“Baseball is my stereo, and out past the cornfields where the woods got heavy, and out in the back seat of my ’60 Chevy, and workin’ on mysteries without any clues, and workin’ on our night moves.” –A friend of a friend of Bob Seger
The only thing better than watching prospects is watching prospects with high ceilings, and the only thing better than watching prospects with high ceilings is watching prospects with high ceilings who actually start playing like prospects with high ceilings. During my five-week stay in Arizona, I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time watching the talent in the Kansas City Royals system, and with each subsequent viewing, I walked away from the fields with the another high-end prospect tattooed on my sunburned brain. It’s a pleasing pain. It’s a good hurt.
Like previous articles in this series, I’m going to strip away the fat and put a ball-gag in the mouth of my desire to craft a narrative. The following scouting blasts are basically reproduced as they are found in my notebooks, translated from backfield scribble and shorthand, free from the doodles and profanity that occupy the free space of said notebooks. That’s right. I’ve been known to write abject profanity on the jaundiced skin of my Gold Fibre AMPAD writing pad for leisure, an activity I relish when the action on the field calms and my mind is allowed to play outside without limitations. You get the point. Going forward, if it proves to be a pleasing experience for you, I want to offer up a stream of scouting article whenever I have the opportunity to see talent in person. Even though reports change and snapshots are just snapshots, I think it’s important to document what a player is capable of at any given time so you have a reference when you look back at the body of work. I’ll seek out the records and you can decide how long they play and at what volume. You can also play them at parties and formal galas. It’s up to you. You own the stereo. Here are four scouting snapshots on prospects in the Royals system, a system that provides stacks of quality records to select from.
Name: Mike Montgomery
HT/WT: 6’4’’ 200 lbs.
Notes: Excellent size and length; throws from high ¾ slot; throws downhill; the arm is very fast and works well from pickup to release; his pace was rushed at times; showed average-at-best command of arsenal; opened up in the delivery; wasn’t finishing early; fastball was 91-94 (touched 95) mph with some movement to the arm side; curveball was a little soft at 73-74 mph with longer break; solid 5 offering at 76-77 mph with more depth and a tighter break; changeup flashed 6 at 82-84 with good action and arm speed consistency with fastball; changeup would be effective LHP/LH thanks to similarities to fastball; very good pitch; started finishing pitches better in second inning of work; pace found consistency; curveball stayed tight in the 76-77 range and was thrown for strikes; changeup remained best offering; fastball remained crisp in the low-90s with good late life to the arm side; love the size; pitches with athleticism; fastball was 6 offering; changeup was easy 6; curveball was inconsistent early but improved; good shape on pitch; 5 at present with some projection; delivery improved as pace improved; 1.3 to plate with runners on; stuff didn’t diminish once runners reached base; command was shaky, but command project exists; very impressive arm speed and complete arsenal; could be major league pitcher by the end of the season; projects to be number three at major league level.
Name: Bubba Starling
HT/WT: 6’4’’ 205 lbs.
Notes: Near elite athlete; looks the part; major league body; room for additional strength/mass; noisy in the box; weight transfer wasn’t smooth; ended up on front-foot on several swings; struggled making contact with breaking balls; didn’t appear comfortable in the box; showed impressive bat speed despite mechanical issues; hands looked legit; controlled the bat well; fired hips early on a few occasions that resulted in awkward swings; hard contact on several fouls; failed to see hard contact on ball put in play; hit tool looks immature yet highly projectable because of hand speed and strength; shows ability to hit for power in batting practice; launches to gaps; projects to hit for game power; speed is at least a 7; clocked several home-to-first times in the ~4.2 range; slower out of the box; straight-line speed was near-elite; baseball speed is present in outfield; plenty of first-step quickness and area coverage; not many opportunities to evaluate the glove; made the easy plays; tracked the ball well; angles were fine; showed off athleticism in movements/actions; arm is an easy 7; good carry; good throwing mechanics; accuracy to develop; prototypical star package, with + potential in field and at plate; bat is behind other tools; instincts for athleticism more than baseball at present; ceiling is enormous, perhaps the highest in the game; speed, arm, and power all project to be at least 7 tools; hit tool will be slow to develop, but bat speed is present and plan exists at the plate; just needs reps and game action; future 7+ player at the major league level if tools develop.
Name: Yordano Ventura
HT/WT: 5’11’’ 160 lbs.
Notes: Slight frame; lacks height; long arms; tremendous arm speed; very loose action; whippy; slot wasn’t consistent; mostly 3/4; delivery more fluid than previous viewing; pitched more athletically; stayed in line to the plate; recoil was still present (not as exaggerated); fastball was easy in the 96-98 range and touched 99; pitch appeared to explode out of his hand; great extension; controlled but not commanded; future 8 pitch; curveball flashed plus; stayed on top of pitch; mid-to-upper 70s velocity with tight rotation and late break; located pitch in the zone; changeup was too firm at 84-85 and didn’t feature a lot of action; seemed deliberate; not many looks; limited size, aggressive delivery, and elite potential of fastball point to bullpen role; could be 7 reliever/closer.
Name: Cheslor Cuthbert
HT/WT: 5’11’’ 200 lbs.
Notes: Body looks toned; more athletic than in ’11; feet are lighter; solid-build; short but not squatty; muscular legs; thick lower half but not too thick; waist/hips are proportional to torso/legs; muscular upper body; glove has plus potential; clean actions; good fundamentals/positioning; range isn’t above-average, but makes all the plays within his range; good first-step; stays balanced; glove-to-hand transfer is clean; gets in good throwing position; arm is at least a 6; throwing mechanics are sound; accurate throws; profiles as high-5 defender at position; very good hit tool; hands are outstanding; quick and strong; excellent bat control; lets ball travel very deep into zone; shows pitch recognition skills; compact and balanced setup; very fluid and efficient with launch; lets his hands do the heavy lifting; quiet movements; easy swing; stays inside the ball and squares it; plus bat speed; can barrel velocity; line-drive stroke; uses gaps; lots of power to the pull-side; makes a pitcher work; has a plan at the plate; profiles for batting average and power; could be 6/6 type; have I stressed how good his hands are?; speed is below-average, but improved from ’11 season; clocks in the ~4.3-4.4 range to 1B; could end up as a 3 runner at maturity; has some quickness; not a terrible athlete; good field awareness; runs bases well; instinctual player; looks very comfortable in the field and in the box; makes plays on both sides of the ball against much older competition; projects to be 6 player at major league level; first-division starter.