California League, by Chris Rodriguez
Ben Lively, RHP, Reds (High-A Bakersfield)
Broad shoulders, thick legs, muscular build; 6-foot-4, about 210; body to log innings; repeatable delivery; gets downhill well; hides the ball behind his torso and snaps it on the hitter with a quick arm; plenty of deception; three-quarters; fastball 88-92; runs it and cuts it; true ghostball; explodes on the hitter; if I didn’t have gun readings I’d guess 95-plus based on the swings; hitters weren’t comfortable all night; third time through the lineup was still pumping the fastball and jamming guys; gets 92 with runners on; amped up after striking out a batter to escape a jam; good control with it, pounded the zone for the most part (got squeezed) but the command was hit or miss; up the zone and challenged guys often; he won most battles, but going forward he needs the get the ball down.
Curveball 71-76; lacked bite early; loopy and hangs over the plate; tightened it up and it flashed late; much better around 74-76 mph, and had some two-plane break; dropped it in for some first-pitch strikes; scout said he had a hammer his last appearance, but didn’t see an above-average CB on this night ; SL 82-84 mph; sweepy break; not much bite; lengthened it with two strikes; used it vs. lefties and righties; commanded it well; better against righties; pounded the outside corner and just off the plate; CH around 85; some dive and tumble; thrown only a handful of times; used it right after his FB to keep the hitters off balance.
Impressive pitchability; around 1.2 to the plate from the stretch; the fastball is a weapon, regardless of his average velocity on this night; he didn’t have his best stuff and still got through six innings while striking out seven and walking two, with no help from the umpire; liked the fire and competitiveness, just not sure how his stuff will play at the higher levels; the fastball is good but he lacked command; major-league hitters can time anything if you keep it on the same plane; his command needs tightening but he has a good profile with an repeatable delivery and good present control; will be interesting to see if he can sustain his success when he inevitably gets called up to Double-A.
Ryan Wright, 2B, Reds (High-A Bakersfield)
Lean, muscular frame; looks in shape; 6-foot-1, 200 is probably accurate; had the four best at-bats of the night for the Blaze (they were no-hit); hands work well; bit of a bat waggle before his hands come into hitting position; stung the ball twice vs. Jethawks starter Josh Hadar; ripped one to third that got called an error; showed off some juice in his bat; stung a ball to the deepest part of the park for an out; would have gone out if not for the wind; definitely doesn’t get cheated; aggressive approach but he looked very comfortable at the plate; old for the level at 24 years but has the chance to get to Double-A with his numbers this season; DH’d in this game; need to see him play the field soon.
Matt Anderson, RHP, Mariners (High-A High Desert)
Medium frame; not a very tall guy; 6-foot-1, probably 200; standard three-quarters delivery; sometimes lands closed and can miss to arm side; fast-paced delivery; gets the ball, kicks, and throws; not much wasted movement; works fast; can keep hitters off balance but can also get into trouble quickly; FB 91-94; quick arm action; two-seam run; command was spotty in the first two innings but he got the ball down later; held his velocity throughout; pumped it up to 94 multiple times with runners on; potential above-average offering with stronger control; SL 81-85; some bite; can feature slurvy break at times; really needs to snap it off; arm whips back after release; flashed late in the game; CH 85-87 was his best secondary on the night; good fade away from lefties; arm speed helped the deception; was a little firm at times and played into the hitters favor; kept it down in the zone; flashed above-average ability as well; impressive performance for a 41st round draft pick; called up to Double-A after this start.
Extended Spring Training, by Austin Diamond
Eloy Jimenez, OF, Cubs
Received the largest signing bonus in 2013 International free agent class; physical presence with a projectable body; big frame; strong hands; in the mold of a Jorge Soler or Vladimir Guerrero; big strong legs that look a little heavy; tough player to judge because he looks like he is still figuring out how to efficiently use his body; raw; stance at the plate is balanced and natural; loads his hands well, and stays relatively balanced on takes; stable lower, staying balanced through the swing; plus bat speed that should project to at least plus-plus raw power; swing is presently way too long and sweepy to the ball; has no present feel for the barrel against live pitching; ball jumps off the bat, but struggles to square up the baseball; sometimes looks better when he swings and misses than when he makes contact; to me the swing looks low effort relative to the power he can generate.
Shows the tools to be an average outfielder in time, but seems to have no idea what he has to do to be good; slow out of his breaks and reading the ball of the bat; stands still when the ball is not hit to him; struggles with footwork; off balance when pressured to field and throw quickly; runs with heavy feet that don’t leave the ground; below-average runner who shows some aggressiveness on the bases;
The upside is immense, but so is the risk. Jimenez looks a little awkward at times, and I think he will struggle to hit in the AZL this year. I am still an optimist, however, because he does show some looseness and flexibility to his actions at the plate and in the field. Furthermore, has strengths you can’t teach, while his obvious weaknesses seem correctable with coaching, experience, and natural maturity.
