Jose Peraza, 2B/CF, Atlanta Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett Braves)
That little "CF" next to Peraza's name is interesting, isn't it? The Braves are aiming to add defensive versatility to Peraza's resume and let the chips fall as they may. He played his first career game in center field Wednesday, then played consecutive games there Friday and Saturday. This comes after the Braves worked him in center during spring camp.
Peraza looked the part of an inexperienced center fielder. His reads coming in were particularly shaky, and he second-guessed a couple reads by hesitating on the route. His first attempt Friday was actually very solid as he ranged to his right in the gap with a good route, and he showed solid range based on his excellent speed. He also showed instincts by rounding on a fly-ball route to get momentum toward third base on a throw. The arm will play well in center with a cleaner arm path and better footwork. Peraza has instincts and athleticism on his side, and I think repetition and experience will help him become serviceable at the position. It's going to take a lot more work, though, which is to be expected.
Peraza's offensive profile hasn't changed at a higher level. He barrels it often enough for a potentially above-average hit tool based on line drives to all fields, but it's sometimes hindered by an ultra-aggressive approach. He tends to lunge and punch at velo on the outer half, and he offers at spin away a little too often. He's also noticeably over-aggressive in pressure situations, such as whiffing with a runner on third by expanding the zone. He clocked 4.1 to first to maintain his well-known plus-plus speed, which could add some hits. Overall, my latest look didn't change my view that he's potentially a solid-average regular. –David Lee
Manny Banuelos, LHP, Atlanta Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett Braves)
Banuelos told me Saturday that his feel is getting back to where it was pre-elbow surgery, and he repeated the word "confident" numerous times to emphasize his confidence is back on the mound. The last thing to get back, according to Banuelos, is his velocity. He's working between starts to gain strength, but whether the fastball velocity will return remains to be seen. Right now, he's not that left-handed fireballer reaching back for mid-90s like he was in the Yankees system, but he's working within himself to get outs.
Banuelos was 88-92 on Thursday, staying mostly around 89-90. The fastball comes pretty straight and relies on spotting the corners for weak contact. He's capable of working up with two strikes to change eye levels at 91-92, and he shows pitchability by sequencing pretty well. His command was inconsistent by working too far off the plate or catching too much plate at times, and that goes back to what has been an inconsistent command profile in the past.
He's back to throwing his curveball instead of his cut-slider hybrid that he implemented under the Yankees' watch in 2014. The curve's depth was inconsistent but flashed excellent, and he went to it with more confidence than in the past. He mixed the curve and changeup fairly evenly, and both rated similarly. He also mixed in a few cut-sliders late in the outing as a fourth look, but it appeared fringy. Banuelos doesn't have a standout pitch as long as his fastball is around 90, but he did well to get the most out of it and spotted enough to avoid trouble. The command and control will continue to be iffy at times, but I saw enough in my look to project a back-end starter for the Braves. –David Lee
Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians (High-A Lynchburg)
The Frederick Keys will be happy to see CFrazier leave town after this week, considering he has compiled 17 hits and four home runs in 14 games this season against the club. On Saturday, Frazier touched up the Keys with two homers, implementing his premium bat speed and double-plus raw power.
Frazier displayed many tools I look for when evaluating a hitter. As mentioned above, the bat speed and raw power are some of the best in the minors, allowing for him to rocket balls when he barrels them. Frazier displays an aggressive approach in the field, and I think he has shown enough athleticism and speed to play at least average in center field; I clocked him 4.25 down the line this weekend. His first bomb of the evening left the park via the Frederick wind tunnel in left-center, as he barreled up on a first pitch fastball from Luis Gonzalez. His ability to burst his hands through the zone is impressive, and the raw power takes care of the rest. His second homer came on an inside fastball where he pulled his hands in and whipped the barrel through the zone again, hitting a no doubter over the left-field fence. Once again, an impressive display of bat speed, power, and barrel control.
The toolsy outfielder did display a few concerns, showing questionable recognition of spin and flailing at a few pitches that he needs to be more selective on. His aggression also put him into poor counts at times, but these are areas where he can become stronger by development and natural progression as a hitter. Frazier does have a slight hitch, but the bat speed and barrel control help to subsidize this timing mechanism. His bottom half was in sync more than when I saw him in spring training, which is a positive development. Overall, this was an impressive showing for the former first-round selection, although there are still slight concerns with the hit tool moving forward. –Tucker Blair
Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt
You could argue that Fulmer has had the best season of any pitcher in college baseball (1.92 ERA, 147 strikeouts in 107 innings over the 2015 campaign), and he was once again dominant on Friday against Oral Roberts.
Fulmer gave up just one run on four hits over seven innings against ORU, walking three and striking out 11 in the process. The Commodore ace once again showed a 92-95 mph fastball that touches 97 with as much life as any hurler in the class. He’ll also show two quality off-speed pitches, led by a plus curveball that has hard, downward bite, with the change being more of an average offering that keeps hitters honest with some deception from Fulmer’s arm speed.
