Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including just about every blue-chip bat in the Cubs system.
Hitter(s) of the Night
The Cubs, Multiple Positions, Wrigleyville (All Levels): It’s a good time to be a Cubs prospect, and Thursday may have been the climax of the hype machine. It’s not going to be easy to tell Cubs fans to calm down after what happened last night.
In Triple-A, Javier Baez, who was making his regular season debut at second base in order to give himself and the organization more options for the future, continued his rise out of his early-season doldrums with a 2-for-4 night that included a double and a homer. Not to be outdone, his teammate Kris Bryant went 3-for-5 with a double and a home run of his own.
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Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Astros outfielder Danry Vasquez and Rockies righty jon Gray.
Hitter of the Night: Danry Vasquez, OF, Astros (Lancaster, A+): 3-3, 3 R, 3 HR. Vasquez is an intriguing hitting prospect who still has a long way to go, but who some believe has more power than he’s shown in games thus far. A three-homer game on Wednesday is a good start, but it gives him just four on the season. The hit tool is going to have to carry Vasquez, but he’ll need to start turning more of his doubles into home runs.
Pitcher of the Night: Jonathan Gray, RHP, Rockies (Tulsa, AA): 5 2/3 IP, H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K.
This is more like the dominant Gray we were hoping to see from college. The Rockies have had him working on stuff, so don’t put too much stock in his numbers. The power arm that got him drafted so high is still very much intact.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Phillies outfielder Dylan Cozens.
Prospect of the Night: Dylan Cozens, OF, Phillies (Lakewood, A-): 4-5, 2 R, 2 HR.
Cozens looks the part of a big-time power hitting prospect, and there are nights when he backs it up. It’s easy to see why the Phillies were intrigued by his package of tools and used a second-round pick on him in 2012, and it’s also easy to see why it was the Phillies who liked him the most. His home run, to dead center off of a Lucas Giolito fastball, was one of the more impressive things I’ve seen this year, especially coming in Lakewood, where the ball does not carry well at night. He’s at his best when he stays up the middle and drives the ball to the gaps. When he gets pull-happy, his bat leaves the strike zone too much, and he loses power because he generates too much topspin. There are some pitch recognition issues that may never get worked out and he’s aggressive, a combination that leads to a ton of bad contact, strikeouts, and a low batting average. There’s some room for improvement in that regard, but likely not too much. Still, he’s an intriguing guy who is still learning how to use his size and athleticism in a baseball way, and when he puts it together in short stints, it’s very impressive to watch.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Cubs outfielder Albert Almora and Diamondbacks righty Ben Eckels.
With no Triple-A games in action and rainouts lightening the schedule around the country, we don’t have as deep of an Update as we usually do. There’s nothing to fear, however. If we made it through January and February, this is a piece of cake.
Hitter of the Night: Albert Almora, OF, Cubs (Daytona, A+): 5-7, 4 R, 2B, 3B, HR.
Yep, that’s a cycle. Almora is coming on strong of late after a horrid start to the season. His aggressiveness at the plate is still a concern, but there are some guys who are talented enough, and do enough other things well, to get away with it. Almora may just be one of those guys.
Notes on prospects who stood out over the weekend, including Cubs third baseman Christian Villanueva and Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia.
Friday, July 11
Christian Villanueva, 3B, Cubs (Tennessee, AA): 2-4, R, HR. Villanueva was struggling in his first taste of Triple-A this season, which made it easy to send him down a level to make room for Kris Bryant. Still, Villanueva is a legitimate prospect in his own right who gets overshadowed in the Cubs system. He's getting back on his feet in Tennessee and will get another shot at Triple-A soon.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Cubs third baseman Jeimer Candelario and Pirates righty Nick Kingham.
Hitter of the Night: Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Cubs (Kane County, A-): 3-4, R, 2 2B, HR.
After a solid season of holding his own against older competition last year, Candelario struggled mightily this year in the Florida State League and hasn’t returned to form upon a return to Low-A ball. His big Thursday night helps.
