Rob Kaminsky, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals (High-A Palm Beach)
The 2013 first-round pick has moved fairly quickly, and is now competing as a 20-year-old in the Florida State League, but despite his rapidity, there's not a ton of development left in his game. His small frame—he’s listed at 5-foot-11—doesn't allow for a significant amount of filling out, likely limiting his fastball to the high 80s/low 90s rendition he's currently offering. He has good control, but his command within the zone wavers, thanks to some jerkiness in his delivery. His curveball is supposed to be his calling card, but the pitch lacks depth. His three-quarters release point coupled with his lack of height eliminates the downward plane on both pitches. He offers a changeup that has potential and replicates his fastball arm speed on it effectively, but it doesn't currently have enough movement to miss bats consistently.
Kaminsky is young and competing well at a relatively high level for his age, but there's just not a ton of room for growth. He'll need the full development of his breaking ball to clear his likely landing spot in the back of a major-league rotation. –Jeff Moore
Carlos Tocci, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (Low-A Lakewood)
Heading into his third year in the SALLY, it seems as if the buzz on the wiry-framed Venezuelan has begun to dwindle. While it is easy to pick on a player repeating a league twice, it's also important to conceptualize the difficulties of a player slotted to a full-season league at the ages of 17 and 18. Now in his age-19 season, Tocci is beginning to develop into the player many perceived. This weekend, Tocci displayed everything that I want in a potential sparkplug type of prospect.
Tocci generates plus bat speed with loose wrists and a quick barrel through the zone. His hands are quiet and he stays balanced at the plate. There is a little more juice in the bat than his wiry frame suggests, and he displayed power to the gaps during batting practice. I still think Tocci has room to fill into his frame, even if he is naturally always going to be the slim type. During the series against Hagerstown, Tocci displayed barrel control and sprayed the ball all over the field. Defensively, Tocci shined in center field, displaying a strong first step along with efficient reactions and reads. He also made a full-sprint dive to catch a ball in the gap; one of the best plays I have seen in the first half of this minor-league season. Overall, I am impressed with Tocci. He has the foundations of a first-division center fielder, with plus defense and speed, and the potential for an average hit tool. As someone who has yet to turn 20, it may be time to rekindle the prospect flame that many seem to have let wane. –Tucker Blair
Aderlin Rodriguez, 1B, New York Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
It is rare to find a player in the minors who displays an elite tool. You'll run into a player with elite speed or a tremendous arm every once in a while, but usually it is rare to find a player with elite power such as Rodriguez displayed this past week.
Rodriguez has a giant's frame, with long legs and a sturdy upper half. While he has played third base in the past, Rodriguez is primarily a first baseman at this point. He lacks the range and athleticism to play anywhere else. At the plate, Rodriguez has minimal barrel skills, lacks any approach, and has a gaping hole in his swing due to elongation, a hitch, and an uppercut. He cannot recognize spin and is a poor hitter in general. However, his elite raw power is some of the best in the minors, and makes him an intriguing player. This week, he launched a 95-mph fastball from rehabbing Kevin Gausman about 450 feet, displaying that brute strength. While the swing takes long to get going, he does have plus bat speed once it is whipping through the zone. This allows for his already strong swing to generate unbelievable force when he connects with a pitch. Unfortunately, this is all I envision out of Rodriguez, as he lacks the other tools necessary for carving out a major-league career. –Tucker Blair
Brian Johnson, LHP, Boston Red Sox (Triple-A Pawtucket)
Makeup is one of those interesting intangibles that takes a substantial amount of study time on a player to get a good read on. Very early in Johnson’s professional career, a screaming line drive back up the box struck him in the face, leaving the left-hander with a broken cheekbone and also created some initial hesitation within the industry on how exactly he was going to bounce back mentally. Not only did the now 24-year-old return to the hill to begin the following year, but his development has steadily progressed during each season since the injury, and the pitcher now sits on the cusp of getting a chance in The Show.
While Johnson’s ability to mentally shake off the horrific injury is a key example for why I put his makeup towards the top of the charts, it isn’t the only ingredient or factor for why I believe the lefty will maximize every ounce of his talent, and likely outkick what the perception of that talent is. This is a student of the game. One who is constantly engaged in the game on the days he isn’t on the mound, interacts very well with his teammates upon each observation, and demonstrates a strong cerebral understanding in the arts of performing his craft. Most importantly, that understanding translates in the form of execution when Johnson is out on the mound, and he typically looks extremely composed regardless of the situation he is facing.
