Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros (High-A Lancaster)
To say that Derek Fisher has taken the California League by storm since his debut last week would be a bit of an understatement; for those who missed it, he broke the league record with a 12 RBI game in his debut. The better news is that he actually looks the part of a potential impact-offensive prospect on the field.
He sports an impressively athletic frame with a strong base, high waist, and the shoulders to support a modest amount of additional muscle should the current experiment with him in centerfield eventually come to an end. In the box, he works from a quiet, upright stance, hands to his back ear and bat resting perpendicular just off his shoulder. His load is almost directly vertical at present, with a bob of his hands and modest leg kick launching his attack. The tight hands keep his swing path short into the zone, but it’s a steeper path and the bounce at the trigger point can lead to poor barrel delivery and the potential for ample swing-and-miss.
But when everything clicks with his timing, the bat speed and strength are both well above average and he can hit the ball very, very hard. His approach is mature. He works up the middle and to the left-center field gap effectively with a line-drive stroke while holding his mechanics together when he turns on the ball. I wouldn’t be surprised if the power can play to a true plus with the hit tool a step behind.
The speed is at least plus as well, as he registered a 4.06 and a 4.15 (on a broken bat) from the left side last Thursday with excellent pick-up. The raw foot speed doesn’t play all the way yet in the outfield, as he remains raw in his reactions off the bat in both center and left. He looked competent enough in tracking once under way in center, but didn’t show the kind of instinctual nose for the ball that I like to see from center fielders at this level. The initial returns suggest a future in left given an average-at-best arm, but the potential for a plus bat with average defense in the corner is very much on the table for Fisher. –Wilson Karaman
Jimmy Cordero, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A, New Hampshire)
After signing as a relatively old prospect out of the Dominican Republic, Cordero spent two seasons churning through the rookie leagues before posting solid number out of the Low-A Lansing bullpen in 2014, despite walking nearly six batters per nine innings. Starting the 2015 season in the Florida State League, Cordero breezed through High-A hitters and was quickly promoted to Double-A. When he entered the game last Thursday, Cordero showed a relatively easy delivery as he pounded 93-95 mph fastballs into the strike zone. As he began to warm up, he slowly pushed the velocity northward, reaching 96 and 97 mph before finally cutting loose a hellacious heater to work out of a self-induced jam. With his fastball reaching 99, 100, 101, and 102 mph at various times during his last two batters, Cordero offers the type of incredible velocity that immediately puts a player on the prospect map. What Cordero lacks at this point is the consistent ability to keep the ball in and around the strike zone, frequently missing above the letters, including at least two pitches that sailed directly to the backstop. If he can hone the control—not even command—of his heater, Cordero has the velocity and a solid slider with tilt that he could develop into a high-powered, seventh-inning arm. Even with minimal development from this point forward, the 23-year-old right-hander could still carve out a career as a middle reliever with top-end velocity. –Mark Anderson
Damion Carroll, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods)
Carroll's professional career hasn't been a smooth one thus far; he was drafted in 2012 and this is his first taste of full-season ball despite a big fastball and a curveball that shows promise. Carroll makes a fast impression when he pitches. Tall, high waisted, and armed with a funky delivery, Carroll showed a 95-97 mph fastball with mild movement, a curveball that flashed sharp, 11-5 movement and he threw one changeup that, while firm, showed moderate fade and deception.
The raw stuff is impressive, but Carroll's utility is undercut by his mechanics and complete lack of command or control. Carroll has a head whack, spine til,t and crossfire which all meld with an inconsistent release point to form a pitcher with big raw stuff and very little idea of where it's going. The fastball gives him a wide margin for error and organizations will always take a chance on him, hoping that he develops into an effectively wild reliever. The command doesn't seem like it will improve enough to earn a high-leverage job, and he seems like a guy who will wander from org to org as teams hope they can be the ones to unlock his potential. –Mauricio Rubio
Jacob Morris, RHP, Chicago White Sox (Low-A Kannapolis)
The lower levels of the minors are filled with interesting talent, usually of the highly projectable or toolsy variety. However, every once in a while you are surprised with a different type of interesting. Jacob Morris is a 24-year-old converted outfielder who is now on the mound attempting to revitalize a career in which over two years he was hitting .228/.336/.389 with 276 strikeouts in 716 plate appearances.
