The prospect team debates the no. 1 young pitcher in the Blue Jays system.
Nearly two years ago, the hot topic in Toronto was who their top pitching prospect was, Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez. Yesterday, one of those two pitchers dominated the Orioles for seven innings to clinch Toronto's first division title in over two decades. This article originally ran on December 9, 2013.
The subjective nature of prospect prognostication is equal parts fascination and frustration, as the prejudices and partialities of the evaluation process can limit what we see and how we go about compartmentalizing that information. I’m a registered bullpen box offender; a recidivist when it comes to placing radically short arms, radically tall arms, slim and slender arms, and most arms of Dominican provenance into a future bullpen role before the developmental process has played out. I recognize that this particular bias is often incongruent to the nature of the process itself, and it paints me as a hypocrite when I preach against binary logic and then participate in such black and white developmental tropes. I’m working on it.
Matt Chapman, Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, Victor Reyes and more surprised us (in a good way) in 2015
A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi)
My first few looks at A.J. Reed gave me a modest impression. He showed raw power for days in BP and worked counts in games, but the bat speed wasn't anything special, there was some length in the swing, and he showed indecision at the dish. But his is an approach that takes some time to understand and appreciate, as is the surprising bat-to-ball skill for a man of his size and power. There's some swing-and-miss in his game, but after you watch him enough you realize his strikeouts are more often a by-product of working deep into counts than flailing away. He thinks along with pitchers, frequently gets himself into advantageous hitting situations, and works the whole field with authority when he does. At the same time, he's not passive and will jump a first-pitch fastball with the best of 'em. It's not often you see a guy with 70 raw power figure out how to bring the vast majority of it with him into games at such a young age. Perhaps most tellingly, he improved his ability to shoot pitches on the outer third to the opposite field and up the middle during his time in Lancaster. That qualifies as remarkable progress for any player's hit tool given the environment's extreme prejudice towards lifting the ball to right field. The numbers were nice this year, but more importantly the developmental progress was real. —Wilson Karaman
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Notes on Anderson Espinoza, Andrew Benintendi, Confesor Lara, and more.
On the mound Nicholas Frey (Cardinals) has average arm speed and pitches out of a traditional three-quarters arm slot. His mechanics were ugly when I saw him, he has a deep stab, there is effort to the delivery, and he fights moderate spine tilt which can cause him to fall off hard to the first base side. Frey has a fastball that comes in at 93-94 and shows moderate run but it's a surprisingly hittable offering as batters get a long look at it all the way through the zone. Frey flashes an 11-5 curve but it lacks consistency and deception; he does a poor job of replicating the fastball arm speed. Frey's stuff should produce better results but his fringy command profile and the ease with which batters pick up his stuff have hindered him severely. – Mauricio Rubio
The Cardinals' fourth-round pick out of Illinois State, Paul DeJong has handled himself well during his pro debut. He showed average arm strength, coordinated actions, and average hands in my viewing. At the plate DeJong keeps his hands low and in towards the body, and has a moderate load pre-pitch. I saw his swing get long some on hard stuff in but DeJong shows some feel for the barrel and he has above-average bat speed. – Mauricio Rubio
The Dodgers’ second-rounder last summer, Verdugo worked his way up to High-A this year at the tender age of 19 despite a slow start. He sports a fairly athletic frame and there’s physical projection remaining, with room to fill out his chest and arms. He carries himself with a quiet swagger, appearing almost passive at times when he’s not in the heat of the moment. His switch flips quickly, however, and he shows as a high-intensity player when engaged. He wasn’t shy about expressing frustration after what he deemed to be a sub-par round in the cage, and after a pop out in-game he spent the better part of the next half inning pantomiming his swing in between pitches in the outfield.
Notes on Bobby Bradley, Yeyson Yrizarri, and several 2015 early-round selections.
Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, New York Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
After spending time in Double-A to finish off last season, this year represented a chance for Ynoa to show that he could adjust to facing more advanced bats on a consistent basis over the long haul at the level and prove that things were trending in the right direction when it came to sticking as a starter. While the overall arsenal doesn’t have a pitch that screams, it’s a collection of offerings that the 22-year-old mixes and matches and throws for strikes.
At times, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing a prospect’s path from amateur ball to the big leagues is relatively standard; then we get snapped back to reality where every prospect’s path is wildly different. Enter, Roemon Fields. After first playing JUCO ball and then transferring to NAIA Bethany, where he ran track and played baseball, Fields was working for the Seattle Postal Service when the Blue Jays signed him out of an amateur exhibition series. Fields stands out for his lean body with fast-twitch athleticism, and his explosiveness on the field. An exceptional runner, Fields consistently got down the line in 4.01-4.08 seconds over the weekend, putting pressure on defenders every time the ball was in play, and he showed an ability to easily utilize his speed both on the bases and in center field. Fields is still raw at the plate, but he hung tough during at-bats, fouling off difficult pitches before finding one he could put in play; typically via a solid line drive or ground ball. At nearly 25 years old, Fields has a limited window to impress and reach the big leagues, and while his future likely resides on a major-league bench, if anywhere, he has some potential to develop into a top of the order, slap-hitting burner. While Fields has taken a unique path to Double-A since signing late in 2013, his journey becomes a nice secondary note after seeing him play for several games. – Mark Anderson
Notes on Anderson Espinoza, Francisco Mejia and a couple frustrated former first rounders...
Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Boston Red Sox (GCL Red Sox)
After starting his professional journey in the Dominican Summer League, the Red Sox saw enough from the 17-year-old to give him an aggressive bump to the Gulf Coast League and in the process begin the right-hander’s assimilation to life stateside, on an earlier than expected timeline. The intrigue with Espinoza goes well beyond the $1.8 million signing bonus inked by the youngster a little over a year ago, with tangible evidence this could be a special arm in the making. Though, the expectation on the timing of that type of potential payout is well down the developmental road.
Quotes on new Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood, recent call up Jon Gray, and the recently traded Nick Williams.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff.