Luis Ortiz, RHP, Texas Rangers (Low-A Hickory Crawdads)
Ortiz has allowed all of one earned run in his first five starts this season, but he has also given up some hard hits based on command that needs further refinement.
Ortiz's fastball was 88-94, touched 95 with solid run that produced excellent late life to the glove side. He commanded the pitch well to that side, but struggled spotting in on right-handed batters. There's good life in the pitch and it's tough when kept down, but it can flatten and become hittable up.
The slider bit hard at 83-86 with tight spin and solid break, and he showed fairly good command of it. It has the makings of a plus pitch. The changeup failed to impress. It could have just been an off night for the pitch, but I had to squint to see average potential. The arm action is there with deception, but his feel and command of the pitch lacked by struggling to get it down and off the fat of the plate.
The ball comes out of Ortiz's hand cleanly and easily. He can cross himself and rotate out of his drive to the plate at times, but it's a pretty easy motion. Ortiz has the makings of a no. 3 starter with greater refinement of his command and changeup. I feel comfortable tabbing him as a realistic Role 5, no. 4 starter. –David Lee
Dwight Smith, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
When catching Smith in mid-to-late April, the initial impression left by the player was on the bland side. While the speed and strong body stood out on the field, the swing was extremely messy and the player seemed to be in the mind set of wanting to yank the ball over the fence as opposed to creating line drives into both gaps. Smith certainly isn’t going to masquerade as a power hitter. That isn’t his game, and most of the contact I saw suffered as a result, showing in the form of roll overs to second and weakly sliced pop-ups.
Still, the ability to control the head of the bat did stand out, along with one particular plate appearance (the last one of the night) where Smith kept things simple with his stroke and drilled a rising line shot into the right-center field gap for extra bases. It was exactly the type of swing that the outfielder needs to utilize on a consistent basis to be successful. Whether the timing was purely coincidental or the Baseball Gods throwing me a bone, it came right on the heels of a quick text conversation with my teammate (and Podcast partner) Jeff Moore, who was a backer of the 22-year-old during our offseason ranking process and sealed the deal for when we included the player in Toronto’s “On the Rise” section in their Top 10.
Another volley of electronic messages indicated that the stroke I saw in that instance was exactly what Moore saw consistently out of Smith last year in the Florida State League. So, as I get ready to head into Manchester this week for another pass at the club, I’m armed with exactly what I want to zone in on. And, if the stroke continues to show, it’s a good sign that the player is passing the first marker when it comes to making adjustments and slowing the game down at a new level. –Chris Mellen
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Low-A Kane County Cougars)
The Diamondbacks first-round pick from 2014 is getting his first taste of full-season ball and to date he’s looked up to the task. Toussaint has a dream body: athletic with square shoulders and a high waist that projects to add good weight in the future. He uses a quick step-back delivery for his wind up and a low three-quarters arm slot. Toussaint has quick arm speed and easy arm action; the delivery is low effort and it inspires hope that he can add velocity to his fastball, which touched 94 in my viewing, as he ages.
In my viewing, Toussaint worked mainly fastball-changeup for the first six innings as the Diamondbacks are trying to establish fastball command for the young pitcher. Toussaint started in the 90-92 mph range but started reaching back for more velocity as he got closer to his finish line. The changeup operates in the 82-84 mph range and has solid fade and has the potential to be a solid-average offering. When Toussaint was allowed to use his full arsenal, the curveball showed up and stole the show. It comes in at 73-76 mph and has sharp, biting 11-5 movement. It’s a potential bat-misser and the Low-A hitters had no shot against it when Toussaint threw it near the plate. The stuff isn’t in question with Toussaint; it’s the command. Toussaint has some spine tilt in the delivery and an unbalanced follow-through which caps his command potential to only average.
Toussaint was the biggest high-risk/high-reward player in the 2014 draft. If he harnesses his command, the reward will have the Diamondbacks looking smart for taking on the risk. –Mauricio Rubio
Michael Kopech, RHP, Boston Red Sox (Low-A Greenville Drive)
My knowledge of Michael Kopech going into the game was that he was a lanky Texan pitcher with a solid 90-94 mph fastball who might grow into more velocity down the road. What I got was so much better than what I expected.
Kopech sat (SAT!!!) 96-99 for the first three innings. His fastball comes out of a three-quarters arm slot and seemed to jump on hitters even without a steep plane to the plate. He was much more consistent working to his arm side and when he missed it was when he tried to extend to his glove side. His breaking stuff was a hard, spinning breaking ball that will need to be cleaned up as advanced hitters will pick it up out of his hand because he telegraphs the pitch early by hooking his wrist around the ball. Hitters in the Sally league have been eaten up by its movement and velocity difference, but the end goal isn’t to dominate the Sally. He forced some changeups into sequence and they were rough as expected, but it isn’t something to be too worried about, as he’s probably been throwing a changeup for less than a year.
I loved the mechanics, and he was very athletic, but out of the stretch he can’t capture the same drive out of his lower half. With runners on, his velocity and control both took a noticeable drop. He threw lots of strikes, but lots of these strikes were over the heart of the plate.
All in all, I love what I saw from Kopech. His velocity was higher than expected and he pounded the zone. His command and off-speed will need to be next on his developmental plan, but so far Kopech is on a very encouraging path. –Ryan Parker
Franklin Barreto, SS, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton Ports)
Barreto has struggled in his first year in the Athletics organization, but based on what I saw from the shortstop Saturday—before the game and after—I don’t expect those struggles to continue much longer.
At the plate, Barreto has the same swing I saw when he was a member of the Blue Jays organization, one that is conducive to hitting line drives thanks to his quick wrists and very little wasted movement. The contact issues he’s had are due more to his aggressiveness at the plate, as he seems to recognize pitches well, fouling off two tough breaking balls in the game vs. Lake Elsinore. Power isn’t ever going to be a huge part of his game, but there’s enough strength to put the ball into the gap and “run into one,” so there’s at least a chance for double-digit homers in his peak seasons.
Defensively, Barreto looks like a shortstop, though I wouldn’t call it a guarantee that he stays there. The arm is plus with good carry and a clean action, and the hands and athleticism were certainly good enough to suggest middle infield. Scouts have told me that he has a tendency to rush things in the field and at the plate, but I haven’t seen these flaws in a handful of in-game looks.
The stat line isn’t pretty, but if I’m a fan and I’m not too worried. This is still the A’s best prospect, and while this isn’t a great system, he’s a pretty nice consolation prize. –Christopher Crawford
Donavan Tate, OF, San Diego Padres (Lake Elsinore Storm)
Those of you who follow the draft closely likely remember that Tate was the third pick of the 2009 draft, right after the Mariners selected Dustin Ackley and the Nationals selected some guy named Stephen Strasburg. While those two have—at much different levels—have had some major-league success, Tate still hasn’t advanced past high-A in his five years in the Padres system. It would be an upset if he made it past Double-A based on my look Saturday.
We’ll start with the positives: Tate is still a quality athlete, with above-average speed and enough athleticism to handle any of the three outfield spots. His arm is no longer the 95 mph cannon it was as a prep, but it’s certainly strong enough to handle right field. If Tate is going to become a big-leaguer, it’s going to be based on his defensive abilities and the plus speed on the base paths.
Unfortunately, the bat doesn’t come close to matching his athleticism, and it’s unlikely it ever becomes enough to justify putting him in a lineup. There’s serious timing issues here because of the length of the swing and moving parts, and while he’s certainly strong enough to have above-average—maybe even plus—power, that power is useless when you don’t recognize pitches or make consistent contact, and Tate does neither of these things.
The upshot is that Tate becomes a fifth outfielder who can run for catchers and/or pitchers, but expecting anything more than becoming a 25th man on a roster is asking too much at this point. At 24 years old, time is running out on him even becoming that. –Christopher Crawford
Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
Funkhouser’s stock has fluctuated as much as any pitcher in this year’s draft, and unfortunately Thursday was a prime example of why so many are conflicted about the right-hander’s future. The Cardinal ace gave up seven runs—five earned—over his five innings of work, allowing nine hits in the process while walking three and striking out two in a 7-2 loss to Clemson.
“The command is nowhere near where it needs to be,” an NL Central scout said. “Even when he is in the strike zone, he’s wild there, and good hitters are going to take advantage of that. Add in the lack of a third pitch, and you get a guy who probably profiles better in the bullpen. Nothing I saw today suggested the top of the rotation arm that so many told me I’d see.”
Funkhouser still could go in the first 15 picks, with teams like the White Sox, Rays, and Braves as possible landing spots. At this point though, it seems he more than likely lands outside of that range, and falls to a team like Detroit, Oakland, or Baltimore. –Christopher Crawford
Alex Bregman, SS, LSU
Unlike Funkhouser, Bregman’s stock has only risen in 2015—though still not quite as high as it was as a freshman in 2013 when he was considered by many to be the top player in the class. Though not spectacular, Bregman was once again solid in his three games at the SEC tournament this week, going 3-for-9 with a walk in games against Auburn, Arkansas, and Florida. For the year, Bregman now has put up a line of .330/.418/.573 with nine homers and 32 stolen bases for good measure.
“[Bregman] is the best player I’ve seen this year,” an NL crosschecker said. “The hit tool is plus, there’s a chance for average power, and he’s one of the smartest baserunners I’ve seen over the past few seasons. Everything about him screams top-of-the-order hitter to me, one who could be a 15 homer, 30 stolen-base guy.”
The question with Bregman has always been where he plays defensively, and while many I spoke with scouts who believe he’s going to end up at second base, the NL crosschecker disagreed.
“He’s a shortstop,” he said. “The hands are good enough, the arm strength is above average, and I’ve seen worse athletes than him stick at the position. Maybe long term he has to move to the other side of the diamond, but right now? That young man is a shortstop.”
Right now it would be a major upset if Bregman got past the Red Sox at six, and right now it wouldn’t be an upset if he went from any spot from two to seven, with Houston, Minnesota and Texas all showing major interest in the infielder. –Christopher Crawford
Sean Newcomb, LHP, Los Angeles Angels (High-A Inland Empire)
Newcomb was outstanding in his seven starts with Low-A Burlington (1.83 ERA, 45 strikeouts in 34.1 innings), and that success has carried over into High-A, posting a 0.84 ERA with 11 strikeouts in his first 10 2/3 innings in the pitching cesspool that is the California League.
The 17th pick of the 2014 draft out of Hartford, Newcomb has two plus pitches at his disposal, led by a 92-94 mph fastball that can get up to 97 and plays higher because of his ability to get downhill with it with some cut and sink as well. The curveball is another 60 offering that has slider-like break with depth, and when he’s at his best he can throw the pitch for strikes to get ahead as well.
What’s missing from making Newcomb a future ace is the third pitch and command, though both have made progress this spring. He’s still working on his arm speed on the change, but he has improved his feel for the offering and there’s some fade to it as well. The command—of course—is still a ways away, and he can lose his arm slot with some drag late in the delivery as well. Assuming he can make the necessary adjustments and start hitting his spots at even an average rate, Newcomb is a future no. 2, and maybe even an ace if the change can be anything more than a 50 offering. –Christopher Crawford
Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (Double-A Biloxi)
The Brewers system has been mocked of late—and justifiably so—but it has taken a step up in the past few years, and it does possess one of my favorite shortstop prospects in baseball in Orlando Arcia. Arcia has been particularly impressive this season, hitting .337/.392/.460 this spring with 15 extra-base hits (two homers) and five stolen bases to boot.
Arcia’s swing is very compact, and his bat-to-barrell skills are elite, as seen in the fact that he’s struck out just 12 times in 182 plate appearances. While not a swing (or build) that will ever hit for power, he is capable of hitting the ball with authority to all parts of the field because of his quick, strong wrists, and he’ll shoot the ball to any part of the park. He’s a plus runner, and that along with good instincts on the basepaths gives him the ability to put up big stolen-base totals.
Where Arcia really shines though, is with the glove. His hands are soft, the arm is plus, and again, the instincts in the field are plus. The only thing that would cause him to move off shortstop would be a loss of athleticism, but that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon.
Arcia continues to look like a regular at the shortstop position, and if the bat continues to progress, he could become a top-of-the-order hitter that could help the Milwaukee lineup in the middle of 2016. –Christopher Crawford
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