Throughout March, the BP Prospect Team is invading both Arizona and Florida to get some fresh looks at players as they prepare for their 2015 assignments. Between now and the start of the minor league season, they’ll be providing updates (and videos) on the prospects you know and love—and quite a few that you may not.
Notes From the Field:
Chris Mellen said it best last August when he stated that Mazara “oozes ease,” because he does so in almost every facet of his game. He demonstrated his effortless power on Monday afternoon, roping a 2-0 fastball out to right field.
He approaches his at-bats professionally, getting himself into good hitter’s counts, enabling him to swing at his pitch. His mature approach was clearly a factor in the Rangers decision to jump him over High-A last season, and despite the aggressive promotion, Mazara more than held his own in the 24-game sample. While there is some pre-swing movement, he sets his hands as the pitcher comes towards the plate, and doesn’t waste time getting his bat to the zone. His bat speed, timing, and explosive hips allow him to generate power without selling out. While he looks to get extended, Mazara doesn’t over-emphasize it, showing the ability to keep his hands inside and turn on inside fastballs. The power is an easy plus and the hit tool could get there as well, if he continues to develop.
On defense, Mazara has a strong arm with good carry on the ball. There is some concern as to how his athleticism will be affected as he fills out, with some whispers of first base in his future. He’s made substantial progress in the field since signing with Rangers for $4.95 million in 2012, and if he can continue those efforts, he should be able to avoid the infield dirt for a while longer. His bat should carry him to the major leagues either way, and he should see at least a few years as a prototypical right fielder, batting in the middle of the lineup. –Craig Goldstein
While Stephenson is still in the stages of ramping up his workload in the spring, my latest look at the 22-year-old right-hander exhibited what is likely to be a big theme to follow this upcoming season: consistency executing his arsenal. The ease in which the pitcher delivered his fastball certainly stuck out, and though the velocity was a tick down (91-94 mph) than what’s typically the norm, the late life and occasional arm-side run gives the offering the type of explosiveness to both miss bats and induce weak contact. There was one particularly strong fastball bearing in on a righty’s hands, ultimately resulting in a weak dribbler to third, which illustrated how nasty it can be when executed to perfection. The heater was mostly left out on an island in this outing, however, as Stephenson had considerable trouble keeping himself from wrapping his wrist when delivering his curveball. It led to an often loose and loopy breaking ball that failed to get bats started or find the strike zone with any frequency to neutralize hitters from sitting on the fastball. There were a few well-executed ones that flashed deep bend and hard bite down through the strike zone, offering a glimpse at an pitch that can play plus-to-better when he consistently stays on top of the ball.
There’s a lot to like here in terms of the raw stuff and there is certainly a foundation that would allow the prospect to emerge as a power arm towards the front of the rotation, but also some clear indications that there are some further markers to be met in regards to increasing the level of overall polish. –Chris Mellen
Johnson is a quick-twitch athlete with plus-plus speed and below-average everything else. The speed helps out his hit utility, but Johnson’s raw ability is undermined by his ugly mechanics. A two-phase hitter, Johnson bails out with his lower half before his hands get going, sacrificing any natural power he might have or could develop in the future. He is solidly built, appearing more like a running back than your typical burner with no power. The glove is still subpar and the arm limits his future to left or second base. Johnson is a good bet to win the job at the keystone out of spring training for the White Sox. The speed is a legitimate tool and it makes him interesting, but his profile is that of a second-division starter. –Mauricio Rubio
There’s been no shortage of buzz around Tomas this spring, and most of it has been negative. Of course, he’s shown the reasons for that, both at the plate and in the field. He’s gotten very little action in the outfield, but he’ll end up there because of what action he’s gotten at third. His lack of range, throwing accuracy, and general coordination at the hot corner means that he’ll need to improve quite a bit to be simply a passable defender. However, at the plate, he deserves the benefit of the doubt more than he’s being given. In my looks, he was struggling with pitch recognition on both fastballs (he was noticeably late on a couple of 93-94 MPH heaters from Carlos Rodon) and secondary offerings. And while that’s concerning, it’s also easy to lose sight of the fact that Tomas hasn’t seen real game action in around a year. The bat speed is there for success (and the plus-plus raw it helps generate), but it should be a slower burn with the 24-year-old than the more veteran bats who have come over from Cuba recently. –Bret Sayre
Signed on the same trip the Dodgers snagged Julio Urias, Leon is beginning to flash an enticing profile. The Mexican catcher has a thick and sturdy frame, which correlates to durability behind the plate. He’s an athletic player, moving well behind the dish and was able to get down and block a few secondary pitches in the dirt. There is a feel for catching, which is important at a young development stage. His framing needs refinement as he stabs at pitches occasionally, but there is an underlying talent evident. The arm is also strong, displayed by his plus times down to second base on throws. Leon has enough ability to become an average catcher, and his strong makeup and bilingual skills are only positive aspects of his future growth. The bat is still the carrying tool, with a short and compact swing that delivers above-average raw power. Leon has impressed scouts and industry members in his short time in professional ball. –Tucker Blair
Michael De Leon, SS, Texas Rangers
Let's get the most important thing out of the way first: De Leon has an incredible glove with red webbing. He also has more #rig than anyone on the field. Younger than his great, great, great uncle Ponce after he found that famous fountain, he's already played in the AFL, and has 400 plate appearances of full-season ball on his resume. He displays impressive hands in the field, adequate for a major-league quality shortstop in the future. De Leon takes command of the game, and even his elders look up to him as a leader. While age is definitely on his side, there is a distinct possibility that he is unable to hit at higher levels as he matures. The swing is slappy from the left side, and he doesn't look to drive the ball from either batter’s box. Standing 6-foot-1 and 140 pounds with narrow hips, it's unlikely that De Leon puts on enough weight to drive the ball with authority into the gaps. While his bat-to-ball is up to par, he may never have adequate strength to let the hit tool come to fruition. With that being the case, De Leon's career may be more as a utility guy as opposed to a consistent starter. Nonetheless, the teenager has a big-league future on the glove and makeup alone. –Jordan Gorosh
- Even when he’s not playing, Gabriel Guerrero is in the game. He’s in the background of every at-bat of the Mariners intrasquad game, edging his way out of the dugout. The M’s finally put him in the game in the sixth inning, and he immediately displayed a strong arm in right field, hitting the cutoff man with accuracy and carry. In his one at-bat, Guerrero stroked a 1-2 pitch to right field, making hard contact despite a hitch in his swing. –Craig Goldstein
- Michael Medina is a Dodgers prospect to keep an eye on, with an aesthetically pleasing frame and plus raw power. The Dominican is in the early stages of recognizing spin and off-speed, which was noticeable in his at-bats on the backfields. –Tucker Blair
- You can see the power potential that resides in Micker Adolfo just by looking at his thick, strong frame. He only showed average bat speed in a BP session, and his stateside debut did raise concern about the hit tool, but he showed some raw pop as well. –Mauricio Rubio
- Gareth Morgan is an abnormally large human. I mean really, really big. And although he looks like a Division-I tight end, he moves well for his size. His swing is long, and he isn't going to make enough contact to tap into his raw power, but seriously, he's extremely large. –Jordan Gorosh
- Right-hander Peter Tago is blessed with a 95 mph fastball that has run and a slider that flashes promise. However, he is not blessed with command of those pitches, as he showed a propensity to miss arm side with the fastball and glove side with the slider. The former makes him interesting; the latter likely makes him a low-leverage reliever. –Mauricio Rubio
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