The instructional league is extremely difficult to scout, particularly in Florida. From teams being spread all over the place, to the changing game schedules, to players getting limited appearances, instructs can challenge the most experienced of scouts. I’ve been here many times, and I’ve come to expect certain things. I’ve come to expect schedule changes, which I certainly found on this trip. I’ve come to expect the Toronto Blue Jays to play an incredibly aggressive style of ball, which they certainly did. I’ve come to expect a roasting hot sun and temperatures that make scouts wilt, which I found this time with my stopwatch literally melting in my left hand. I’ve experienced a lot the last few days and it’s time to share my notes with you.
For those of you unfamiliar with my scouting and writing style, I like to lay things out up front. The “Bottom Line Up Front,” or “BLUF,” offers a quick peek at my thoughts, followed by a more in-depth scouting report and observations. I try to paint a complete picture, including uncertainty, each time I present a report.
Dawel Lugo, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
BLUF: Plus hitter with power projection give him a strong bat-first profile.
Setting the Stage: Lugo was signed by the Blue Jays at the outset of the 2011 international signing period. They gave him a reported $1.3 million signing bonus and he debuted in the Gulf Coast League this year with a .224/.275/.329 line as a 17-year-old.
Scouting Report: The numbers may not support it right now but this scouting report is going to be a glowing one. Lugo’s bat stood out in both games I saw last week. He has plus bat speed, allowing him to drive the ball to all fields with authority. He showed some loft in batting practice and there were hints of that translating in the games. I can see plenty of gap power in his future and the potential to hit 18-20 home runs once he fully matures. While he swings at a lot of pitches, Lugo has tremendous feel for the barrel. He showed an ability to sting a variety of pitches and use the entire field with ease. He has easy plus offensive projection for me. While I had been warned that his defense may lag (and he did look more like a future third baseman), I came away impressed with Lugo’s actions at shortstop. He showed good hands and instincts for the position. His range was fringy and, if he thickens up as he matures, that could push him off the position.
Projection: Lugo is going to take a while as he will have to adjust his approach at every level, but he has star-level offensive abilities, particularly if he stays in the middle of the diamond.
D.J. Davis, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
BLUF: Up-the-middle athleticism and tools point to a leadoff projection with speed and gap power.
Setting the Stage: The Blue Jays’ top pick in June, Davis signed for a below-slot $1.75 million and debuted with a .250/.355/.386 line across three levels with 18 extra-base hits and 25 steals in 60 games.
Scouting Report: Davis is exactly the type of player that I’m a sucker for. He has a ton of tools packed into his 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame and each of them stands out the second he steps on the field. He is a premium athlete with a lithe, projectable body. He has elite speed and turned in several sub-3.90 home-to-first times in the two games I saw. He can get out of the box in a hurry and take first base with a mediocre bunt. His speed could lead to 40-50 stolen bases a year once he improves his jumps. While he is a speed player, he has plus bat speed and the strength to drive the ball. I don’t see much more than below-average home run power, but he does have the potential to pick up doubles and triples in addition to 10-12 home runs a year. Davis showed strong defensive ability last week with very good jumps and surprisingly good routes. He should be an easy plus defender in center field, even if his arm comes up a little short. It’s easy to see why Davis went in the first round and he has throwback All-Star potential.
Projection: Davis has to prove he can hit quality spin, but if that comes he could be a standout defender and base stealer with pop in his bat.
Harold Castro, 2B, Detroit Tigers
BLUF: Extremely natural hitter with pop and some defensive tools at the keystone.
Setting the Stage: The Tigers signed Castro out of Venezuela in advance of the 2011 season. He made his short-season debut in the Venezuelan Summer League that year, hitting .313/.352/.365 in 63 games before coming Stateside in 2012. This season in the GCL Castro hit .311 with 14 doubles and 15 stolen bases as an 18-year-old.
Scouting Report: Castro is a long, lean athlete with a good frame that lends to some projection. He has natural strength but needs to improve his upper-body strength to impact his game even more. His hitting ability is almost unquestioned among scouts, with tremendous hands and an innate feel for the barrel. Castro’s power is in question, though; while he can drive the ball to the gaps against inferior velocity at lower levels, I question whether he can sustain that against better pitching. He is a work in progress defensively, demonstrating exaggerated actions defensively to compensate for a lack of feel in the field. His arm is solid and he has the tools to be an asset at second base.
Projection: It takes a bit of dreaming, but Castro has offense-first projection at second base. His tools play at the position and he should hit enough to be an asset.
Dixon Machado, SS, Detroit Tigers
BLUF: Defensive wizard with near-elite arm and serious offensive questions.
Setting the Stage: Machado was a priority signing for the Tigers in 2008, signing the instant the July 2nd signing period opened. He has moved quickly through the Tigers system, spending one season in the Venezuelan Summer League and one in the Tigers short-season leagues before showing off in the Midwest League in 2011. He moved on to the High-A Florida State League in 2012 and hit just .195 as a 20-year old.
Scouting Report: Machado is a potential plus defender in every way. He has excellent range to both sides and can make both the spectacular and routine play to both his backhand and glove sides. His hands are soft and quick, giving him an overall plus defensive projection, and that might be light. His arm stands out the first time he throws, with exceptional across-field velocity, accuracy and carry. I have no trouble throwing a 70 on his arm and I had to be talked out of an 80 by a couple of other scouts in attendance. Machado has little offensive projection. He’s rail thin and has a hard time impacting the ball in batting practice or game situations. He’s an aggressive swinger and there is little hope for offensive projection.
Projection: There is little to suggest Machado cannot defend in the big leagues. In fact, he could defend at a Gold Glove level immediately. With his glove and arm, Machado will stay on the radar, but until he hits the gaps with regularity, he’s more novelty than prospect.
Dilson Herrera, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
BLUF: Potential solid regular that is carried by his hitting ability and holds his own with the glove.
Setting the Stage: The Pirates signed Herrera out of Colombia for $220,000 in 2010. He hit .308 with 19 doubles, five triples and two home runs in his 2011 debut with the VSL Pirates. Stateside in 2012, Herrera hit .281/.341/.482 in 53 GCL games before being promotion to the New York-Penn League for seven games to end the season.
Scouting Report: Herrera’s baseline comes from a live, athletic body and, while he lacks physical projection, he has good quickness and strength. A shortstop when he signed, Herrera is a natural fit at second base. He has solid range and a good arm for the position. He needs to smooth out the rough edges, but there’s an average defender hiding in there. The bat is much easier to project with Herrera, stemming from excellent bat speed and good balance throughout his swing. He has good feel for his barrel and can make mid-pitch adjustments that lead to routine hard contact. He showed fringe-average home-to-first times, ranging from 4.34-4.43 seconds down the line. The overall game profiles well enough at second base to envision a solid-average player, though there is little margin for error.
Projection: Herrera’s aggressive approach will require additional developmental time, but his natural ability lends to projection as a solid regular who hits in the two-hole.