Morris pitched two innings in my viewing, displaying a 92-95 mph fastball with movement and life, and the Hagerstown hitters were having a difficult time barreling the offering. He also threw a hard slider at 80-83 mph that displayed potential to be a bat misser moving forward. As expected from a player in their first year of conversion to pitching, Morris lacks command and was erratic throughout the viewing. He was inconsistent with his slider release points and the fastball command has a ways to go, but there was a feel for pitching. The mechanics are exerted and have all the traits of a relief pitcher moving forward (spine tilt, hard drive, falls off), but Morris is a good story and another reason that going to a baseball game is always exciting. You never know what type of talent will show its face, even if it's from a 24-year-old in Low-A. –Tucker Blair
Chance Sisco, C, Baltimore Orioles (High-A Frederick)
Sisco's season has been tormented by injuries for the first few months, but I have finally been able to watch him behind the dish a few times. While the bat shows signs of encouragement moving forward, my concerns with the glove are still the forefront of discussion when it comes to the development of the Orioles' young catcher.
Sisco is an athletic player, albeit lacking the look or perception of what we would typically classify as athleticism (fast-twitch muscles, speed and agility, etc.). When watching his actions in warmups and outside of behind the plate, I see a prospect that obviously played other positions in the past, and the perception would be that this athleticism would correlate to behind the plate. Heading into my third year of watching Sisco, I have serious reservations towards whether this is the case. The footwork has not improved in any aspect, and he has routinely displayed issues in setting his body in front of balls in the dirt and pitches on the outside corners. Instead of moving his feet and body towards the ball, Sisco is lunging and stabbing. The footwork also hinders his throwing actions, as his pop times have been anywhere from 2.10-2.15 for me this season, which is surprising considering Sisco displays above-average arm strength. In general, the footwork has not improved in the long period of time I have watched him, and pitchers also seem to become frustrated on the mound when he’s catching them. Catching is certainly difficult, but there have been minimal improvements in my viewings.
I still like Sisco’s bat and think he has the barrel control and contact ability to be valuable at a multitude of positions, but the bat will really need to carry the profile if he cannot stick behind the plate and needs to play third base or left field. Second base would be an ideal slot, but at this point it would be optimistic that he has enough athleticism to play the position, although it is not unrealistic. –Tucker Blair
Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State
In what may have been his final start as an amateur, Harris was going up against the best lineup he’ll face all season in an Arkansas team that features fellow likely first-rounder Andrew Benintendi and a few other late draftables, and he had arguably his worst start of the season. The 6-foot-4 right-hander gave up eight runs on nine hits in his 5 2/3 innings of work, walking one and striking out three in the process.
“It certainly didn’t help [his stock],” an NL Central scout said. “He didn’t locate anything after the first inning, and all three of his secondary pitches were below-average offerings. Sometimes guys just have bad nights, and the overall track record is what’s going to matter more than this start, but it sure would have been nice to see him dominate and make you feel a little better about him coming into the draft on Monday.”
There’s still a chance Harris goes in the top 10 based on the body of work, but it also could drop Harris into the bottom of the first round where teams like Detroit, Kansas City, and Oakland are sure to have some interest. –Christopher Crawford
Christian Arroyo, SS, San Francisco Giants (High-A San Jose)
Arroyo was a surprise first-round selection in the 2013 draft, but he’s performed adequately in his time in the Giants system, and his first two weeks in the California League have been successful ones (.844 OPS through Sunday). While he didn’t have much success for me (0-for-4 against High Desert), I did see reasons to believe that success can continue into a big-league role someday.
At the plate, Arroyo has added some length and loft to his swing, and that along with his added strength has increased the power tool a good grade, and it wouldn’t be crazy for him to have solid-average power when all is said and done. That length has added some swing-and-miss though (as seen in his 17 strikeouts in 14 games this year), and though the hand-eye coordination is impressive, it does drop the hit tool. It’s probably a fair trade off, though from a shortstop, a personal preference is the hit tool over the pop.
Despite possessing only fringe-average speed, Arroyo has a chance to stick at shortstop in at least the short-to-medium term, as his instincts in the field are excellent, with above-average hands and a borderline plus arm. A loss of athleticism could see him move either to his left or right, with second base the more likely landing spot.