Pitcher of the Night: Nick Kingham, RHP, Pirates (Indianapolis, AAA): 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 4 K.
Whether it’s as an audition for a rotation spot in Pittsburgh or in order to increase his trade value, Kingham continues to make his case for being major league ready despite just six starts in Triple-A. It’s not the sexiest ceiling, but Kingham should be a major league starter for a long time.
The U.S. Team includes power arms, toolsy outfielders and a dazzling collection of infielders.
Welcome to part two of a two-part series on scouting the players involved in this Sunday's Futures Game showcase of prospect talent. The International roster preview ran on Thursday.
Christian Binford, RHP, Royals (High-A Wilmington)
Scouting Report (most recent) Link
Binford entered 2014 as a prospect on the rise in the Royals system, and his performance so far has earned him the chance to represent Kansas City in Minnesota for the Futures Game. Binford is more polish than projection, as neither the fastball nor slider projects to be a plus or better offering. Meanwhile, the changeup is lagging behind and will need to jump an entire grade before he can realistically profile in a rotation. Regardless, it appears Binford will provide the Royals with more than the expected value of a typical 30th round selection.
Carlos Correa will not play, shifting the spotlight to Julio Urias, Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor and the rest of a talented, if somewhat raw, squad.
Welcome to part one of a two-part series on scouting the players involved in this Sunday's Futures Game showcase of prospect talent. The US roster preview will follow on Friday.
Alfonso Alcantara, RHP, Angels (Low-A Burlington)
Alcantara shows a three-pitch mix, with his bread and butter a mid-90s fastball that possesses movement anywhere from 93 to 96 mph. The slider and changeup are both well behind in development, with the slider showing some promise but the changeup looking unplayable too often.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Rangers outfielder Nick Williams and Mets righty Gabriel Ynoa.
Hitter of the Night: Nick Williams, OF, Rangers (Myrtle Beach, A+): 4-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 3B, BB.
It remains to be seen how Williams’ hit tool will play against better pitching with more of a plan to exploit his aggressiveness, but few can match his pure hitting combination of bat speed and feel for the barrel.
Pitcher of the Night: Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, Mets (Binghamton, AA): 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K.
Ynoa isn’t overpowering, but when his command is on, he can be extremely effective. He has plus control, but he’s still refining his ability to throw good strikes and working on an effective breaking ball. At 21, however, and already in Double-A, he has plenty of time to work those things out.
The Red Sox replace A.J. Pierzynski with a talented defense-first catcher.
The Situation:A.J. Pierzynski and the Red Sox seemed like a nice fit over the winter, but neither his season nor Boston's season went as planned. Pierzynski’s free-swinging ways clashed with the selective lineup Ben Cherington assembled, and his glove was a weakness. As a result, the team grew increasing frustrated with the veteran backstop, leading to whispers that the Sox were contemplating jettisoning him as early as April. With Boston's catching prospects having fine seasons in the minors, the Sox finally pulled the plug on Pierzynski on Wednesday, calling up 23-year-old catcher Christian Vazquez. Vazquez’s breakout year at Pawtucket has tempted Boston to make this move for some time, and the hope is that he can inject a new energy with his impact defensive skills.
Background: The Red Sox took Vazquez in the ninth round of the 2008 draft out of Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and signed him for an $80,000 bonus. Even with a top-10-round grade, Vazquez was seen as a project on both sides of the ball, and his short, stout frame gave rise to concerns about his body, though those liabilities can sometimes turn into assets behind the plate in terms of durability. At the plate, Vazquez’s small frame isn't conducive to power. His bat speed isn’t a strength either, and swing-and-miss has been a big issue. Vazquez has always been able to throw, but the rest of his defensive game lagged behind. Concerns about his glove were such that in the low minors he saw time at third base, with a smattering of appearances at first and second. Over the last couple years, however, he's addressed many of these doubts.