Updates on Derek Fisher, Chance Sisco, Jake Thompson, and more.
Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros (High-A Lancaster)
To say that Derek Fisher has taken the California League by storm since his debut last week would be a bit of an understatement; for those who missed it, he broke the league record with a 12 RBI game in his debut. The better news is that he actually looks the part of a potential impact-offensive prospect on the field.
He sports an impressively athletic frame with a strong base, high waist, and the shoulders to support a modest amount of additional muscle should the current experiment with him in centerfield eventually come to an end. In the box, he works from a quiet, upright stance, hands to his back ear and bat resting perpendicular just off his shoulder. His load is almost directly vertical at present, with a bob of his hands and modest leg kick launching his attack. The tight hands keep his swing path short into the zone, but it’s a steeper path and the bounce at the trigger point can lead to poor barrel delivery and the potential for ample swing-and-miss.
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Jose Peraza, 2B/CF, Atlanta Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett Braves)
That little "CF" next to Peraza's name is interesting, isn't it? The Braves are aiming to add defensive versatility to Peraza's resume and let the chips fall as they may. He played his first career game in center field Wednesday, then played consecutive games there Friday and Saturday. This comes after the Braves worked him in center during spring camp.
Peraza looked the part of an inexperienced center fielder. His reads coming in were particularly shaky, and he second-guessed a couple reads by hesitating on the route. His first attempt Friday was actually very solid as he ranged to his right in the gap with a good route, and he showed solid range based on his excellent speed. He also showed instincts by rounding on a fly-ball route to get momentum toward third base on a throw. The arm will play well in center with a cleaner arm path and better footwork. Peraza has instincts and athleticism on his side, and I think repetition and experience will help him become serviceable at the position. It's going to take a lot more work, though, which is to be expected.
Updates on Luis Ortiz, Touki Toussaint, Franklin Barreto, and more.
Luis Ortiz, RHP, Texas Rangers (Low-A Hickory Crawdads)
Ortiz has allowed all of one earned run in his first five starts this season, but he has also given up some hard hits based on command that needs further refinement.
Ortiz's fastball was 88-94, touched 95 with solid run that produced excellent late life to the glove side. He commanded the pitch well to that side, but struggled spotting in on right-handed batters. There's good life in the pitch and it's tough when kept down, but it can flatten and become hittable up.
Updates on Francisco Lindor, Dansby Swanson, and more.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians (Triple-A Columbus)
It doesn’t take long to see why Lindor’s defense draws rave reviews and why people believe he’s a prospect who can impact the game in the a big way, particularly with the glove, for many seasons to come. Watching Lindor take infield prior to batting practice not only reveals a set of highly polished defensive tools, but also an attitude and approach to his craft that gives confidence there isn’t any resting on his laurels despite being so advanced with the glove. The 21-year-old’s defense has been heavily documented around these parts, so the objective heading into my latest chance to watch the player centered on putting the isolated camera on the bat, and getting a feel for where things are, now that he’s one step from The Show.
I came away impressed with how Lindor handled himself in the batter’s box against high-quality competition, along with the quickness of his wrists. The latter served him well getting the bat head out in front of good velocity, especially on the inner third of the plate, and putting the ball into play with a charge when he squared it up. The shortstop can certainly turn a good fastball around, which leads me to believe this won’t be a hitter who ends up getting the bat knocked out of his hands with frequency.
Berrios is the most impressive arm I've seen through the season's first month. In Friday's start against Jackson, his fastball was 92-95 and touched 96 with late riding life. He paired it with two present above-average secondaries that flashed plus potential.
Updates on Carlos Correa, Blake Swihart, Lance McCullers, and more.
Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks)
At just 20 years old, Correa has a presence on the field more impressive than one would expect, and as the first overall draft pick in 2013, there’s a lot expected. In a four-game series against Frisco last weekend, Correa hit .421, including two doubles and two homers. He shows good plate coverage with the swing, punishing pitchers for anything near the heart of the plate, and was only occasionally fooled.
Correa historically has walked at a higher rate than the eight percent in a small sample that he’s shown this year, but with the consistent hard contact against Double-A pitching that he’s shown so far, he hasn’t had much reason to take. While Correa’s currently striking out at a higher rate than he has in previous seasons, nothing in the sample I saw suggests that this is more than an early-season aberration, and his feel for hitting should assert itself in the numbers soon. Listed at 6-foot-4, and weighing 210 pounds, Correa certainly towers over the average shortstop prospect, but has an extremely quick first step and the arm to make plays from all over the infield. The Astros have had a long way to go from the laughingstock of baseball to hopeful contender, but the potential shown by Correa will help them stay there. –Kate Morrison
Updates on Alex Jackson, Brandon Nimmo, Reese McGuire, and more.
Alex Jackson, OF, Seattle Mariners (Low-A Clinton Lumberkings)
Jackson was viewed as the best prep bat in the 2014 draft as his polish and power potential won over both draft pundits and the Seattle Mariners, who selected him sixth overall. Jackson is off to a slow start in his first full-season assignment, but even as he struggles it’s easy to see what people liked about him. He has a muscular build and a thick lower half. The build comes with the potential for bad weight, so he’ll have to keep up with the conditioning. At the plate, Jackson sets up with a slightly open stance and his hands away from his body. There’s some pre-swing noise with his hands, but he quiets it down once it’s time to load up for the swing.
The power hasn’t manifested itself in game action just yet, but Jackson’s plane and plus bat speed produce the type of loft and backspin that inspire hope that plus power will come. The power plane works as a double-edged sword as it does lessen the hit tool potential. Jackson’s swing path doesn’t leave a lot of margin for error, as his bat doesn’t stay in the hitting zone for too long. He loves to get his arms extended and can’t quite get to the hard stuff up in the zone yet. It’d be easy to hang a below-average hit tool on Jackson for those reasons, but I think it can get to fringe-average levels. He does have strong wrists, displayed some aptitude for the strike zone, and has enough bat speed to learn how to cover his main weakness up and in. In the field, Jackson has just enough foot speed for the outfield and a strong arm that pulls together a right-field profile.
Updates on Austin Hedges, Dylan Bundy, Austin Meadows, and more from the last week of minor-league games.
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres (Triple-A El Paso)
On Friday, I had my first look at Hedges since he was a highly touted prospect at Junipero Serra High School in 2011, and while I wasn’t blown away, I certainly saw the flashes of brilliance that make him one of the top catching prospects in baseball. Hedges went 0-for-2 on the afternoon, but did draw two walks. During batting practice I saw an easy-to-repeat stroke that won’t ever let him hit for power, but does give him the ability to control the barrel and spray the ball to all parts of the field. Unfortunately, the Chihuahuas had him DHing Friday night, so I didn’t get a chance to see him on the field, though I did get a chance to see him show off an easy plus-plus arm before the game. A star he is not, but Hedges will be a quality starting catcher at the big-league level, and his floor is as high as any prospect in the San Diego system. –Christopher Crawford
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles (Double-A Bowie)
In 2012, Bundy sliced and diced his way through lineups as he journeyed through the minors. The arsenal consisted of a potential double-plus fastball, plus curveball, and a plus change. It was the makings of a frontline arm, and that does not include the cutter, which was arguably his best offering. Tommy John surgery in 2013 shelved the right-hander for a substantial amount of time, missing all of 2013 and most of 2014. Last season, the stuff was decent but not at the caliber it was in 2012. The curveball lacked tight spin, the fastball lacked the mid-90s velocity, and the change was firm. While there were signs of encouragement, the return of Bundy's arsenal had yet to develop on the mound.
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.
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.