Raimel Tapia, Carlos Correa, Julio Urias, Clint Frazier, and other prospects we can't wait to scout this summer.
Raimel Tapia, OF, Rockies (Low-A Asheville)
Internet evaluators have a tendency to overcomplicate the scouting process, focusing too much of their attention on what players will do in the future rather than simplifying the explanations of what they actually can do in the present. We can dream on athletic bodies and cite physical projection to justify our fantasies about future accomplishment, and I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to attaching my name to body-beautiful types regardless of current skill level. But a good rule of thumb—in the particular context of evaluating position players—is that good hitters hit and bad hitters only project to hit.
Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia can hit. He accomplishes this with a combination of balance and bat speed at the plate, allowing him to consistently drive the baseball, but there is an innate component at play here that goes deeper than any breakdown of his setup or swing. He excels at putting the barrel of his bat on the baseball, recognizing the ball early out of the pitcher’s hand and using his excellent hand-eye coordination to finish the connection. This natural ability to hit has been evident at every stop in his professional career, and is likely to continue as he climbs toward the highest level. We can wax poetic—and I have—about his other physical gifts, like plus run, a plus arm, and the potential to stick up the middle with the glove, but the name of the game is bat-to-ball, and Tapia can hit. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. –Jason Parks
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Springer, Buxton, Appel and others: The Opening Day assignments that require some explanation.
Wilmer Flores, 2B/3B, New York Mets
The Mets would tell you Flores is beginning the year somewhere other than where they expected, and that is because Flores’ opening day assignment was changed at the last minute. The Mets original developmental plan for Flores, 71st on the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 list, was to have him work at shortstop in the minor leagues. That plan quickly changed once the team needed an infielder on the major-league roster after placing second baseman Daniel Murphy on the paternity list. Instead of beginning the season in Triple-A with the Las Vegas 51s, Flores found himself getting the start at second base for the Mets on Wednesday. It is unclear whether the Mets, who have been rumored to be in search for a shortstop, will keep Flores with the major-league team or send him back to Triple-A to begin working on the conversion to shortstop.
Harry identifies the starters who gained or lost the most speed between the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014.
Three years ago, Mike Fast (now with the Houston Astros) took a look at pitchers who gained or lost velocity between the end of 2010 and spring 2011. We won't summarize his whole study here, but here’s the money quote:
Notes on prospects who stood out in Cactus and Grapefruit League play, including the Red Sox' Xander Bogaerts (good) and Allen Webster (bad).
Xander Bogaerts: 1-3, R, HR. Bogaerts has come on strong of late and will be just fine. Everyone in New England, please just take a deep breath and relax.
Carlos Martinez, RHP, Cardinals: 2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K. Martinez’s first outing as a reliever since the news that he would not make the Cardinals rotation did not go well. We can only speculate as to why—though I won’t—but regardless of the reason, it clearly wasn’t his best performance.
Eyes on Julio Urias, Nick Williams, Christian Arroyo and others.
RHP Cody Buckel: Half-windup; over-the-top slot; showed a lot of effort generating his velocity; fastball worked 89-91; lacked movement; very flat and visible up in the zone; plane when he worked down; found plenty of barrels; dropped several slow lollipop curveballs to steal a few strikes; loose and easy to track; not a legit pitch against better bats; fringy slider in the 82-84 range; lacked sharp break; body language was poor (slumped shoulders and sulked); didn’t record an out in his first inning of work; required several mound visits and encouragements; airmailed a few balls to the backstop; didn’t get a “yips” vibe despite some wildness; pitched with trepidation; find optimism in the fact that he was able to throw some strikes but the stuff and the body language on the mound left a lot to be desired. Didn’t look like a future major-league pitcher. –Jason Parks
OF Nomar Mazara: Lanky; a solid 6’4” at least; very lean and muscular; seemed very comfortable in the box; knew his strengths; laid off some spin down in the zone; got himself into good hitting counts; has big-time bat speed; hitchy timing mechanism; the way his hands load is reminiscent of Chris Davis; timing needs to be perfect, but when it works it’s explosive; pulled a middle-in fastball for a 420-plus-foot bomb; raw power is near elite; game power is starting to actualize; loved the way he hit—he looked for a pitch in a certain spot and demolished it when it came; in his third and last at-bat, he hit one over Terrance Gore’s head in CF for an inside-the-park homer, another fastball over the heart of the plate that he didn’t miss; showed off solid-average speed around the bases as well.
