of all, Sano is one of the best players I’ve ever seen in person. I was able to watch numerous batting practices, pre-game fielding drills, and live game action, so the sample might be small but it offers ample sustenance. Sano is a legit five-tool talent, which goes against several reports that you might be reading online. He’s a gifted physical specimen, with mature size and strength, but the body isn’t as high maintenance as I expected and his overall athleticism was above average. On several occasions, Sano showed a burst of speed down the line and on the turn that resembled an NFL tight end, a graceful out route from a 6’4”, 250-lb. beast of a man. I clocked him at ~4.17 from home to first on a ball he rolled over to the left side, which is absolutely flying for a man of his measurements. The power is extreme and it made me question my religious beliefs, but the biggest discovery of the trip was Sano’s skill at the hot corner, a position that many (if not most) assumed would not be his home at the highest level. Sano is going to play third base in the majors, and he has a chance to be above average at some point in the future. He is still raw and error prone, as I saw him step back on a ball and let it chew him up. But the leather is better than people realize, and with more repetition, he will refine that tool to major-league quality. Sano is at his best coming in on the ball, as he has a feel for fielding and making a quick glove-to-hand transition. He can flash the leather to the backhand as well, showing off a few highlight reel plays that saw him react quickly to the arm side, backhand the ball from the ground, spring to his feet, and fire a 70-grade missile to the first baseman for the out. He has the chops. He just needs refinement. The hit tool is his biggest weakness and I doubt he hits for average at the highest level, but he has good bat control for his size and swing leverage, and he understands the difference between a ball and a strike. The end game for Sano is probably .265 with some on-base ability (fear/recognition), and power that could play to its potential, which means 35-plus bombs year after year. Given that fact that he will be a competent (if not better) third baseman, his profile could make him one of the most dangerous and valuable players in the game.

C Josmil Pinto

Series Stats: 6-for-14; 1 2B; 2 BB; 2 K

Notes: Pinto can really hit; short and quick to the ball and he makes hard contact. The 24-year-old has a good approach, and I liked his ability to recognize pitches out of the zone and lay off. A good fastball hitter, he was able to track and barrel balls to all fields, and he showed good raw power in batting practice. I don’t see a great hitter, but he isn’t an empty stick, and his approach puts him in situations to take advantage of mistakes. Behind the plate he is okay, but I didn’t see a great catcher. He can receive, but he was only popping in the ~2.02 range, which is acceptable but not above average. The arm itself is strong, although his release isn’t especially quick and his arm action can get long. Despite his age and lengthy minor-league experience, I think he’s a sleeper prospect in the Twins system, and a player with a major league valuation.

2B Eddie Rosario

Series Stats: 1-for-11; 1 2B; 1 K; 1 BB

Notes: I was disappointed in Rosario’s defense at second, as he looked uncomfortable on balls hit right at him and his reactions to either side appeared slow, both in live action and in warm-ups. It should be noted repeatedly that the field conditions were terrible because of consistent rain over the weekend, but his approach and his actions weren’t of major-league quality. Given his athleticism, it seems likely that the outfield is a better location for his skills, but with repetition perhaps his glove can take steps forward at the keystone. But in the small sample, it wasn’t just the fact that he made errors and didn’t play well, it’s how and why those errors were made in the first place.

At the plate, he was struggling to find holes on the diamond, which is partly due to his approach to hitting. Rosario has fast hands, and the bat speed is easy to recognize as a positive attribute. But his swing path is very elevated, as he appears to be trying to hit the ball over the fence with every swing. It’s a batting practice approach that he brings to live action, and it might pay off for the 21-year-old if only he had the strength of a power hitter in the first place. The majority of his line drives fell short of the fence, despite being very well struck. He clearly has a natural feel for hitting, but I didn’t get the impression that he knows who he is as a hitter yet. Instead of using the whole field and spraying line drives with a more linear swing, Rosario worked in the deepest part of the field (up the middle) and lacked the punch to find over-the-fence success. He doesn’t have the body to develop the type of power his swing is trying to execute. With his bat control and bat speed, he could really develop into a good hitter if he works the gaps and takes advantage of his strengths instead playing into his weaknesses. He’s a tweener for me right now, more a hit tool/speed type than a complete player.

