Notes on Yaisel Sierra, Ozhaino Albies, Edwin Diaz, and more.
Yaisel Sierra, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
The Dodgers kept their $30 million man in extended spring training to start the season before transferring the 24-year-old to Rancho for his professional debut on Saturday. His first taste of competition in a couple years featured plenty of rust. His slender, athletic frame is on the smaller side, and while his movements were easy, he struggled to repeat his delivery and find his release point for most of the night.
The motion is low-octane, with a fluid takeaway into a clean arm swing, and he showed above-average arm speed. Most of his problems on this night stemmed from a poor drive: he didn’t leverage his weight particularly well, staying uphill as he pushed forward and failing to fire his hips. That created drag to his release point and a wildly inconsistent finish with his lower half.
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Notes on Victor Robles, Andrew Benintendi, Kyle Tucker and more.
Victor Robles, CF, Washington Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown)
I could write at great length about Victor Robles being a five-tool wonder. I saw two games from Robles last week, and everything I saw fit well within thereports that give Robles the potential for four plus or plus-plus tools — hit, run, field, and arm — with credible power as well. Everything Robles got a bat on was smashed. If anything, the tools will play up because of his on-field instincts. Robles made one of the best start-to-finish reads and catches on a ball in the gap that I’ll see this season at any level, including the majors. He stands so close to the plate with such little fear that nearly anything inside hits him, which will cause the hit-by-pitches to pile up (he’s up to 28 since arriving stateside) and Robles’s OBP to inflate. He bunted for a base hit with great form and ease. The plate approach is highly advanced for his age and level, and this 18-year-old was able to recognize spin that was badly fooling advanced college bats. Robles was our 29th-ranked prospect entering the season, and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn by predicting that he’ll be a lot higher very soon.
Notes on Jameson Taillon's first start in two years, Josh Naylor, and more.
Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Triple-A Indianapolis)
Taillon pitched on Wednesday for the first time since late 2013 after two surgeries (Tommy John, hernia), and it couldn’t have gone much better. Over six innings Taillon allowed six hits, with six strikeouts, and no walks. His fastball wasn’t showing the same velocity that it did pre-surgery, but he worked at 90-94 mph, topping out at 95. The tailing action on his fastball complemented the lower velocity well, but it remains to be seen if he can get back into the range he had previously operated in.
As of right now his best pitch is his curveball, which breaks hard and late resulting in multiple swings-and-misses for the Mud Hens. Taillon showed his changeup more than a few times, mostly using it to keep hitters honest. Overall his control in the game resulted in no walks, which was a good sign in his first game back. The action on his pitches helped him get away with missing a few spots that still resulted in whiffs, something he will have to work on before he gets to Pittsburgh. His arm action was repeatable, with quality arm speed.
Grant Holmes, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
The Dodgers’ first-rounder in 2014, Holmes picked a gnarly, damp night for his California League debut. That context may have contributed to a longer loosening than he’s used to, as he came out sitting 91-92 with his four-seam fastball and struggled to locate it in the first inning. He also hung a pair of curveballs at 82 and 83, costing himself a run. He quickly settled in, however, bumping up to 92-94 for the rest of his five innings and topping out at 95. The fastball has a tick of arm-side run and plenty of late life from his high-three-quarters slot thanks to premium arm speed. He worked in a two-seam complement at 87-90 mph with greater frequency as the outing wore on, and the pitch showed strong sinking action with greater arm-side run off the same plane. Holmes’ curveball wandered between 79-85 with consistent arm speed and action. He tunnels it well off his fastball, and the pitch shows 11-5 action with depth and hard break at the upper end of the velocity spectrum. He only threw a couple 86 mph changeups in this outing.
A look at some of the high-ceiling talents who didn't show up on the BP Top 101.
Michael Clevinger,RHP, Indians
It’s hard to find a high-upside guy in the upper minors who isn’t in the Top 101; it’s just hard to stay off the radar if you’re throwing smoke and getting people out in Double-A. Cleveland’s development staff is doing pretty special stuff with their minor-league pitchers right now though, and perhaps their most impressive trick is turning Clevinger from a thrower into a pitcher with four usable offerings, three of which flash plus.
For Clevinger, his attack starts with the fastball. The right-hander comfortably sits in the 92-94 mph range, and he’s been clocked at 97. His slider is his second-best pitch, and when he’s on, it’s a late-breaking bender with sharp tumble. His 12-6 curve has good spin, and his best ones change a hitter’s eye-level. His changeup is firm and doesn’t feature the movement his other off-speed pitches have, although it isn’t a throwaway offering either, and it should at least keep lefties honest. There is risk in the profile: Clevinger has Tommy John on his resume, he’s already 25 years old, and he’s only dated the strike zone for about a year. Still, he could be a mid-rotation starter and he’s ready for big-league work right now. Not a bad return piece for a few innings of Vinnie Pestano. —Brendan Gawlowski
Notes on ten prospects who could jump into the Top 101 for 2017, including Christian Arroyo, Wilkerman Garcia, Antonio Senzatela, and more.
As we continue to celebrate the release of the Top 101 Prospects, our ongoing coverage starts with a simple question: Who was not on this year’s list (or the just missed group we’ll dive into later this week) that you think will make the cut in 2017?
Matt Chapman, Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, Victor Reyes and more surprised us (in a good way) in 2015
A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi)
My first few looks at A.J. Reed gave me a modest impression. He showed raw power for days in BP and worked counts in games, but the bat speed wasn't anything special, there was some length in the swing, and he showed indecision at the dish. But his is an approach that takes some time to understand and appreciate, as is the surprising bat-to-ball skill for a man of his size and power. There's some swing-and-miss in his game, but after you watch him enough you realize his strikeouts are more often a by-product of working deep into counts than flailing away. He thinks along with pitchers, frequently gets himself into advantageous hitting situations, and works the whole field with authority when he does. At the same time, he's not passive and will jump a first-pitch fastball with the best of 'em. It's not often you see a guy with 70 raw power figure out how to bring the vast majority of it with him into games at such a young age. Perhaps most tellingly, he improved his ability to shoot pitches on the outer third to the opposite field and up the middle during his time in Lancaster. That qualifies as remarkable progress for any player's hit tool given the environment's extreme prejudice towards lifting the ball to right field. The numbers were nice this year, but more importantly the developmental progress was real. —Wilson Karaman
The Dodgers’ second-rounder last summer, Verdugo worked his way up to High-A this year at the tender age of 19 despite a slow start. He sports a fairly athletic frame and there’s physical projection remaining, with room to fill out his chest and arms. He carries himself with a quiet swagger, appearing almost passive at times when he’s not in the heat of the moment. His switch flips quickly, however, and he shows as a high-intensity player when engaged. He wasn’t shy about expressing frustration after what he deemed to be a sub-par round in the cage, and after a pop out in-game he spent the better part of the next half inning pantomiming his swing in between pitches in the outfield.
Notes on Bobby Bradley, Yeyson Yrizarri, and several 2015 early-round selections.
Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, New York Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
After spending time in Double-A to finish off last season, this year represented a chance for Ynoa to show that he could adjust to facing more advanced bats on a consistent basis over the long haul at the level and prove that things were trending in the right direction when it came to sticking as a starter. While the overall arsenal doesn’t have a pitch that screams, it’s a collection of offerings that the 22-year-old mixes and matches and throws for strikes.