“Baseball is my stereo, and I get hit looking for a miss, and I never thought it would come to this.” –A guy who dresses up like Elvis Costello
I arrived in Delaware on Saturday afternoon, and I stuffed all the stories and observations from my journey into the parts of my mind that are tasked with storing rambling tales from the road. For example: I saw a girl on the Greyhound bus with plastic pink shoes and a sundress made from a shiny synthetic fabric that looked like plastic, and I think I was in love with her because she looked so imaginary and plastic and dreamlike, and she blew exaggerated bubbles with her gum and her lips were painted with a waxy, pink gloss, which only added to the illusion and excitement of the situation.
I might revisit some of that storage at a later date, but it’s foolish to ramble when the baseball action in front of me suggests I recount. The first of the two series I was set to witness in the Blue Hen State was a matchup between the hometown Wilmington Blue Rocks and the Frederick Keys, advanced-A affiliates of the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles, respectively. Both teams have on-the-radar prospects, but only the Blue Rocks can boast top shelf organizational talent, with Cheslor Cuthbert, Yordano Ventura, and Jason Adam all landing in Kevin Goldstein’s Royals Top 11. The Frederick Keys have a few arms of note, specifically Kyle Simon, Clay Schrader, and Mike Wright, but nobody of national prospect significance, and I didn’t see a positional prospect on the roster that profiled as a major league regular. It was thin. Of the 29 Keys players listed on my roster sheet, 29 (not all active) of them were born in the United States. As I said, it was thin. Here are two scouting snapshots from the series, complete with an updated report on Yordano Ventura, who took a monster step forward in his Saturday night start despite failing to complete four innings of work.
Name: Yordano Ventura
HT/WT: 5’11’’ 167lbs. (from team roster)
Game: 4/14; started four innings
Notes: Thin, wiry body; lacks physical projection; could add strength/stamina; arm slot was 3/4; lacked slot consistency; would dip below standard 3/4 and raise arm on some fastballs to near high 3/4; has a slight recoil in the delivery and will get carried offline to the plate; arm works well from pickup to release but it takes effort; whippy; arm speed is near elite; angle to plate would fluctuate; arm carries big load in the delivery; fastball had range in the first inning, from 93-98; work mostly at 97-98 mph; very easy cheese; could spot ball down in the zone with lower velocity and get some sinking action; would elevate to achieve max velocity; showed some strike-throwing ability, but found too many bats; wasn’t hit hard, but the below-average bats of the Keys were able to put wood to ball; mostly fouls and weak contact if fair; wasn’t able to dominate with velocity; showed a few promising curves in the first, one called strike and one swinging strike; changeup was splitter-like at 87 mph; was 1.02 to plate with runner on base.
Second inning saw fastball work in the 94-98 mph range; was opening up in the delivery and missing spots; missed with fastball both high and low in the zone; free passes and contact on fastball; curveball found its legs at 77-78 mph; pitch had tight rotation and a late break; the overall command of the pitch was best I have seen it; at this point I wrote future 6 pitch in the notebook; curveball retired the side with swinging strikes; arm-slot was higher on changeups in second inning; pitch was 84 mph; showed some fading action, but not as extreme as the movement on the 87 mph offering; pitch was thrown for strikes; pitcher was 1.17 to plate (on average) with runners on base; fastball was in the 93-95 mph range in the third inning; still struggled to stay in his delivery and locate pitch with consistency.
Curveball was even better in third, used as swinging out pitch against both righties and lefties; the offering was in the same velocity range as before; thrown for strikes and thrown out of the zone with intent; a few “wow” pitches, showing good deception from the hand and wipeout movement; almost slider like with its two-plane movement; at this point I thought it might be a potential 7 pitch; changeup was 84-85 in third, with a little more fading action than before; seemed deliberate; arm slowed on delivery; pitch has some potential; some feel was present; pitcher failed to escape fourth inning of work after throwing too many pitches; fastball was 94-95 in the inning, and he reached back to get 97 without much effort; was working a little too fast at times; delivery was rushed; wasn’t able to locate fastball; wanted to keep competing and made case to stay on the hill.
