“Baseball is my stereo, and this ain't no garden party, brother, this is wrestling, where only the strongest survive.” –Ric Flair
I just returned home from a five-day scouting expedition, where I saw organizational players and prospects alike recite their lines on the advanced A-ball stage. Wilmington, Delaware was the setting for this theater, and I probably escaped the state with more stories that originated outside the ballpark than on the field itself, and trust me, I was able to gather plenty of stories from the action taking place on the field. My next article might have to focus on the eclectic cab driver who took a casual conversation about adult metabolism and escalated it into a tale of karate and gunfights, the 30-year-old hotel bartender who foolishly thought he could play shortstop in the high minors, and the previously mentioned girl on the bus, who looked like a toy, complete with the plastic package that separates the product from the hands of the outside world, but baseball is still fresh on my mind, and the notes from the Wilmington Blue Rocks/Carolina Mudcats series are playing on repeat in my head. I was sad to leave the scene of the crime, but happy to find comfort in the documented history of my travels, the scouting scribbles on prospects like Royals right-hander Jason Adam and Indians middle-infielders Ronny Rodriguez and Tony Wolters. Let’s just do this.
Name: Jason Adam
HT/WT: 6’4’’ 219
Game: 4/18; 7.2 innings
Notes: Excellent size/height; long limbs; mature build; broad shoulders; athletic; delivery worked but (visually) it didn’t appear easy; stride was short, but plant was clean; overhand windup; delivery featured a high-frontside arm and big leg lift; good balance; stayed in good line to plate; slot was consistent in the standard 3/4; hand break hid the ball very well; fastball worked in the 90-92 mph range from the first inning into the eighth; max velocity at 93; lowest reading at 88; pitch arrived with good angle; two distinct movements to pitch; higher-velocity offering featured heavy arm side drift; 88-90 mph pitch had plus sink; movement appeared late; delivery would open up at times and arm would come across body forcing pitch up and away to the arm side; walked three, but worked with control most of the game; right-handers struggled to hit fastball lower in the zone; fastball broke five bats and forced weak contact on the ground; curveball flashed plus at 75-76 mph with long break; commanded the pitch very well; would throw the pitch at the hip to right-handers and on the backfoot of left-handers; it had “wow” qualities; very deceptive pitch; not deliberate with mechanics; lost pitch at 70 mph; break was early and too long; minor league pitch at 70 mph and a major league pitch at 75-76; should be a 6 pitch; changeup was surprisingly good; velocity at 81-83; pitch played well off fastball; had funnel-like vertical movement; would throw pitch to right handers; it flashed easy plus; at 83 mph, pitch was a little firm and lost some of the vertical movement; had no trouble locating offering; used sequence very well; was slow to plate with runners on, ranging from 1.4-1.57; pickoff move was adequate; showed good mound presence and poise; combination of stuff, pitchability, and size; very impressive performance on very difficult day to pitch.
Summary: Adam took the mound at 11 on Wednesday morning, with the weather a crisp 50 degrees and a drizzle that would occasionally become downpour. It was a very uncomfortable day to watch baseball, much less stand on the hill and throw a baseball. To make matters worse, the defense behind Adam had a poor game, committing three errors, and the total could have easily eclipsed five errors; routine groundballs were missing gloves and routine throws were doing the same. It was frustrating to witness, but Adam kept his cool, continued to work with pace and purpose, and just as often as a runner reached base via error, Adam would induce a double-play ball to erase the mistake.
Of the five hits he allowed, only two balls were hit with any venom, and only one of those on a pitch placed in a bad location. Adam struck out five, missing bats with all three pitches. I’ve seen the arm produce more velocity, and it’s not a stretch to assume his fastball will be a plus offering, working in the 92 mph range and showing the ability to touch higher in bursts; I’ve seen Adam sit 95-96 in a two-inning stint. Both secondary pitches have plus potential, with the shocker being the changeup, a pitch I hadn’t seen much of before. With a big, strong body, a good feel for throwing strikes, three pitches with above-average potential, and makeup that his teammates are always quick to champion, Adam looks like a future major league arm. Right now he projects as a number three/four type, but if the velocity does in fact stabilize in the plus range without sacrificing control/command, Adam has the secondary stuff to project higher. I continue to be a big fan of this arm.
Name: Ronny Rodriguez
HT/WT: 6’0’’ 170
Game(s): 04/16-18; two games at second base; one game at shortstop
Notes: Premium athlete; high waist/rear; broad shoulders; inverted triangle body shape; body will continue to fill out; shows plus bat speed; hands are ferociously quick and strong; swing was choppy; took cuts just to take cuts; approach was very suspect; ultra-aggressive; showed poor pitch recognition skills; looked fastball in every count and triggered accordingly; struggled to make any contact with secondary pitches; could sting a fastball, regardless of location within the zone; the ability to hit a baseball exists; power projection exists; speed is deceiving; slow out of the box, and times to first base were average; second-gear was easy plus; awkward body when running; looks like he’s being chased; arms swing side-to-side; hunches; runs the bases like his swings the bat; very aggressive and loose; defensive performance was hit-or-miss; glove was average at best; made a few routine plays and missed a routine play; footwork and actions on grounders was rushed and balance often lost; turn double-play from second base was smooth; footwork much better; range at both positions was plus; first step was quick; arm was strong but sloppy; throwing mechanics from side-arm release; lacked mustard despite showing arm strength in warmups; on close play to 1B, didn’t throw with purpose and committed error; all mistakes in the field were the result of casual approach/execution, not tool deficiency; player shows exciting raw tools; bat speed is easy plus; power has at least average projection; good run; good arm; bad approach; bad throwing mechanics; plays very fast and appears out of control at times; a major league-quality athlete with major league-quality tools, but very raw in overall approach to game and utilization of tools; could be hit/power second baseman; hesitant about future at shortstop; need to see more at position.