There’s no questioning Fulmer’s stuff, but there are some who worry about whether or not the right-hander will end up in a big-league rotation. His delivery has been “toned down” over the past year, but it still involves a great deal of moving parts, and those moving parts are going a mile a minute with a great deal of effort in the arm action as well. Despite the less-than-ideal delivery Fulmer does generally throw strikes and projects to have average command, but the long-term viability is still very much in question.
Ryan McMahon, 3B, Colorado Rockies (High-A Modesto)
Before Friday it had been nearly three years since I last saw McMahon in person at the 2012 National High School Invitational in Cary, North Carolina, and I came away very impressed at just how much he’s improved in those two and a half years. The former Mater Dei baseball and football star was the best player on the field on Friday night against Rancho Cucamonga, which is saying something when you consider that Raimel Tapia was standing just a couple hundred feet from him.
At the plate, McMahon has an aesthetically pleasing swing, one that has very little wasted movement and gets through the zone with above-average bat speed. He’s still filling out his frame, but with strong wrists and some natural loft, it’s easy to project both the hit and power tool to be above average, maybe even plus. The big improvement though has been in his approach, as the left-handed hitting third baseman has clearly improved his pitch-recognition ability and followed pitches into the zone.
McMahon made a throwing error on Friday night, but he showed me everything I’d be looking for in a third baseman of the future. His arm strength is plus—maybe plus-plus—with excellent carry, soft hands, and outstanding instincts in the field.
It was just one look, but I was extremely impressed with what I saw on Friday night, and with the unfortunate injury news regarding David Dahl, I would probably say McMahon is the best position prospect in the Colorado system. –Christopher Crawford
Zach Eflin, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (Double-A Reading)
There are times when writing up a player that we’ll say he “looks the part,” and after catching Eflin this past week, that description couldn’t be more appropriate. Standing 6-foot-4 and listed at 200 pounds, the physical aspect to this right-hander certainly caught my eye. The frame is well-filled out, with weight distributed nicely through both the upper and lower halves, making it clear that this is a body that can stand up to the rigors of the position over the long season. There’s athleticism as well. Eflin bounced fluidly off the mound to field his position, and flashed the type of ease in his delivery that I love to see before putting the proverbial check mark in the box that starting long-term is possible.
While the physical aspect of this 21-year-old’s overall package clearly stands out, the arsenal presently doesn’t “look the part,” and is still in the polishing stages. There’s solid arm-side movement to Eflin’s 89-92 mph fastball, but the command graded as below-average for me, frequently catching a lot of white and mostly sitting in the middle of the plate. It’s not a heater that I ever see having the ability to overpower hitters, but it will be greatly enhanced by being consistently executed on both corners and in the lower tier of the strike zone more often.
Neither the righty’s changeup nor slider were particularly sharp, with the latter vertically spinning to the plate at 85-88 mph and lacking late bite to get bats started. I did like the feel shown for the changeup, though the lack of fastball execution left it out to dry in terms of really fooling any hitters in this instance. The ingredients are here for each offering to take a step forward, especially the slider if Eflin can loosen up further with his wrist when delivering it to create more two plane break. I do have some concerns about the lack of a bat-misser in this arsenal, but can see a no. 4 or no. 5 starter emerging with progress forward reeling in the fastball and more maturity in grasping the importance of sequencing. –Chris Mellen
John Richy, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes)
The Dodgers’ third-round pick last summer, Richy is a well-proportioned 6-foot-4, 215 pounder with a solid-average arsenal and command to match. Last Thursday he spun himself a beautiful Maddux against a prospect-laden Modesto lineup, hurling the first complete game shutout of the California League season on just 82 pitches.
His motion is up-tempo and geared towards generating extension and plane with an aggressive push off his back foot that feeds a long stride. There’s some effort to the delivery: the lower half fires quickly, and he can struggle to corral his momentum into a stable landing. The head will whack when he gets too firm with his plant foot, and he’ll overextend on other pitches and spin out. But the arm action is clean and relatively quick, and at least in this start he managed to hold his release point well despite the inconsistencies on the back end.
Richy’s three-pitch mix is geared primarily around a heavy two-seamer at 89-91 with life and late sink. He showed an advanced ability to command the pitch down in the zone in this start, and it’s a tough ball to lift when he keeps it around the knees. His curveball at 81-83 flashed as a solid-average compliment with nice tilt and horizontal jump. The change is firm at 84-85, but the arm speed is right and the pitch shows nice tumbling action and a slight fade. He showed feel to get on top of it and work it consistently below the zone, generating a handful of whiffs from over-aggressive Modesto hitters.
The overall package doesn’t project as that of an impact starter, but the back end of a major-league rotation is certainly in play. There are a lot of potential 5s in the profile to back up an above-average primary weapon, and his polish should force a date with high-minors hitters in relatively short order. –Wilson Karaman
Jordan Patterson, RF, Colorado Rockies (High-A Modesto Nuts)
Patterson has done a whole lot of hitting since signing as the Rockies’ fourth-rounder in 2013. His offensive output has ballooned appropriately thus far in the California League to the tune of a .340/.398/.633 line that includes the second-most doubles in the league despite an early-season DL stint. Cartoonish slash line aside, there’s some legitimate reason for intrigue here. The 23-year-old is a big dude at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, pretty well filled-out, and age-appropriate for the level. His legs are extremely long to a high waist, and he shows impressive athleticism and grace in movement for his size, with surprising first-step quickness and pick-up in the outfield. The running speed is average, maybe a tick above at present, and while I haven’t seen him air one out yet there’s definitely arm strength in abundance.
