In a relaunch of the Eyewitness Accounts series for 2014, the BP Prospect Staff profiles Jorge Alfaro, Bubba Starling, Josh Hader, Aaron Sanchez, Lucas Sims, Tim Anderson, Brandon Nimmo, and Anthony Kemp.
Updates or introductions to Ben Lively, Victor Reyes, Domingo German, Gary Sanchez, and more.
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Brandon Nimmo, CF, Mets (St. Lucie)
Well built for 21, yet has a frame that will support more weight. Classic left-handed stance, quiet hands with a slight knee bend; swing is short and quick with a slight uppercut; generates natural backspin on the ball, which helps project above-average future power. He doesn't know how to drive the ball yet, but when he does the power will come and the doubles will turn into home runs. Extremely patient approach at the plate; absolutely will not expand the strike zone, even in RBI situations. Plus runner underway but not an explosive first step. Should be able to stay in center field for the foreseeable future.
Updates on Gregory Polanco, Mark Appel, Dalton Pompey, Joey Gallo and six others.
Dalton Pompey, CF, Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
During the offseason, Pompey’s name was in the running for the Jays top 10 list, and after falling short of that distinction he was in the running (but not chosen) to be named a prospect on the rise in that organization. The omission is our mistake—and a foolish one at that—as the 21-year-old outfielder has blossomed into arguably the top position prospect in the Blue Jays organization, a toolsy dream of a player who is finally healthy and putting the pieces together on the field. A relatively unknown 16th-round draft pick in 2010, Pompey has struggled with injuries, most notably a broken hamate bone, but he has always flashed the promise, especially the plus-plus speed (and plus-plus baserunning) and defensive chops in center field. A switch-hitter at present, Pompey is superior from the left side of the plate, with a quick to-the-ball stroke and gap pop. While he’s far from a finished product—the right-side bat can look like a mess, with poor balance and bat control, and the defense in center is still more raw athleticism than crisp reads and routes—the step forward in 2014 is legitimate, and if Pompey can stay healthy, he should reach the Double-A level at some point during the season and emerge as a nationally recognized prospect. –Jason Parks
Guerrero nephew of Guerrero, Tyrone Taylor, Kris Bryant, and more.
Gabriel Guerrero, OF, Mariners (High-A High Desert)
It’s well-established that this Guerrero is the nephew of that Guerrero, just as it’s established that this Guerrero first tickled my fancy during spring training of 2013 and continues to tantalize my emotions based on characteristics shared with that Guerrero. After a slow start last-season—his first in a cold-weather environment—Gabby Guerrero’s bat warmed up as the climate did the same, and he positioned himself to take another step forward with a starting assignment in the hitter-friendly environments of the California League in 2014. The 20-year-old Dominican has one of the loosest and easiest swings around, with plenty of bat speed and natural lift designed to drive the baseball into the gaps and over the fence. He runs into trouble against arm-side stuff, and his pitch recognition could end up being a bigger issue than his early stat-line might indicate. Guerrero has such tremendous hand/eye coordination and bat speed that he can often recover against bad guesses or late recognition, but as he climbs the chain, better pitching is likely to expose these weaknesses and limit his impact potential. As much as I love to watch this Guerrero swing—as the physical body, the sans batting glove swagger, and the looseness in the swing all remind me of that Guerrero—I’m hesitant to buy into the statistical success out of fear of the scouting reality. For me, this Guerrero is still very much a boom-or-bust prospect, and I’m unlikely to find comfort in his progress until he finds success at the Double-A level. —Jason Parks
Preston Tucker, OF, Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi)
Preston Tucker can hit. He’s a below-average athlete with below-average speed and average arm utility, but the 23-year-old excels at the skill that matters the most for a position player: bat-to-ball. It’s a strong, short-to-the-ball swing that is built for loud contact and solid power. He’s not an all-world type and he’s unlikely to develop into a first-division player, despite the ability to strike right-handed pitching. But the former seventh-round pick from the University of Florida is a much better prospect than people realize, and it's all tied to his natural ability to put his bat on a baseball and drive it with authority. At the highest level, Tucker is probably a fringe-average corner defender, with his below-average speed and average arm likely pushing him to left field, which will put all the pressure on his bat to carve out the value. But if the hit tool plays to potential, it’s realistic to envision a future .275-plus hitter with 15– to 20–home run potential. Not a guy who will change the fortune of a franchise, but a cost-effective player who can contribute to a major league line-up. The Astros will take that all day long with a smile. —Jason Parks
More names to know before the upcoming amateur draft.
