With a month of the 2012 season in the books, some performances are starting to make scouts take notice, and not always in a good way.
While no pitcher in the minor leagues has generated as much hype as Dylan Bundy, the position player version has been Reds shortstop Billy Hamilton. In 24 games for the suddenly aptly-named Blaze, Hamilton is batting .402/.481/.598 with 29 stolen bases, and one scout who recently saw him says it's anything but a California League mirage. “I look at his swing and I just can't imagine him striking out 130-something times like he did last year,” said a National League scout. “Offensively he's ready for Double-A. He kind of needs to be out of here already at the plate,” he added, while relaying an unheard of 3.83 home-to-first time from the right side. “He's the fastest player I've ever seen,” said the scout. “The havoc he creates is remarkable. The defense is around the grass all around when he's up or they don't have a chance.” As for when Hamilton gets to Double-A, that could be a while, as the scout said that while the bat is ready, the glove is far from it, and a position change could be in order. “He's not as steady as a shortstop should be, and he just doesn't have the arm for the position, and are you really talking advantage of his speed tool there?” the scout asked. “He'd be unbelievable in the outfield.”
With all the hype surrounding the young arms from the 2011 draft, Seattle's Danny Hultzen is almost going unnoticed despite a 2.05 ERA in five starts for Double-A Jackson while giving up just 14 hits over 26 1/3 innings and striking out 30. Despite those numbers, one scout wasn't so sure about the left-hander's ceiling. “There's present-day stuff and pitchability and all of that, but I don't see the distinguishing stuff for him to be a top-of-the-rotation guy,” he explained. “He's 90-91 mph with an average breaking ball and while there's enough there to say that if everything gets refined he can climb into a number three starter, this is the second pick in the country that we're talking about and I just don't see the lights-out stuff.”
While the rotation at Jackson gets plenty of attention—and deservedly so—the Mariners have a reliever there garnering some buzz as well. A third-round pick last June based almost solely on his arm strength, right-hander Carter Capps has whiffed 18 over 12 2/3 innings, and one scout thinks he has the potential to pitch in late innings situations. “He's almost like a bigger John Wetteland,” said the scout. “He's 93-96 mph and nasty, the ball just explodes on hitters and then he's getting outs just as easily with an upper-70s curve.” While Capps has made impressive strides with his control, his command still has a long way to go, as he's given up more than a hit per inning by grooving too many pitches. “It's going to come down to his ability to locate, and he can get out of whack mechanically,” added the scout. “But if he can figure it all out, he could be really good.”
The Red Sox affiliate at Low-A has earned more attention for pitchers such as Matt Barnes and Henry Owens—as well as other 2011 draft picks like catcher Blake Swihart—but it's a shortstop hitting .233 that's catching scout's eyes. Just 18 years old, Dominican native Jose Vinicio hasn't done much in the scorebook, but the tools are all there. “After watching Jose Reyes and Jose Iglesias this spring, I think this guy has a bit of both in him,” said one talent evaluator. “He's small, and almost frail, but it's a live, wiry body. He has a clue at the plate, stays inside on balls and shows aggressiveness on the base paths and maturity on the field.” While also grading him as a 60+ runner, the scout believes that the numbers would catch up to the scouting reports in short order. “He has what it takes to close the tools-to-skills gap pretty quickly,” he said. “He's got a lot of things going his way.”
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: “He's defying the bell curve when it comes to age. If anything, he's getting better. You just can't throw him anything on the inner third of the plate because his hands are just so quick.”
- Randall Delgado, RHP, Braves: “Go call up some video online and you'll see it: He's clearly tipping his pitches. He has that long arm action and when the ball is behind his head the hitter sees it. You'll see a finger wrap on the breaking ball, you'll see a lot of white of the ball on the the fastball, and you can see his fingers digging in to get the grip on the changeup.”