Now, the high makeup scores aren’t going to suddenly elevate Johnson’s stuff, which is a tick better-than-average across the board. There are limitations here. The pitcher will need to live consistently in the lower tier of the strike zone and on the corners, especially with his fastball, and the path to success resides in constantly being very mindful of his sequencing. A fine line exists, but one I fully believe Johnson will be able to navigate into a fruitful career as a back-of-the-rotation starter. –Chris Mellen
J.D. Davis, 3B, Houston Astros (High-A Lancaster)
Davis wasn’t anywhere close to the most “famous” prospect to come out of the Astros 2014 draft class, but with apologies to Derek Fisher and A.J. Reed, there’s a chance that he ends up the best player—of those who signed, anyway. The former Oregon State infielder’s calling-card is his power from the right side, as his swing generates tremendous leverage with a natural tilt that allowed him to hit some tape-measure shots to the pull side in BP. He didn’t show it on Friday, but his arms are certainly long enough with enough balance to suggest he can take the ball out to opposite field as well.
The questions with Davis are where exactly he ends up on the diamond, and if he can hit enough to justify playing anywhere but third base. The first part is more complicated; while the ball does jump off of Davis’ bat, the swing is very long and there’s loads of swing and miss here, so the hit tool is closer to 40 than a 50—projection-wise, anyway. Defensively, Davis certainly has the arm for the hot corner—he was a mid-90s hurler at OSU—but the foot speed and range looked below average, so first base isn’t out of the question. If the power tool reaches 65, you can justify playing him at the not-so-hot corner, but it severely limits the upside. –Christopher Crawford
Auston Bousfield, OF, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
The Padres took Bousfield in the fifth round of last year’s draft without much fanfare, but he was impressive in his short-season debut, and he’s continued to impress in 2015. The former Ole Miss outfielder doesn’t have great bat speed or a build that gives him any chance to hit for big power, but he’s a smart hitter and the swing plane should allow him to hit the ball to all parts of the field. He’s also an above-average runner who appeared to read pitchers well—and he’s been successful on 15 of 17 stolen base attempts—so there’s some reason to believe he might be able to hit on top of a lineup someday.
Bousfield also looks the part in centerfield, as his 55 speed and solid routes give him a chance to stay at the position, though a loss of speed would force him to move to left as the arm strength is below average. If everything breaks right, there’s a chance he ends up a starting center fielder, with useful fourth outfielder a more realistic landing spot. –Christopher Crawford
Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
We all know the saying “patience is a virtue,” but, now it seems that Williams is starting to understand it as well. The speedy outfielder is starting to mature with his plate discipline in his second go around in Frisco. So far this year he’s amassed 24 walks in 264 plate appearances (9.1 percent). That might not jump out at you as anything impressive or out of the ordinary, but for Williams it is exceptional. As BP’s own Jeff Moore said in a recent Minor League Update, “He’s still not Rickey Henderson…,” so you get the picture.
But again, this is impressive for Williams, as he’s already surpassed previous year walk totals in half of his plate appearances. His maturation at the plate is a great sign moving forward to accompany his quality bat. I would like to see him start taking advantage of those walks and turning them into stolen bases. We know he has the speed, with average times between 4.0 and 4.2 to first base and a 3.9 thrown in for good measure, but bringing it all together—the ability to hit for average, plate discipline, power numbers, and stolen-base capability—could fast track him up the ladder. His stolen-base numbers don’t correlate to his speed yet, but as I learned from Juan Pierre, it’s all technique and attitude. It seems that Williams has come into his own with his eye at the plate, and hopefully he can mature into a quality base stealer to complete the package. –Colin Young
Jeff Brigham, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
The Dodgers’ fourth-rounder of a year ago, Brigham has been greeted rudely by California League bats since his promotion in April. But last Friday night he put together his best start of the season, impressing from start to finish with premium velocity and a promising slide piece. Listed at 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds, Brigham’s borderline-for-a-starter size plays down on account of sloped shoulders and a bit of a hunch. Judging by Rancho’s staff, the Dodgers these days are placing a developmental premium on long strides and extension, and Brigham’s build requires some effort to generate his length.
