Scouts recently talked everything from social media, to prospects-that-were, to prospects-that-might-be.
- Always one of the toolsiest players in baseball, outfielder Engel Beltre has been a multi-year disappointment in the Rangers system thanks to an ugly approach and some behavioral issues, but all of a sudden the 22-year-old Dominican is hitting .293/.341/.529 since the All-Star break and .257/.303/.430 overall with 13 doubles, 16 triples, 12 home runs and 31 stolen bases in 110 games. “It's still six defense with a six arm, seven range and he has power. Everything is still there,” said a National League scout, who said he's tired of the stories on Beltre's makeup. “If they had social media and cameras around when I was 21, I'd have bad makeup,” said the scout, who is also an ex-player. “Are you telling me the 750 guys in the big leagues are saints? I don't buy that. Guys are allowed to mature and I know Beltre played his ass off for me.” This is not to call Beltre a future star, but the scout definitely saw a big league future. “I understand the issues with the strikeouts, but I think this guy can hit in the bottom of a lineup every day. He looks like he's coming around a corner."
- In 2011, Padres second baseman Jonathan Galvez hit .291/.355/.465 as a 20-year-old at Lake Elsinore with 13 home runs and 37 stolen bases, yet ranked just 17th on the pre-season Padres prospect list. This year he's upped the ante with a .330/.398/.476 line at Double-A San Antonio, yet he remains among the most polarizing prospects in the game. “I have no idea what he is,” said a National League scout who recently watched the Padres' Texas League affiliate for over a week. “I'm a confident guy who feels good about my evaluations, but I sat in from of my computer for half an hour staring at his screen and I just couldn't write anything.” While Galvez' power (four home runs) and speed (nine stolen bases) has tailed off considerably, it's still hard to ignore the numbers, but also hard to ignore how his ability doesn't seem to match. “He's going to hit a little bit, and maybe the bat will carry him as an offensive second baseman, but that's the glass half full,” the scout continued. “The glass half empty is that he never gets out of Double-A. The bat seems so soft and then you look at the numbers and you're just floored.”
- Fewer teams at the trade deadline were busier than the Dodgers, and few affiliates had more scouts flying in to see them during July than Double-A Chattanooga. While only Ethan Martin was dealt, heading to the Phillies in the Shane Victorino deal, nearly every team talking to the Dodgers inquired about right-hander Allen Webster, and with good reason, as the 22-year-old right-hander, after a tough first half, has a 2.13 ERA in nine starts since the All-Star break. “It's all there,” said a National League scout who was taken off his coverage to see the team. “When everything is going, he has three average-to-plus pitches and knows what to do with them.” The scout noted that Webster's game has matured, as well. “He knows he has a really good—and potentially special—changeup, but he's not over-relying on it anymore,” the scout explained. “It's like he finally figured out that setting that pitch up with 92-94 mph heat is the best way to go about it, and his curveball has improved as well. He used to get over the ball and it wouldn't finish, but now it's breaking through the zone much better.”
- The Short-season leagues are packed with unknown names attached to big numbers, but the only player garnering attention for both his stats and scouting reports is Texas Rangers righty C.J. Edwards. A 48th-round pick last year out of a small South Carolina High School, Edwards began his year with 20 scoreless innings in the Arizona complex league.,That success has carried over to the college-heavy Northwest League, where the 20-year-old has a 1.93 ERA in six starts with 33 strikeouts in 28 innings. “He's a great pick for where they got him,” said an American League scout. “He's a long, lanky, athletic guy with a really fast arm. He's up to 95 mph, he has feel for what he's doing, and the curveball is really good.” Of course, for a relative unknown with just 10 games of professional experience, projection is a dangerous thing, but the upside is impressive. “You don't know what he's going to be, but you can dream on him,” concluded the scout.
- One of the more surprising names to see on a Gulf Coast League roster this year is Phillies outfielder Carlos Tocci. Signed out of Venezuela last summer, Tocci doesn't turn 17 until later this month, so a complex league assignment is even seen as aggressive, but he's more than held his own so far with a .328/.395/.358 batting line in 28 games. “He has an advanced approach, a good swing and he's really fast, but also really skinny,” said a National League scout, referring to the outfielder's 6-foot-2, 160 pound frame. “We're not going to know what he can do until he fills out a bit. He has no power right now, but he has a good idea of what to do up there.”
- Also generating interest on the GCL Phillies roster is 2012 second-round pick Dylan Cozens, who is the opposite of Tocci in the sense that the 18-year-old is listed at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds. His line of .248/.343/.392 might not impress, but scouts understand why the Arizona high school product earned a bonus just north of $650,000. “He's a big strong guy with easy power,” said the NL scout. “But he also has a good swing.” This issue for anyone evaluating Cozens is just how big he'll get. “I'm not sure where he's going to end up playing in the field,” the scout said about the current right fielder. “But I know it's a bat.” —Kevin Goldstein
- Tim Beckham will likely never be able to play out of Buster Posey's shadow, at least in the central Florida area, where the two players’ names are inseparable. Beckham's career in the Tampa Bay organization has been disappointing in many respects, whether it be his on-field performance or his two drug test failures, which resulted in a 50-game suspension this season. One scout recently said, "In all likelihood, if he is to make it, it will be in a utility role. His lower half is too big, and he has poor first-step quickness at shortstop. I saw him play short, and he was below average. Third base is an option, but his arm isn't strong or accurate." He went on to say, "He best fits as an outfield corner (probably left field) if he can hit with power. He was making offensive progress before the suspension. He has lots of ground to make up, and I don't think he's prominent in the Rays plans, but they have a lot of money invested, so he isn't going anywhere soon. Utility at best. No shortstop in the future. Maybe third base. And drug treatment." —Jason Collette
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