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September 12, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

On the Rise: Hits and Misses, Part One (American League)

by Jason Parks

One of the truisms of baseball is that everybody loves a good sleeper prospect, a player standing in the shadows of an organization’s top 10 just waiting to take a step forward into a brighter light. Whether or not we accept participation in one of the basic tenets of our social construct—that coolness is best served before the taint of ubiquity expands and dilutes the original item or action originally classified as cool—jumping on the bandwagon before that bandwagon becomes a city bus is the class signifier of sports fandom.

Going into the 2013 season, each individual team list featured an “On the Rise” section where these under-the-radar types were profiled and projected. Scouting introspection is an important part of the evaluation process, and looking back on the hits and misses of the 2013 sleeper class could encourage more debate and discussion about our process and methods of evaluation. I stress that it’s not about the pompous desire to be right, or the sententious stance against being wrong; rather, it’s about the [individual] player finding production on the field in the midst of a schizophrenic developmental process, and about our investigative approach to finding the prospects that are ready for those positive developmental steps. Anybody can pick three young names out of a system and sell the dreams of their sunny tomorrow. But dart throwing isn’t a process, it’s a parlor trick, one made more remarkable through the magic of alcohol and casual lighting. When the goal is depth, it’s important to understand where to dig and why to dig rather than just using Google searches and stat lines to unearth the dirt.

The Hits:

The Player: RHP Zach Davies (Orioles)
On the Rise Comment: "A 26th-round draft pick in 2011, Davies might not look the part, but he is most certainly a pitcher to keep an eye on. The stuff isn’t crazy, but his feel for pitching and deep arsenal should allow him to keep minor-league hitters off balance and off the pedestrian fastball.”
What Happened: The 20-year-old put together a very solid season at an advanced level, making 26 starts and logging 149 innings in the Carolina League. Davies’ ability to change speeds and hit his spots allowed him to induce weak contact and limit damage, but he also improved his bat-missing ability; the diminutive righty had 74 strikeouts in his final 74 innings of work. The ceiling is limited because the stuff is average at best--and the most likely landing spot is at the back of a rotation or the middle of a ‘pen --but his prospect status has improved and will most likely land him in the top 10 of the Orioles system this season despite the ultimate projection.

The Player: RHP Dylan Baker (Indians)
On the Rise Comment: “A fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft, Baker has excellent arm strength, and can show three pitches that flash above-average potential. His command needs refinement, and his changeup is currently behind the low-mid 90s fastball and breaking ball, but the profile is very promising, either as a strong-bodied innings chewer, or a max-effort, two-pitch reliever if he fails to refine along the way.”
What Happened: Baker made the jump to full-season ball, and was solid but not spectacular, which is still a step in the right direction. The fastball was meaty in the low 90s and touching a little higher, with a solid breaking ball and changeup combo on the secondary side. The command needs work, and the stuff is more solid-average than plus, but it was a positive developmental season and his prospect stock is improving.

The Player: RHP Vince Velazquez (Astros)
On the Rise Comment: “Prototypical size; a very loose and fluid arm; works in the low 90s with the fastball, but several sources think he has more velocity ready to come on; improving secondary mix; could jump up list if velo spikes and command holds.”
What Happened: Velazquez’s velocity was consistent in the plus range (showing the ability to go get more without sacrificing control), and the changeup continued to show plus potential. The breaking ball would come and go and needs refinement before it projects to average, but the fastball/changeup combo and the ability to throw strikes allowed for on-the-field results, and Velazquez will move up into the top 10 prospects in the Astros system.

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Related Content:  Minnesota Twins,  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor Leagues

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Premium Article Skewed Left: Three Nar... (09/12)
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Prospects Will Break Y... (11/01)
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