At the plate, Santana’s calling card is power, which he has to all fields. In the five games I’ve seen him play, he’s bashed three homers, including two over the right-field fence on elevated fastballs on the outer half of the plate. Unfortunately, the rest of the tools play down due to poor pitch recognition, a willingness to expand the zone, and a questionable approach. The last part was evident in a game I saw last Sunday.
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On a high school mound in Florida, Chris discovered someone amazing.
Living in St. Petersburg, FL, I don't have to travel too far or look too hard to find special talent on the field. Never did I imagine, though, stumbling upon a player quite like this. He is, simply, the perfect example of #want.
Roman Quinn, CF, Philadelphia Phillies (Double-A Reading)
Quinn is a switch-hitting center fielder with 80 speed. It’s an easy burner 80 run, too; speed without effort. It plays both on the basepaths and in the field, but on both sides he’s excelling on raw speed and not polish. In the outfield he gets good jumps but his reads and jumps are below average. I still see an above-average defender because he can run down his mistakes. Quinn also has a plus arm, throwing very well for a center fielder. He has a compact, athletic build with a short upper body and short arms.
Quinn has a quiet approach at the plate, typically seeing a lot of pitches and fouling balls off. He has a strong idea of the strike zone and doesn’t expand his zone early in the count. It's a line-drive swing plane and plus bat speed. It’s a contact-oriented, front-foot swing and I see this profile playing well out of the leadoff spot—though it could also be dangerous at the bottom of the order where he could run often. This is a swing with a short and simple gather, load and stride. Quinn showed me good feel for the bat head and used the whole field, hitting balls where they were pitched and taking what the pitcher gave him. He handled velocity fine, but I do imagine these swing traits would leave him fairly vulnerable to plus spin and soft. That’s mitigated some by strong pitch-identification skills. It’s a more fluid and natural swing from the right side, but there’s a bit more leverage and pop from the left. The power grades out as well below average, which isn’t a surprise given Quinn’s size, swing plane and hitting mechanics. He’s certainly capable of punishing mistakes and should be good for 6-10 homers a year with a good amount of balls into the gaps. Bat speed and the ability to consistently barrel up balls will lead to extra-base hits. Further, Quinn’s wheels will turn outs into hits, singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He was a pleasant surprise. He’s got more bat than your typical 80 runner type. With small stature, well below-average pop and a speed-heavy profile there is some risk here. I see a role 55/above-average player as a switch-hitting, leadoff/sparkplug center fielder.
March 2015 marked the fifth consecutive time that I’ve traveled to Arizona for spring training, the second time as a member of Baseball Prospectus, and the first as a member of the prospect team. My perspective and reasons for going have evolved over the years as my knowledge and interest in baseball have continued to grow. Originally attending purely as a fan, the past three years have been more about getting out to the backfields to see guys I wouldn’t be able to see in my area the rest of the year.
Trevor Story, wasted 100 mph, the fastest man in professional baseball, and more leftovers from Mau's trip to the backfields.
Mauricio Rubio has just returned from the backfields of Arizona. Here's what he saw:
He has the ideal baseball body; high-waisted player with an athletic torso. The bat speed and lift are there for plus raw power. The limiting factor on him actualizing his potential remains his swing. Story has coverage issues and the swing can get long at times due to a hitch in his mechanics, creating a ton of swing-and-miss. The glove is below average but I think it’s playable at short and he has the arm to make all of the shortstop throws. Story did a good job rebounding from a horrific 2013 season but there are still questions he has to answer in 2015. The hit tool looks to max out at below average, which will limit the power utility. I still think there’s a player here because the power is tantalizing enough to keep dreaming on and he does show an aptitude for the strike zone. At maturity we could be looking at a 40 hit/55 power shortstop with a 60 arm. Those guys play in the majors.
Al Skorupa wraps up his trip to the Arizona backfields.
Al Skorupa just returned from the Cactus League. Here's who he saw on the backfields.
Christian Arroyo, SS, San Francisco Giants
Arroyo lacks imposing tools and physicality, but is a solid all-around player. Arm is sufficient for shortstop, but actions and footwork are lacking. He puts the ball in play with a simple, contact-oriented swing. He has a good feel for hitting, but the power is more to the gaps than over the fences. There’s a lot of tweener to this profile, but Arroyo does enough well to be a role-5 type who could be a solution for a team in need at any of a few positions. His feel for the game and hustle lets the entire package of tools play up some.
Even a limited look at the Cuban super prospect makes it clear why he's garnered so much attention.
Yoan Moncada’s journey from Cuba to Fort Myers has simultaneously been well documented and, as with so many Cuban defectors, shrouded in mystery. I, on the other hand, had only to forego a Friday night of debauchery*, respond to a 5 a.m. alarm clock, and make the cross-state trip through Alligator Alley in order to see the Red Sox newest acquisition in action for the first time.
