What are we talking about when we talk about disappointment?
"(A box score) doesn't tell how big you are, what church you attend, what color you are, or how your father voted in the last election. It just tells what kind of baseball player you were on that particular day." –Branch Rickey
If only it were still that simple. Back when Rickey was making personnel decisions for major-league organizations, and those last three traits were actually factors in how people were judged, it was a lot easier to evaluate a ballplayer without knowing too much about him. But with phones and tablets now as essential to the scouting toolbox as a stopwatch, with three different prospect rankings appearing on players’ Baseball-Reference pages, with signing bonuses public (and publicy debated), with the conversation about some players’ draft stock now rivaling the lifespan and intrigue of a presidential primary, that’s no longer the case.
Colin Moran is not a bad baseball player. The University of North Carolina doesn’t recruit bad baseball players. Bad baseball players don’t get popped sixth overall in the major-league draft. And bad baseball players don’t hit .296 between High- and Double-A, as Moran did in 2014, his first full year among the professional ranks.
Yet to hear many evaluators talk—to hear me at certain points during this season—you might think Moran is just terrible. Throughout a season of sitting behind home plate, I saw no player inspire more head shakes, shoulder shrugs and eye rolling than Moran. "How was this guy the sixth-best amateur player in the country last year,” I heard from more than one scout. I wasn't terribly kind in my initial write-up of Moran, saying "I came away feeling very underwhelmed with the player."
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Rays (Durham, AAA): 6 IP, 3 H, R, 6 BB, 6 K. The once highly touted southpaw has never quite put it all together, struggling with command and at times control thanks to poor mechanics that he's never been able to iron out. Now 25 and having repeated Triple-A for a second straight season, he hasn't made the progress the Rays were hoping for for when they received him from the Royals last offseason. At this point, he's not much more than organizational depth.
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Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Henry Owens and Rio Ruiz.
Austin Barnes, 2B, Marlins (Jacksonville, AA): 3-7, 2 R, 2B, HR, K. I love players who have strong K:BB rates, and I love players with positional versatility, so it’s no wonder that Barnes has become one of my favorite prospects. His tools don’t jump out at you and his ceiling isn’t terribly high, but there is some pop in his bat and he controls the strike zone incredibly well, walking more often this season than he struck out. He was blocked within the Marlins organization as a catcher (which is the only reason he started back in the Florida State League to begin with), so after a mid-season promotion, he’s seen time at both second and third base as well as behind the plate. He’s got just enough power to keep pitchers honest, good bat control, and positional flexibility that includes being able to catch, which is a combination that will have significant value on a major-league roster.
Duane Underwood, RHP, Cubs (Kane County, A-): 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 8 K. Right now, Underwood features a mid-90s fastball and not a whole lot else, but there’s a lot there to dream on. He’s got good size, but he needs to take major steps forward with the command of his fastball and the development of his secondary pitches. He’s still a high-risk prospect because of the gap between his present abilities and his ceiling, but as a potential mid-rotation starter, he’s a guy the Cubs will be patient with.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Corey Seager and Adalberto Mejia.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Cubs (Kane County, A-): 2-4. As if it weren’t tough enough to make a name for oneself in the Cubs system, Candelario laid an egg in the Florida State League to begin the year, then rebounded only slightly after being demoted back to Kane Country, performing on par with his previous stint in the league. The good news is that he’s only 20, so there’s plenty of time to take another hack at the FSL and move quickly, but the obstacles in between him and Wrigley seem a lot less surmountable than they did at this time last year, and Candelario didn’t make things any easier on himself with a disappointing season.
Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (Chattanooga, AA): 2-4, HR, 2 K. Will he stick at shortstop or shift over to third base? That’s really the only question left for Seager, who has hit at every level and gives no indication that he will stop any time soon. It’s not just the home-run totals that are impressive, but the doubles power as well, which indicates a more balanced approach and the potential for even more power down the road.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Wilmer Difo, Edwin Escobar, and Clayton Blackburn.
Wilmer Difo, SS, Nationals (Hagerstown, A-): 3-5, 2 R, 2B, 2 HR, K. The South Atlantic League player of the year didn’t impress me in a short two-game stint earlier this year, but that alone should tell you why it’s important to see a player for a longer period of time. As word spread throughout the Sally League about Difo’s performance early in the season (five home runs in May), the league began to avoid him more frequently, and he took what they gave him. That wasn’t the best strategy, because, with plus speed, he made them pay quite often (49 steals on the season). I still don’t see him as a power threat long term, and his performance did come as a 22-year-old in Low-A ball, but it was a breakout performance nonetheless. He also features a plus arm at shortstop, giving him an interesting package of tools on which to build.
