Notes on Touki Toussaint, Justus Sheffield, Anderson Tejeda, and more.
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome)
With the Rome Braves contending for the South Atlantic League title. its pitching staff's embarrassment of riches is on display. That includes using Touki Toussaint out of the bullpen to stay fresh in a Sept. 5 outing against Augusta that helped clinch the second-half division title. Imagine all of your wildest dreams coming true on a baseball field. Toussaint throwing gas in a one-inning stint is basically the same thing.
The 20-year-old consistently sat mid-90s and hit 97 twice with above-average run and sink. He located it arm side and it was devastating inside to right-handed batters. It didn't end there. Toussaint paired it with an impossible curveball, a true 70 pitch, with plus depth, very tight spin and hard bite. It fell off the table late with downward action that flashed 12-6. He tossed one changeup that dived under a right-hander's bat for good measure.
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Notes on Matt Manning, Stephen Gonsalves, Cody Ponce, and more.
Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Minnesota Twins (Double-A Chattanooga)
Gonsalves has been putting up impressive numbers throughout his minor-league career, and that hasn’t changed in the Double-A jump this year. Does the stuff match the minor-league production? Somewhat. Most importantly, it’s enough to project a serviceable major-league starter.
Notes on 2014's biggest international bonus baby, a live arm that was traded for Jason Rogers, an intriguing 2016 draftee, and more.
Melvin Adon, RHP, San Francisco Giants (Short Season Salem-Keizer)
When I looked at the pitching matchup for the Everett-SK game on Friday, I wasn’t exactly intrigued. Everett’s Ljay Newsome, a righty thumber who throws strikes but lacks impact stuff, was set to oppose Adon, and while I didn’t know anything about the Dominican right-hander, his profile wasn’t all that exciting. He’s 22-years-old, didn’t sign until he was 19, had walked six in his last outing, and was running an ERA north of six through nine starts. I almost skipped the game. Instead, I got my first look at triple digits in the Northwest League.
Notes on first-rounders Will Benson, Dustin May, former first-rounder Cornelius Randolph, and more.
Will Benson, RF, Cleveland Indians (Complex Level AZL)
As I overheard one scout say, “That’s a big-league body.” Benson turned 18 just two months ago, but he’s 6-foot-5 and built like a defensive end. Taken 14th-overall out of a Georgia high school this year, Benson is already a premium physical specimen for the baseball diamond. He isn’t polished defensively, but he makes up for some of it with his athleticism. He uses his body well while throwing, and looks like he could have a plus arm in the future. Out of the box, he has a little bit of “great dane puppy” to him, but once he hits his stride, he moves well for someone his size and he typically displays the head-down hustle you hope to see.
Notes on Peter Lambert, Mitchell White, Thomas Szapucki and more.
Peter Lambert, RHP, Colorado Rockies (Low-A Asheville)
If you frequent the lower levels, you’re watching 18-19-year-olds spotting every so often with stuff that flashes more than consistently hits a grade. Lambert is different. He stands out more for his polish as a 19-year-old prep product than his arsenal. He flashes a plus changeup that could reach 60 with time, but otherwise he’s working with a deep arsenal of average pitches that he utilizes with advanced command and control.
In his Padres debut, 18-year-old Anderson Espinoza displayed the precocious ability and projection that has driven his status as a nationally-celebrated prospect. Espinoza came out in the first inning with a toned-down fastball, working smoothly between 91 and 94. He lasted three innings, but in the latter two he worked 93-96, touching 97 twice, with natural though inconsistent running action and some sink. At higher velocities, the fastball run can be downright explosive. Espinoza works from a high 3/4 release point with a good arm action and an overall mechanical package that exudes premium fluidity and athleticism. His command and feel sometimes evaded him on this muggy night, and he impressed by remaining composed.
Notes on Yadier Alvarez, Dillon Tate, Matt Thaiss, and more.
Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Complex Level AZL)
Alvarez was arguably the highest-profile international free agent last summer, signing with the Dodgers for $16 million out of Cuba. Los Angeles has decided to take their time developing him, with the 20-year-old working through some command issues in the Arizona League. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, though his lean, athletic, frame makes him look a bit taller.
The velocity is easy—almost effortless—with reports of him touching triple-digits this spring. He works primarily at 93-97 with the fastball, rushing it up to 98 a few times the night I saw him. He seems to be experimenting a bit, working almost in phases—occasionally sitting 91-93 for an entire at bat, and then 94-96 against the next hitter. While his four-seamer is pretty straight, he generates excellent downhill plane when he gets on top of it. He also works in a sharp slider with a similarly large velocity band to the fastball, ranging from softer, slurvy offerings at 82, to power-sliders which might even be classified as cutters, as hard as 90 mph. His changeup is a work in progress; he struggles to replicate the same arm speed as his fastball, but he throws it hard enough (85-89 MPH) to get away with some mistakes at this level. The development of his off-speed pitch will likely be the difference between him throwing every fifth day and being a high-leverage reliever at the big league level.
I was sitting on an Appalachian League game last week. The teams and players involved don't really matter for the purposes of this story. There were runners on first and second, two out. The batter lined a ball into short left field. Even with the head start, this was clearly a station-to-station to situation. The manager, coaching third, immediately pointed to the base. The throw came in about shoulder high to the catcher who came out from behind the plate to take it. And Fin, right?
Notes on Andrew Benintendi, Tyler Glasnow, and others.
Edwin Rios, 3B/1B, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
When you go to a lot of minor league baseball games, like the lot of us here on the prospect team do, you watch a lot of unremarkable baseball. You watch a good bit of bad baseball too, and through it all you build up a callous to even the more generally well-executed plays you see because you’ve seen those plays get executed generally well by numerous players along the way. But every now and again a player does something that, to cop some of KRS-One’s flow, brings your fist to your face like “Ohhhh sh*t!” Rios did that last Thursday with a towering eighth-inning home run—his second of the game—that was among the more majestic balls I’ve seen struck in person.
A sixth-rounder last summer out of Florida International, Rios is a chip-on-his-shoulder player after going undrafted out of high school. He added a bunch of bulk during his college days, which culminated in an 18-homer outburst in his draft season and a tag for likely movement across the diamond from his third-base home. The Dodgers have hedged since signing him, working him out at the hot corner in about two-thirds of his starts in the field. The frame is large and hulking, and his movements, while fluid, take some time. He showed decent reactions and mobility to the ground in my one look at him over there, with smooth hands and plenty of arm for the position as well. But the lateral agility and quickness you look for in a third baseman isn’t there, and it’ll be an uphill battle for him to stick.
Notes on Alex Jackson, Kyle Lewis, Rafael Devers, and more.
Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox (High-A Salem)
Devers is young for the Carolina League, and he’s taken some lumps as a 19-year-old against much older competition. His frame, raw power, and arm-strength give him the raw ingredients of a quality corner infielder, though there’s plenty of projection required to see him as one. A left-handed hitter, his lightning-quick bat-speed can’t be taught, and with the strength in his frame, he has plenty of raw power when he squares his pitch. How much he will get to his power—and whether he’ll maintain the mobility to stick at the hot corner—are the two largest questions regarding Devers’ future. He swings aggressively, but relatively speaking his total strikeout numbers aren’t particularly high. That said, scouts see more holes in his present pure hitting ability than the stat-line shows, especially against the type of quality left-handed pitching he’ll see at higher levels. Defensively, Devers has a very strong arm across the infield, though he holds a 6-foot, (generously listed) 200-pound frame with thickness in his lower half, which takes away from his lateral agility. Some evaluators have felt that he profiles more safely at first base.