A trip around the minors, with looks at Julio Urias, Martin Perez, Mark Sappington, Jose Dominguez, and others.
Julio Urias, LHP, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes) At the end of the day, the minor-league story of the year might be the prospect propulsion of 16-year-old Julio Urias, a left-handed pitcher recently signed out of Mexico. The Dodgers decided to send the precocious arm to the Midwest League to begin his professional career, a move that had an initial scent of novelty, but the reality is far from a stunt. Urias is a special talent, with a preternatural feel for his craft and the type of stuff that could one day play at the top of a major-league rotation. Listed at 5’11’’, the southpaw is actually closer to 6’1’’, with a projectable frame and a present fastball that routinely touches 95 mph on the gun. From an easy, repeatable delivery, Urias works 91-93 with the heater and has two secondary pitches that he can drop for strikes in any situation. While it’s easy to get excited about a would-be high school sophomore pitching in a full-season league, the real excitement comes from the reality that Urias is a very legit talent on the fast track to prospect fame. It’s remarkable for a 16-year-old to get outs at the full-season level, much less miss more than a bat an inning. That’s just insanity. I’m drinking the Boing! when it comes to Urias. I’m all in. –Jason Parks
Jose Dominguez, RHP, Dodgers (Triple-A Albuquerque) A pop-up prospect in the Dodgers system, Dominguez has raced to Triple-A on the strength of his 80-grade fastball that is routinely reaching 100-101 mph. The 22-year-old righty is something of a late bloomer. After signing in 2007, he pitched three years in the Dominican Summer League and didn’t reach full-season ball until 2012. He also served a 50-game PED suspension in 2010 followed by a 25-game ban last year.
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Updates on Miguel Sano, Michael Ynoa, Albert Almora, and more.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (Double-A New Britain) Sano has been getting column inches since his amateur days, and thanks to a breakout spring, the press love shall continue. We all know that Sano has some of the best raw power in the minors, with plenty of strength built into a leveraged swing with loft. He was born to hit the ball a long way, and so far in 2013 he’s put 16 balls into Florida State League seats. The 20-year-old takes the headlining spot in this week’s Ten Pack because of his upcoming promotion to the Double-A level, where the precocious talent will face his biggest professional challenge. The swing has some length, and his willingness to expand his zone makes him vulnerable to quality secondary offerings and pitchers with a plan. Double-A arms are better equipped to exploit such weaknesses, and if Sano is slow to make the adjustment (shortening up, looking to go the other way, not selling out for power), his on-the-field production could take a step back before it inevitably takes another step forward. —Jason Parks
Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox (High A Salem) The 20-year-old left-handed starter has made a smooth transition in taking the next step up the ranks, racking up 68 strikeouts in 56 innings while only allowing 38 hits thus far into the season. The big thing that has jumped out when scouting Owens is the development of his changeup. Showing as a below average offering last season, with varying arm speed and lacking finish, the pitch flashed much improved consistency and fading action in his last outing. Owens also created better deception via arm speed in sync to that of his fastball. While the 6-foot-6 lefty’s change is pushing toward becoming an above average weapon at his disposal, there is still work to do in enhancing the command of the 89-93 mph heater. Owens is inconsistent utilizing his large frame to stay on top of his offerings, and he is often unable to find the balance between over-throwing and releasing early. The young arm has ample development in front of him in reaching a ceiling of a mid-rotational starter, but the progress with his overall game is a good sign things are moving forward. —Chris Mellen
The BP Prospect Staff has been working overtime to keep you up-to-date on the upcoming draft. Find out more about BP's ongoing coverage and what to look out for this week.
This year, Baseball Prospectus has increased its coverage of amateur baseball and the MLB First-Year Player Draft. Over the past eight months, we’ve produced roughly 70,000 draft-related words, and you can find links to them all right here.