His work in the batter’s box is his calling card, and there’s a lot to like. He put on an impressive display in batting practice last Thursday, working line drives gap to gap in a disciplined session before uncorking plus raw power to the pull side in his final rounds. He works off a wide base with quiet hands and a short load, and the swing is relatively quick and compact in spite of the size. His bat speed is easily above average and works with good plane, though he occasionally loses leverage with a weak front foot plant.
The biggest limiting factor at present is an extremely aggressive in-zone approach and some trouble with off-speed recognition. Patterson will get after most any fastball he sees right now, including ones in parts of the zone he’d be better served letting pass. The top half can start early in his weight transfer, and when it does he’ll lose timing between his shoulders and hips, particularly against pitches with a wrinkle. That cuts off his power and limits his ability to make in-swing adjustments, and he’ll need to improve in those areas as he progresses in order to get his hit tool playing to the above-average level his BP session and bat-to-ball suggest he’s capable of.
I’m not sure the raw ever plays in full, even in a best-case scenario, and there’s a road to hoe between his present and future hit tools. But a bat with matching 55 hit and playable power potential makes for an interesting offensive prospect, especially when he’s in Colorado’s system. –Wilson Karaman
Forrest Snow, RHP, Seattle Mariners (Triple-A Tacoma)
It’s been over three years since Kevin Goldstein listed Forrest Snow as the Mariners 20th best prospect, a volatile period for the former 36th-round pick. With Arizona Fall League experience on his resume and enhanced expectations for the first time in his career, Snow bombed in Triple-A in 2012, and then had another setback at the end of 2013, when he tested positive for a drug of abuse and was suspended for 50 games.
Through it all, Snow retained his happy-go-lucky persona, and the stuff that drew praise from evaluators remains intact today. The tall right-hander deliberately pitches with a slow, controlled delivery designed to help him hit spots. For the most part, Snow’s motion works, as he’s able to locate his low-90s fastball all over the strike zone. He’s comfortable elevating in search of a whiff, and he generally does a good job of staying out of the middle of the plate. He also throws a fading changeup, a cutter geared for inciting weak contact, and a get-me-over curve that he judicially uses to steal a strike. It’s not an impact arsenal, and there are aspects of his game that could use refinement—he’s very slow to the plate and I’d like to see him tighten his curve, if he can—but the Seattle native has enough in the tank to help the big-league club as a long man and middle reliever. Considering where he was drafted, it’s a big developmental win for the organization. –Brendan Gawlowski
Artie Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Double-A Springfield)
Good things can come in small packages, even when that package is a professional baseball player. In this case it is Reyes, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound, right-handed pitcher for the Springfield Cardinals in St. Louis’ farm system. A 40th-round draft pick out of Gonzaga in 2013, Reyes has been quite consistent with his performances in 2013 and 2014 and seems to be on the same path this year with Springfield after starting in West Palm Beach (Florida State League, High-A) to begin the year. Currently 1-2 with a 2.62 ERA in 24 innings pitched at Double-A, Reyes is sticking to standard form with his level jump.
Possessing nothing flashy or electric, Reyes is the model of maxing out his physical abilities and supplementing with pitching know how. He sits at 89-92 mph with his four-seam fastball that he can command well in the zone and will throw in a nice slight cutter for good measure at 90-91. He will flash 94 mph when needed and has great presence of mind to keep it in his back pocket and break it out as the situation dictates. His changeup is a nice complement to the fastball with about an 8-10 mph drop with some good depth and bite at the end. He also throws a nice, tight slider at 83 mph with the ability to command on and off the plate.
Mechanically, Reyes is very sound and compact, creating a very repeatable delivery and release point. His tempo and rhythm is something to be admired, and with runners on he maintains the same pace without being frazzled from the stretch. In his last start against Frisco, Reyes started off a bit slow leaving pitches out over the plate and belt high. The initial three innings he looked as though he was feeling out the lineup or looking for his feel with his pitches. However, after a conversation with his pitching coach, Reyes came out for the fourth like a bull in a China Shop. Reyes started pounding the zone forcefully with fastball and slider combos with depth and bite, leaving the Frisco hitters off balance. It was an impressive turnaround from the previous three innings as if his confidence had kicked in.
I really enjoyed watching Reyes pitch, especially due to the fact that he’s a 40th-rounder. He has a maturity and polish about him that most top ten-round pitchers lack. You can visualize his mental capacity and physical tools translating to the next level as his confidence builds and he works down in the zone. If there is any indication that he can keep doing what he’s doing, then look no further than his track record, which is the model of consistency and great results. –Colin Young
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