It’s not your typical first-round pick out of high-school upside, but it isn’t out of the question that Arroyo becomes a starter at the big-league level, and his floor of utility infielder with pop is not without its charm. –Christopher Crawford
Austin Slater, 2B, San Francisco Giants (High-A San Jose)
I thought Slater was a third-round talent coming out of Stanford in last year’s draft, but for whatever reason(s, the former Cardinal standout slid into the eighth round. It was the loss for those who passed on his talents and the Giants gain—though I guess San Francisco did pass on him seven times, so maybe that’s not a great analogy.
There are still some elements of the “Stanford swing” in Slater, as the right-handed hitter looks to drive the ball the other way and the swing is geared towards contact. I saw him pull the ball twice though on Friday on pitches middle-in, and with above-average bat speed and solid pitch-recognition skills, he should have at least an average hit tool, maybe even solid average. There’s some untapped power potential here, and if the Giants can get him to use his lower half and keep the hands in, he might just be able to tap into it.
There’s still some question as to where Slater is going to play defensively, though he certainly looked the part of a second baseman this weekend. The speed is above average and he charged the ball well, though there was some nitpicky footwork things that’ll need to be improved, which isn’t surprising for someone who is still learning the position. He showed at Stanford that he can handle either corner-outfield position, so that versatility could prove valuable as he progresses through the system. The upside isn’t elite, but Slater has a great chance to reach San Francisco because of said versatility and average offensive tools. –Christopher Crawford
Thompson’s been using a two-seam fastball he can work between 89-92-plus mph as his primary fastball, turning to a harder four-seamer when he needs a strike. The work he’s done on the two-seam shows, as it has good life and he’s unafraid to attack hitters with it. His best pitch, a slider that some put a 70 grade on last year, has been firmed up, sitting 83-86, and has less horizontal sweep than last season, but bites in on hitters, leaving them unbalanced. Thompson’s added the sweep he took from his slider to the curve, giving him a mid-to-high-70s pitch he can manipulate the depth on. His changeup, while still his least effective pitch, has also shown improvement from last season and usually sits in the low 80s.
When Thompson can command at least three of these pitches, he’s near-unhittable at the Double-A level. When he can’t, he’s extremely hittable, and he’s had outings of 2/3 of an inning (seven runs, two strikeouts) and eight innings (one run, nine strikeouts) so far this year, demonstrating the volatility of his ability. If Thompson can demonstrate some consistency, he could make the jump to Triple-A to test his stuff there. –Kate Morrison
Jose LeClerc, RHP, Texas Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
It’s not out of the ordinary that young starting pitchers who try to rely on the strikeout instead of inviting contact early in the count struggle with high pitch counts. Often you will see a starting pitcher early in his development hit the 90-plus pitch count around the fourth or fifth innings of a game. But there is usually the proverbial light bulb that goes off and the pitcher adjusts, learning to become economical with his pitches and realize that contact early can extend their outings into the latter innings of a game.
In LeClerc’s case, he’s still appears to be in the dark, searching for that light swithc. It seems that the Rangers are trying to extend LeClerc out to develop his repertoire, which in his case has a couple plus pitches in his fastball and changeup. His other pitch, a curveball, is an average pitch that he telegraphs a bit by slowing his motion down. But what LeClerc lacks right now is ability to command all three pitches well and attack the zone. He has failed to last more than six innings in any game (which he only reached once in 10 starts) and is often out of the game after the fourth inning due to high pitch counts. He has walked 31 in 40 innings thus far and shows no sign of being able to make an adjustment. With LeClerc’s fastball (91-94 mph), a hybrid changeup that cuts, and a show-me curveball, he looks more of late-inning bullpen guy than a starter. Also, he is max effort on the mound and seems to fade fast, usually around the fourth. I’d like to see him stripped down to focus on fastball and change locations as a reliever, and throw in the curveball as a wrinkle here and there. He is much more suited for the pen than as a starter and would probably gain a couple mph in the process if they made that move.
The Rangers have a history of taking arms like LeClerc and experimenting with the starting pitcher role i.e. Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz, Robbie Ross, etc. without too much success. While young, if he hasn’t made the adjustment (or even appear to try and do so), then the Rangers should cut bait with the starter project and put him in the pen where he belongs. LeClerc has a lot of talent and projectability, but for me a starting pitcher is not in his makeup. I believe you could get a lot more quality appearances out of him from the pen and utilize his talents much more as a reliever. –Colin Young
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