Every fall, I board a plane, drink myself into tranquility, and dream of my upcoming arrival in the morbidly warm state of Arizona. Since 2007, I’ve spent a few weeks each September watching underdeveloped talent on the backfields of the instructional league, an awesome hoard of projection so satisfying to the scouting process that I look forward to the adventure 11 months out of the year. But I really dislike this state. I really dislike standing in triple-digit heat. I really dislike fast-food consensus. I really dislike being away from my selfish and overweight cat Mr. Drummond. I really dislike subjecting my sanity to the toxic environment of a hotel lifestyle. I really dislike feeling this isolated. I would trade this experience for anything in the world. I dislike not being able to like this with greater intensity.
My head is on a swivel and water is escaping my pores like my insides are an oppressive fascist regime. I’m taking notes and I’m making conversion, all in the name of information procurement. My job is to learn, and I’m surrounded by teachers in multiple forms, from scouts, to front office personnel, to coaches, to players, to the play on the field. I’m in love with the intellectual overload; I’m dizzy from the lesson plans. It might also be a heat stroke.
Instead of crafting a narrative or shaping the raw material into a clever form, I’d rather let the data stand on its own; we can chisel a representational structure after we collect enough supply. The point of the instructional league is to see what you have, dream about what it could be, and start to script how to go about getting it there. In these notes—recreated from the sweat-stained pages of my daily backfield observations—are the initial sketches of a prospect on his journey to becoming a player. I write about what I see, and these notes were compiled over the last three days. In that span of time, I’ve been fortunate enough to see the Dodgers, Rangers, Yaquis de Obregon (Mexican Pacific League), and the White Sox. I have another week to go on my journey, so stay tuned for upcoming reports on the Royals, Reds, Indians, and Brewers.
Courtney Hawkins (White Sox): Thicker body than I expected; Kevin Mitchell thighs; obvious athlete; multiple 4.25 times to first; strength is just as obvious as athleticism; ball screams off bat when contact is made; top-heavy swing; bat speed generated by tremendous raw strength; lacks impressive bat control; fooled by off-speed stuff; front foot contact; left field profile for me; clocked with plus velo off the mound in high school, but arm in the field is only okay; power is only loud tool, but it has the potential to be very loud; doesn’t have star-level projection; if power translates, has first-division potential, but role 5 player more realistic; how long does present athleticism keep profile from being worse?; how big does the body get?; major league strength, but does he have a major league swing?; I need to see a lot more, but I was expecting to see a more electric profile and a little less body.
The Chicago White Sox Instructional League Roster: Lots of thickness; not fat, but mature bodies with linebacker builds; they look extremely strong; what the team saves in Latin American bonuses they must spend on weights and comestibles; they can probably squat more than most major league teams; the team must love Dayan Viciedo’s body type because they filled a roster with the physical clone; I would hate to wrestle the roster; I’m not sure I’d target physically mature teenagers without projection that don’t play premium positions early on in drafts, but I’m a big fan of toolsy players who disappoint, so what do I know?
1B Keon Barnum (White Sox):
1B Ronald Guzman (Rangers): I keep thinking that Guzman could turn into a Tony Clark type, which might seem like a disappointment because we often take on a superstar-or-bust mindset with prospects, but Tony Clark would be a very acceptable outcome and successful investment for the Rangers; long, gangly body; legit 6’5’’; power-forward wingspan; a little awkward with movements; hands work very well at the plate; excellent barrel-to-ball ability; some length in swing, but the mechanics are smooth, bat speed is pretty, and he controls the bat head very well in the zone; makes adjustments; the power will come, but it’s probably power utility with more doubles than homers; 40+ extra-base hit potential; hit tool could allow for .280+ average; good approach; recognizes and tracks pitches well; too passive at times; continues to improve on defense; better footwork around base; crazy length; can take legs to full splits, which is just cool to witness; arm action on throws is very long; limited arm strength; range will never be great; big makeup; big competitor; no-brainer top 10 prospect in Rangers system.
SS Francisco Lindor (Indians): Maybe baby, I'll have you. Maybe baby, you'll be true. Maybe baby, I'll have you for me (All for me). It's funny honey, you don't care. You never listen to my prayer. Maybe baby you will love me someday. Well, you are the one that makes me glad. And you are the one that makes me sad. When someday you want me. Well, I'll be there, wait and see. Maybe baby, I'll have you. Maybe baby, you'll be true. Maybe baby, I'll have you for me. (to be continued…)
My New Crushes:
SS Corey Seager (Dodgers): Excellent size; lean and athletic; moves very well in the field; shows an excellent first step; good lateral quickness; range is solid; arm is very strong (plus); good carry and accuracy; clean actions; some swagger with the glove; looks like a 5 defender at SS, 6 at 3B; physical development/maturity only red flag in [SS] defensive projection; above-average runner; big hit tool potential; uses hands very well; fast and strong; very good bat speed; not the cleanest/most efficient path to the ball; hard to control swing on bad guess; legit pop; power could develop to above-average; uses the gaps; with improved strength and existing bat speed ability, has serious extra-base hit potential; offense could be 5/6; shows five-tool talent; if body pushes him to 3B, could be easy 6 defender with enough bat for role; big ceiling; big prospect for Dodgers; top 5 in the system.
CF Lewis Brinson (Rangers): He’s legit; shows all five tools; shows more feel and instincts than pre-draft reports suggested; I received many glowing reports, which prompted me to write about Brinson recently, but after seeing the product up close and personal, the profile is extremely attractive and I’m hooked. Speed is easy plus; range in center is easy plus; glides to the ball; reads and routes need work, but he has a good base; arm is strong, with good carry; profiles as a major league center fielder, with every characteristic to perform at a high level in the role; bat has a few holes, but fewer weaknesses than expected; has plenty of bat speed; chews on fastballs; makes loud contact; pull-side power is obvious; could find above-average power at maturity; has a plan at the plate, but will expand zone and chase soft and spinning offerings; has enough bat control to stay alive and fight; ultra-competitive; shows on the field frustration when he fails to execute (not disruptive); plays with good game speed/tempo; makes it look easy; looks comfortable in the field, in the box, and on the bases; high floor because of defensive skill set at premium defensive position; star potential if tools mature to potential; top 5 player in Rangers system; top 100 prospect in baseball for me.
Thank you for reading
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Regarding Courtney Hawkins, you mention that the arm wasn't as expected even though he was regarded as having an exceptional arm as an amateur. For guys who pitched as amateurs but are position players as pros, is there a transition time for learning how to throw as an outfielder and leveraging that tool for longer throws? There's a distinct difference between infield throwing mechanics and outfielders, so I would think it would be the same sort of deal here as well. Thanks as always.
Hope the White Sox put a NO FLIP clause in his contract.