Happy Friday, all.
In the meantime, I thought I'd make a few calls to some friendly scouts and get their opinions on some of the minor leaguers people have been asking about. Thanks for all the suggestions on minor leaguers to cover; I can't get to all of them (primarily because of the huge volume of requests), but if I have a scouting source and a chance to check out a guy's game, I'll get to it eventually.
If you have a specific question about a player, feel free to e-mail me and ask, and I'll do my best to get back to you. To give you an idea of the expected wait time, I recently responded to a question about some shortstop at Appleton named Alex Rodriguez. Personally, I think he's all hype.
Anyway, let's check out the Florida State and California Leagues:
- Jay Botts, OF-B, Texas Rangers (Charlotte, Florida State League, high A)
Botts is a converted first baseman, initially noteworthy because of his 6'6" frame and loping stride. He started off the year slowly, but has been ripping the cover off the ball for about the last month. He's just now adjusting to the outfield, having moved to avoid the organizational glut of first basemen.
When the Rangers hired Grady Fuson from the A's without permission, Oakland GM Billy Beane immediately demanded superprospect Hank Blalock as compensation. However, Botts was the guy the A's wanted and thought they could actually get, before the Selective Enforcement Patrol struck again. (How's that 60/40 rule working out, guys?) Not surprising, as Botts is the prototypical Billy Beane player: he waits for his pitch and crushes it. If that pitch never arrives, well, there's always a 90-foot mosey over to first base, and another hitter coming up behind him.
Scouts are not optimistic about Botts's defensive development. "He's obviously new out there, but he's got a bad stutter on his jump, and he's never going to have the quickness to be a very good outfielder." And on the offensive side? "His development is going to be pretty slow. Good pitchers can always get a big guy out, and he's got a couple of holes. He does recognize pitches well. Botts doesn't chase the pitch low and away out of the zone, and that kills most tall guys."
- Jason DuBois, OF-R, Chicago Cubs (Daytona, Florida State League, high A)
DuBois is basically a slightly older version of Jay Botts. In an organization not noted for teaching patience, DuBois has started to accept the idea that the strike zone is a weapon to be used by a hitter. He's punished FSL pitching, hitting for average and power, and improving his strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Scouts remain unconvinced:
"He's got some pop, but he doesn't have the bat speed to do it as he moves up. Right now, his approach works, but it won't work against better pitching. He knows he's not going to face guys here that can throw three curveballs for strikes, so he just ignores them and waits for a cookie. At Jackson [West Tennessee, the Double-A affiliate for the Cubs], he's not going to be able to lean on that crutch, and he'll be eaten alive. He can have a good career in this game, but most of it's going to be in Triple-A."
- Jose Reyes, SS-B, New York Mets (St. Lucie, Florida State League, high A)
Reyes is about six months from being the consensus best prospect in the nation. He's lightning fast, with tremendous defensive ability at shortstop. He's improved dramatically with the bat, adding plate discipline to a vicious line-drive stroke, a quick exit from the box, and a quantum leap forward in terms of pitch identification.
"There's nothing Jose can't do," says one scout, "either in the field or at the plate. He's got power, speed, instinct, and in the field, he's already better than most shortstops in the show. Most of his errors are because he's trying to do too much, or a bad hop. He'll get over them." Is there a player in the bigs you'd compare him to? "He's not really like anyone. Offensively, he's going to be great, and defensively, he's going to be better. He could be somewhere between Nomar Garciaparra, A-Rod, and Barry Larkin, but with better defense and wheels than all of them." How many minor-league shortstops have you seen with more promise? "One. And he's playing in Texas."
A few things to keep in mind: the FSL is not a good hitters' league, so that stat line is pretty impressive, all the more so because Reyes's 30/35 BB/K ratio is up from 18/71 last year at Cap City.
Oh, and finally, the birthdate: June 11, 1983. Happy 19th, Jose.
- Josh Rabe, OF-R, Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers, Florida State League, high A)
"Rabe is the smartest player in the league," raves one scout about the former Quincy University standout. He's not young for the league at 23, but does everything on the field pretty well. Defensively, he shows good speed, outstanding instincts, a quick jump, good hands, and an adequate arm. At the plate, he has very good plate discipline, makes good contact, and has a short, quick stroke.
"He doesn't have the tools to be a star, but he's a guy big-league clubs are going to want. He can play any outfield position, swings well at pitches anywhere in the strike zone, runs well, makes good contact, and never lets up." So are we talking about an extra outfielder on a championship team? "Probably about right. [Rabe] reminds me of Stan Javier in the field."
- Rob Henkel, SP-L, Florida Marlins (Jupiter, Florida State League, high A)
Henkel was somewhat erratic on the mound last year, with a wide range of mechanical glitches, some vague but scary injuries, and a fastball that could clock as low as 82 and as high as 91. He's been healthy this year, improving his already good change-up, and his command of all his pitches has been much better.
"He knows how to pitch. His motion is consistent from pitch to pitch and game to game. His fastball is back a foot or two. He needs to pitch inside more, and not over so much of the plate on the first pitch." How about his raw stuff? "It's plus. His change-up is very good, but he needs to use it a little less, and work off the fastball more."
Is he going to be successful in the majors? "Maybe, but the odds are against him. He's going to have a major test in the Eastern League. He can't get by just on his stuff, and most guys with his stuff don't make it."
- Tagg Bozied, 1B-R, San Diego Padres (Lake Elsinore, California League, high A)
Bozied has begun and finished the slide down the defensive spectrum, making the inevitable transition from third base to first base. The Padres can live with that, in all likelihood. Bozied has tremendous raw power, a patient and vicious stroke, and looks to be a prototypical slugger. Scouts have somewhat divergent ideas about his potential, though.
"He's San Diego's version of Russell Branyan or someone like that," says one scout. "He's got big holes and a swing that's not going to get any tighter. He's dangerous if you leave a pitch just below his belt, but otherwise, you can get him."
And, from a scout with another organization:
- Dustin Moseley, SP-R, Cincinnati Reds (Stockton, California League, high A)
The 2000 first rounder is ripping up the hitter-friendly Cal League in an organization that's going to need some starting pitching help fairly soon. Moseley isn't a typical high-school first-rounder who's relying on an glove-popping fastball. Last year, in his first pro season, his velocity was mediocre, and he relied heavily on his curveball and change-up.
How's he progressing? According to one scout, "His fastball's not really gotten there yet. His curveball's very good for a kid his age, but it looks like it puts a lot of strain on his elbow. His fastball's going to get better if he stays healthy, and his change-up delivery has become really exceptional."
The Reds worked him for 148 innings as a 19-year-old last year, and he's on pace to do more than that this season. Sometimes, you almost have to root for a mild blister problem.
Join Gary for a highly impromptu baseball gathering at The Icon Nightclub in Palo Alto, Calif. on Wednesday, June 26, from approximately 6:30 p.m. until approximately 2 a.m. Come early to talk baseball. Tickets $17 at the door, but that fee is not affiliated with BP, and gets you in to see the finest trio walking the earth. No RSVP, just show up.