A look at the hurlers who impressed or struggled in front of our prospect team in the desert.
Most Surprising: Archie Bradley, RHP, Diamondbacks:
Bradley’s turn in the AFL has received a lot of press, but given his struggles this season and the reports of his questionable command, I wasn’t expecting much more than impressive velocity from him at the start of the Future’s Game. Without researching any changes in his repertoire before seeing him, I certainly wasn’t expecting to see a potential plus slider. His command was far from perfect, but it was much better than the rumors suggesting he might be destined for the bullpen would have you believe. Furthermore, the slider (which comes in between 88-91 mph and is more of a cutter) allows him to save the big, power curveball for when he’s ahead in the count and needs to miss a bat. Overall, it reaffirmed my belief that he can remain a starter, even with average fastball command.
Most Disappointing: Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates:
Reports of Glasnow’s command during the season were on par with Bradley’s, in that it was below average, but his velocity allowed him to get away with it. What we saw in the desert, however, is that the gap is much bigger than that. Glasnow’s velocity was diminished at this late point in the season, but that had no effect on his command, which wavered greatly because of inconsistent mechanics. He hit his target location (his catcher’s spot, not balls or strikes) with around only 30 percent of his fastballs in this outing, which is an unacceptably low amount. Additionally, he also needs to work on the consistency of his off-speed pitches, but doesn’t give himself an opportunity to do so because he’s typically behind in the count. There are many young pitchers with fastball command issues, and improvements can be made, but for a pitcher who dominated the minors to this point and will be heading to Double-A next season, he has a lot of ground to make up. —Jeff Moore
Reports from the prospect team on bats who intrigued them or let them down this fall.
Most Surprising: Trevor Story, 2B, Rockies:
Story's prospect trajectory has been as volatile as a social media stock price, but his tools have remained intact. I expected his high strikeout totals to be the product of a terrible approach or big holes in his swing, but none were glaring. Story's bat is explosive, as is his athleticism. His baseball actions are fantastic and he's taking kindly to second base. There is still swing-and-miss in his game, but I left feeling much more confidant that he will be able to be a big league regular at the keystone than I had anticipated being upon arrival. He's a still a flawed player, but his physical ability should be enough to overcome those flaws.
Biggest Disappointment: Nick Williams, OF, Rangers:
As a fan of prospects with plate discipline, I came in with the bar set pretty low for what I was expecting from Williams. Still, given the reports I had heard from other scouts, both ours and within the game, I was expecting the good parts of Williams' game to jump out at me more. There is bat speed to go along with many of the physical tools needed to be a good hitter, but the approach is borderline comical. In order to get away with his current style of hitting, his ability needs to be elite and I don't think it's there. Simply put, I don't think he'll hit major-league pitching. —Jeff Moore
Reports on prospects who stood out in the desert on Halloween.
Mark Appel, RHP, Astros:
Perhaps no prospect was as divisive as Appel throughout the season, drawing wide-ranging reviews from evaluators on both ends of the spectrum. The stuff took a reported step forward at the end of the year upon reaching Double-A after his brutal stint in the Cal League. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound righty has an ideal body for a starting pitcher with broad shoulders, a high waist, and a muscular lower half. From the windup, Appel begins with his hands at his waist and brings them to his shoulder as he reaches max leg lift. He drops and drives down the mound, generating momentum and separation between his upper and lower body, firming up his glove in front of his letters at release. His arm action is free and easy, swinging it low before exhibiting a standard elbow climb to a slightly higher than three-quarters arm slot, decelerating well post-release as he falls off toward the first base side of the mound.
In a Friday afternoon start against Scottsdale, the Salt River starter turned in a performance that can be viewed as a microcosm of his professional career to date. He came out firing in the first, sitting in the mid 90s out of the gate and living 96-98 mph as the inning progressed. He commanded his fastball and generated whiffs and weak contact, looking every bit the part of an electric front-of-the-rotation starter. He wasn’t as sharp in the second, losing a few ticks on his fastball and losing his command and release point when forced to go to his secondary offerings. After a long layoff prior to his third inning of work, Appel came out flat and struggled mightily to locate with both his fastball and secondary offerings. His fastball velocity also dipped into the low 90s when he was forced into the stretch with little to no command of the offering, as he appeared to be rushing down the mound and not utilizing his lower half. With no ability to manipulate the fastball within the zone, Appel relied heavily on his slider as a get-me-over offering and became rather predictable with his sequencing. His fourth inning of work was largely uneventful, but he was pulled after facing three hitters in the fifth without recording an out.