Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians (Triple-A Columbus)
It doesn’t take long to see why Lindor’s defense draws rave reviews and why people believe he’s a prospect who can impact the game in the a big way, particularly with the glove, for many seasons to come. Watching Lindor take infield prior to batting practice not only reveals a set of highly polished defensive tools, but also an attitude and approach to his craft that gives confidence there isn’t any resting on his laurels despite being so advanced with the glove. The 21-year-old’s defense has been heavily documented around these parts, so the objective heading into my latest chance to watch the player centered on putting the isolated camera on the bat, and getting a feel for where things are, now that he’s one step from The Show.
I came away impressed with how Lindor handled himself in the batter’s box against high-quality competition, along with the quickness of his wrists. The latter served him well getting the bat head out in front of good velocity, especially on the inner third of the plate, and putting the ball into play with a charge when he squared it up. The shortstop can certainly turn a good fastball around, which leads me to believe this won’t be a hitter who ends up getting the bat knocked out of his hands with frequency.
The area that does need work is how Lindor attacks stuff with break. More often than not, the switch-hitter is way out on his front foot once he picks up the spin, and ends up lunging or reaching, while his wrists roll over early. There’s offensive seasoning needed here, which doesn’t make it surprising to see the organization taking their time with him despite the fact he can easily play shortstop in the majors right now. It’s a delicate balance for sure, but one in which leaning towards the side of patience to let the bat marinate will likely give Lindor a chance to chip in with the bat sooner when he assumes the role of a regular in the bigs. –Chris Mellen
Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
If there’s a player in this draft class who has locked up a top five selection, it’s Swanson, and this weekend was a prime example of why he’s liked by so many in the industry. The Commodore shortstop went 4-for-11 with two walks in the weekend series for Alabama, with two of the hits going for doubles, and zero strikeouts over the three games as well.
“There are certain kids who just get it, and [Swanson] just appears to get it," said an AL scout. “The hit tool is an easy plus for me, and I think there might be some power coming, especially if you can make some adjustments with the lower half.
“What really impresses me is the defense, though. You have to keep in mind that he’s only been a full-time shortstop for a few months, and he looks like a natural there. The actions, arm strength, footwork, it’s all ready to go. I’m not saying he’s Ozzie Smith or anything like that, but there’s no reason to think he can’t play it as a big-leaguer.”
There’s still a strong chance that Swanson is the first selection of the 2015 draft, and it’d be an upset if he was to get past Houston with selection number five. –Christopher Crawford
Champ Stuart, OF, New York Mets (High-A St. Lucie)
Stuart is the kind of player you just want to see hit with more effectiveness because he can do so many other things well. A plus runner and plus defender, it's easy to see why the Mets want to give Stuart every chance possible to prove he can hit. He's a legitimate difference maker in center field, and his legs can be a true asset on the bases. Unfortunately, he just doesn't hit. The ability to put the barrel of the bat on the baseball simply isn't there. His swing is rotational and stiff, and he struggles with any kind of decent breaking or off-speed pitches. He doesn't barrel up enough fastballs to be even an average hitter at more advanced levels.
It's an intriguing package of skills, but without an adequate hit tool, none of it will play on a consistent basis. He could carve out a role as a fourth or fifth outfielder if he gets his bat to a point where he can serve as a part-time player, but at this point, he offers little offensively. –Jeff Moore
Miguel Andujar, 3B, New York Yankees (High-A Tampa)
The three words that best describe Andujar are young, huge, and raw. The Yankees third-base prospect is attempting to handle the Florida State League less than three months after his teenage years came to an end and his inexperience is evident. Everything about Andujar is long—his swing, his power, his throwing motion. He generates tremendous power in the torque of his swing. The raw power is a legitimate tool, and he takes that power into his approach. Andujar wants to hit everything 400 feet, and swings like he's capable of doing so. That, of course, leads to as much bad contact and as many swings and misses as it does impact swings.
Even with the present flaws, however, the skills are apparent, and he's still young and inexperienced enough to make some adjustments. Andujar is still adjusting to advanced pitching, but the tools are there for a potential impact bat, assuming there are two to three more years of development in front of him. –Jeff Moore
James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA
One of the reasons this draft class has been criticized so much—and justifiably so—is that it not only lacks high upside, but safety as well. Kaprielian offers more of the latter than the former, but on Friday, he showed he may just possess that ceiling teams are seeking as well. The Bruins ace pitched nine no-hit innings against Arizona in Los Angeles, striking out 11 in the process, though he did walk four. It’s all the more impressive when you consider the effort came against a team with two potential first-round selections—Wildcats shortstop Kevin Newman and center fielder Scott Kingery.
“It was the best start I’ve seen of any college hurler this year,” an NL scout told me. “The fastball was 93-95 with movement, and though he didn’t have elite command, it was generally where he wanted to put it. Both the slider and change were plus at times, and I saw a couple of decent curveballs as well. I don’t love the arm slot and I need to see more consistency with the strike zone, but I’d definitely give him a chance to start.”
Kaprielian is a day one lock, and could go in the first round to a team like Oakland, Detroit, or Baltimore. –Christopher Crawford
Drew Ward, 3B, Washington Nationals (High-A Potomac)
In player evaluation, one constant you will hear is to not scout the box score. This is a dangerous endeavor, as many players have yet to tap into their tools, or have yet to fully grow into their frame. Thus, it leads to misguided analysis when attempting to determine their value solely through the box score. On the outside, Ward has put together two strong seasons in the lower minors and is on his way to another, hitting .248/.338/.372 as a 20-year-old in High-A. While the numbers are decent, my recent viewings have left me with more questions and concerns than answers.
