March 10, 2014
Notes from the Field
Royals/Reds/Padres (Jason Parks)
Sean Manaea (Royals): Multiple looks so far in camp; live batting practice session/two innings of live game action. Big, strong body; carries the size well; upright posture with straight/high leg lift; arm is slightly lower than standard 3/4 slot; works well; clean action and quick arm; creates good angle despite lower slot; stays over the ball; fastball has ghost qualities at any velocity; hard to square up/track; in game action, worked 93-94 in first inning; spotted east/west; best pitch was lefty-lefty with 93 on the outside black for called strike; second inning was mostly 92; some arm-side run; secondary stuff showed in live batting practice session; fastball was 89-90 (early in camp), slider was slurvy but effective; hard to track and square; changeup flashed high-end quality; could see a plus-plus future; fastball arm speed with heavy vertical life; limited look but no doubt an effective offering.
With runners on and from the stretch, Manaea lifts lead leg while rocking up hands; does not come fully set before returning leg to the ground. Idiosyncratic move will be very effective in disrupting running game. Small sample, but fastball grade will play above raw velocity; should settle in with a 91-94 mph fastball (60-grade) but command and deception could push the pitch to 70 grade; changeup will be a weapon pitch in minors/majors; slider is a little slurvy and loose, with more sweep than sharp life, but command should allow it to play above average. Number two starter profile; injury red flags but workhorse potential with plus arsenal and well above-average command.
Robert Stephenson (Reds): Body has yet to reach physical maturity; all legs; athletic on the mound; arm strength is elite; some effort in the delivery; creates some angle from the slot; fastball worked 92-97; below-average command of the offering; better pitch with more movement and command in lower velocity register; was struggling to finish out front and was working up; pitch was often flat and susceptible to hard contact; two-plane breaking ball (curve/slurve) flashed in the low 80s but was often loose and pulled across his body; swing-and-miss pitch but he was starting it on the outer third and losing effectiveness; limited look at 87 mph changeup; was noticeably flustered when he couldn’t make outs and failed to adjust; reverted to throwing/not pitching; 1.3 to the plate with runners on; held well; no PFP looks; struggled but ceiling unchanged; 70 future on FB and CB; changeup will take time but should get there; command is fringe at present; athleticism and delivery allow for average command projection; no. 2 starter type; electric arm capable of missing bats.
Michael Lorenzen (Reds): Plus-plus athlete with high-end arm speed; stays tall in delivery with a low ball pickup; mechanics can get deliberate and stiff; fastball is carrying pitch; worked 95-96 and touched 98; pitch explodes as it reaches the plate; deliberate on secondary stuff; below-average changeup in the mid-80s; telegraphed it in the delivery and release; slider was more cutter-like in the 86-87 range; not a lot of depth; more late slice to the glove side; neither secondary offering impressed; loved the fastball and the arm strength/speed; reliever all the way for me; potential for impact in that role (setup/closer).
Franchy Cordero (Padres): Wow talent; highly projectable frame; sweet swing from the left side; very loose; starts with a slightly open stance; closes on the ball without falling out of his line; very fluid with his load and trigger; seems to see/track the ball very well; shows plus bat speed at present; good lift in the stick; power potential is easy plus; capable of long bombs; shows potential to develop both hit and power tools; not sharp in the field; shows okay actions and a strong arm, but doesn’t show the instincts of a higher level shortstop; physical projection could push him to third before he reaches majors; role 6 potential as a third baseman.
Mallex Smith (Padres): Fast-twitch athlete; short but has strength; well above-average run; has a good swing at the plate; bat speed looks good; good extension and ability to drive the ball; might have some pitch recognition issues; one spot/one speed type of hitter; can drive his pitch but struggles with barrel adjustments and can get beat by location and off-speed; good defender in center with range for days; reads the ball well off the bat; didn’t show arm in game situation (that I saw); heady baserunner; speed first player with defensive chops at up-the-middle spot; bat limits upside; profiles as bench outfielder.
Jose Urena (Padres): Very impressive present strength; body could be high maintenance; not bad (at present) but hips/midsection show expansion potential; good stroke at the plate; plus raw power; swing looks the part for power; some plane; comes under the ball; hits the fastball well; feasted on middle-up; fooled on soft/spin away; limited look in the outfield; didn’t show arm; made routine catches without significance; intrigued by the power potential; could be prototypical corner player with over-the-fence bat. —Jason Parks
Orioles (Tucker Blair)
Josh Hart (Orioles): He is a plus defender with quick bursts, plus agility and a good first read on the ball. His route running has already improved since I saw him in his brief stint with Aberdeen. He was battling the high sun and inconsistent winds and making terrific adjustments. The other fielders were dropping balls every other play. The arm may only be average, but I can live with that if he continues to play out of his mind defensively.