This offseason, Baseball Prospectus also joined forces with Perfect Game USA—the premiere baseball showcase/tournament provider in the world—and our newly forged partnership has provided the Baseball Prospectus readership with access to further MLB draft and amateur baseball content from the insightful team over at PG. Finally, both Baseball Prospectus and Perfect Game will continue to roll out further draft content throughout the week (publishing schedule below), so check in regularly this week to make sure you’re teed up for the draft when it kicks off on Thursday evening.
Of all the prospects in the minors, Baez’s status might have the most volatility, with the skill set to blossom into a superstar and the deficiencies that could terminate the dream before it begins. With elite bat speed and the type of raw power that can find a home in the middle of any major-league lineup, Baez could end up as the top prospect in the game. But his one-speed-fits-all approach on both sides of the ball can be limiting: His aggressive, see-ball-hit-ball mentality at the plate often puts him behind in counts and vulnerable to offerings out of the zone, and his tendency to rush the actions and the throws makes him error prone despite his exquisite hands at shortstop. Baez is warming up and is a good candidate to explode this summer, with a chance to sneak into the top 10 prospects in the game. But the Double-A test is looming on the horizon, and without more nuance to his game and a more refined approach, Baez could take a big step back against better competition. The talent is extreme. The risk is just as extreme. —Jason Parks
Updates on Raul Adalberto Mondesi, Addison Russell, Mason Williams, Robert Stephenson, and others.
Raul Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Royals (Low-A Lexington)
As much as I enjoy referring to Adalberto Mondesi as Adalberto Mondesi, the young shortstop has expressed his desire to be called by the first name that appears on his birth certificate, which just happens to be the same as his familiar father’s—a former rookie of the year--and his less-than-familiar older brother’s. Hey, if it works, keep working it. Raul Adalberto, which is still a cool sounding name, is one of my favorite prospects to watch, and on a short list of my favorite prospects to monitor and write about. He’s a 17-year-old playing a premium position at a full-season level, so the excitement can exist regardless of the on-the-field outcomes. Context is always a vital part of the evaluation process, as a prospect’s status or sudden rise in status can often put a spotlight on production [itself] at the expense of the specifics surrounding that production. Mondesi has struggled at times this season, and that can lead to overreactions and assumptions that aren’t tethered to the reality of the situation. Mondesi has struggled--no doubt --but he hasn’t been overwhelmed by the level of competition; he belongs at this level despite the poor statistical line. Coming into last night’s game, Mondesi was hitting an anemic .195/.205/.293 in May, which isn’t going to keep his name dripping from the tip of any Pavlovian tongue. But the talent to develop into something very special lives inside of Raul, son of Raul/brother of Raul, and it’s only a matter of time before his positive developmental steps show up on the stat sheet. He hit for the cycle last night. It’s a one-game sample, but bring the context back into the equation. Raul –son of Raul/brother of Raul—is a 17-year-old playing in a full-season league. The fact that he can show glimpses or flashes of brilliance at that level at his age is absolutely remarkable. This isn’t a normal prospect. –Jason Parks
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds (Low-A, Dayton)
Through the first seven weeks of the season, Robert Stephenson has carved up the Midwest League to the tune of 11.6 strikeouts per nine (punching out about one out of every three batters faced) and just 2.4 BB/9, all while holding the opposition to just a .240 batting average. Stephenson was the 27th overall selection in a stacked 2011 draft class, and as impressive as his stuff was out of the scholastic ranks it has bumped up across the board in 2013. His fastball is comfortably sitting mid-90s, climbing to 98 mph on occasion. He pounds the bottom of the zone on a tough downward plane, making him tough to square and helping him to produce a 45 percent groundball rate thus far this spring. His breaker is a hard curve that vacillates between 11-to-5 and 12-to-6 action, working best in the 80-82 mph range. It easily projects to a plus offering, though it plays closer to average right now due to inconsistent execution, which leads to a fair share of hangers. The changeup is still a work in progress, but Stephenson has already shown improvement in his feel for the pitch compared to early April. You can see start-to-start growth in Stephenson's game, particularly in his pitch execution and sequencing, and he's doing the little things, as well, including improving his pacing and set durations from the stretch (which, combined with 1.19-to-1.27 times to the plate makes him difficult to run on). Through 10 starts, Stephenson has made a strong case for being the top arm currently tossing in the Midwest League, and should be included in any discussion regarding the top arms in the minors. --Nick J. Faleris
In-person evaluations of Robert Stephenson, Kevin Gausman, Kyle Zimmer, Henry Owens, Chris Withrow, and Taijuan Walker.
