USA Baseball arms (including Carlos Rodon) and Florida High School updates.
Last Friday marked the beginning of the baseball season for the vast majority of collegiate programs (junior colleges have been in action since Feb. 1st), and it was an eventful opening weekend for a number of high-interest USA Collegiate National Team alums. The draft’s presumptive leader for 1-1 honors, Carlos Rodon, (LHP, NC State), had a less-than-stellar opener, while a quartet of his Team USA rotation-mates found varying levels of success in their respective starts. Down in the Sunshine State, high school ball is underway and we have notes on five arms and their early season starts.
Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State Scouting Video
It was a disappointing start all around for NC State ace Rodon. After weather-related issues bumped State’s opener from Friday in Southern California to Sunday in Raleigh, the lefty took the mound without his usual overpowering arsenal. Rodon sat as low as 89-90 mph and generally 90-92, several ticks shy of his usual comfort zone, while struggling to command the pitch to his typical ability. His power breaker, normally the go-to pitch in his repertoire, was unresponsive, and with his fastball velocity down Canisius was able to succeed with a choke-and-poke approach, taking advantage of Rodon’s bouts of wildness and a flat NC State defense. The final line was a ho-hum six innings pitched, four hits, three runs (one earned), and one walk allowed, with six strikeouts and three batsmen hit by pitches. While Sunday’s performance was less than ideal, Rodon’s track record, and the fact that he has more than three months’ worth of starts before draft day, lessen the blow for evaluators. He gets Appalachian State next weekend. –Nick J. Faleris
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.
The prospect team debates the no. 1 young pitcher in the Blue Jays system.
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.
Perhaps my newfound developmental liberalism pushed me toward Marcus Stroman as the top prospect in the Jays system, or perhaps he’s just the best candidate for the spot, regardless of his ultimate role. Outside of a few arms, the historical record isn’t littered with sub 5’10’’ righty starters that found sustainable success at the major-league level, and that fact alone could give even the most strident supporters a valid reason to question Stroman’s long-term future in a rotation. But I was eventually persuaded to believe the diminutive arm was not only a starter but a superior prospect, one with an upside similar to Aaron Sanchez, with a more mature arsenal, better all-around feel, and a low risk/high floor if the rotation projection failed to actualize. I feel confident in the outcome of the list, but it took a healthy debate and opinions from all sides to carve out the conclusion. This is how the sausage is made.
The prospect team pushes and shoves over which excellent Twins pitching prospect gets the no. 3 spot.
When putting together the Twins’ top prospect list, the first two names required little-to-no thought or debate, as Buxton is a superhero and Sano’s raw power turns scouts into teenaged girls screaming at the Beatles, c. 1964. On my initial list, I ranked Meyer third and recent first-round pick Kohl Stewart fourth, which in turn sparked the following debate about their prospect value and risk factors. Even though Meyer won the spot without much of a fight, the email exchanges did provide plenty of interesting scouting commentary about the two players, and made the reports more comprehensive as a result. This is how the sausage is made.
Which of the Astros elite prospects is elitest? The prospect team tries to settle it.
When we started the Astros farm system discussion, I thought I’d kick off the process by asking a basic yet profound question: Can we make a case that George Springer is a better prospect than Carlos Correa? Regardless of my personal lean, I wanted to craft a convincing argument for both sides, and encourage a deeper debate on the merits of the two players in question. The following is part of our email exchange on the subject, including quotes from scouts and front office members, whose names and affiliations have been redacted for their protection. This is how the sausage is made.
The prospects team recounts seeing achievers and disappointments this year, among them Addison Russell, Todd McDonald, Henry Owens, and Miguel Sano.
Todd McDonald, OF, Rangers (AZL Rangers)
McDonald is the strangest player I have ever had the privilege to scout; he’s the prospect poster child for the post-minimalist movement. The 17-year-old Australian of Aboriginal descent plays the game with the kind of physical effort than is hard to see and appreciate with the human eye. At the plate, McDonald stands upright, rarely wasting the energy necessary to complete a practice swing or to secure proper footing in the box; rather, McDonald just walks [stress the word: walk] into the box, looks at the pitcher, and practices his ability to remain completely still. Without any lower-half movement, he can square plus velocity by firing his hands and striking the ball. Of course, this assumes he actually decides to remove the bat from his shoulder. McDonald has a very interesting approach at the plate, as his 80-grade #slack might suggest, but it’s the pitch recognitions skills that intrigue me; rarely will McDonald chase a pitch out of the zone, as he would rather not swing and strikeout looking than actually swing the bat and miss the ball. In the field, McDonald plays with the intensity of Quaalude addict watching paint dry in an empty room, but the raw tools suggest he could be an above-average runner if he ever decided to actually run. I have no idea how McDonald will develop on the field, but I guarantee that I will never lose my fascination with his unique blend of bat-to-ball instincts and #slack. –Jason Parks
Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (Double-A New Britain)