He gets there, though, and the downhill velocity he generates is impressive. He worked a four-seamer through and above the zone in the mid-90s, occasionally reaching 97-98 and twice popping 99. He doesn’t command the pitch with precision, but it moves well and he generated a half dozen in-zone whiffs with the pitch, on top of several more up and out of the zone. The anchor of his arsenal is a two-seamer that sat 92-94 with heavy sink and late life. It’s an easy plus pitch, maybe more if he can find consistent command with it, and it yielded a ton of groundball contact in this start. He also flashed an above-average to plus slider with good tilt and late darting action down in the zone at 81-84 that showed well off his fastball plane.
Development of consistent command will be the big make or break for Brigham (#analysis!). His motion features a hitch in his initial rock and a slow, measured leg kick, a la Dan Haren, that creates some timing issues in his momentum generation. He showed the “good” kind of command inconsistency in this start; his shoulders got quick on his slow lower-half draw, and his plus arm speed led to balls down to the glove side when he missed. I can see ample potential for the opposite scenario, however, where he leaves the upper half behind with an unbalanced transfer and his pitches drift up in the zone.
He held the radar gun well out of the stretch, and he actually wore the more compact motion sans leg kick pretty well. I think he’s best suited in a relief role given the size, arsenal, and mechanical issues, but the fastball-slider combo is legit, and he has the tool kit to become an asset in a major-league bullpen if the command and control progress to even average. –Wilson Karaman
Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton Ports)
The A’s popped Chapman 25th overall last summer after a successful two-way career at Cal State-Fullerton. You can immediately see the vestiges of Chapman’s pitching career when you watch him take infield; the arm is one of the best I’ve ever seen at third, a double-plus (or better) weapon with minimal tailing action and strong accuracy. Most impressively, he has enough athleticism to harness that elite velocity on the move from different throwing angles. The rest of his defensive game is a work in progress, however. He showed some chop in his first step and the hands aren’t great. There’s some stiffness in his receiving actions when he fields balls, and he’ll stab a bit on the backhand. Given the athleticism, he should be able to work himself up into average range with proper dedication, but he doesn’t present as a natural fielder.
In addition to the arm, he has one more standout tool, and that’s his raw power. He starts from a wide base, bat perpendicular and relatively quiet, before a modest rock into his load. His front foot juts out quickly and significantly while he coils, creating fairly extreme separation to both positive and negative ends. On the plus side, the torque is impressive, and he generates a leveraged swing with above-average to plus bat speed through the zone. He has the kind of BP power where his teammates stop what they’re doing to watch his last couple rounds in the cage; it’s not the Joey Gallo show, but it’s 65-grade raw.
On the not-as-fun side, the aggressive stride and extreme separation gets him committed to his front side early and really limits his ability to adjust once he’s started his swing progression. His back shoulder and right arm will wander south a bit on some swings as well, and there’s a hole at the top of the zone where he can be beaten by good velocity. I’m not sure the hit tool has even average projection, and that has the potential to really cripple his in-game power at the higher levels. But if he can make some mechanical tweaks to unlock the power, there’s potential for a lot of thunder in his bat. –Wilson Karaman
Leon Landry, CF, Seattle Mariners (Triple-A Tacoma)
Landry earned his first promotion to Triple-A earlier this season, and the LSU product has raked since arriving in Tacoma. In his first 23 games, he’s hit .308/.397/.523 with more walks than strikeouts and, surprisingly, four home runs. The pop is a mirage: his short, level stroke isn’t conducive to more than 40 power down the line, and three of his four homers were line drives over a short wall on poorly located off-speed pitches. He’s done a better job of working deep into the count than in previous years, however, and in my viewings, he’s shown a good feel for the strike zone. He’s also turned himself into more of a pull hitter. A look at Landry’s spray chart from this season and last demonstrates that he’s turning on the ball much more often in 2015 than he has in the past. It’s working for him, and it’s possible that that his new approach is related to his much-improved plate discipline.
As a defender, Landry has above-average speed and good instincts in center. He has more than enough range to play the position successfully at the big-league level, though his arm is a bit below par. He has experience playing all three positions, and if he gets called up soon, he’ll provide an immediate boost to Seattle’s poor outfield defense. He won’t turn into more than a fourth outfielder, but the 25-year-old has taken a step forward this year, and it’s a welcome development for an organization that hasn’t had much go right in 2015. –Brendan Gawlowski
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