A second-generation impaler continues to impale, a first-round pick continues to confound in the Cal League, and more.
Eric Lauer, LHP, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
The last of San Diego’s three first-rounders last June, Lauer wore the tag of polished, “safe” collegiate southpaw heading into the draft, and he’s acquitted himself accordingly in the first calendar year of his professional career. He’s got good size, and while his is not a quick-twitch athleticism, he is classically “pitcher athletic”: he’s extremely fluid and consistent in his delivery, with strong balance and quality timing. The arm swing is not traditional, with a stab and mild wrist wrap at the back of a deep, closed-off turn. But while he’s long to is higher three-quarter slot as a result, he’s also quite loose, and the result is a clean, flowing delivery that he repeats very well.
Brendan Rodgers chugs right along through the Cal League, Mitch Keller does the same in the FSL, and don't look now but Brent Honeywell is staring you down while you read this.
Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies (High-A Lancaster)
Rodgers’ start to the season was delayed by a couple weeks on account of a sprained wrist, but he’s certainly doing his part to make up for lost time, throwing up an only-partially-Lancaster-aided .400/.427/.614 line through his first 17 games. He’s not the type that immediately jumps off the diamond as an elite physical specimen with supreme athleticism, but you watch him play for a few innings and you get it pretty quickly. He’s a smooth mover, with lo-fi grace in the field and a keen sense for measuring out his strides when ranging east or west. He’s not the quickest shortstop you’ll see—the run tool looks to be somewhere around average—but he controls his body well and shows solid actions fielding on the run to convert transfers into accurate, strong throws.
Rafael Devers put an assault on Dunkin Donuts Park last week.
Jeffrey Paternostro P.J. Conlon, LHP, Binghamton Rumble Ponies (New York Mets)
Small lefty, leans back, stab down, uphill delivery with deception, H3/4 slot. Effort with head whack, but doesn’t impact command. 1.2 out of stretch. Fastball 85-88, s85-86, higher reports last year, and the weather was New England brisk, above-average command, spots to both sides, some run 4/4. CH 76-78 present plus, will throw to either side in any count, good sink, bat misser. 6/6. Showed two different breaking balls, a slider/cutter thing, which is a short breaker, but he can spot it and keeps it down in the zone. 3/4 Lollipop curve around 70. Showed one tighter one with 12-6 action, but doesn’t project much past show me. Any velo bump might make him a middle reliever with enough change to cross over, but tough to see getting much more out of these mechanics. Likely role 3, emergency starter/swing.
Rafael Devers, 3B, Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox)
Open stance, high hands, some noise, premium bat speed, can cover plus velo easily. Gets pull-happy, but will hit the ball where it’s pitched, doesn’t get cheated at all, hard contact to all fields. Can get in on him left-on-left, but didn’t try to do too much against southpaws. Approach is a work-in-progress generally. Thick lower half, but I think he can stick at third if the body cooperates, good instincts on the dirt, arm is strong and accurate, can make plays on the run. Only hiccups came with extra time to make transfer/throw, more reps should smooth that out. 4.2 to first when he sniffed an infield hit, bit of a jailbreak, but might be a legit 5 runner underway. Potential 6/7 offensive tools at third base. Monster prospect, OFP 7/Likely 6. Oh yeah, also put baseballs here:
Alex Jackson is re-establishing himself as a prospect now that he's in Atlanta, and Walker Buehler is hitting triple-digits.
Alex Jackson, C, Atlanta Braves (High-A Florida)
Jackson is an athletic, thick-boned man-child. Listed at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds (though looks closer to 225 pounds) with wide shoulders, he is a good target behind the plate. Jackson receives very well with minor flinches that will be ironed out with time, and that is “very well” without considering he has played outfield exclusively as a pro. Moreover, having played the outfield since being drafted sixth-overall in 2014, he has plenty mobility for a catcher. He blocks most balls in the dirt, his throws are accurate and on-line with carry through the target. He commands the field with his quiet confidence and presence, and has a feel for game calling. The Braves scouted this conversion nicely.
Zack Collins, C, Chicago White Sox (High-A Winston-Salem)
Collins may be one of the pickiest hitters in the minors right now, as evidenced by his.212/.384/.379 slash line. At the plate, Collins is an extremely patient hitter with above-average plate discipline and pitch recognition. He has a mild bat wrap, but it doesn’t seem to impede his balanced, smooth swing. There’s unquestionably plus power in the bat. Right now, though, too many of Collins’ deep counts are ending with strikeouts, and he’s pounding plenty of balls into the ground with a low-line drive rate to go along with it. He has to work on making consistent contact more often.
Behind the plate, Collins seems like a logical game caller; he has soft hands and can handle balls in the dirt well. He’s not afraid to be a bit frisky either; I saw him throw behind a runner at second early in game action and behind a runner at third later in the evening, with above-average release and accuracy. He’s been more consistent with his pop times and throws velocity-wise this season, and the numbers back that up. The book on Collins in 2016 was that you could run on him, but he has certainly changed that perception in 2017. In a diverse and interesting White Sox system, Collins is certainly a name to watch.There is tangible progress in his defense that could go a ways towards combatting a pre-season scouting consensus that he was unlikely to last at the position. —Victor Filoromo
Yadier Alvarez, Triston McKenzie, and other players who aren't skinny pitchers.
Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
Alvarez looks more filled-out than his listed 175 pounds would imply, with long levers, and a lazy, controlled physicality that produces strong balance and extremely fluid movements. The arm action is on the deeper side, but clean and consistent to a higher-three-quarters slot that leverages his length effectively to create a strong angle of attack. He’ll lose his back-side a bit when he pushes off, and the overall timing and execution of the delivery isn’t there yet pitch to pitch. But it’s a lot of frame to grow into and harness, and he just turned 21. This is exactly the combination of body control and delivery elegance that makes you unduly comfortable as an evaluator in projecting hard on future gains.