Summary: In brief outing, he walked three hitters, struck out six, and allowed two runs. The fastball was an easy plus offering, working in the mid-90s and touching 98. The pitch had a little late life on it, but wasn’t located with any consistency and hitters were able to stay on it most of the game. The velocity was near-elite, but the execution wasn’t in the same league. The curveball was the monster of the night, missing the fastball-fixated bats and showing the characteristics of a future 7 pitch. The delivery was hit and miss, but the changeup was mostly hit, with some fading movement to the arm side at 83-84 mph. It’s not an average pitch yet, but it could get to that point through repetition.
The total package is still hard to put a role on, as the size and stuff would suggest a future late-inning reliever, with what could be an 8 fastball and a 7 curve. But he was able to hold velocity very well, and the changeup wasn’t a bad offering. The command needs work, but when he can stay in his delivery he shows the ability to throw strikes. I’m not sold he is a reliever, although I can certainly see the potential in that role. This kid has a legit major league arm, and the curveball was the best curveball I’ve ever seen him throw and it’s not even close. The curveball didn’t just flash. It dominated for two innings. He needs more efficiency, and that comes with better command and approach, and he needs to turn his heater into a weapon instead of just a pitch thrown with velocity, but he could make a jump.
Name: Mike Wright
HT/WT: 6’5’’ 195 lbs.
Game: 4/14; started and completed five innings
Notes: Excellent height; lengthy; very high waist, which makes the legs look disproportionately long; not skinny, but lean body; 22-years-old but still looks physically projectable (could add more mass, especially to lower-half); moves well off-the-mound; not as awkward in movements as body suggests; delivery was clean and mechanics easy; not a complicated setup; stayed balanced; good stride length; maintained good line to the plate; pitched on far 1B-side of the rubber; arm slot was standard 3/4; arm action was clean; pitched with height and created steep plane to the plate; fastball worked 91-94 mph and touched 95; pitch featured some sink; located pitch better at 91 mph (down in the zone); higher velo offerings looked overthrown and often missed high and outside; the extra velocity appeared to require more effort and stress from the delivery and pitcher would fly open; better command could make pitch a 6.
Slider was effective to right-handed hitters, thrown in the 81-84 mph range; pitch was sharper at 84 with more tilt; slurvy at 81-82; had fastball characteristics out of the hand; forced bad swings; wasn’t afraid to throw pitch when down in the count; high-five/low-six potential; dropped a few slower breaking balls that had the shape of a curve; velocity in the 77-78 range; short break; not much depth; more deliberate in mechanics; extreme right-handed lineup kept changeup on the sidelines; only counted a few; unable to properly evaluate pitch; worked fast and challenged hitters; loose command that would drift into loose control early in the game; found rhythm after first two innings and started locating fastball early in counts and setting up the slider; showed pitchability and poise on the mound; profiles as an innings chewer; 4th/5th starter type.
Summary: Wright only pitched five innings, but he looked like he could have cruised to a complete game. After a shaky start that saw the control slip, he settled down and started pounding the zone with a very steep fastball, thrown effectively in the low-90s. Hitters struggled all game to put their bats on the pitch, collecting only four hits in the five innings, two of which from hard contact. The slider was a good secondary pitch and showed above-average potential. It’s not a monster, but it looked sharp at times and will play against better competition. Wright has good size, a good delivery, showed feel for the mound, and located two pitches with promise.
He looks like a back-of-the-rotation workhorse, a pitcher that will force weak contact and miss a few bats, but lack the stuff to dominate high-level hitters. He doesn’t look like an A-ball pitcher at present, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Double-A at some point this summer. He’s not a top tier prospect, but I’d put him in the top ten in the Orioles system.