Joey Wentz, Jacob Nix, and another update on Scott Kingery.
Joey Wentz, LHP, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome)
Velocity concerns have followed Wentz since his pre-draft days that included a dead arm, but if his fastball continues to pop like it did during a recent outing for Rome, sitting low-90s instead of mid-90s won’t be an issue. He was 88-93, touched 94, and consistently sat 90-92. There was the occasional dip to 88-89 as he labored but, again, the liveliness is the thing to pay attention to here.
Wentz’s fastball only features slight arm-side run and the overall movement is minimal, but it’s effective based on extreme plane from a high slot and 6-foot-5 frame. It jumps from the hand and rides hard to both sides of the plate. He can also work up effectively with the pitch, although his command wavered at times and he left it up and arm-side too often. Wentz’s curveball was 77-81 with tight, two-plane break when he spun it well. The break came late and featured above-average depth. It typically came in at 1/5 and was consistently hard and downward with above-average feel. His changeup didn’t match the first two pitches by lacking feel. It was constantly firm out of the hand. He threw one usable, average change with some fade.
Notes on Dodgers, Mariners, Padres, and Pirates prospects
Wilson Karaman Reggie McClain, RHP, Seattle Mariners (High-A Modesto)
Mature frame, limited projection remaining; slow, full wind, stays tall through high leg kick, rapid acceleration through drop-and-drive; deep arm swing, loose, average arm speed to high-three-quarters slot; lands closed, mild inversion, cross-fire delivery, struggles to get over front side and finish glove-side, timing to slot got increasingly inconsistent with fatigue; heavy FB 89-92, sink with arm-side run, generates some plane down low, below-average command, ball wanders into hitting zone too frequently; low-80s CH with good tumble and late action, quality pitch with feel, tunnels well; slurvy breaker 76-82, inconsistent shape and bite, struggled to snap it consistently, flashes occasional average utility, projects to play fringy; controls the ball well despite fine command deficit, stays around the zone, likely upper-minors org depth, could see some big-league innings if the SL tightens up more than projected
JH Schroeder Drew Jackson, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
R/R SS, premium athlete. 4.1 to 1B. Very aware guy, made a couple very heads up decisions in the field. Big for SS w/plus speed. Plus-plus arm, quick release and carry from deep in hole w/ limited tail. Plus instincts and hands. Made pre-pitch positional adjustments. Don't love defensive starting position, seems a little high. Very fast transfer turning DP. High, loose hands at the plate, slightly open stance. Uses whole field, lets FB get deep. Very good eye on inner-half. Stayed on BBs well. Doesn't drive ball the other way, probably only a pull power type guy.
Another exciting Padres arm, the Royals have an up the middle prospect, and yes, Gianfranco Wawoe.
Michel Baez, RHP, San Diego Padres (complex-level AZL)
The Padres have signed so much international talent that it can be hard to keep track of everyone. The 20-year-old Baez signed out of Cuba in December 2016 for $3 million with little fanfare, and he gives San Diego another huge arm to dream on. After sitting out game action all of the extended training, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound righty appeared in Arizona last week, blowing away young Mariners hitters with his huge fastball. The pitch explodes on hitters with late running life, generating exceptional plane from his three-quarters arm slot. In the first he was 97-98 mph, with good command to his arm-side. He was 94-96 mph thereafter, mixing in a hard slider with two-plane break. His command of the pitch is inconsistent at present, losing his release point and coming around the baseball to spike it down and away to righties. He rounds out the arsenal with an 85-87 mph change-up that he mostly threw to lefties on the outer edge or off the plate. He threw it with conviction, and is still learning to locate it, but at maturity, I would not be surprised if it is above-average, giving him a mid-rotation arsenal.
