Earlier this summer, I spent a couple weeks in the Arizona desert, watching some of the newest additions to baseball’s professional ranks. The rookie Arizona League provides some of my favorite scouting every year, as I’m able to see young players make their transition to the next level. There are always top draft picks––and with the earlier signing deadline imposed last year, those are in abundance––but I still enjoy looking for the sleeper pop-up prospects often found at the complex level.
While the Arizona League wasn’t quite as loaded in 2013 as it was the previous year, there was still plenty of talent to go around, spread almost evenly between the valley’s 13 teams. I’ll be highlighting a number of players who caught my eye this summer, starting with the first eight today followed by another batch on Tuesday.
Clint Frazier | OF | AZL Indians
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190 lbs.
Acquired: 1st round (no. 5), 2013, Loganville HS (Loganville, GA)
Result: 4 AB, 2 H, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 K
I got just a quick one-game look at Frazier, and I plan on writing something more substantial on him from instructional league. Not sure he’s as tall as his 6’1” listing, but I don’t think it matters much. He’s plenty strong; irresponsibly quick hands with sturdy wrists and large forearms; hammered belt-high fastball over plate to center for a long home run; most raw power in AZL this season by a good margin; has swing-and-miss, though pitch recognition seemed okay; tracked breaking balls well; highly aggressive approach and expanded zone at times; given solid recognition, I could see his K rate improving as he matures; made an impressive mid-AB adjustment; after pulling off two breaking balls, stayed on one with two strikes and singled up the middle; appeared to play with #rig; good present athlete who moves around well in center field; one-game look provided little opportunity to evaluate his glove; many scouts believe he’ll likely move to a corner, but I’m looking forward to forming my own opinion on that over the next couple weeks.
Hunter Green | LHP | AZL Angels
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 175 lbs.
Acquired: 2nd round, 2013, Warren East HS (Bowling Green, KY)
Result: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 1 K
Turned 18 in July; projectable 6’4”, 175 lbs. frame; long and lanky with lots of room to fill out; 3/4 slot; good arm speed; framework of delivery is solid and good athleticism should yield repeatability with refinement, though present command and control is well below average due to tempo and release point issues; fastball worked 85-92 mph in short start, sitting 86-89; some armside life to it; has touched higher in past and should add more as he matures physically; at least average fastball projection with a chance to get to 60-grade; advanced upper-70s, low-80s changeup; excellent fade and sink; used as a weapon to both left- and right-handed hitters, showing impressive confidence in it for a high school product; curveball at 76 mph clear third pitch at present; hint of two-plane break but lacked depth; struggled with it; stuff, body, and work-in-progress command/delivery remind me of Red Sox prospect Henry Owens at same stage; fairly pedestrian present stuff and feel, but the athleticism and potential full package are intriguing.
Angel Baez | RHP | AZL Royals
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 196 lbs.
Acquired: International free agent, 2008, Dominican Republic
Result: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K
Four-inning rehab start from High-A; will pitch in Arizona Fall League; thicker than 6’3”, 196 lbs. listing suggests; particularly thick in thighs and midsection; 3/4 arm slot; serious arm speed; high energy/effort delivery with hard fall-off towards first base; side-to-side fastball issues and ultimate below-average command projection; currently working as a starter but delivery yields almost certain relief profile; may throw enough strikes for big arm to play; featured 70-grade velocity, sitting 93-96 mph all four innings with good life, occasional sink, and natural weight; split-change at 83-87 mph flashed plus but was inconsistent; potential swing-and-miss offering with occasional fade and excellent sink; loose, slider-ish, below-average breaker at 79-81 mph which he doesn’t throw with same arm speed and conviction as fastball and change; repeatability and command will likely always be an issue, but big arm strength with life is intriguing; will watch how the stuff plays in short bursts during Fall League.
Adrian de Horta | RHP | AZL Padres
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 185 lbs.
