Updates on David Dahl, Jesse Biddle, Mitch Brown, and more as the minor-league season kicks off and the Ten Pack makes its triumphant return.
Blake Snell, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (High-A Charlotte)
There were plenty of solid pitching performances over the first weekend of the minor-league baseball season, but none was quite as dominant as Snell was on Thursday against Fort Myers. Snell struck out 10 over six shutout innings against a less-than-stellar Miracle lineup, but the story of the evening was the improved arsenal—and more importantly—the substantially improved command. The 2011 first-round selection sat 92-94 mph with his fastball on an NL West scout’s radar gun, and he touched 97 with some life to the offering as well. The slider and change both flashed plus as well, with the slider being the more consistent offering, with hard tilt that can cause swings and misses from hitters from both sides of the plate.
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Montas dealt with a knee injury that limited him to only 81 innings during the season, so his assignment in the Arizona Fall League is mostly about getting him some more work to finish out the year. The big right-hander’s main draw is a monster fastball that works 96-99 mph, with the ability to touch triple digits, and an 88-90 mph slider that has consistently been tightening over the last couple of seasons. While Montas has been working as a starter for the White Sox, I see the overall package playing out of the bullpen over the long-haul due to a max effort delivery and an arsenal that points more towards two viable pitches. His changeup does lag considerably behind the other two offerings. This is an arm that, if everything breaks right, can line up as a closer at the highest level. I’m intrigued to see Montas square off against the high caliber competition of this type of setting. The fastball and slider are likely to draw some rave reviews from evaluators in attendance, with the overall buzz on the arm having a good chance to swell heading into the offseason. –Chris Mellen
Jhoan Urena, 3B, Mets (Short-season Brooklyn)
Having spent the last three seasons in the lowest levels of the organization, the 20-year-old is not only ready for his first full-season assignment, but also seemingly poised for a breakout onto the national scene. Urena sneaks up on you, mostly of his bad body. Peel the onion, though, and you find flashes of loose hands and impressive bat-to-ball ability. Urena also demonstrates an advanced approach for his age that bodes well for when he makes the jump to the South Atlantic League next season. It remains to be seen whether Urena can stick at third, he has progressed there. Urena’s a player to keep an eye heading into 2015, and one who can start making noise as a rising hitter within the lower levels of the system. –Chris Mellen
The prospect team tackles the year's disappointments, including Aaron Sanchez, Mark Appel, and Luke Jackson.
Alberto Tirado, RHP, Blue Jays (Short-season Vancouver)
Tirado entered 2014 the no. 3 prospect in Toronto's system and no. 76 on our Top 101, fueled by strong reports on his stuff. It was noted, though that his command needed work and the delivery was inconsistent. Fast forward to the end of this season and those highlighted areas are exactly what came to the surface. We need to remember Tirado is only 19 and developmental paths are often jagged when isolating short-term sections. I’m labeling Tirado's 2014 a “disappointment” more because his present weaknesses were too much for the strengths to overcome than due to a long-term decline in forecast. Still, some of the initial shine has diminished and warts were exposed. We now have concrete areas of focus when evaluating Tirado next season. –Chris Mellen
Austin Hedges, C, Padres (Double A San Antonio)
Hedges was the top-ranked catcher in the minors entering 2014, and he maintained that title when the midseason Top 50 rolled out in July. While the Junipero Serra (San Juan Capistrano, CA) prep product continues to outstrip his contemporaries on the defensive side of the ball, Hedges ran into a buzzsaw on the offensive side in the form of Texas League pitching.
Ten prospects who surprised the scouting staff in 2014.
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The prospect team checks in on Noah Syndergaard's struggles and a slew of baby-faced killers, including Orlando Arcia, Keone Kela, and Alex Verdugo.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (Triple-A Las Vegas)
When a player experiences adversity, we experience doubts and second guessing of our projections. We want to see progress on a definitive upward trend, but the path followed by prospects is rarely linear. There is no doubt that this season has been bumpy for Syndergaard. The 22-year-old blitzed through two levels last year, causing the main question this off-season to be, "When will he be facing big-league hitters full-time?" Syndergaard’s growing pains are a good reminder that even when it seems like players are close, there are still nuances to be mastered. Even the most highly regarded prospects are works in progress and growing pains can appear without warning. My view on Syndergaard is that the 6-foot-6 Texan bounces back and makes the necessary refinements to fulfill his projection. Reports from the second half of the year have been strong and indications were that the issues were more along the lines of fine-tuning his command than any regression of his stuff. –Chris Mellen
Derek Fisher, OF, Astros (Short-season Tri-City)
After failing to sign the first overall selection in the 2014 draft, Brady Aiken (LHP, Cathedral Catholic (San Diego)), and potential over-slot fifth rounder Jacob Nix (RHP, Los Alamitos HS (Calif.)), due to a messy set of negotiations surrounding some unexpected findings in Aiken’s medicals, the Astros will look to former University of Virginia standout and 37th overall selection Derek Fisher to anchor their 2014 draft class. Fisher missed six weeks of his junior year thanks to a broken hamate bone and is just now starting to get back to the point where his double-plus raw power is playing in-game.
