Anthony Alford is one of the more underrated prospects in baseball. Notes on him and more.
Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
It’s never been a question of athletic talent with Alford – the 2012 third-round selection was one of the most highly recruited dual-threat quarterbacks before he committed to Southern Miss. Unfortunately for Alford, the football career didn’t work out, and it hurt his baseball development before he gave up the “other” sport in 2014.
It appears the light has clicked for Alford in 2015 though, and several scouts have told me he’s looked like one of the most improved prospects of the summer. Alford has always been a plus-plus runner, but his swing has shortened and incorporates more of his strong lower half, which has allowed him to put the ball into the gaps and his speed to work. As he adds more loft to his swing, those doubles (20 this year) should go further, and 15 to 20 homer seasons are not out of the questions.
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This week's Ten Pack looks at prospects who could wind up on the Top 101 next year.
Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets (High-A Port St. Lucie)
After an aggressive placement to start 2015saw Rosario skip Low-A and head right to the Florida State League, the 19-year-old shortstop's talent has been on display throughout the first half of the season. As the no. 78 prospect in our off-season Top 101, a case could be made for including him within the last couple slots of the just released mid-season Top 50, but regardless this prospect's stock has jumped forward as we hit the midpoint of the season.
Rosario is currently a top 101 prospect in the game, and barring some kind of unforeseen circumstances will be a shoe-in for our list this coming off-season. So, why highlight him? He is an interesting case study because of how advanced he is, with a good dose of physical development likely to come. Standing 6-foot-2, Rosario currently is on the wiry/thin side. Though the expectation isn't that he'll suddenly morph into a monster, strength is going to come in time, and with strength there's going to be an enhancement to the overall offensive game.
Thoughts on Nick Gordon, Alex Jackson, Mark Zagunis, and more.
Nick Gordon, SS, Minnesota Twins (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
Nick Gordon is still raw, but flashes the tools to be an above-average big-league shortstop. He’s a skinny, high-waisted player who has the body to fill out and add some lean muscle and strength as he matures.
Gordon is raw offensively, but shows a plus feel for the barrel and ability to hit to all fields. The linear, line-drive swing shows potential for a plus hit tool. He has excellent control of the barrel with the ability to hit to all fields. The power will likely be minimal and more gap-to-gap, but he can turn on the fastball for more power than you would expect from his frame, and that skill should increase as his body matures.
This week's ten pack has reports on Lewis Brinson, Willy Adames, Braxton Davidson, and more.
Lewis Brinson, CF, Texas Rangers (High-A High Desert)
The former first-rounder has had an inconsistent career to date, and the full gamut was on display last week at Rancho Cucamonga. Brinson’s athleticism is top shelf, and he’s the type of player who jumps out immediately as The Guy to watch on the field at all times. The frame is long and lean, built around an extremely high waist and wiry muscle in the lower half. He runs like a gazelle, with long, efficient strides and a supremely coordinated, graceful glide. The raw foot speed is a 65, and he presented as an outstanding track and close defender in center. That alone puts him on a path to the big leagues.
The shape of that path will depend an awful lot on his offense, and that projection remains very much a work in progress. The stance is tall with high, quiet hands, and the raw strength and bat speed both present as plus. His angle into the zone is steep and his lower half showed some inconsistency, however. His BP session was unremarkable, and he struggled to maintain his center of gravity in-game, collapsing on his back side and losing his shoulder-hip alignment on several swings. He repeatedly expanded the zone down against velocity and off-speed stuff alike in this look. On the flipside, he also showed some notable discipline along the black, and when his rhythm was right he delivered the barrel smoothly and directly to the point of contact.
This week's ten pack includes thoughts on Nick Williams, Carlos Tocci, Brian Johnson, and more.
Rob Kaminsky, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals (High-A Palm Beach)
The 2013 first-round pick has moved fairly quickly, and is now competing as a 20-year-old in the Florida State League, but despite his rapidity, there's not a ton of development left in his game. His small frame—he’s listed at 5-foot-11—doesn't allow for a significant amount of filling out, likely limiting his fastball to the high 80s/low 90s rendition he's currently offering. He has good control, but his command within the zone wavers, thanks to some jerkiness in his delivery. His curveball is supposed to be his calling card, but the pitch lacks depth. His three-quarters release point coupled with his lack of height eliminates the downward plane on both pitches. He offers a changeup that has potential and replicates his fastball arm speed on it effectively, but it doesn't currently have enough movement to miss bats consistently.
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.
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.