Acquired: 8th round, 2013, South Hills HS (West Covina, CA)
Result: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 K
Signed for $425,000 as an eighth-round pick; arguably the top sleeper arm I saw in AZ this summer; solid 6’3” frame; has some present strength and not quite immature physically, but does have some projection remaining in body; slight drop and drive delivery with high 3/4 slot; fastball worked at 88-93 mph for three innings, sitting 90-91; lacked life; fastball was too often flat and up in zone, though height and arm slot give potential for steep downhill plane with mechanical tweaking; threw strikes and pitched well with fastball given age and level; can project 60 (plus) on the pitch; showed a feel for both secondaries; maintained arm speed well with curveball and changeup; downer curve with mature break at 77 mph; didn’t attempt to show early in counts but was able to bury in dirt to chase strikeouts; changeup was 77-80 mph; slight fade and sink; inconsistent location but showed confidence, using it to both lefties and righties; average to solid-average projection with both secondaries; starting potential with a back-end rotation profile; there’s nothing particularly flashy, but it’s an 18-year-old arm with some projection, strike-throwing ability, and three usable offerings, which is a nice package to start with.
Cole Wiper | RHP | AZL Rangers
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 185 lbs.
Acquired: 10th round, 2013, University of Oregon
Result: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 K
Signed for $700,000 as a 10th-round pick from the University of Oregon; gradually making his way back from 2012 Tommy John surgery and logged 12 2/3 collegiate innings this spring; lean 6’4” righty with a workable delivery; showed feel for three pitches, though raw stuff was just okay in this look; sat 89-91 mph, touching 92 with fastball; was up to 93-95 mph at times this summer but most often pitched at velo shown in this outing; true slider at 80-83 mph; at its best, good horizontal break with late depth when located down in zone, playing well off fastball plane and showing swing-and-miss potential; break and command were inconsistent; showed an intriguing curveball between innings but not in game; lively 82-84 mph changeup was a mature third pitch; very good fade and sink; matched fastball arm speed well on secondaries but often dropped arm slot a shade when throwing changeup; preferred slider against righties, change to lefties; a little crude overall but has the tools; definite sleeper arm to watch; likely to be a full-season starting pitcher in 2014, and he could jump if he’s showing that plus velocity with more consistency.
Other Names of Intrigue
Akeem Bostick | RHP | AZL Rangers
Second-round pick in 2013; 18-year-old righty with 6’4”, 180 lbs. frame; multi-sport athlete in high school; good athleticism but has a rigid delivery that will need to be cleaned up to enable more consistency and potentially more stuff; high 3/4 arm slot; fastball sat 91-93 mph for three innings; per reports, struggled to spin a breaking ball in high school, though curve took a big step forward this summer; mature pitch at 78-81 mph thrown with good arm speed; at its best, flashed two-plane break with depth and snap; plus potential, much to my surprise; mid-80s changeup was firm and underdeveloped; cut so much at times it looked like a hard slider; expected to see a one-pitch guy coming into it, but curveball really jumped; while still on the crude side overall, there’s lots of pure talent to mold.
Fifth-round pick who signed for $800,000 bonus; lefty with a short, somewhat physically mature 6’0”, 175 lbs. body; excellent results in AZL this season but was more about present stuff and pitchability than projection; attacked confidently with mature three-pitch mix; not overpowering but throws strikes and repeats simple delivery; fastball worked 86-89 mph with some armside life in start I saw; up in the zone too often; given lack of height, fastball flattens and becomes hittable when up; usable curve at 80 mph with advanced low-80s changeup; liked change more than curve; pretty vanilla stuff with some moxie and lacking much projection in this look, and he’s unlikely to find himself on prospect lists this offseason, but the arm gets more interesting if there’s more velocity in there.
Signed in August 2012 for reported $280,000 bonus, per the Dominican Prospect League; flashes a few tools and has improved since my look at extended spring training, but remains extremely rough around the edges; lefty swinger with good bat speed and some raw power, though he’s highly aggressive and lacks offspeed recognition; can sting fastballs but was hacking wildly at secondaries in the dirt; extremely raw defender; some arm strength but consistently poor reads and routes in left field; doesn’t profile up the middle; potential with the bat makes him one of the Angels’ more intriguing young OF prospects, but there’s a troubling lack of feel for me; definite multi-year short-season guy.