Danny Diekroeger, 3B, Cardinals (State College, SS): 3-5, 3 R, 3B, BB. Drafted in the 10th round this past summer out of Stanford, Diekroeger offers a solid skill set and tools to carve out a major-league career. He saw time at second base as well, though he primarily played third, and offered moderate pop and plate discipline while helping the Spikes to a title.
Notes on a handful of prospects who stood out yesterday, including the Rockies' Raimel Tapia, David Dahl, and Ryan McMahon.
Viosergy Rosa, 1B, Marlins (Jacksonville, AA): 2-5, 2B. Rosa isn’t much of a prospect, but the playoffs make for a slow time for the Update, and I saw Rosa about 20 times this year, so this seems like a good time to talk about him. He’s old for a prospect and is limited to first base, but he lacks the massive power production required out of the spot. Power is his calling card: He has some, but not enough to profile as an everyday first baseman. He’s limited defensively, so the bat will have to carry him, but it’s probably not going to be able to carry him far enough.
Rob Zastryzny, LHP, Cubs (Daytona, A+): 3 1/3 IP, 6 H, 2 R, BB, 3 K. Coming from the left side with a little cross-fire delivers, Zastryzny brings some deception and a changeup with some diving action that gives him a chance. The offspeed pitch needs become more consistent, and he needs a breaking ball that he can trust, but Zastryzny has a chance to be a back-end starter if it all comes together. That ceiling, however, is still quite far from being a reality.
In Steven Moya's first big test, he showed massive raw power and a terrifying K:BB ratio. Which indicator will win out?
Some prospects inspire a strong consensus among scouts. The tools and projection are easy to see; we know a player is going to be good, so it’s only a matter of how good. With other prospects, however, there can be a much wider range of opinions. Two scouts can see the same thing from the same player and come up with two totally different sets of opinions. It happens in the seats behind the plate, in meeting rooms before the draft, and in many of the discussions behind the scenes here at BP. To me, this is one of the best parts about scouting. Sometimes there are no right or wrong answers, or at least not ones we’ll know for a few years.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Garin Cecchini, Kyle Crick, and Adam Brett Walker.
Garin Cecchini, 3B, Red Sox (Pawtucket, AAA): 4-4, 2 R, 3B. The biggest knock, and really the only knock, is that Cecchini doesn’t profile as your typical third baseman because he doesn’t have the kind of power usually associated with a corner infielder. What he lacks in power, however, he makes up for in plate discipline. No, it’s not the same, but it does allow him to produce value nonetheless.
Matt Barnes, RHP, Red Sox (Pawtucket, AAA): 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K. Barnes has never quite put it all together this year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t end up being the mid-rotation starter everyone has projected him to be for some time. His strikeout rate dipped this season in Triple-A, yet he remained effective.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday—plus a couple from Tuesday, too.
It’s playoff time, which means the talent pool is watered down and there are only a few games to work with each night. Never fear, however, as the Update carries on.
Matt Olson, 1B, Athletics (Stockton, A+): 3-4, R, 2 2B, BB. MLU mainstay Matt Olson is having far too much fun this season hitting in the California League to let things end. It should be noted also that despite his three-true-outcome tendencies, Olson also had 30 doubles on the season.
Scouting and fantasy takes on this week's second-tier, but still intriguing, call-ups.
We’ve devoted full articles to the most promising prospects promoted to the majors late this season, but we're offering scouting and fantasy takes on the best of the rest here.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, RHP, Phillies
Scouting Take: The Cuban import entered 2014 having not thrown a competitive pitch since he left his home country. Gonzalez’s medicals revealed some injury concerns that prompted the Phillies to rework his deal and turn him into a reliever this year. He worked in the low 90s as a starter but can work in the mid-90s as a reliever. He also has a splitter and a spotty breaking ball. The Phillies still have plans to convert him back into a starter next year but he’ll have to tighten up the command and work on the breaking ball. —Mauricio Rubio
Twenty big-league scouts and our own Jeff Moore watched Jozzen Cuesta and Misael Siverio try out in Florida last week.
There are innumerable adjustments players must make when defecting from Cuba in search of their major-league dream, but on Friday morning, on the back fields in the shadows of Roger Dean Stadium in south Florida, the weather was not one of them. The balmy heat and stifling humidity couldn’t have been much different from what Jozzen Cuesta and Misael Siverio were used to back in their native Cuba. The setting, however, was different, with more than 20 scouts in attendance who were eager to see the newest free agent talent but, after two hours, slightly disappointed by the pedestrian performances they saw.