As I noted last week, there are some things I come to expect during scouting trips. And while last time I mentioned schedule changes and climate challenges, expectations can also include organizations: every time I head south for Instructs, I expect the Phillies to have a roster loaded with raw athletes, and I expect the Braves to surprise me with a few guys I like more than I did before I got there. That was no different on this trip: the Phillies had a lot of youth and athleticism on their roster, while the Braves roster, admittedly lacking a lot of upside, did feature some players with big league futures. Just as a reminder, in the following reports, remember that “BLUF” stands for “Bottom Line Up Front,” which is the quick summary before we get to the more detailed reasoning.
Jose Pujols, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
BLUF: Enormous raw potential that comes with an incredible gap between present and future.
Setting the Stage: Pujols was signed at the outset of the 2012 international signing period, agreeing to a reported $540,000 bonus. The 16-year-old Dominican did not play in any affiliated leagues after signing and made his unofficial professional debut at Instructs.
Scouting Report: Raw doesn’t begin to describe this kid. He has unreal amounts of physical projection and he stands out on the field despite his age. With long limbs and good natural strength in his body, Pujols has the potential to develop into a complete physical monster. He has a right field profile that takes a little dreaming to see, though he is a good athlete with surprising coordination for his age. His movements are fluid and he could eventually be a quality defender. During workouts and warmups he showed an above-average arm, but occasionally unleashed a throw worthy of a 6 score, which gets closer to having a plus arm. Offensively, Pujols was two completely different hitters between batting practice and games. In batting practice he showed a focus on establishing a consistent swing plane with good loft. His swings were deliberate and both his contact ability and pop actually suffered because of it. In games, though, his natural, more uppercut swing took over and while there was still swing-and-miss, the ball exploded off his bat, including a monster home run to the pull side. The power is evident, and he has huge home run potential if the swing alterations take and his contact rates can improve.
Projection: You could project just about anything for Pujols and it would be hard to argue. For me, the present physicality and physical projection, the obvious raw power, and the overall tools all stand out and are impossible to ignore. His developmental path is going to be long and arduous, but there is definitely reason to be excited about Pujols’ high-ceiling potential.
Dylan Cozens, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
BLUF: Physically impressive and completely raw as a baseball player.
Setting the Stage: A second round pick of the Phillies in June, Cozens signed for slot ($659,800) and debuted in the Gulf Coast League. In 50 games this summer, the 18-year old hit .255/.341/.441 with 18 extra-base hits and eight steals.
Scouting Report: I walked into the Phillies facility with another scout one day during my travels and immediately pointed at a massive 6-foot-6, 230 pound kid, saying “I’ll take that guy.” While I may have been making a snap judgment based on physical appearance alone, that’s the type of physique Cozens offers. A chiseled athlete with football and baseball in his background, Cozens is an imposing physical presence. As you would expect with his frame and obvious strength, Cozens has easy 7 raw power. When he connects the ball jumps, mostly to the pull side. But unfortunately, connecting is a problem. Cozens is not a natural hitter and his swing is very long and often stiff, without any ability to adjust to pitches. He is just as raw in the outfield and despite his high-end athleticism, he could end up too big for the position.
Projection: Cozens is a lottery ticket, and just like those games of chance, Cozens has very low odds of paying off.
Bryan De La Rosa, C, Atlanta Braves
BLUF: Tremendous defensive potential, including a huge arm, but questions about the bat.
Setting the Stage: Popped in the third round in 2012 out of the Bucky Dent Academy (FL), De La Rosa signed for just over $400,000. He hit just .162 in 29 games for the GCL Braves, mustering only one double and one home run.
Scouting Report: Everything you could want defensively is on the table here. De La Rosa has a classic catcher’s build with a stocky frame and thick lower half. He has good athleticism underneath it all and moves well behind the plate. He shows quickness when blocking pitches to both sides and an innate ability to keep the ball in front of him. His arm is a plus-plus cannon, supplemented by a lightning-quick release and good accuracy. He consistently showed 1.82-1.89 second pop times. His catch-and-throw skills have well above average potential as he continues adapting to the pro game. As a defense-first prospect, De La Rosa’s bat lags well behind. He didn’t show much feel for contact and swung through a lot of hittable pitches. He needs to get his hands–and his bat–to the hitting zone quicker. There’s some raw power in there but it is not close to manifesting in games. I have some hope for offensive development given his apparent work ethic and general feel for the game.