Gleyber Torres, SS, Cubs
The more polished of the two international signings; only 17, will no doubt get stronger, but body is closer to mature; well proportioned; athletic; medium frame; physically reminds me of Robbie Alomar, but Ruben Tejada was probably a better suggestion that I heard; looks very natural at the plate; stands slightly open; has a cocky bat wag, holding hands by back ear; high leg kick load with hands moving to back shoulder; shows natural balance and timing at the plate; short to the ball; strong base with good hip rotation and leverage; I would not project him to be a power hitter; but looks like he could eventually get to at least 10-plus; seemed to recognize breaking pitches well for his age; still a ways away, though, as his feel for the zone and overall plan at the plate were more indicative of his age.
Played SS in the games I saw. Raw speed is closer to average, so will have to do the little things well to stay at shortstop. Showed soft hands; fluid in his actions, but still lacks experience and needs coaching on things like where to be on cutoffs and pre-pitch set-up; arm strength looked solid-average across the diamond; isn’t gifted with plus raw, athletic tools, but the hit tool looks natural enough for me to think he will have a major-league future in the middle of the diamond.
Jose Mendoza, RHP, Angels
I did not know Mendoza coming into the game, but I came away impressed from the few innings I saw from the Venezuelan; listed at 6-foot-2 and 165, but is presently probably 20-plus pounds heavier; turns 20 in July; lean, projectable pitcher’s build; medium frame; broad shoulders; cruised through innings I saw with calm, poised demeanor; easy, under-control delivery; threw strikes with control of three pitches; mostly on-line finish through the plate, but occasionally would get rotational; the only fault my untrained eye noticed in the delivery was an inconsistency in using his hips and legs to drive off the mound, leading to inconsistent release point at times.
FB: 87-88 mph; some tail, but more often straight; I would project to be consistently low 90s, with room to touch higher; SL: 78-79; three-quarters tilt with decent shape; was more effective inducing chases, but could throw for strikes; presently below average, but would also project to be at least an average pitch; CH: 83; some arm-side fade; shows some feel and can throw for strikes; also below average, but looks like a future average pitch as well.
This is all from a brief viewing, but in the tiring setting of extended spring training, Mendoza seemed to show a strong work ethic, going about his post-pitching exercises without assistance from a trainer, then watching the game with a coach. I would have to see more to say for sure, but the total package to me points to a potential no. 3 or 4 starter in the majors.
Nataniel Delgado, OF, Angels
Physically mature 18-year-old who doesn’t turn 19 until late October; impressed in his pro debut in the AZL in 2013 after signing for $280K out of the DR; left/left; lacks body projection beyond natural strength gains, but possesses at least average present raw power; naturally strong with big hands; high waist; size to round thighs and butt that I noticed without staring before moving on; stands about 6 feet; calm, quiet, poised, confident demeanor; not very vocal, but seems sort of business-like; it’s a convenient comparison, but game and style remind me of Garret Anderson;
Very simple and balanced at the plate; simple and repeatable short hand load and stride, keeping his weight back; seems to have a feel for the K-zone, but is very aggressive in the zone; only seems to take a pitch over the plate when he decides he is going to beforehand; natural feel for the barrel; good leverage and solid base on contact; uses whole field; line-drive approach, but has home run power from RCF-pull; stayed back well on 0-1 changeup on the outside corner, hitting a hard groundball out to SS; moves okay, but a below-average runner; better body control than speed; stayed in well vs LHP; lined a double off the base of the left field wall on a 90 mph FB from a low-slot, slinging lefty; kept front shoulder in and drove the ball with low-effort swing; I think he is going to hit.
In the field, I have seen Delgado play both LF and RF; probably best suited for left; average arm, but a very quick release from a low three-quarters slot; moves fluidly; natural actions; smooth, but plays a little too casually; got caught in between on a hard liner that short-hopped his feet, and allowed it to get by; overall though, I didn’t see any issues.
To me, he looks like a player who is emotionally mature enough and physically ready to play in the Midwest League. He might struggle some, but he has nothing to prove in the AZL. I do, however, think he has the potential to be a quality major-league bat who will provide average major-league defense in an outfield corner.
Sergio Alcantara, SS, Diamondbacks
Looking at statistics from the AZL without any context is an exercise in futility, but when a 16-year-old shortstop leads the league in walks with a 44-36 K:BB ratio it is hard not to take notice; Alcantra is well proportioned, but scrawny; not too far off from listed 5-foot-10, 150; swing is short and slappy; makes contact, but not strong enough to do much damage; that being said, I think the walks are for real; crowds the plate with a straight-on crouched stance, and does not flinch as he comfortably watches the pitch into the catcher’s glove.
Seems to enjoy showing off a plus arm from the hole at shortstop between innings, but he gears up to get there; I haven’t seen him tested, but shows good instincts; should be able to stay there until proven otherwise; as an athlete, moves well, but has a fringy top gear; might improve as he ages and get stronger; runs the bases well; I am a fan overall; despite lacking flashy power and speed, Alcantara plays with confidence; for someone who likely only played a handful of real games before signing in 2012, he displays the baseball instincts of a prodigy.
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Now, you can sit there and laugh at the prospects of Daniel Corcino holding back Lively at this point. And you may be able to actually make that argument and it wouldn't surprise me to see him in the bullpen soon as the control simply isn't coming around on the whole. But there are five arms with upside right now in that Double-A rotation ahead of Lively, so that is why you see him still in Bakersfield.