My Scouting Report on Ward last season was one of the reports I received the most feedback on, including from fans and scouts/executives within the industry. The issues that I discussed in the report were mostly with regards to the elongated swing and his inability to make sufficient contact. The defense was also a concern, as he has never been a highly athletic player and the glove is likely destined for first base in the future. So heading into this season, I was clearly the low man on Ward, hoping that he would show some improvement with a promotion to Potomac. After multiple viewings with Potomac, I have not seen these improvements. The bat speed is average and the swing is elongated, causing him to get beat inside by average velocity. The slight hitch is a detriment in this case, as he doesn't have the bat speed or loose wrists to substitute for the timing mechanism in his swing. On the defensive side, Ward is currently stuck in between on hops and the footwork has been choppy.
While the overall profile is not high in my eyes, I do see value in Ward. His plus raw power can be an asset, and he has a great extension at the plate. I think the hit tool deficiencies are going to hinder his overall value in the long run, but there is still development time moving forward where Ward can potentially fix some of these issues at the plate. –Tucker Blair
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels (High-A Inland Empire)
At one time, Cowart was the Angels best prospect: a third baseman who had a chance to hit for average and power with a cannon for an arm at the hot corner. That time is not now. Cowart’s stock has fallen as precipitously as any offensive prospect in baseball, and it was easy to see why on Wednesday.
At the plate, Cowart’s swing isn’t the mess you’d think it would be based on his stats. He gets good extension on a swing that has above-average speed, and there aren’t many moving parts. There wasn’t a semblance of discipline at the plate though, and secondary offerings gave him a world of trouble. There’s still solid-average power there, but there’s no chance to get to it with the hit tool well below average at this point.
He maintains a chance to be a big-leaguer thanks only to his defensive profile. He has excellent hands and instincts in the field, and though he no longer has the 95 mph fastball at his disposal, the arm strength is easily plus. He’s essentially become Jack Hannahan at this point, and while there’s a place for a guy like that on the roster, it’s a pretty big fall off from what he was two years ago. –Christopher Crawford
Brad Keller, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Low-A Kane County)
Keller was an eighth-round pick out of Flowery Branch High School in Georgia. So far, early in his Low-A career, the 19-year-old is showcasing interesting stuff but an inability to put it where he wants. Keller is a tall man with a broad frame, he’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and there’s still some room to add good weight as he’s a high-waisted player with broad shoulders. Keller’s fastball operates in the 90-92 range, but he loses velocity from the stretch when he uses a slide step which doesn’t allow him to gather properly, leading to a two mph drop in his fastball velocity.
The fastball has all sorts of movement on it with natural run, and he can manipulate the ball to make it both cut and sink. Keller’s slider works in the 80-82 range and has 11-5 movement. There’s some bite to the pitch and it flashes promise. He’s working on the changeup which shows some fade, but he doesn’t have good feel for the pitch yet. Keller’s command is an issue. He can hit his spots to the arm side, but has a tendency to overthrow and pull pitches when it comes to hitting spots on the glove side. Keller has a great starter’s body and some intriguing stuff. There are refinements to work through here, but Keller remains an interesting prospect. –Mauricio Rubio
Mike Gerber, OF, Detroit Tigers (Low-A West Michigan Whitecaps)
As a 15th-round pick coming out of Creighton in 2014, Detroit’s Mike Gerber entered professional ball with modest expectations. In a 20-plus game sample last summer, Gerber showed me a solid defensive skill set, including an above-average arm, and raw power in his bat, but also left many questions unanswered when promoted to Low-A to close the season. In a repeat engagement with the Midwest League this summer, Gerber Is off to a blazing start, hitting .382 in the season’s first 36 games while blasting 12 extra-base hits. Following last year’s observations, I pegged Gerber as a solid organizational player with some pop and the ability to play across the outfield; his ability to keep his swing short and contact rates high hold him back from becoming more.
In speaking with scouts through the season’s first few weeks, Gerber has been consistently short to the ball, all without sacrificing the bat speed generated by his natural strength, and as a result, his above-average raw power is playing in every game. Fanning just 19 times so far this season, Gerber has—at least temporarily—discovered the ability to marry his raw pop with a more contact-oriented approach. That approach has resulted in 15 multi-hit games and only seven hitless games with West Michigan so far this year. While it may be too early to completely believe that Gerber has suddenly found the key that unlocks his potential as a solid everyday player, the more consistency and success he finds along the way, the more likely it is things may have clicked for the 22-year old outfielder. In a system as bereft of talent as the Tigers, Gerber could quickly make a name for himself and move through the system, helping bolster a thin farm. –Mark Anderson
Tony Kemp, 2B, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks)
A former Vanderbilt stand-out, Kempt is able to do a lot of things well. He is a solid defender at second—his natural position—and has been able to turn his speed and feel for the game into proficiency at all three outfield positions—though his arm doesn’t play up in the corners. Kemp is also fantastic at seeing a “zillion” pitches every plate appearance, and has good instincts on the basepaths, making him as dangerous a leadoff hitter as any.
What Kemp isn’t good at is hitting the ball a long way. His swing plane and small frame make it unlikely that Kemp will ever do much beyond hit doubles, but his speed will allow him to take extra bases off lackadaisical outfielders and/or errors. It’s an easy comp, but Kemp reminds me a lot of Jose Altuve. Yes, this is the easiest comp in the world, and one already made by this publication, but a 5-foot-5 grinder who sees a lot of pitches, plays good second-base defense, is quick on the basepaths, and hits to all fields? Of course, with Altuve as the veritable face of the Astros franchise for the foreseeable future, it’s good that Kemp has the possibility of moving to the outfield, though he could find his major-league home with another organization. –Kate Morrison
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