March 31, 2014
Monday Morning Ten Pack
10 Prospects Who Turned Heads in Spring Training
LHP Julio Urias (Dodgers)
From a smooth and repeatable delivery, Urias worked his fastball in the 91-95 range, touching 96 in his first backfield outing. The feel for command was very strong, as was his situational understanding; he would pitch backwards against hitters with fastball appetites, manipulating his breaking ball to drop for strikes or to force chase swings. The slider was his money pitch this spring, showing a curveball break in the low-80s and true slider tilt in the 85 mph range. Along with the fastball, the slider gives Urias a true plus offering that he can execute whenever he needs it, and when the changeup is working, he has a full major league quality arsenal at his disposal. Urias needs to log innings and stay healthy, but his combination of present stuff and polish could push him to the major league level before his 19th birthday. Prepare the marketing campaign.
C Jorge Alfaro (Rangers)
The arm is a true weapon, an 80-grade tool, and his footwork allows the arm to play to its full potential, often popping in the sub 1.8 range on his throws to second. The bat is maturing as well, with a torque-heavy swing that he shows more control over now than in previous years, and a power stroke capable of putting him in the middle of a major league lineup if he reaches his potential. His approach still needs refinement, but if he can put himself in more favorable conditions and continue to punish fastballs, Alfaro could quickly emerge as a top-tier prospect in the game, and the future face of the Texas Rangers franchise.
OF Raimel Tapia (Rockies)
I see a plus hit tool and solid-average power potential, although the power could arrive much later, as Tapia’s body is underdeveloped at present and he still needs to add strength to his skinny, narrow frame. Tapia is going to emerge as a nationally recognized prospect in 2014, and with a strong full-season debut, he has all the necessary characteristics to jump into the top 50 prospects in the game by the end of the season.
SS Tim Anderson (White Sox)
In the field, he’s clearly athletic but not especially smooth at shortstop, with some stiffness in his fielding actions despite the fast-twitch athletic profile. Through repetition and more experience, Anderson could make shortstop work, but I saw him as a better long-term fit at second base, with a plus arm for the position and the type of coordination and reaction ability to develop into a plus defender at the keystone. Anderson is still finding his way and is in need of refinement in all aspects of his on-field performance, but this is a future role 6 player at the highest level, a first-division talent regardless of his future defensive home.
LHP Sean Manaea (Royals)
A healthy Manaea is a future no. 2/3 starter at the major-league level, with the body and delivery to log innings, the stuff to keep bats off the barrel, and the pitchability and command to keep hitters off-balance multiple times through a lineup. In multiple viewings this spring, the fastball worked 91-94, with surgical command at times to both sides of the plate. In addition to the velocity and command, the fastball is very difficult to pick up and track out of the hand, giving it ghost-ball qualities that allow the 60-grade pitch to play up beyond its paper grade. Mix in a slurvy slider and a bottom-heavy changeup that Manaea can command, and you have a pitcher who should carve up the minors on his fast-track to the majors.
SS Franchy Cordero (Padres)
Cordero can play shortstop for now, but after watching him in the field during numerous workouts and five-plus games this spring, I project a move off the position down the line, with third base or right field looking like strong possibilities given his athleticism and arm strength. Regardless of his position, the bat will carry him a long way, and if he shines in his full-season debut in 2014, he could emerge as a top 101 prospect in the game at this time next season.
IF Javier Baez (Cubs)
LHP Ricardo Sanchez (Angels)
Short but sturdy, the southpaw worked the fastball in the 89-92 range and hit 93 and 94 on a few occasions, showing cutting action. The secondary arsenal was poorly executed in the outing I saw, but he has a good delivery to work with and shows good feel for craft despite the rough edges. Sanchez will pitch the entire 2014 season as a 17-year-old, most likely at the complex level, and is likely to climb prospect lists as he proceeds through the developmental process. Forced comps are counterproductive, but the similarities between Sanchez and fellow Venezuelan southpaw Martin Perez are appropriate.
IF/OF Samir Duenez (Royals)
The defensive profile is a question mark, as Duenez played first base both in his professional debut and when I saw him in multiple looks on the backfields, but I don’t think he’s necessarily locked into that position in the long term. Despite a mature body, Duenez runs well for his size, clocking times in the 4.25-4.3 range home-to-first, and he showed good athleticism and coordination in infield drills and game action. I can see left field being a possibility, but at the end of the day, Duenez will make his bones with his bat, and based on what I saw, he has the plus bat speed and natural feel for hitting to stand out regardless of where he plays in the field.
IF Josh Van Meter (Padres)
With a balanced setup and swing, Van Meter simply strokes the ball to all fields, hitting line drives against good pitching, bad pitching, and everything in between. You can label him a gamer because of his immature size in relation to his teammates, or the fact that he always seems to be around the ball, but the proper label for Van Meter is a hitter, because all this kid did in camp was make hard contact with the baseball. It’s difficult to project his outcome, as I didn’t see enough in the field to grade him above-average (only routine plays) and didn’t see a lot of projectable power at the plate (in batting practice or game action), but what I did see was a hit tool that can play. Instead of scouting for what a player can’t do on a field, I want to highlight an attribute that can eventually make the former fifth-round pick a major-league-caliber talent: he can f*cking hit.