Oswaldo Arcia is almost a forgotten man in the Twins system. The 21-year-old got off to a tremendous start in 2011 before missing time from elbow surgery, but he's returned with a vengeance, and his .314/.378/.525 line at High-A Fort Myers is among the Florida State League's best. “There's a lot to like about him,” said an American League scout. “He has some trouble with breaking balls, but he can hit and there's some power in that swing.” While Arcia is a bulky six-foot, 210 pound outfielder, his effort and skills in the outfield earned additional praise. “He's a good outfielder with a plus arm,” he continued. “He has great instincts, goes after balls and goes right to a spot. He just plays hard.”
Failing to impress at Fort Myers is Arcia's teammate Levi Michael, the club's first-round pick last June. While the Florida State League is a challenge to any player, Michael's .216/.306/.291 line in 54 games is disappointing in any context. “He's a classic Twins college player who plays the game the right way, but he doesn't have any special tools,” said the scout. “If he doesn't hit, he's not anything, and he's just over-matched with the bat right now.”
Another 2011 first-round pick disappointing in the Florida State League has been Milwaukee southpaw Jed Bradley. In a prospect-laden rotation with recently promoted Jimmy Nelson and fellow first-round pick Taylor Jungmann, Bradley has been plagued by inconsistency, putting up a 4.36 ERA in 12 starts with just 44 strikeouts in 66 innings. “I watched video of Bradley at Georgia Tech and his delivery has gone backwards,” said a scout. “He's 88-91 mph, his breaking ball is short, and he's just this flat, drop-and-drive pitcher. I know he's had a groin issue, but he was not what I hoped.”
A first-round pick who started the year at Double-A is at least holding serve considering his tough opening day assignment. The Braves received some criticism for selecting lefty Sean Gilmartin with their first pick last June because of his limited upside, but his floor has definite big league value, and after 13 starts for Double-A Mississippi, the 22-year-old has a 3.40 ERA with 61 strikeouts and just 21 walks over 82 innings. “Pitchability is his middle name,” said a National League scout. “He tops out at 89 mph, which does scare me to some degree because it puts pressure on his command and his secondary pitches. I like him, but I can't go above a No. 4 starter on him.”
- The Royals might have found a semi-sleeper in shortstop Orlando Calixte. Signed to a $1 million bonus out of the Dominican, the 20-year-old is repeating at Low-A Kane County, but he's made real progress as well, while still being young for the level at .241/.306/.462 with a team-leading nine home runs. “He's what I call a dangerous contact hitter,” explained a National League scout. “I don't know how much contact he's going to make, but when he makes it, it's dangerous.” Despite committing 24 errors in just 57 games, Calixte's defense also earned praise. “There are a lot of big leaguers who made a ton of errors in A-Ball. Look at Derek Jeter. What's important is that he has the actions. When you look at Calixte field, you think that's what a big league shortstop looks like." —Kevin Goldstein
In his ninth professional season, Mauro Gomez finally made his big league debut with the Red Sox last month, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout in a pair of late-game appearances. Around that brief cameo, Gomez has been one of the International League’s most dominant hitters (.306/.360/.622). So why aren’t more people clamoring for Gomez? Being a 27-year-old first baseman who didn’t reach Triple-A until his age-26 season certainly contributes to Gomez’s anonymity. One American League scout sees a potential major-leaguer, however: “He’s a big, strong, Carlos Lee-type. His swing has a lot of moving parts, but he makes the right adjustments, and a power-hitter who is able to make adjustments at the plate can be very dangerous.” —Bradley Ankrom
- Jesse Biddle got off to a rough start in his first taste of Advanced Class-A, going 0-2 and giving up 15 runs over his first 11 1/3 innings. He’s shined in nine starts since, however, compiling a 1.84 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 49 innings. The 20-year-old left-hander possesses only average velocity and doesn’t project to add much more, leading one scout to compare him to another former Phillies first-round pick: Randy Wolf. “For me, he’s a number-four starter. He makes adjustments, but his fastball may be too straight. He gets in on right-handed hitters well, like Wolf.” —Bradley Ankrom
- On the big league side, the Blue Jays have been struggling, and while he's an obvious fan favorite, there has to be some concern over the performance of Brett Lawrie, who is hitting just .279/.327/.382 entering Thursday's play. “He's a piece of work. The guy has one gear, and it's full and it's constant,” said an NL scout doing advance work. “He's just so intense, and it leads to some good things, but also bad things like chasing balls out of the zone. How do you calm a guy like that down? Do you calm a guy like that down? Because it might take something away from him. Still, he might be overloading himself and you have to wonder if it's affecting his game, and then it's a problem.”—Kevin Goldstein
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Are there other players who these folks have seen go through similar struggles. Not a comp Kevin (of course I'd never ask you for one of those). But more a set of players that build a prototype or a set of trajectories to potentially expect? Or is it far too personal to simply speculate as such?
Again, I trust and welcome both Bradley's and Kevin's insights. Consider this a confession more than a criticism.