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Mark Appel, RHP, Astros:
Perhaps no prospect was as divisive as Appel throughout the season, drawing wide-ranging reviews from evaluators on both ends of the spectrum. The stuff took a reported step forward at the end of the year upon reaching Double-A after his brutal stint in the Cal League. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound righty has an ideal body for a starting pitcher with broad shoulders, a high waist, and a muscular lower half. From the windup, Appel begins with his hands at his waist and brings them to his shoulder as he reaches max leg lift. He drops and drives down the mound, generating momentum and separation between his upper and lower body, firming up his glove in front of his letters at release. His arm action is free and easy, swinging it low before exhibiting a standard elbow climb to a slightly higher than three-quarters arm slot, decelerating well post-release as he falls off toward the first base side of the mound.

In a Friday afternoon start against Scottsdale, the Salt River starter turned in a performance that can be viewed as a microcosm of his professional career to date. He came out firing in the first, sitting in the mid 90s out of the gate and living 96-98 mph as the inning progressed. He commanded his fastball and generated whiffs and weak contact, looking every bit the part of an electric front-of-the-rotation starter. He wasn’t as sharp in the second, losing a few ticks on his fastball and losing his command and release point when forced to go to his secondary offerings. After a long layoff prior to his third inning of work, Appel came out flat and struggled mightily to locate with both his fastball and secondary offerings. His fastball velocity also dipped into the low 90s when he was forced into the stretch with little to no command of the offering, as he appeared to be rushing down the mound and not utilizing his lower half. With no ability to manipulate the fastball within the zone, Appel relied heavily on his slider as a get-me-over offering and became rather predictable with his sequencing. His fourth inning of work was largely uneventful, but he was pulled after facing three hitters in the fifth without recording an out.

It was an uneven look, to be sure. At his best, Appel flashed a double-plus fastball with a plus breaking ball and changeup in which he showed major confidence against same-side hitters. At his worst, his fastball was flat and visible out of the hand with no command, his slider became slurvy without sharp break, and his changeup straightened out up in the zone and became very hittable. The raw stuff points to a number-two starter, but further consistency will need to be found before he can come close to fulfilling that projection. For now, he remains one of the most intriguing enigmas in all of prospectdom, one that every organization in baseball would still love to have in its system. —Ethan Purser

Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox:
“Raw” is the operative word when it comes to Anderson. He was primarily focused on basketball for the first two years of his high-school career and is a late arriver to baseball. It shows in his game both at the plate and in the field. Sean Nolin started for the Mesa Solar Sox, and he provided a good test for Anderson at the plate. Anderson has a slightly open stance and generates good bat speed. He tends to stride open with a quick load and a direct path to the baseball. His pitch recognition is lacking at present, and it showed against Nolin, as he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and fly out. He did hit a bullet for a home run in the ninth inning against Arik Sikula. I didn’t see Anderson run and he was the DH during Friday’s game against the Solar Sox. Reports on his work at short paint a picture of a physically gifted but flawed defender who likely does not have the chops to stay there. Reports on his pure speed are that of a 7 runner with the ability to steal 30-plus bases. At present, Anderson needs reps on reps on reps, as his raw ability teases a big future but his rawness leaves those flashes few and far between. —Mauricio Rubio

Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Cubs:
Even among patient hitters, there are different approaches. Some try to work deep counts while others simply refuse to give in. Vogelbach is the latter. He walked four times in this game but seemed generally disgusted by the notion, as though he wasn’t happy about not getting to hit but cognizant that it’s better than chasing bad pitches and getting out. Vogelbach clearly wants to hit, as it’s the only thing he does well on a baseball field, and he attacks hittable pitches when he gets them. He maintains a good idea of the strike zone, however, which should make up for any points in batting average he sacrifices for his power. His raw power is legitimate and is a true plus tool, and combining it with an above-average hit tool and good plate discipline should make for a solid everyday hitter. He may never suit up for the Cubs, with first base blocked by Anthony Rizzo and even that being a stretch of Vogelbach’s talents with a glove, but he’s going to give some American League team a solid DH for 5-7 years in his prime and should be one of the main pieces the Cubs use when they ultimately decide to trade for pitching help. —Jeff Moore