Eyes on Dalton Pompey, Josh Bell, Raul Mondesi and others.
This group includes players with near MLB-ready skill sets who are in the AFL to put the finishing touches on their profile as they get ready to compete for a big-league job in 2015.
RHP Francellis Montas (White Sox)
He's been a starter for almost his entire career, and if the White Sox are hell-bent on developing him into a major-league starter then he's still a long way off. But if they are willing to shift him to the bullpen his stuff is ready. He sat 97-99 and touched 100 mph several times in his start against Salt River. His 89-92 mph slider has obvious power and the 87-90 mph changeup is a solid change of pace. He lacks the command to be a starter in the short term and there is very little deception to the delivery. The White Sox have pushed their prospects as aggressively as any organization, and if they are willing to move him to the bullpen then Montas' stuff should be ready for the South Side on opening day this year. When he gets hit, he'll get hit hard, but he should be able to blow away a significant number of hitters, too, and has a three-true-outcomes type of profile.
A look at the prospectiest prospects at this year's AFL, including Byron Buxton, Addison Russell, and Archie Bradley.
These players are well known for their loud tools. This section is mean to serve as an update on these prospects and their current location along the developmental timeline.
OF Byron Buxton (Twins)
The 2014 season wasn't Byron Buxton's year. He spent time on the disabled list with multiple wrist injuries and a concussion sustained in an outfield collision in his first game at Double-A. He went to the AFL looking to make up for lost time. While his AFL season was also cut short after he dislocated the middle finger on his left hand, he first proved that his elite tools were intact. More importantly, his potential impact to the Twins remains practically unchanged, other than a year delay in his timeline. The Twins enter the offseason with a murky outfield picture, but Buxton’s lost developmental year inhibits his ability to take advantage of the opportunity—though a premium athlete like Buxton could hold his own while taking his lumps and learning hard lessons at the major-league level. He was already expected to open 2015 in the minors, at least for financial reasons, but his loss of development time may necessitate spending the entire 2015 season there. The tools he showcased in the AFL were as advertised: plus-plus bat speed with a loose swing with a quick-twitch trigger; an 80 runner in center with a plus arm and plus accuracy. One of the highlights of the AFL was his stolen base off of Rays C Justin O'Connor, who popped a 1.84 attempting but couldn’t throw Buxton out. The takeaway from his brief AFL stint is that in spite of the injuries the tools remain intact—it's just a question of how well they'll play at the highest level of competition.
Twenty big-league scouts and our own Jeff Moore watched Jozzen Cuesta and Misael Siverio try out in Florida last week.
There are innumerable adjustments players must make when defecting from Cuba in search of their major-league dream, but on Friday morning, on the back fields in the shadows of Roger Dean Stadium in south Florida, the weather was not one of them. The balmy heat and stifling humidity couldn’t have been much different from what Jozzen Cuesta and Misael Siverio were used to back in their native Cuba. The setting, however, was different, with more than 20 scouts in attendance who were eager to see the newest free agent talent but, after two hours, slightly disappointed by the pedestrian performances they saw.
Will the Astros salvage the first-overall pick they did sign?
Take a moment to forget about the Brady Aiken mess and think about last year’s first overall selection. Mark Appel was supposed to be on the fast track. You aren’t supposed to struggle if you’re the first overall selection, and the 6-foot-5 right-handed starter with a prototype body had the look of a player who would move quickly, stopping only briefly in Lancaster and Corpus Christi to humble inferior hitters with his mid-to-upper-90s fastball. If you’ve been paying attention to his season, you know this hasn’t exactly gone as planned.
What has happened
First, appendicitis in January sidelined him for most of the spring. Regardless, the Astros aggressively sent him to Lancaster to begin the season. I was able to catch an early start of his, on April 10th, and was impressed with the raw stuff he brought to the table. Then 22, Appel showed a fastball that touched 98 mph, and paired it with a sharp, bat-missing slider (scouting report). Immediately after this start, on April 14th, Appel’s velocity dipped and only touched 91 mph. As has been well documented, the Astros installed a tandem or “piggyback” pitching rotation, where two “starters” would pitch back to back in the same game. Also, some pitchers would be subjected to only three days of rest, which happened to Appel in these two starts. This obviously took a toll on Appel, and there were rumors of shoulder soreness after the second start. He was sent to extended spring training to get some rest and have proper time to build stamina for the season. After returning, he had the worst start of his season on May 31st, surrendering 10 earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. Five days later, he was diagnosed with tendinitis in his right thumb and scratched from his next start. After getting the standard four days of rest (and sometimes more), he continued to struggle. Recently, the Astros made it public that Appel had a right wrist issue and received a cortisone shot. It’s unclear whether the thumb tendinitis is connected. I took in his start on July 10th with intentions of pin-pointing his problems.