Given his extended layoff and long levers, it is not surprising that Baez’s command is still developing. Key will be repeating his delivery to the glove side, as the times he was offline or out of sync were mostly to that target. His arm action is on the longer side with only mild effort, and the big heater gives him some margin for error, particularly in the lower levels. This was a limited look, but the raw stuff and remaining projection should keep him in the rotation into the upper levels, and San Diego has every reason to be patient with him. If he does go to the pen, a future late-inning role is in play. He will likely head to Tri-Cities in the Pioneer League to open the year. —John Eshleman
J.H. Schroeder Walker Buehler, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
Lean, but strong frame. Listed at 6-foot-2, looks shorter. Good athleticism and body control. Three-quarters to high-three-quarters arm slot. Explosive arm action, with good deception, smooth arm circle, particularly out back. Can work too fast at times, get out of sync. 1.65 to plate w/speed. FB 96-100, worked mostly 97-98. 4S & 2S. Late run away to LHBs. CB 79-84, 11-6, preferred secondary. Backdoored to LHB. SL 87-89, 11-5, could get cutterish. Command was spotty, especially in leverage situations. Seemed to set up middle/middle. More comfortable commanding away to LHBs, had hard time getting FB glove-side. FB heavy repertoire. Attacks hitters, trusts stuff.
Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
Athletic but only moderate body control. Still very skinny, narrow hips, showed bad body language at times, didn't look competitive. Three-quarters release. Maybe best arm action in minors, really easy, loose arm. Ball pops, but hitters see it pretty well. Delivery: Loads with hands fairly high, has tendency to get wrapped in back, falls off 1b-side. Slight wrist-wrap on breaking ball. 1.6 to plate. Struggled a bit to get glove-side. FB, 93-99, lost velocity through start, good ride. Began cutting FB (accidentally) in second inning. CB 84-87, kept down, when thrown well closer to 12-6, rolled. SL 86-88, sharper than CB, more commitment, 11-4. CH, 90, little movement. Spotty command at this point, sprays around zone.
Most of the team decided to write about the New Hampshire Fish Cats this week.
Omar Estevez, MI, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
Signed for $6 million out of Cuba during the Dodgers’ most recent international binge in 2015, Estevez was billed as a relatively advanced bat with questions about his glove. So far across about a half dozen looks he’s presented as exactly the opposite of that. In the box he starts tall and moderately open, with high hands that load quietly and stay above his shoulder line at trigger. This swing path is direct but steep, and coupled with a tendency to step in the bucket, he pulls off and slashes under a lot of balls for weaker fly ball contact. And that’s when he does make contact; the approach is fairly aggressive, and while he’ll square the occasional early-count fastball he struggles a good bit to find breaking stuff. He’s got loose wrists and a reasonably quick bat, but there’s a long way to go for him to start translating anything into consistent at-bats.
Notes on Yusniel Diaz, Jose Trevino, Keibert Ruiz, and more.
Wilson Karaman Yusniel Diaz, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
Diaz's hitting mechanics are out of whack right now, team's tried to quiet down previous noise and aggressiveness in his pre-swing and launch, might've gone too far, swing lacks early rhythm at present, he's lost a leg kick he'd utilized at beginning of season, timing launching the barrel is off, struggling to get to high pitches like he used to; greatest strength as a hitter is his hands, they currently lack same explosiveness and whip off the barrel launch that he's shown in the past, not driving anything with any authority; signs of life in last couple looks, too good a hitter to not find it eventually.
Eli White, SS, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton)
Lean and athletic frame, room to grow into some additional strength; quick stroke, on plane and into zone quickly, flat path, will leverage it to pull side in hitting counts, covers inner-third well for longer-armed frame, cleaned out up-and-in velo with carry to pull side; runs deep counts, passive early, leaves drivable pitches on the table, shows fairly advanced command of the zone, below-average hit profile can play towards fringe-average utility with on-base skill, empty average hitter with very occasional pop; 70 runner, 4.11 with second gear, 3.9 on a reach/jailbreak, weak crossover, raw technique on leads and releases, speed plays down on bases at present; solid fielding actions, strong arm from short, should have athleticism to develop utility infield defensive profile.
Notes and video featuring A.J. Puk, Bo Bichette, and a big-money J2 signing from 2016.
A.J. Puk, LHP, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton)
The sixth-overall pick a year ago, Puk is a long, large human being. He’s a mature 6-foot-7 with strength and elasticity, though he lacks for great athleticism. The physicality poses challenges for his ability to repeat his delivery, and he attempts to simplify by pitching exclusively out of the stretch. His timing was all over the place in this start, however, and there were frequent balance issues that resulted in him yanking his head and neck down rather violently as he fell offline. The arm slot wandered around three-quarters, with huge extension out front but just a lot of length to his release point. I don’t love the fine command projection, though the stuff can pair with moderate control and be enough.