Eyes on Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Ronald Guzman, and others.
OF Albert Almora: Mixed production at the plate; squared a 95 fastball up in the zone for an opposite-field RBI single late in the game; fast hands and aggressive; loved the way he attacked the ball; earlier in the game, was sawed off by a fastball inside and hit an infield squib; clocked a 4.4 time to 1B. I like the setup and swing, with an open stance and very good balance through his load and stroke. Swing is more linear without a lot of lift at present, but he can make hard contact with the ball, especially against quality fastballs; in the field, looks the part of a plus center fielder; glides naturally to the ball; effortless ability to make quality reads.
Example: On a high sky, sun field, tracked a high fly ball that was tailing toward the right field side. It would be common to see young center fielders make a poor opening read and struggle to adjust to the ball because of the sky and tail on the ball. My eyes focused on Almora upon contact, and he glided to the spot on his initial read and made a catch at his left hip, which looked as effortless (and cool) as his route to the ball. For most outfielders, the appropriate response to the flair of this particular catch on a backfield would be, “Nice catch Hayes, don’t ever do it again.” But for Almora, its just natural baseball. –Jason Parks
Notes on prospects who stood out in Cactus and Grapefruit League play, including Marlins outfieler Jake Marisnick and Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty.
Jake Marisnick, OF, Marlins: 2-4, 2B. Even rain in Jupiter and a delayed start to the afternoon couldn’t slow down Marisnick, who is now hitting .442 this spring. I’ll still argue that both he and Marcell Ozuna belong in Triple-A to start the season, but if he really was invited to camp to compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster, it’s hard to do much better than Marisnick has this month.
Stephen Piscotty, OF, Cardinals: 1-3, R. Piscotty finished strong in Double-A last season and is off to a hot start this spring before likely returning to Springfield. Piscotty is just a flat-out good hitter who controls the strike zone incredibly well. If the power develops, he could be extremely productive. Just don’t get caught in the group of people who think he’s better than Oscar Taveras. At least not yet.
Notes on the prospects who stood out on the final weekend of Cactus and Grapefruit League play.
This is it, don’t get scared now.
It’s the final weekend before the regular season. Sure, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers took their adventure down under, but we all know the real regular season starts this Sunday and that the real Opening Day is one week from today. There may not be too many prospects left in camps, but the ones that are left are there for a reason.
Eyes on Jorge Alfaro, Joey Gallo, Blake Swihart, and other prospects of repute.
I spent nine hours at the fields yesterday; morning workouts and then backfield games on the Rangers side (Extended, Low-A, High-A). Dropping notes on several prospects, some more detailed than others depending on the duration and significance of the look. –Jason Parks
C Jorge Alfaro: Noticeably stronger; way more athletic than people realize; easy plus runner when underway; arm is 80-grade; popped a 1.73 (on my watch) on a caught stealing early in the game; footwork was quick and coordinated; ball was waiting on the runner; controls the running game; intimidator behind the plate; not afraid to attempt back-pick at second or first; highly confident in throwing ability; best I’ve seen him as a receiver; was letting the ball get to him; wasn’t stabbing or drifting; previously, more balanced at the plate; swing is still torque-heavy but not as all-or-nothing or uncontrollable; bat speed is still well above average; right-center is still power core; can still beat him with spin but he is keeping his hands back better and not selling out for extension on everything thrown near the plate.