“Baseball is my stereo, and applause that comes thundering with such force you might think the audience merely suffers the music as an excuse for its ovations.” –Alfred Jarry
More often than not, when I make a pilgrimage to watch talent in person, I bring along a familiar character to help ease the pain and discomfort commonly associated with travel and social interaction. That character is my crazy, and I turn to him when I need to turn a trip to Delaware from banal to bombast, or a five-week sojourn to Surprise, Arizona into a tolerable experience worth documenting. The more I travel, the more airtime my travel companion receives, which is cool if you like my travel companion, but uncool if you share the same genetic code and find yourself wearing the mask of the travel companion more than your own face. This is my Ubu paradox, the marriage between my character and my construct, and the once separate lines continue to merge into one faceless blur.
I’m mindful of my standard procedure as I leave my apartment for Staten Island, a two train/one ferry journey that takes around an hour and twenty-five minutes from door to door. At times last season, I was happy to make this trip with my travel companion and, thanks to his ability to attract attractive German tourists on the outer railings of an aesthetically unpleasant ferry, turned one of the adventures into an article that was probably more interesting than the talent I originally wanted to write about. This was my sixth trip to the outer borough this short-season, and I’ve yet to offer much in the form of analysis or adventure, mainly because the talent on the field doesn’t translate to traffic on the site, and my trusted travel companion has been working on a pompous advice column for Baseball Prospectus. But scouting isn’t just about high-ceiling talent, and writing about scouting isn’t just about satisfying the appetite of an audience hungry for updates on high-ceiling talent. Sometimes you have to write about what you see, free from the limited focus of a specific profile or the narratives of a reckless hedonist looking for love on the deck of a boat. Sometimes you just have to bypass the pataphysical and focus on the player. Here are some notes:
Player: Brandon Nimmo
Acquired: 1st round (13th overall); 2011 draft
HT/WT: 6’3’’ 185 lbs.
Game: Multiple looks
Notes: Excellent physical profile; plus athlete; very strong top half; wide/angular shoulders; fluid movements/coordination; at the plate, very high hands in setup (above shoulder blade); long journey to get into hitting position (has to drop down before going back); loses some bat control and swing efficiency; in FB counts, has a tendency to trigger early; off-speed exploitation as consequence; shows quality bat speed; can square velocity; shows ability to use all fields; good hip movements; good hands; easy pull-side power; swing has slightly elevated plane; 4 present/High-5 future power; not as sold on hit tool, which is present 3/future 5; good overall approach; seems to track pitches well; uses plus speed well, but mistake-prone with routes and angles in center; more raw athlete than instinctual defensive player; arm is average; better defensive profile in a corner (probably LF); shows all five tools; potential for average hit, average power, plus run, average arm, and average glove; possible role 5 player in majors; really nice young player with upside, but not a first-division talent for me.
Player: Julian Hilario
Acquired: Non-drafted FA; Dominican Republic; 2009
HT/WT: 6’1’’ 190 lbs.
Result: 0.1 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Notes: Extremely rough performance/outcome; gave up hard contact to first 9 hitters; strong physical profile; thick build (lower half); used 3/4 slot; showed good arm speed; struggled to finish the delivery; elevated in the zone or missed to the arm side and high; FB was steady in the 90-92 range and touched 94; some boring movement to the arm side; SL was 80-82 with soft rotation; lacked intensity or bite; wasn’t an impressive offering; showed one vert-heavy breaking ball at 80 mph that had both depth and hard movement (only one); CH was too firm at 84 mph; limited action; pitched looked pushed; after getting hit with comebacker early, started to melt down and hang pitches; the fringe stuff was playing way down; I actually liked the arm; good strength; good arm speed and action; early fastball had solid-average velo and movement; secondary stuff was below average, but game situation helped script FB-heavy sequence; possible injury issues after batted-ball incident; easy to put a non-prospect grade on arm, but I think the package is worth keeping an eye on; could be middle-reliever type with sharper breaking ball.
Player: Claudio Custodio
Acquired: Non-drafted FA; Dominican Republic; 2010
HT/WT: 5’10’’ 155 lbs.
Game: Multiple looks
Notes: Wiry athlete with long arms and a loose swing at the plate; surprising pop in the bat; shows good bat speed and fast hands, but not much bat control after the trigger; struggles against off-speed stuff; prone to expand his zone and chase; toolsy in the field, but unrefined fundamentally; makes routine errors; lets the ball play him; takes steps back on balls hit directly at him; doesn’t play with a high level of confidence; arm is extremely strong; easy 6 and possible 7; throws from low slot or slings from the hip; prone to issues with accuracy; above-average range at the position; very fast; routing 4.0 times to 1B from right-side; a like the fluidity of the swing, but I don’t see a major league-quality bat; the defense has potential, but has a long way to go; the speed is a weapon and makes all contact an opportunity to reach base; doesn’t project as a major league regular, but could develop into a utility type if his tools refine.
Phillip Evans (Mets): Doesn’t profile as big league shortstop; average arm, good fielding actions, but the range is very limited; uses compact swing and strength to show good hit tool; will struggle against better stuff; lacks good plate coverage because of short/muscular arms; projects as fringe major league second baseman.
Ravel Santana (Yankees): Shows some tools; plays a nice center field; reads the ball well and makes plays; good range thanks to a good first step and above average speed; arm is very strong; not a fan of the bat; shows some bat speed, but doesn’t make a lot of hard contact and struggles against low-end plus velocity; good athlete with good defensive profile, but I don’t see any major league level qualities at the plate.
Greg Bird (Yankees): My favorite offensive player on the team after only one viewing; nice line drive stroke; very fast hands; stays inside the ball and drives it with authority; shows potential for plus power; excellent strength; keep an eye on this hitter; this kid knows how to make loud contact.