Thanks to Randy Smith and the magic of the internet, I found out that the Padres were going to throw 10 of their youngest and brightest arms in a controlled backfield game against Indian Hills junior college at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. These are the scouting situations I dream about, and Jason Cole and I arrived eager and early to find we were the only non-team personnel on the scene, a duo of emotion soon resulted: Anxiety. Are we allowed to be here? Why are we the only ones here? Excitement: We are the only ones here!
Set-up: each prospect arm would get one inning of work. It was a controlled game, which just means the on-site team personnel could roll an inning if a pitcher exceeded his pitch count or if the bats were simply destroying the opponent, which would be the case on a few occasions during the 10-inning affair. I didn’t focus on the bats, although several promising sticks graced the field during the game, and I didn’t pay much attention to the Indian Hills team. These are the bare-bones scouting notes I took. Take them as snapshots of an early March afternoon and not the canvas that will one day hang in the majors. Normally, I would just keep these notes for personal use throughout the year, but I was so impressed with the young arms on the field that I needed to voice these thoughts at the earliest possible convenience. I’m not sure any org in baseball can brag on lower-level pitching like the Padres. Here are the notes:
1st inning: (RHP) Matthew Wisler
Herky jerky mechanics; head snaps on follow-through; offers deception with noisy delivery and low-hand setup and late break; despite some effort, stayed in a good line to the plate; release point was consistent; everything worked; fastball was lively pitch in the 93-94 range; touched 95; appeared to jump on the hitters; hard to pick up out of the hand; slider was hard at 85 mph; good tilt; curveball was 78 with tight rotation; changeup was firm at 88 but arm speed was good and it missed a barrel; showed the ability to throw four pitches for strikes; fastball had some muscle; two distinct breaking balls; worked fast and attacked the zone. Baseball Prospectus ranked Wisler no. 8 on the Padres Top 10, and he looks like a pitcher that could be in the top five in a year.
2nd Inning: (LHP) Frank Garces
Lower three-quarter slot; limited height; bit of a slinger; brings a high leg in the delivery; high balance point before drive; fastball was 91-92 and touched 93 twice; fastball command wasn’t sharp; curveball was big and showed depth at 75-77; plus potential pitch; 80 mph changeup had some action to the arm-side; ~1.5 to plate from stretch with runners on; short lefty with a good fastball, good curveball, and some feel.
3rd Inning: (RHP) Joe Ross
Highly projectable; long arms/legs; higher arm slot; high three-quarters; good angles created; Beckett-like mechanics; lots of torque; arm is crazy fast; fastball worked 93-94 and touched 95 on last two punchouts; struck out the side; very easy; good late arm-side run; explosive; slider was 84 and sharp; missed a barrel; a little deliberate in release; lots of swings and misses in brief inning; didn’t see changeup; didn’t face lefty; hard to ignore raw stuff; very impressive young arm; high ceiling/impact potential.
4th Inning: (RHP) Justin Hancock
Long legs; athletic; three-quarters slot; worked fast; fastball was lively; easy plus movement (arm-side burst); worked 92-94; pretty easy; flashed a plus potential low-80s changeup; bat misser to lefty; low 80s slider that he dropped for strike on a righty; blew 96 by the final hitter for the punch out; wow stuff from tall, projectable arm.
5th Inning: (RHP) Erik Cabrera
Full overhead wind-up; comes high-front side; creates some angle; falls off to first base side in follow through; opens up; standard three-quarter slot; arm is quick; fastball was 93-94, touched 95; throwing across body and missing to glove side; showed promising 79-83 slider; missed barrels and was thrown in the zone for strikes; appeared to manipulate the pitch; could add length/velo; was 1.4 to plate with runners on from the stretch/no windup.
6th Inning: (LHP) Brandon Alger
Favorite delivery of the day; very smooth; good timing/balance; standard three-quarters release; from the stretch; two-seam fastball was 89-90; good sink; wasn’t locating early, but command improved; could spot on glove-side corner; dropped 72 mph CB for strikes to lefty; long break; 80-81 slider looked good; good slice; missed bats with pitch; thrown for strikes; didn’t see changeup.
7th Inning: (RHP) Leonel Campos
High three-quarters slot; comes high front side; some effort; fastball was 92-93; loose command; dropped vertical breaking ball that looked like standard three-quarter curve at 86 mph; it was extremely nasty and I can’t really explain it except to say it really did look like a violent curveball; nastiest secondary pitch of the day; I’m still thinking about it.
8th Inning: (LHP) Max Fried
Easy; smooth; high three-quarters slot; good balance; good timing; maintains a good line to the plate; looks comfortable; owns it; fastball was 90-93; touched 94; velo was ticking up; started 90 and closed out touching 94; good sink on fastball; command was loose, but was getting squeezed for strikes; one curveball at 71 mph; very long; best CB at 77; very good feel for pitch; lots of depth; 83 mph changeup; good fade; good release; showed three pitches with above-average potential; loved the composure when obvious strikes were called balls; hammer is legit; strong showing.
9th Inning: (RHP) Tayron Guerrero
Looks 7 feet tall on the mound; listed at 6’ 7’’; incredibly long limbs; lanky; gets crazy extension; basically slapping hitter with his release; smooth for size; easiest release I’ve seen on backfield since Neftali Feliz; might even be easier than Feliz; started at 92 with fastball but it looked 82 because of ease; hit 95 on next pitch; sat 94-95 after that; touched 97; was on his way to triple digits; instructional league reports had him working 97-99 and touching 100; command wasn’t sharp, but wasn’t as wild as expected; dropped two sliders at 80 mph; both for strikes; FIL reports had slider up to upper-80s; looks to have elite closer potential because of fastball; no idea if he can find command with that wingspan; no idea if secondary arsenal is major-league quality; fastball is high-impact pitch; makeup reports are very strong; big-time sleeper prospect.
10th inning: (RHP) Walker Weickel
Tall; lanky; thin lower half; lots of room to fill out; overhead windup; high three-quarters; good angle; easy release; fastball was 88-90; good sink; more velo in that arm; 68-72 CB; very long break; as the arm ticks up, the CB is going to be a plus pitch; showed a 78 CH; some fade; good overall profile.