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.
Reports on prospects who stood out in the Arizona Fall League All-Star Game.
All-Star games make for unique scouting experiences, and the Fall Stars Game was no different. On the one hand, the amount of top prospects on display in one place is unmatched by anything other than the midseason Futures Game. On the other hand, many players got just two at-bats, and no pitcher threw more than two innings, making it difficult to render a complete evaluation. Still, there were matchups that scouts rarely get to see elsewhere, and that, coupled with the electricity in the ballpark on a cool November night, made for an exciting scouting experience.
Greg Bird, 1B, Yankees:
On a field full of toolsy players, Bird isn’t always the most impressive one, but he did do the single most impressive thing of the night, hitting a 3-2 changeup roughly 450 feet to dead center field. It was the culmination of the most impressive at-bat of the 25 or so I’ve seen of Bird this season, as his approach was decidedly more aggressive. Bird’s patience at the plate is his only other plus tool (along with his power), but he is too patient at times, failing to pull the trigger on the most hittable pitch of a plate appearance. Against Nick Howard, however, he swung at the first six pitches, worked a full count, and took advantage. He has plus raw power, but for the first time on Saturday night, he showed me a much better chance of being able to apply it in game action. —Jeff Moore
Ten reports on prospects in the desert, including Aaron Judge and Tyler Glasnow.
Aaron Judge, professional large man, Yankees:
The only body comparison that does Aaron Judge justice is Jimmy Graham, tight end for the New Orleans Saints; which is very appropriate for a high school basketball player. The hulking 6-foot-7, 270-plut right-field prospect was far and away the best player on the field Thursday, launching two home runs and gunning Dalton Pompey at home plate. Judge’s first round-tripper was a showcase of pure strength—a trademark shot that fell over the left-center field fence, likely an out in thicker air. The second bomb was certainly not cheap. After spitting on a 2-1 curveball eight inches off the outside corner, Judge got a 3-1 fastball, and didn’t miss it. 430 feet later, the Fresno State product’s ball landed one third of the way up the berm, 20 feet to the left of center field. What stuck out most about the Yankee farmhand today however, was his extremely advanced approach at the plate. Typically, 22-year-old hitters with limited pro experience aren’t self-aware. Yet, Judge seems to know his strengths and weaknesses, and plays to his positive qualities. He stands far away from the plate with a slightly closed, relaxed stance, understanding that pitchers may want to bust him inside due to long arms. On the scouting scale, the right fielder’s arm strength is plus-plus, to go along with plus-plus potential power, and the potential for an average hit tool. If it all comes together, he should have no issue playing right field every day and hitting in the middle of a lineup. —Jordan Gorosh
Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates:
After writing that Glasnow was the prospect I was most excited to put eyes on in the AFL, I was able to do just that on a Thursday afternoon matchup in Mesa. The 6-foot-7 righty has a lot of body to control on the mound and fought with mechanical consistency in this particular outing. Utilizing a long, full arm action, Glasnow releases the ball from slightly above three-quarters, generating massive extension out front and giving his arm plenty of room to decelerate post-release. He has a slight hip turn at his balance point and has some shoulder tilt as he drops and drives down the mound, generating plus momentum and landing slightly across his body. The Californian struggled to replicate his release point mightily, resulting in well below-average command of the strike zone. His fastball sat comfortably in the 91-93 range, touching 94 with big plane lower in the zone. This is limited when he is working up, however, and Glasnow missed up far too frequently in his three and two-thirds innings of work, leaving the fastball flat and hittable. He struggled to get on top of his 74-77 curveball, leaving it slurvy and below average, though he did flash two plus breaking balls throughout the start where he was able to stay on top of the ball. His changeup was used sparingly in the 84-87 range, flashing average potential. While slight degradation in stuff was troubling in this outing, Glasnow looked spent from a long season. The command may be a more legitimate concern going forward, as I fully expect Glasnow to come back firing on all cylinders next season with the two potential plus-plus pitches that were seen by evaluators all season firmly in tow. An improvement in command is necessary for him to reach the lofty standards that were placed on him by scouts who saw him at his best this season, though there is still plenty of time to further refine his ability to pound the zone with his entire arsenal. —Ethan Purser