How many top-ranked shortstop prospects actually go on to play shortstop in the majors?
Last weekend the Twins announced that their top prospect Nick Gordon, the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft, would cease playing exclusively shortstop and begin spending some time at second base as well. Positional versatility is not a bad thing, but Gordon’s draft stock was based on the belief that he was a shortstop, period, so the fact that there’s uncertainty about his ability to stick there before he even got to Double-A is discouraging. As a rail-thin 21-year-old with a poor walk rate and just five home runs in 293 games as a pro, Gordon will likely need to have significant defensive value to be a big-league asset.
Gordon’s older brother, Dee Gordon, was also a top prospect as a shortstop who later moved to second base. Dee, who cracked BP’s top 101 prospects list in 2010 and 2011, remained a shortstop long enough to log 147 major-league starts there in 2011-2013, but then shifted to second base full time in 2014 and hasn’t played shortstop since. When talk of little brother Nick possibly moving off shortstop got louder a couple weeks ago, Dee spoke up, telling Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: “I’m not their front office, but my brother is a shortstop and it’s going to be tough for him to play second.”
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.
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.
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