Michael Feliz, RHP, Astros (Short-Season Tri-City)
I haven’t been overly impressed with the talent in the New York-Penn League this summer, and it doesn’t take a gifted mind to add up all the prospects with legitimate major-league projections. Both at the fields and on the phones, I’ve been asking around about the names to know, and the arm that has received the most love is Astros’ right-hander Michael Feliz. Armed with an unforgiving fastball that works comfortably in the 94-96 mph range and can touch 98 with late life, Feliz is hard to touch, much less square for hard contact. His low-80s slider has some flash to it, and several sources said you don’t have to squint to see a future plus offering.
The changeup is immature, but the Dominican arm won’t turn 20 until late September, giving him a very long developmental road left on which to figure it out. It’s worth noting that Feliz was originally signed as a free agent by the Athletics in the 2010 offseason, but his professional contract was voided and his $800k bonus stripped when he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Scooped up a few months later by the Astros for half the price, Feliz served his time, has remained clean in the face of rigorous testing, and has really blossomed as a prospect in 2013. The development of the changeup and the refinement of the command will decide his long-term fate, but the easy cheese that explodes from his intimating 6’4’’ frame is going to play, and in a league that lacks much impact potential, Feliz stands out as a player to pay attention to. –Jason Parks
Steven Matz, LHP, Mets (Low-A Savannah)
After an elbow injury caused Matz to lose both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, this left-handed starter is beginning to show strong promise and emerge as a sleeper within the Mets’ system. The arsenal is a four-pitch mix, highlighted by a 93-96 mph that explodes on batters and shows tail when the lefty is staying on top of the ball. Matz will also throw a 91-93 mph cutter that flashes plus. The 22-year-old gives two looks with his cutter, running it away from left-handed hitters and back-dooring it against right-handed batters. Both the heater and cutter can miss bats or produce weak contact.
Matz’s curveball and changeup presently grade as about fringe-average, but show plus potential. The lefty feels both pitches well. The curve shows good bite at 77-79 mph, but Matz can wrap his wrist too much when throwing the pitch and it becomes slurvy. The change is thrown with a circle grip, and will display bottoming-out action or fade depending on how much he turns the offering over. One veteran scout who recently saw the pitcher came away impressed with how balanced Matz stays, and said all four pitches have plus-to-better potential. It’s a mid-rotation profile, though the cloud of prior injury will hang while he continues to build the resume. –Chris Mellen
Jim Adduci, OF, Rangers (Triple-A Round Rock)
A 10-year minor-league veteran, Adduci is a strong candidate to receive his first big-league call when rosters expand next week. The 28-year-old outfielder signed with Texas on a minor-league deal last offseason after spending parts of six seasons with the Cubs organization. In 121 games at Triple-A Round Rock this year, Adduci is hitting .290/.373/.453 and ranks second in the Pacific Coast League with 32 steals.
In addition to his strong results, Adduci has a few intriguing tools, including some feel to hit, a little raw juice, and plus speed from his strong 6-foot-2 frame. The former 42nd-round pick has also tapped into some of his raw power this season, socking a career-best 15 home runs after hitting only 24 total in his previous nine years. His swing can get long at times, leading to inconsistency, though he has been locked in this month. Despite his speed, Adduci is just a pedestrian defender at the corners and isn’t an ideal fit in center. Perhaps he’s ultimately no more than a usable reserve, but his intriguing tools––coupled with this year’s results––should at least earn him a major-league look. –Jason Cole
Wagner Mateo, LHP, Diamondbacks (Rookie AZL Dbacks)
After hitting just .230/.312/.349 with a 36 percent strikeout rate over parts of four seasons at the lower levels, Mateo is trying out his strong left arm on the mound this summer. The Dominican Republic native made headlines in 2009 when his reported $3.1 million bonus with the Cardinals was voided due to potential vision issues in his right eye. Despite his immense raw talent with the bat, Mateo ultimately signed with Arizona the following year for $550,000. He’s still a good athlete but made a full-time switch from the outfield to first base last season––presumably due to the vision problems.
Now 20, Mateo is showing some arm strength from his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame, though it’s predictably a work in progress. Through seven innings in the rookie Arizona League, he has walked eight and fanned seven while flashing an 87-92 mph fastball to go along with a workable slider and changeup, according to multiple scouts. Mateo is no doubt a long shot prospect, but he has an intriguing story and a strong arm. –Jason Cole
Tyler Pike, LHP, Mariners (Low-A Clinton)
The 2012 supplemental third-round pick was cruising through his first year of full-season ball before being sidelined at the end of July with fatigue. After an 18-day rest, Pike returned to action with the Lumberkings of the Midwest League on an abbreviated basis, logging two innings in his first outing back and three innings this past Saturday evening in Beloit. In his most recent start, the velocity was down, with the fastball sitting in the mid-80s, but everything else about the southpaw’s game is clicking. He demonstrated two solid secondaries in a deceptive changeup and a 1-to-7 breaker that flashed above-average and played both in and out of the zone. But for some spotty defense, the former Florida State commit would have sailed through his three innings of work, and overall Pike and the organization have to be pleased with his response to the three weeks of rest.