When I stepped away from the second chair and into Kevin Goldstein’s vacated spot on the stage, I decided that the spine of my prospect architecture would be eyewitness scouting evaluations. The goal was not to portray myself or other members of the prospect team as industry-level scouts; being a fabulist wouldn’t benefit the product or the public paying for that product. The goal was to offer evaluations from a more personal point of view, reports that originated at the fields instead of on the phones or the search engines. I put together a team of talent evaluators I felt had the chops to sit in the stands and document the action on the field in an authentic manner. I wanted to hire the type of talent that would one day receive the bait from the private sector, joining up with the industry that I learn from on a daily basis. That team is in place.
Going forward, Baseball Prospectus will publish a weekly series featuring eyewitness evaluations from the staff, complete with scouting grades, detailed notes and (in many cases) video. These reports will attach to the player cards and offer a wealth of information throughout the season; with multiple looks from multiple sources, you will be able to track a prospect’s progression through the developmental process. As the games continue and we populate the minor-league stadiums around the country, the reports will start to pile up, and hopefully the season will conclude with a healthy reservoir of reports for you to pick through, compare, contrast, dissect and disagree with. I can’t think of a better means to study the minor-league process than with a collection of scouting reports from quality eyes, provided over the course of a season, and if everything continues as planned, for the duration of the players’ prospect journeys.
Checking in on Oscar Taveras, Miguel Sano, Gabriel Guerrero, and others.
Michael Wacha, RHP, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
The Cardinals’ top pick in the 2012 draft, Wacha received an aggressive assignment to Triple-A Memphis despite logging just 21 pro innings last summer. He is proving plenty apt for the challenge, posting a 1.99 ERA while yielding just 27 hits in 40 2/3 innings. Regarded as a polished arm as an amateur at Texas A&M, Wacha has made some quick strides as a pro. The progression hasn’t really changed his projection as a no. 3 starter, but he’s perhaps closer to realizing that potential than initially thought.
The 21-year-old righty has shown lots of polish early this season, pounding the strike zone with a three-pitch mix that includes a 90-95 mph fastball. He generates a steep downhill plane from his 6-foot-6 frame. His secondary pitches play well off the fastball––particularly his deceptive low-80s changeup, which is already a plus offering. Wacha’s curveball has been a key development since college; it’s presently average to solid-average and should become a third plus in the near future.
Brandon Workman, RHP, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
The 24-year-old has come out of the gate in 2013 showing improved fastball command, with the forward progress translating into less hard contact against and the missing of more bats. Workman has always thrown strikes since turning pro, but the increase in quality strikes has allowed him to efficiently churn through lineups in the Eastern League during the first month of the year. The latest outing saw him heavily feature his 91-94 mph fastball. Workman pounded the lower tier of the strike zone, along with generating more than a handful of swings and misses with the offering. While the right-hander didn’t have his best feel for either the 75-78 mph curveball or 86-89 mph cutter, he used them enough to further enhance the heater.
I’ve felt that Workman’s ultimate role lies in the bullpen, but there’s also been some improvement with loosening up the delivery and becoming less jerky with the arm action. The pitcher does still expend some extra energy, and longer frames do take their toll on him. I still see a seventh- or eighth-inning-reliever role as the best fit long-term, but more of a chance he can stick around as a starter for the near future. The growth of the fastball command is a good sign that Workman is taking steps toward getting closer to the majors, and should help boost his case for getting a crack at Triple-A as a starter. –Chris Mellen