RHP Trevor May

Series Stats: 5 IP; 5 H; 4 ER; 1 BB; 6 K

Notes: May was frustrating, and not just because he struggled in the start. He was frustrating because he not only looks the part physically but also has a very good feel for his secondary stuff, showing a plus changeup, an above average curve, and a nice little slider that he could throw for strikes and bury. He was frustrating because the 6’5’’ righty is an extreme drop-and-drive pitcher; his back leg collapsing to the point of contact with the mound. He was able to generate power, and his fastball worked in the 92-93 range with comfort, but arrived flat and was tattooed for hard contact. He was frustrating because he was tipping the secondary stuff by staying taller in the delivery with less back-leg collapse than with the fastball. Despite the velocity, the flat plane and lack of movement on the heater not only brought down the effectiveness of the pitch but prevented the secondary stuff from playing beyond their already solid-average-to-plus grades. He can miss bats with the curve and the slider, and the changeup has a lot of action. But that fastball was flat and getting barreled up by barrels that aren’t exactly going to be playing major roles at the highest level, so that’s a problem. He’s a future major leaguer, but I thought he looked more like a reliever than a mid-rotation arm. I’ll put up a more detailed scouting report this week.

Reading Fightin Phils

3B Maikel Franco

Series Stats: 8-for-18; 1 3B; 1 HR; 1K; 0 BB

Notes: Franco’s numbers are ridiculous so far this season, and he’s hitting almost .500 since getting called up to the Double-A, a level where hitters often get exposed and exploited by the step up in pitching. Franco has been the one doing the exploiting, but my opinion of the player stands in contrast with the on-the-field production. Franco has a long swing, one that starts with a very deep hand load that takes the hands back and up before sending them back down and into the path of the ball. Because of the timing kick and the hip rotation, Franco can struggle to stay back on off-speed offerings, but often saves himself with exceptional hand-eye coordination that allows him to somehow place the bat on the ball despite being off-balanced and seemingly out of control. His raw power is legit, an easy 6+ on the 2/8, and he doesn’t have a problem timing to fastballs. He’s going to hit for power, but I have doubts about the hit tool and his ability to negotiate major-league quality stuff and sequence. The swing is long and the approach aggressive, and that’s a dangerous combo to have when it comes to consistency and game utility.

The profile is made more complicated by Franco’s shortcomings at third, which unlike Sano, are legit. His glove isn’t terrible, as you can see quality actions if you really squint and want them to be there. But I’d put a 4 on the leather at present, with perhaps a chance to reach fringe-average through repetition and approach, assuming he wants to improve at the position. The arm is strong, but poorly utilized, as he throws from the hip and the accuracy isn’t sharp as a result. The range isn’t great either, but he has a good first step in the field and can make it work in the short term. I suggest it’s a limited solution because the body is a bit sloppy, with a big butt and a thick chest that isn’t what I would describe as chiseled. I don’t want to suggest he is lazy based on a weekend series, but I watched his actions from first contact with the field during workouts all the way through the games, and I would suggest he approaches the game with less intensity than others. Given the high-maintenance body, the glove, and the limited range, Franco doesn’t look like a long-term fixture at third. Full report coming this week, but I’m not as high on Franco as others, despite watching him rake over the weekend. I think the hit tool lets him down and limits the effectiveness of the power, and I think the defensive limitations hurt his value and put more pressure on the bat to carry the load. He’s a future major leaguer and maybe even a regular, but I don’t see the first-division player other have been writing about.