Pike could log another appearance or two between this week and the playoffs, likely further “short stint” starts, at which point the Mariners will decide whether to shut him down for the offseason or ship him to instructs for light work. In his five innings since returning, while working with diminished velocity, Pike has allowed one earned run on just two hits, walking three and striking out four. Provided he shows up to camp healthy next spring, the lefty should be in line for a promotion to High-A, as he has little left to prove in the Midwest League. His current season line sits at 110 1/3 innings pitched, 73 hits, 29 earned runs, 57 walks, 90 strikeouts, and a .194 batting average against – all while pitching the entire year as a 19-year old in full-season ball. –Nick J. Faleris
Renato Nunez, 3B, Athletics (Low-A Beloit)
Nunez has played through an up-and-down season at Low-A Beloit, showcasing his power potential, as well as an offensive game consisting of a lot of swing-and-miss and a defensive game that continues to cast questions on his ultimate future position. Currently, Renato is suffering through a cold spill, with just three hits in his last 42 plate appearances – none of them for extra bases – and a number of choppy performances at the hot corner.
On a good night, Renato will show a strong arm, improving footwork, and capable hands at third. On a bad night, the lower half looks clunky and the hands unsure. He can get passive in his defensive play, leading to inopportune positioning and tough hops, and triggering miscues. While progress has been made, first base remains the most likely long-term home for the former J2 signee.
Nunez will continue to work to refine his offensive approach in instructs, and could be in line for a promotion next spring to High-A depending on the Athletics’ developmental plan. He, Dan Robertson, Chris Bostick, and Matt Olson form an all-prospect infield in Beloit, with Bostick and Robertson putting together the strongest seasons of the four. It should be interesting to follow the developmental progress of this quartet through the fall and spring, and in particular the progress Nunez and Robertson make at their current positions – third and short, respectively. –Nick J. Faleris
Carlos Tocci, OF, Phillies (Low-A Lakewood)
On the surface, it’s easy to write off Tocci’s 2013 campaign as a big disappointment. After all, he has a .209/.263/.249 line in 113 Sally League games. It’s also easy to forget that Tocci just turned 18 last week, and his body appears even younger. When I got a brief look at the Venezuelan prospect in July, he showcased his instinctive defensive skills by covering ground in center with speed, solid jumps, and decent reads. He wasn’t totally overmatched at the plate, either, putting together competitive at-bats while showing some feel to handle the bat with a contact-oriented approach.
For me, Tocci’s present results are, in large part, a product of his body. He likely won’t produce results at a full-season level until he adds strength to his still-immature frame. While he’s never going to be an overly physical player, he should be able to add some bulk over the next couple offseasons. The body has certainly been a factor in his crawl to the finish line this season, as he’s hitting just .156/.194/.188 in August. While Tocci lacks much power projection and doesn’t have a sky-high ceiling, the defensive skills, speed, and feel with the bat have all shown in flashes this year, and that’s what’s important given his youth. –Jason Cole
Chris Anderson, RHP, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)
Anderson’s transition to the professional ranks has been smooth since he signed in June. The 6-foot-4 right-handed starter has limited opposing hitters to 31 hits and racked up 46 strikeouts in 42 innings of work in the Midwest League. The foundation of Anderson’s arsenal is a 90-94 mph fastball that shows sink and late life. The 21-year-old typically pounds the lower tier of the strike zone with his heater, while also demonstrating above-average command of the offering and the ability to work to both sides of the plate. Anderson will lean on a late breaking slider that can be downright filthy at times to finish off hitters.
The biggest development in his final season at Jacksonville University was the progress of his changeup. If Anderson can continue to hold that form with the pitch, the Dodgers have an arm that can track relatively quickly as a starter to the majors. The pitcher is likely to receive much more of a challenge when he begins facing more experienced pro hitters, but so far the stuff and early results have been as expected, which has him gaining strong traction. –Chris Mellen
Reese McGuire, C, GCL Pirates
McGuire was taken 14th overall, the second of two first-round picks for this Pirates in this year’s draft. He has a strong build which will allow him to hold up catching everyday at a high level. While watching him play there is a lot to like about him. His defense has been as advertised. McGuire takes charge behind the plate and is a true leader on the field. He has been consistently under 2 seconds on his pop times and I've had him as low as 1.82. He has an above-average arm that is as accurate as it is strong. He moves very well up and down and from side to side while doing a great job of being a wall for balls in the dirt. His swing is compact and smooth and he sprays the ball to all fields, especially driving the ball to the opposite field. McGuire is still without a HR as a professional, but he's too strong and talented for that to last much longer. This kid has plenty of tools that already play and will only improve as time passes. He should end up being a respectable hitter from the left side with some speed while playing top-notch defense behind the plate. –Chris King
Austin Meadows, OF, GCL Pirates
The Pirates took Meadows ninth overall in June, and he has played well out of the gate. Stationed primarily in center field, the 6’ 3” right-hander has shown good reads off the bat, plus speed, and good coverage. His arm is average but will play in center. I've seen some AB's where he's looked lost, but they are outweighed by some very promising ones. He has shown very good pitch recognition and a solid approach. With good bat speed and a level swing that is built for consistent contact, Meadows has the makeup of a kid who will be a tough out from the left side. He has hit five home runs in the GCL so far and as his body gets stronger and more mature he projects to have average power at the very worst. This kid is no doubt a top-flight athlete with all the tools to be another big time prospect in a Pirates system that keeps getting stronger every year. –Chris King