Summary: I’ve been watching Ronny Rodriguez since he entered professional ball, and I’m still not quite sure what he is or what he could be. Before this trip, I was hearing lots of buzz on him. I fully expected to get blown away, and maybe that was part of the problem. I wasn’t blown away and I didn’t leave the field thinking here is the next player I can really stand behind and hype.
That’s not to say I wasn’t impressed, because Rodriguez was showing above-average raw tools and he was playing in advanced A-ball as a 20-year-old. His hands really stood out at the plate, as his bat speed was major league-quality and capable of squaring a fastball up over the hands. Against a 91-mph fastball thrown inside and letter high, Rodriguez somehow got the bat above the ball and chopped down on it, sending a high hopper down the line past a diving third baseman. I was both impressed and turned off at the same time. The bat speed displayed was almost Weeks-ian, but the approach to the action was a breakdown on multiple levels. I’m still thinking about it. I’m not sure how he got above the ball.
But that’s the rub when it comes to Rodriguez, and not just on the offensive side of the ball. The raw tools are there to become a major league baseball player, but the manner in which those tools are utilized in game action needs work. Everything is very fast when watching Rodriguez, from his fielding actions, to his throwing mechanics, to his swing mechanics. He’s capable of making a dazzling maneuver one minute and a casual mistake the next, making his evaluation a difficult one to process. I’m not sure he’s a major league shortstop, only because that’s a very difficult position to play at the highest level and not many possess the required skill set. I don’t want to write him off the position at this time, but I do have some concerns about that projection; the athleticism and arm make a good case, but the glove and the fundamentals are shaky. I really like the promise of the bat, especially the bat speed and the possibility of power, but I have concerns about the approach, which could limit his production. If everything clicks, Rodriguez could be a 6 at the major league level; I feel more comfortable projecting him as a 5.
SS/2B Tony Wolters (Indians): Scrappy player; limited present size; lacks physical projection; well-proportioned body; plays with athleticism; lacks above-average tools; swing not especially short/quick; struggled to adjust to sequence; showed very little power potential; overmatched by High-A pitching at present; showed contact ability and approach at previous level; can’t stick at shortstop; arm didn’t look strong; required max effort to make throw from 3B-side; 5 at best; fringy range; footwork looked solid on DP turn; let a few grounders play him at SS; backed up on balls and looked timid/hesitant; speed is below-average; multiple clocks in the 4.4-4.5 range from left side; a better player than he showed during the series; gamer type, but lacks tools to profile as a first-division starter; high 4, fringy major league starter/utility.
CF Brett Eibner (Royals): Looks the part of a top prospect; ultra-athletic; moves with more fluidity than most on the field; great size; good present strength; had five hits in series; looked lucky with approach; threw bat into the zone in similar manner on hits and misses; showed some bat speed but very little bat control; can rip fastballs; struggles with sequence because every swing was timed to fastball; concerns about contact ability against advanced pitching; showed off some power potential; high-5 range; defense in center field was shaky; routes and angles to the ball weren’t clean or easy; used athleticism to recover from poor reads; showed good speed and large coverage area; glove was fine; arm is plenty strong for position; could be a 5 defender; speed to first was in the average range; played with his head up; player shows the tools to stick in center field, some power potential and good run, but the hit tool wasn’t impressive (despite the five hits) and the approach poked holes in his game. Could be a 5 player.
RHP Tyler Sample (Royals): Tall/built pitcher with high arm slot; rock ’n fire delivery with a short stride; lots of effort on the arm; pronounced backbend during the drive; high frontside with the glove hand; clean follow-through; stays in good line to plate; fastball was 89-92 mph and touched 94; good life on the offering; missed bats; pitched ahead in counts; worked fast; had control over the game; used very good curveball as weapon against lefties; pitch was 78 mph with long break and excellent shape; thrown for strikes; flashed slider-like pitch at 81-83 with some tilt; big-bodied pitcher that flooded the zone with lively low-90s fastball and wiped the decks with promising curve. Very interesting arm; 22-year-old with a history of shaky command that might have found his rhythm; profiles as back-end starter. I liked it.
- C Jake Lowery (Indians): Went 0-7 with three strikeouts in series; at-bats were solid, though; hitter watches a lot of pitches, goes deep into counts; swing doesn’t look terrible; has some pop; need to see more swings to make better evaluation; defense behind the plate looked shaky; multiple pop times in the 2.2 range; arm looked average at best; footwork was rushed and sloppy; body looked like a catcher; shorter than 6’ and thick; didn’t look like an average defensive catcher. Evaluation incomplete, but defensive skills behind the plate failed to impress.