LHP Austin Wright

Series Stats: 8 IP; 7 H; 2 ER; 2 BB; 5 K

Notes: Interesting arm. Excellent size (6’3” 220 lbs.) and stuff from the left side. He had University of Virginia mechanics, complete with the exaggerated back bend. His fastball had some life and good velocity, working 93-94 early on and 91-93 as the pitches piled up. From a higher slot, I thought his changeup had good tumbling action, and he showed a good, short curveball in the upper 70s. His command wasn’t sharp and the secondary stuff played around average, the fastball had some quality, especially when he was able to work it inside to righties. The 23-year-old could develop into a back-of-the-rotation type, as he held velocity pretty well and his delivery remained consistent for the entire game. The secondary stuff wasn’t plus but it wasn’t just for show either, so there is a major-league ceiling here, although one that it isn’t very high.

LHP Jesse Biddle

Series Stats: 6 IP; 9 H; 2 ER; 2 BB; 2 K

Notes: Biddle is an easy top 101 prospect in the game, but he wasn’t at his best in this start. He looked fatigued and sluggish, and his offerings lacked bite or intensity. The lefty started the game working 90-92 without much movement. The delivery was athletic and smooth, but as the game went on he started flying open and losing his release. After a few innings, he was working upper 80s and struggling to get 90, missing arm side and up (out of the zone). His curveball was very loose and loopy at 70-72, falling into the upper 60s as the game went on. He just wasn’t sharp. He showed some pitchability by getting outs without his best stuff, and he kept his cool after making several errors in the field. He tried to back-foot a few sliders to right-handers, and he ended up casting them and failing to find the target. The field conditions were poor (especially on the mound) and Biddle just looked gassed from the jump, so it’s hard to put too much into this one start.

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

Related Content:  Scouting,  Minor Leagues,  Scouts

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

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MaineSkin

So I should sell Franco for Cechini and a 2nd rnd pick using his massive slash line as a selling point? This is not the 1st underwhelming report I've heard of Biddle. I actually owned Pinto in my dynasty league, but dropped him for Santaner CWS. Is Pinto a DH with Mauer in Min or does he have 1B ability in his feet?

Jul 02, 2013 03:17 AM
rating: -3
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

I have no idea. I'm not a fantasy [baseball] writer.

Jul 02, 2013 06:55 AM
 
Daddyboy

Parks, your responses to fantasy questions crack me up. The analogy that comes to mind is that of an artist who is incensed that his wonderful nudes are being used as masturbatory material.

Anyway, nice work, even if you come across a little elitist.

Jul 02, 2013 11:00 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Yes, I'm elitist because I have no interest or familiarity with a subject that I didn't write about or claim to hold any expertise in.

Jul 02, 2013 11:08 AM
 
okteds

Well, whatever you call that thing you said about Sano...".265 with some on-base ability...35-plus bombs year after year"...do you have some similar thoughts in regards to Franco? I promise it won't use your insights in my fantasy league...scout's honor.

Jul 02, 2013 13:29 PM
rating: 2
 
SC

All of Parks' work is masturbatory material, first and foremost for the author.

Jul 02, 2013 13:40 PM
rating: 2
 
SC

Looking forward to your fantasy series. Hopefully you'll start and end before George R.R. Martin does.

Jul 02, 2013 13:38 PM
rating: 0
 
Infrancoeurgible

Biddle's velo complaints are nothing new. I saw him in Lakewood in 2011 and he struck out Bryce Harper with a filthy, tight curveball that was downright #wet. However, he does lose velocity at times, I remember reports of him out of Germantown Friends that had him sitting 91-94 some starts and not touching 90 at all in others. Then again, dude's missing more than a bat per inning in the Eastern League at 21 and has increased his K/9 in every full-season league he's played in (even with the start you saw) so he's got some skill from the left side.

Thank you for this piece, I especially liked your defense of Sano's glove and general athleticism.

Jul 02, 2013 03:41 AM
rating: 2
 
Broken Arrow

Do you think Austin Wright is more likely to contribute at the major league level than some recent Phillies debuts, like Jonathan Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd?