Projection: De La Rosa has backup projection with only modest development. His defensive game is polished for his age and has the potential to be a big-league asset. The bat will take a while to develop, if it ever does. I believe there is at least a backup future here with the potential to be a little more than that.
Nathan Hyatt, RHP, Atlanta Braves
BLUF: Modest draft pick with surprising stuff and mid-relief potential.
Setting the Stage: Hyatt was the Braves 13th round pick out of Appalachian State this summer and signed for $100,000. As a college product, Hyatt moved more quickly, starting with Danville (Appalachian League) where he allowed just three hits and three walks in ten innings. After a promotion to the South Atlantic League (Rome), Hyatt saw action in eleven games, allowing 10 hits in 14 2/3 innings with five walks and 23 strikeouts.
Scouting Report: Hyatt was a bit of a surprise during my instructs trip. In a rather mundane game my first day down there, Hyatt came on in relief, pumping fastballs at 91-94 mph and touching 96 on a couple of occasions in two innings of work. His fastball showed good late life, missing the barrel of several quality prospects, despite being in a hittable part of the strike zone. His curveball needs some work but showed short, sharp break at times, working in the 80-82 mph range; his feel for spinning the ball overall seemed off that day. Hyatt also showed a knuckleball during warmups for both innings, but did not throw it to batters. Hyatt has a below-average body and lacks standout athleticism. His command profile is questionable, as his strike-throwing ability did not impress.
Projection: Hyatt has a relatively low ceiling, projecting as a potential middle reliever, but that’s not a bad find in the 13th round. He could move quickly to the upper levels where he will be taxed until his command improves.
Jairo Labourt, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
BLUF: Intriguing lefty with size, potential for solid stuff and a good early feel for pitching.
Setting the Stage: The Blue Jays continued their aggressive trends on the international market by handing the then 16-year-old Labourt a $350,000 signing bonus in January 2011. He pitched that summer in the Dominican Summer League, posting a 2.23 ERA in 12 starts before coming stateside for the 2012 season. In 12 Gulf Coast League starts this year, Labourt notched a 3.79 ERA with 38 hits and 23 walks in 38 innings, striking out 39.
Scouting Report: Labourt is a big kid, standing 6-foot-4 and weighing in over 200 pounds as an 18-year old. He’s still a little soft to the naked eye, almost having the appearance of still carrying his “baby fat.” There is enough athleticism present to allow for physical projection and he could have a plus body at maturity. His delivery is very smooth with a clean arm action, and the ball comes out of his hand well, seeming to jump at hitters. With good life on a fastball that sat 88-91 mph and touched 92, Labourt missed the fat part of the bat consistently, inducing relatively weak contact on just his primary offering alone. His changeup worked in the low- to mid-80s with sink and his slider was a low-80s pitch that needed some work. He showed a good feel for mixing his pitches and demonstrated the intelligence necessary to develop difficult sequences and varied pace/tempo.
Projection: It’s too early to begin projecting roles for a pitcher like Labourt, but he has the makings of a big-league prospect a few years down the line.
Elniery Garcia, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
BLUF: A little lefty with feel and intriguing stuff, but a long way to go.
Setting the Stage: An unheralded signing by the Phillies last year, Garcia debuted in the DSL in 2012 and finished with a 4.18 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. He allowed 23 hits and eight walks against 19 strikeouts as a 17-year-old.
Scouting Report: Garcia has a small frame that looks completely undersized at first glance. He has some room to fill out and has good athleticism, giving him a hint of some physical projection remaining. Even without the physical projection, his stuff stands on its own for a 17-year-old. His fastball sat consistently at 86-88 mph and scraped 90 when he reached back for more. He frequently opened his front side too early and, while he has a very quick arm, he had trouble catching up at times. With better timing through his delivery and added strength as he matures, Garcia could sit with 89-91 mph velocity pretty easily. His mid-70s curveball lacks consistency and needs considerable work, but he continued throwing it and working it into his outings. His changeup is ahead of the curveball as he shows good arm speed and overall feel for the pitch. His ability to sequence pitches is advanced for his age and he adapted as his outing went along to make sure hitters were kept off balance. Garcia showed spurts of control and command but his delivery was never consistent enough to get into a solid rhythm.
Projection: Garcia is a long way off. He shows good feel for his age and has intriguing stuff that should improve as he matures physically and gains consistency in every part of his game. If brought stateside in 2013, Garcia’s advanced feel could allow him to reach the full-season level.