Tyrone Taylor, OF, Brewers:
My second extended look at Taylor (I saw him for a series this summer) left me wanting more from the Brewers center fielder. He’s a good athlete, but not a game-changing one. He’ll be able to stay in center field, but he won’t stack up with the game’s elite defenders. At the plate, Taylor has the tools to be a very good hitter—bat speed, good bat-to-ball skills, etc.—but he doesn’t make the most of his physical gifts. He is extremely spread out at the plate and uses virtually no stride in his swing. This leaves no weight transfer or use of his lower half, forcing his upper body to do all of the work. There is more power in his body than what his swing produces, the result of which has been solid doubles totals but poor over-the-fence pop and low overall isolated slugging percentages. Taylor could hit enough to be an everyday player when his fielding and baserunning are added in, but his approach limits the offensive profile. —Jeff Moore

Kevan Smith, C, White Sox:
In keeping with my theme of players who played other sports before committing to baseball, I’ll introduce you to Kevan Smith, former Pitt quarterback and current White Sox catcher. Smith has a big, broad, football player’s frame. At the plate, he has an open stance and an ugly two-part swing in which his lower half and hands do not sync up. He commits with his hips before he loads and lands his front foot well before his hands get going forward. It’s not an aesthetically pleasing sight, and it leads to a long swing and slow bat speed. He puts on a show in batting practice on strength alone but his in game utility was not present on Friday. He’s very raw behind the plate as well. At present, he’s a stabby receiver with questionable blocking skills and bad pop mechanics. He has the raw arm to post good pop times but his technique undercuts his raw ability. Smith is an athlete but he’s also a 26-year-old raw catcher with an ugly swing. —Mauricio Rubio

Peter O’Brien, C/1B, Diamondbacks:
After dropping 34 bombs across two levels and teams in 2014, O’Brien was sent to the AFL for the second straight offseason. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Florida native has plenty of strength in his broad frame and has easy plus raw power in batting practice. He utilizes a spread stance at the plate with a moderate leg lift and has some funk in his load that, in combination with his long limbs, leads to a long swing. The length, leverage, and strength help to create the easy pop, but the tradeoff is tons of empty swings in games, and paired with a questionable approach and an unrefined eye, O’Brien whiffs too often against premium arms. The profile could possibly work if he were assured to stick behind the dish, but choppy receiving and a wildly inaccurate arm give him virtually no shot at making it to the majors as a catcher. The raw power is certainly intriguing, but the ceiling is limited due to the glaring issues in the profile. Already 24, O’Brien likely becomes an up-and-down bench bat at the highest level. —Ethan Purser

Domingo Leyba, INF, Tigers
As one of the AFL's youngest players, it's no surprise that the 2012 amateur free agent signee has gone 5-for-30 with a .431 OPS so far this fall. As a taxi squad member of Glendale, Leyba has seen some time at shortstop, although second base is his likely outcome going forward, due to athleticism constraints. The Tigers are typically aggressive with their high IQ middle infielders, as Leyba saw some time in Low-A this year as an 18-year-old, plus of course, the fall league appearance. An average runner, Leyba profiles as a potential utility player, due to limited power and no spectacular trait. The bat to ball skills are apparent from both sides of the plate, and he has good feel for the barrel. However, there isn't much thump in the bat, and he doesn't look to drive the ball. The teenager's ceiling is a that of a second-division regular if the hit tool comes to complete fruition. —Jordan Gorosh

Jefferson Olacio, LHP, White Sox
Note that this was one of Olacio's worst appearances of the season, but as a prospect who has generated some hype in 2014, there are certainly concerns to be voiced. It's difficult to contextualize what a 20-grade athlete would actually look like on a baseball field, but Olacio fits that mold. The mechanics are choppy and difficult to repeat, especially for someone whose coordination was described as "three small children stacked on top of each other in their dad's trench coat." That person must be really good at analogies. There are reports of Olacio living in the 95-97 range, touching 98—yet on this day, he was 87-88 and scraped 90 mph. Everything was flat and he had no means of exploiting hitters' weaknesses, which has been the norm for the big lefty in the AFL: He's allowed 17 baserunners and recorded 20 outs thus far. While Olacio reached Double-A this year as a reliever, the delivery and athleticism issues should relegate him to the bullpen for good; it's challenging to envision a scenario in which he takes the ball 30 times a season. In order to hit his effective reliever ceiling, the breaking ball is going to have to tighten, and the mid-90s velocity has to show up with more frequency. —Jordan Gorosh

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