Jul 02, 2013 08:31 AM
rating: 0
 
JPinPhilly

Jason, how can you put Franco in your top 50 at midseason while saying that you're not that impressed with him? Is it just a matter of the power being too legit to overlook? Would you leave him off that list after seeing him in this series?

Franco wasn't on anyone's top 100 list coming into the season but he raked in the second half last year and got off to a great start this year. After the promotion he continued to hit and made the top 50 and all of us here in Philly started to get excited about him. There was a buzz and some indication that he might be an impact talent. Now you're hinting at him being lacking in #want and talking about how he might not stay at third and doesn't have that much hit tool.

I just don't understand how a guy can be a top 50 talent one week and a potential fringe-average guy the next week.

Jul 02, 2013 09:40 AM
rating: 0
 
edwardarthur

These are Jason's observations from the weekend. It's fair to ask if they change his view of Franco's ranking, but they don't undermine the prior ranking, which was based on information available to the BP staff at the time.

Jul 02, 2013 10:02 AM
rating: 0
 
JPinPhilly

That's kinda what I'm getting at. Seems as though he doesn't agree with the rest on Franco. I'm just confused about the top 50 ranking based on this report. I mean the stuff about his body and the concerns about his future seem to be honest concerns but couldn't we have said that same sort of thing about Pablo Sandoval or maybe even Pedro Alvarez? Is that his ceiling? Sandoval put up a .972 OPS in 112 games between A+ and AA in 2008. He hit 20 bombs. Franco has put up a .970 OPS in 77 games so far between A+ and AA and he's already at 20 homers.

I'm trying to get a feel for this kid's profile. I'm not asking for a comp but I want to get some kind of clear picture. I think of a top 50 prospect as an impact player not a fringe average guy with all sorts of questions concerning his make-up (work ethic/want) and his defensive profile and even his hit tool.

I love Jason's work and I love all of the reports from BP but there really does seem to me to be a discrepancy from one week to the next.

Jul 02, 2013 10:36 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

That's the nature of scouting, especially when it comes to young, underdeveloped talent. It's always changing. These aren't finished products on the field.

Jul 02, 2013 10:57 AM
 
JPinPhilly

So you're saying that, based on what you saw, you probably don't rank him as high as others but still think he's a major league talent. Is that the bottom line?

Jul 02, 2013 11:15 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Right. After the most recent look, I think he's a major leaguer but not the impact player others thinks is possible. If I watch him in a month, I could form a different conclusion. He hasn't reached the top of his developmental arc.

Jul 02, 2013 11:18 AM
 
JPinPhilly

Thanks for the feedback. Looking forward to that full report. Keep up the great work.

Jul 02, 2013 11:35 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Thanks! I appreciate that.

Jul 02, 2013 11:45 AM
 
nikitos1979a

I would not rely on one writer's opinion who has watched the kid play over a weekend.

Jul 02, 2013 10:58 AM
rating: 2
 
mmontice

Your man crush on Sano is utterly unparalleled. I'm not sure more than 1-2 days go by without you doting on him. If trapper keepers were still popular, you'd have his name written all over it with many hearts around it. You really should have a separate daily post, where you can talk about all things Miguel Sano, including his personal life.

I kid, the dude is a stud. Wish he was in the Cubs farm system.

Jul 02, 2013 09:51 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

I mentioned Sano a lot over the last week because I was watching him play every night. That certainly upped the flow.

Jul 02, 2013 10:58 AM
 
camthomas12

Excellent work Jason, I always enjoy reading your stuff.

Jul 02, 2013 21:54 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Thanks! I appreciate that.

Jul 03, 2013 07:07 AM
 
bigchiefbc

This is not the first negative scouting report I've read on Biddle, as a matter of fact, I seem to see a new one every few weeks. I'm thinking of selling on him in my dynasty league now while his numbers are still pretty good, would you agree?

Jul 03, 2013 09:29 AM
rating: 0
 
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