Notes on Derek Hill, Isan Diaz, P.J. Conlon, and more.
P.J. Conlon, LHP, New York Mets (Low-A Columbia)
If you want to see what a true major-league-quality out pitch looks like, sit behind home plate for Conlon’s starts and wait for the cambio. Conlon’s changeup consistently hits plus with huge depth on the arm-side fade, excellent deception and feel. It eats South Atlantic League hitters alive and will probably munch on upper-level competition. The rest of his arsenal is less certain for the upper levels. His fastball sits 87-89 and touches 90 with minimal movement and life above the thighs. It shows some sink and plane when spotted around the knees, and he’s able to command it to that spot fairly well, which is something he’ll need to do consistently at higher levels. He mixes in a cutter at 86-88 with moderate cut and slight depth. He also tosses in a slider at 76-80 with fringe-average ability when spun tight with decent tilt, and a show-me curveball in the low-70s that gets telegraphed. Conlon has a severe head whack and spine tilt in his delivery, yet he repeats his quirky motion and arm slot, and it feeds the deception on his changeup. He projects for above-average command despite the delivery. He lacks arsenal punch and depth outside his changeup that could limit him to relief in the future, but that changeup is going to play. —David Lee
Notes on Miguel Diaz, Joe Musgrove, Dalton Pompey, and more.
Miguel Diaz, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers (Low-A Wisconsin)
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 for $85,000, Diaz has steadily climbed the developmental ladder and has done nothing but impress. Throwing from a high-three-quarters slot, Diaz uses a slight twist at max leg lift to start his coil. He possesses a lightning-fast arm that gets through a small circle in the back of his motion and gets out front well. At times he will post his front leg which prevents him from finishing with authority.
Diaz’s fastball is electric, sitting 92-95 and touching 97 when needed. In this outing, he started off slowly in the 92-94 range with slightly below-average command to both sides of the plate. Once he started getting in trouble the big-time velocity made its appearance, blowing several hitters away at the top of the zone with 97 mph heaters. It comes out easy and gets on hitters quickly.
Notes on Alex Verdugo, Braden Shipley, Forrest Wall, and more.
Alex Verdugo, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (Double-A Tulsa)
A left-hander with the arm to pitch his way into the draft, the speed to handle center, and enough power to slug .464 in the Texas League this season, Verdugo can claim as much talent as any other prospect. He has a unique set-up deep in the box, with an open stance that suggests his front leg might be a conscientious objector to baseball. He keeps his weight all the way up and back, makes a soft timing toe-tap to square his stance as the pitcher delivers, then takes a flat stride to initiate his swing. The process is… interesting, but the end result is fine, with enough quickness and control to meet balls in the zone. If he pays any penalty for balance and timing complications, it might be in power but not in contact. He fared well last week against Luke Weaver, who struck out nine with a quality fastball/changeup combo. In fact, Verdugo had one swing-and-miss on thirty-nine pitches observed across two days. Although his strikeout rate has steadily increased as he moves up levels (from almost nothing to merely above average), it seems to be the result of selectivity: His walk rate has climbed and he gets good marks for pitch recognition. His negligible platoon split, often a liability for lefties, is another mark in his favor.
Notes on Ryan McMahon, Franklyn Kilome, Eloy Jimenez, and more.
Franklyn Kilome, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (Low-A Lakewood)
In my first viewing of Kilome in April, he hit 94 early but tanked down into the 89-91 range in the fourth, where he was forced from the game before recording an out. The breaking ball and command weren’t there, but despite everything else he threw some decent changes. The Phillies wisely gave him a couple weeks off after that one, and in his next start, Kilome sat a consistent 91-94, topping out at 97, with much-improved command and a plus-potential curveball. Fast-forward another month to my third look this past Thursday, where Kilome was dominant for two innings, working mostly off a fastball sitting 92-97 that he was able to manipulate well—before the fastball command completely imploded in the fourth and on, just as I was noting how much he’d improved it.
Had I written Kilome—currently our 95th-ranked prospect overall—up in April, it wouldn’t have been pretty. Had he been on a low pitch or batter count in my third look—as many prized prospects now are—I’d probably be using this space to write him up as better than that 95th ranking. But only in looking at the whole picture do you get the full story on Kilome: A maddeningly inconsistent arm with command that comes and goes, flashing all of the individual pieces for number 2 upside, yet less impressive as an overall package than his opposing number on Thursday, Rangers sleeper Erik Swanson, who sat 93-96, touched 98, and showed some feel for a change and slider.
We made you wait an extra day, so we put in an extra writeup.
Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State (2016 Draft Class) Lauer and the Kent State Flashes entered the MAC Tournament as the heavy favorites, however a loss to Western Michigan ended their run at post season play. Lauer started for the Flashes on Wednesday, going the distance with a complete-game shutout. He showed advanced pitchability throughout the game, and the stuff to match. While Lauer doesn’t currently have a pure out-pitch, his arsenal is still adequate. His fastball sat 93, hitting 94 a few times with a deceptive look from the left side, with some cutting action on it. His curveball will be an above-average pitch, showing 1-7 break across multiple planes at 76 mph. His slider is much improved since I last saw him in April; it usually sits 85-86 topping at 87 mph. His changeup also looked improved, and he threw it with much more confidence this game, featuring horizontal arm-side fade and a touch of tumble as it fell late at times.
Lauer won't be an ace, or even a number two in all likelihood, but what he is missing in ceiling he makes up for in floor. Even as someone who hates the term “high-floor player,” Lauer looks the part to be a fast-rising mid-to-back-end starter. He is as polished as anyone in the class currently, and if any of his off-speed pitches can improve into the plus range, his ceiling becomes even higher. His endurance has never been questioned, as his last two outings have been a no hitter at Bowling Green, and this shutout. His velocity held through all nine innings on Wednesday, and he maintained his delivery well. His delivery is extremely clean, but has a quirk with his left leg that needs to be timed correctly in order to hit his spots. But out of all of his outings that I have seen, he’s only lost his timing in a few. I would look for Lauer to go anywhere in the 25-40 range, but losing out on his ability to prove himself against post season competition is unfortunate. —Grant Jones
Notes on Logan Allen, Albert Almora, Austin Allen and other people with A's in their names.
Antonio Senzatela, RHP, Colorado Rockies (Double-A Hartford)
Senzatela was making his first start in five weeks after an outing in April where he had “trouble getting loose.” Rustiness could explain some of his struggles with fastball command early, but Senzatela has high-effort mechanics and doesn't get much out of his lower half, limiting the overall future command profile. The fastball does show some east-west life at times, and the deception in his delivery makes the 90-94 velocity appear “sneaky-fast,” but he struggled to get the pitch down in the zone and Bowie hitters seemed very comfortable taking cuts at his fastball. Even at his sharpest he will struggle to get plane on it out of his 6-foot-1 frame.
Senzatela featured a full four-pitch mix, but only his slider looked like it had a chance to get to average. The best ones sat in the low 80s, and had sharp, late tilt, but at the top end of his 79-85 velocity band the offering would flatten out. He still throws his slow curve on occasion to sneak a strike, but it is mostly a show-me or chase pitch. Senzatela started to work his changeup in more third time through the order, but the pitch is well-below-average at present. It's a major-league-quality arm, but while you can handwave some of Senzatela's struggles due to the long layoff, the mechanical quirks and lack of a clear third pitch likely point towards a future home in the bullpen. —Jeffrey Paternostro