Sano brutalized the Florida State League before reality slowed his prospect flow in Double-A, which is where I had the chance to watch him over a four-game series. His raw power is unbelievable, as the 20-year-old is strong enough to launch balls over the fence without the benefit of sweet-spot contact. The swing is leveraged and long, and despite ball/strike recognition skills, he will look for big extension in most counts and will expand his zone and chase. His hit tool could play to average at the end of the day, which would make him a ~.260 type, but enough that the big boy raw can play in games, which could make him a 40-plus home run type. The defensive profile has been a subject of debate since his professional debut, but I thought he showed more than enough at third to project at the position. For his size, he’s a very good athlete with good balance and coordination, and he is at his best coming in on balls. He struggled with some lateral movements, especially when he failed to center himself to the ball and would opt for a more casual Roger Dorn approach to fielding grounders. But I think he possesses the necessary athleticism to handle the demands of the position, and the arm is more than strong enough to bail him out of a few initial mistakes. The total package could be one of the best power hitters in the game, one with enough holes to exploit if you have a plan and can execute it, but also one who will punish you severely if you make a mistake over the plate. He’s a middle-of-the-order threat that can stick at third if he makes it a priority, and given the fact that he’s only 20, he has plenty of time to refine his game before reaching his potential. –Jason Parks
Raul Adalberto Mondesi, shortstop, Royals (Low-A Lexington) Coming into the season, Mondesi the Younger was an invisible prospect to many, having failed to capture more national attention despite being ranked third on the Baseball Prospectus Royals’ Top 10 list and 58th overall in baseball on the pre-season 101. His most familiar quality at the time was a bloodline and a short-season resume, but after the then-17-year-old jumped to the full-season level and flashed his high-ceiling tools, he became a featured player on prospects lists all over the internet. The equivalent of a junior in high school, Mondesi had 27 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases in the Sally League, while showing off his legit left-side chops on defense. Mondesi has a chance to blossom into one of the best prospects in the game, as the hit tool has projection (clean stroke; can make hard contact and drive velocity) and the glove is more than capable of sticking at shortstop. Factor in his extreme youth, natural ease and feel for the game, and tool-based ceiling, and Mondesi might be one of the most exciting prospects in the minors. He exceeded all my expectations in 2013 and my expectations were high, and with another step forward, the aforementioned prospect prophecy might be a truth and not just a tease. –Jason Parks
Lucas Sims, pitcher, Braves (Low-A Rome)
Sims is a stud, but I didn’t see him developing into this level of stud this early in the developmental process. A first-round pick in 2012, Sims has been on the prospect radar for a while, but the 19-year-old righty really blossomed in 2013, logging over 116 innings in the Sally League and missing 134 bats. He’s not an imposing figure on the mound, but the stuff casts a bigger shadow than his 6’2’’ frame. He’s comfortable working his fastball in the low-to-mid-90s with late tailing action, dropping a true upper-70s hammer with heavy vertical action, and a 82-86 mph changeup with late sink. Because of his impressive performance in 2013, Sims is sailing up prospect lists, and if his final six starts of the season are a harbinger of his next step forward (34 IP, 46 K, 23 H, 5 ER), the Braves might have something special on their hands. –Jason Parks
Reviewing the disappointing seasons of Bubba Starling, Trevor Bauer, Gary Sanchez, Francisco Lindor, and others.
This week's theme: prospects who disappointed in 2013.
Gary Sanchez, catcher, Yankees (Double-A Trenton) We ranked Sanchez 47th in baseball coming into the season, and 26th overall in the mid-season update, but the latter had more to do with the promotion and attrition of his contemporaries than with his rising star. Sanchez is a frustrating prospect, one who possesses a high ceiling that comes at a high risk, and his performance in 2013 gave us a taste of both outcomes. The 20-year-old has the type of impact potential in the stick to warrant the high-6 OFP grade, but the makeup continues to produce mixed response, and despite owning some defensive skills, the overall projection behind the plate is cloudy. While it’s true that Sanchez is still extremely young and attempting to develop into a dual-threat player, the red flags in his game could limit his promise, both in the field and at the plate. He’s still a top 100 prospect in the game—and you can make a case for continued inclusion in the top 50—but his stock has slipped. —Jason Parks
On Tuesday this time! Updates on some of the most intriguing AFL players, including Byron Buxton, Taylor Lindsey, Andrew Heaney, and more.
Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (High-A Ft. Myers)
The top prospect in the land continues his assault on the baseball world, hitting for average and showing good pop with a mature approach, in addition to his top-shelf defense in center and elite speed on the bases. It’s a performance trend that started in the Midwest League and has continued after his promotion to the Florida State League. Simply put, Buxton is a superhero, showing all would-be contemporaries and spectators that they are mere mortals and insufficient next to his special baseball powers. The 19-year-old cape-wearing man from mythology is set to play with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL, and if you haven’t put eyes on this exceptional prize, do whatever it takes to make your way to Camelback Ranch this fall. *Lycra Spandex costumes are optional. –Jason Parks
Trevor May, RHP, Twins (Double-A New Britain)
Earlier this summer I was able to sit on a May start, and at the time I wasn’t overly impressed despite a positive on-the-field outcome. May is a big, strong horse of a pitcher, with a well-rounded arsenal that includes a meaty fastball and multiple secondary offerings that flash above-average, but his delivery minimizes the natural advantage of height, and as a result of his drop-and-drive approach his plus velocity often arrives flat-planed and edible. The command comes and goes, but when he’s on and staying over his offerings, May looks the part of a no. 4 starter, one capable of logging innings and keeping his team in the game. He’ll be pitching for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League and will get to wear the same uniform as Byron Buxton, so I expect May to take a step forward this fall and carry it into his 2014 campaign, where the big righty will likely have the opportunity to pitch at the highest level. –Jason Parks