This week we finish up with some trailing NHSI reports (last week’s Ten Pack had notes on ten participants), hit some more high school kids, and provide an introduction to FIU backstop Aramis Garcia and an update on FSU ace Luke Weaver.
Updates on Hunter Harvey, Aaron Sanchez, Mark Appel and others.
Hunter Harvey, RHP, Orioles (Low-A Delmarva)
Given the volatility of young arms, along with the overall nature of the position, it’s easy to be on the conservative side when initially assessing the early stages of their pro careers. After seeing Harvey toward the end of last season, though, it wasn’t a tough call to put a 7 on the future potential. The stuff absolutely screamed “legit.” The heater effortlessly came out of his hand at 92-95 mph, with late life and jump. The feel for the curveball was advanced for a pitcher his age, and though the changeup was inconsistent, the quality arm-side fading action when Harvey did execute lent a big clue that future growth is there. It’s an arsenal of three future plus-to-better pitches.
A final look at players on the backfields, and some early impressions around the Florida State League.
OF Adam Brett Walker (Twins): Tools for days, but still learning how to use them and whether he gets there is a question; long limbs, high butt. Stands tall in the box with a quiet stance. Can get long but not terribly so for a player with long arms. Easy plus bat speed and plus power potential; doesn’t have to sell out to generate power. Generates natural backspin on ball. Over-aggressive at the plate because he can get the barrel on too many pitches, resulting in bad contact. Is willing to use the whole field but expands the zone to hit pitcher's pitches; got one pitch up in the zone and crushed it; no doubter with easy carry. He reminded me of Justin Upton with a terrible approach. –Jeff Moore
Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell or Javier Baez? We polled front office types and our prospect staff.
The rise of the superstar shortstop prospect prompts preferential inquiries, as my email inbox, Twitter feed, and chat queues are continually maxed out with questions about Bogaerts, Baez, Correa, Lindor, and Russell, and if forced to choose, which one would I choose? The five chiseled heads on the modern Mount Rushmore of shortstop prospects (six if you go high on Mondesi) present a daily challenge of preference, a subjective exercise of forced selection tied to the realities of the present and the fantasies of the future, a tug-of-war we play with ropes made of tangible data, scouting memories of on-the-field motions, and the conceptual ideas of value and who will be most likely to achieve it.
A look at prospects in the California and Eastern leagues, including Corey Seager and Julio Urias.
California League RHP Chris Anderson (Dodgers): Tall, athletic build, shoulders a touch on the narrow side, very well proportioned build, big hips, muscular ass. Over-the-top slot, arm comes through fast and loose. On-line delivery but shaky with side to side looseness to it, medium depth cutting action on the fastball, sat 91-93, touched some 94s late in the struggle as he was trying to escape. Simply no command at all in this outing, missing in every direction. Average CB at 79-81 with good depth, 11-to-5 direction, should be able to keep break much more vertical from that slot but frequently fighting front side through delivery; around the zone with it but often in a dangerous way. Flashed a change at 83; looked to have some potential but didn't get a good look at it. Cutter at 85-88 short and sudden; good-looking offering, frequently up in zone with it. Body and stuff are promising and there's a lot to like but it was a very bad first outing; got yanked with bases loaded and two outs in the first inning, three runs already in. –Todd Gold
Raimel Tapia, Carlos Correa, Julio Urias, Clint Frazier, and other prospects we can't wait to scout this summer.
Raimel Tapia, OF, Rockies (Low-A Asheville)
Internet evaluators have a tendency to overcomplicate the scouting process, focusing too much of their attention on what players will do in the future rather than simplifying the explanations of what they actually can do in the present. We can dream on athletic bodies and cite physical projection to justify our fantasies about future accomplishment, and I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to attaching my name to body-beautiful types regardless of current skill level. But a good rule of thumb—in the particular context of evaluating position players—is that good hitters hit and bad hitters only project to hit.
Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia can hit. He accomplishes this with a combination of balance and bat speed at the plate, allowing him to consistently drive the baseball, but there is an innate component at play here that goes deeper than any breakdown of his setup or swing. He excels at putting the barrel of his bat on the baseball, recognizing the ball early out of the pitcher’s hand and using his excellent hand-eye coordination to finish the connection. This natural ability to hit has been evident at every stop in his professional career, and is likely to continue as he climbs toward the highest level. We can wax poetic—and I have—about his other physical gifts, like plus run, a plus arm, and the potential to stick up the middle with the glove, but the name of the game is bat-to-ball, and Tapia can hit. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. –Jason Parks