Tanner Houck, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Big and broad-shouldered at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Houck looks the part of an innings-eating starting pitcher in the second half of a rotation. He effectively mixed two fastballs in this viewing, as well as his slider and changeup. The fastball has a hard, boring two-seam version at 92-93, as well as a firmer four-seam look with ride at 94-95. The slider was his out pitch, with hard sweeping action and quality bite. He mixed in the changeup on occasion to lefties, as well. He had trouble this season commanding his fastball, and with a crossfire delivery and low three-quarter slot, that might very well be a consistent issue for him going forward.
Nolan Jones, 3B, Cleveland Indians
I am only two games into things with Jones, but for a first impression I am already all over it. The batting practice showcased his plus-or-better raw power, as he took several balls out to the opposite field. It’s a lean, athletic frame, and his overall physicality is quite good, with an arm plenty strong enough at third base. He needs to be more aggressive against pitchers than he’s shown so far, as he can get behind early watching pitches and find himself in need of battling back. The present swing lacks much barrel control, as he tends to swing with a violent abandon, but the profile has me excited.
Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Speaking of first impressions, Adell has made an unsurprisingly loud one. The all-around profile is not something you see every day, even from the best of the best out here. I was surprised by his speed and instincts tracking baseballs in the outfield, the strong arm, and his overall feel for the grass. Then we get to batting practice, and it was another kind of show. “The ball sounds different off his bat” than other hitters, thanks to bat speed that is plus or better, and the hands and trigger are lightning quick. It shows in-game, as well; he ambushed an early fastball from Noah Bremer about 450 feet to the pull-side in yesterday’s action.
Keegan Thompson, RHP, Chicago Cubs
While not the sexiest of pitchers, Thompson has starter traits that can develop into the back end of a rotation. Thompson missed the majority of the season with various injuries, but he showed strong and healthy at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, and there was some polished ability to mix four pitches effectively for strikes. The fastball and slider are average offerings, the curveball and change fringier, so his margin of error will always be small. But while none of his offerings are better than average in terms of stand-alone stuff, the sum of the parts helps it all play up, largely thanks to above-average control that he’ll need to continue honing if he’s going to make it.
Ivan Herrera, C, St. Louis Cardinals
One of the youngest everyday players here in the Arizona Fall League, you wouldn’t know it from watching him, given his style of play and hard work thus far. He just turned 19 in June, but he doesn’t look overmatched at all at the plate despite facing pitchers much older than him. It’s a simple swing with a quick load and trigger, and he generates above-average bat speed. While he needs to add strength to his frame and the grind of the long season has taken a clear toll on him, he is still finding a way to put the ball in play. Defensively he has a strong arm with pop times pinned right around two seconds, and he receives so well and cleanly that you can kind of forget he’s back there for parts of the game.
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