Reports on multiple Cubs third basemen, Reynaldo Lopez, Byron Buxton, Dante Bichette Jr., and more.
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown) Two weeks of "you need to go see Reynaldo Lopez pitch" texts finally sent me on a journey to Hagerstown. Surprisingly, Lopez displayed one of the most exuberant pitching performances I have witnessed all season, sitting 94 to 98 mph with life, a biting curveball, and developing changeup. In fact, it is quite interesting how a player of this caliber can be so hidden from the public eye. I wrote a scouting report on him, but wanted to shed some light on the backstory.
Lopez was signed out of the Dominican Republic for $17,000, nothing relative to many international bonuses. From all reports I've received, Lopez routinely sat 88 to 91 mph when he first signed. The Nationals began to make mechanical changes, specifically with how he held his glove on delivery. Lopez dealt with an injury that shut him down in Short-Season Auburn, so he did not have much time to audition for the state-side crowds. Now, fully healthy, he has taken off. He is the definition of a "pop-up" prospect and everyone should remember his name moving forward. This is one of the best pitchers no one is talking about. The journey is still long, but the raw talent is undeniable. —Tucker Blair
Prospect writeups on the good (Manuel Margot), the disappointing (Eddie Rosario), and the very young (Brody Wofford), among others.
Manuel Margot, OF, Red Sox (High-A Salem)
When we put together Boston’s Top 10 list last offseason, Margot was a player in the mix for one of the final slots, but we ultimately decided to place him in the “On the Rise” section. The thinking centered on the sizable gap between present product and future vision for the 19-year-old. Tack on that he had yet to be tested with a full-season assignment and the result was tabbing him as a possible future, but not necessarily present, top-10 player.
My experience with Margot runs deep. He has the loose hands I love to see in a hitter, especially one whose offensive game is going to focus on hard line drives into the gaps. Margot does surprise with more raw power than initially meets the eye, but my view is that his peak potential is a top-of-the-order type with a contact-oriented approach and doubles power. Reports and chatter have indicated increased comfort at the plate, which has driven more of his natural hitting ability to the surface. This season has been a step forward, enough of one that putting Margot’s name in the organization’s Top 10 is a foregone conclusion. —Chris Mellen
BP breaks all the rules, bringing you 11 prospect capsules in this Ten Pack, including the fast-tracked Nomar Mazar, the slow-tracked Dorssys Paulino, and three Area Code Games participants
Nomar Mazara, OF, Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
The Rangers recently decided to skip Mazara past High-A, which not only speaks to the 19-year-old’s talent, but also to a strong belief in his makeup. The outfielder oozes ease, especially with his swing. Maraza has the loose hands, lift in his stroke, raw power, and innate bat-to-ball ability to grow into a middle-of-the-order thumper down the line. Beyond the tools and progress Mazara has made with them this season, the promotion presents major clues regarding his makeup. It’s a stamp of approval that Mazara is mentally ready to handle an accelerated assignment to finish out the year, one that will see him face older and more experienced competition. It’s a placement that may lead to initial struggles, but he can handle them and apply what he learns as he continues moving up the chain. —Chris Mellen
Jan Hernandez, 3B, Phillies (Short-season Williamsport)
What caught my eye was the bat speed. The right-handed hitter flashes extremely quick wrists. He has a whip-like stroke and the head of the bat gets through the zone in a hurry. The pull-side contact is loud and hard. There is also some lift that produces carry. The swing is presently geared more toward power than contact, and my early feeling is that the hit tool will consequently be only average. Hernandez will also need to make adjustments to get to that level. The 19-year-old is very aggressive, with barely a plan in place. He hacks at pretty much everything. This is understandable for a player of his experience, but still something that will need refinement. In addition, the approach is oriented toward pulling the ball; this shows in the way Hernandez lunges at offerings middle-to-away and how his head pulls way off the ball at times. The present package is raw and crude, but my vision for the long term sees the potential for a sixth or seventh place hitter with some power. —Chris Mellen