Lewis Brinson, CF, Texas Rangers (High-A High Desert)
The former first-rounder has had an inconsistent career to date, and the full gamut was on display last week at Rancho Cucamonga. Brinson’s athleticism is top shelf, and he’s the type of player who jumps out immediately as The Guy to watch on the field at all times. The frame is long and lean, built around an extremely high waist and wiry muscle in the lower half. He runs like a gazelle, with long, efficient strides and a supremely coordinated, graceful glide. The raw foot speed is a 65, and he presented as an outstanding track and close defender in center. That alone puts him on a path to the big leagues.
The shape of that path will depend an awful lot on his offense, and that projection remains very much a work in progress. The stance is tall with high, quiet hands, and the raw strength and bat speed both present as plus. His angle into the zone is steep and his lower half showed some inconsistency, however. His BP session was unremarkable, and he struggled to maintain his center of gravity in-game, collapsing on his back side and losing his shoulder-hip alignment on several swings. He repeatedly expanded the zone down against velocity and off-speed stuff alike in this look. On the flipside, he also showed some notable discipline along the black, and when his rhythm was right he delivered the barrel smoothly and directly to the point of contact.
It remains very much a Jekyll and Hyde offensive package at present, and he’s going to continue to be a slower-burn prospect throughout his climb. I didn’t come away from this look optimistic about his chances of developing even an average hit tool, but there’s an awful lot of raw material here for a useful major leaguer. –Wilson Karaman
Cody Bellinger, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
A fourth-round draft pick in 2013, Bellinger signed for an over-slot $700,000 as a projectable 6-foot-4, 180-pound first baseman with big-league bloodlines. There’s a lot of pressure of high-school bats that are already at first base, and while Bellinger produced well in a return to Rookie ball in 2014, the over-the-fence power had yet to manifest. The Dodgers jumped him to High-A, and Bellinger seems to have found the California League quite amenable, as he’s already pumped out 12 home runs, four times his career total to this point. Bellinger offers an advanced approach at the plate, though he’s seen his strikeouts jump along with his power output.
Even with the benefit of having his bat rise to the occasion thus far, Bellinger has taken some pressure off his overall profile by taking to the outfield. While first base/outfield hybrids aren’t all that rare, usually the player is a corner outfielder. Bellinger has been playing centerfield in Rancho Cucamonga, and some scouts believe he has the athleticism to stay there, at least in the short term. There are still concerns as to whether his power ever exceeds “plus,” but if he can avoid the infield dirt, it might not have to for him to be a second-division player. –Craig Goldstein
Jake Cronenworth, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays (Short-Season Hudson Valley)
The former Michigan Wolverine excelled on the mound and at the plate, but the Rays have decided to move him to second base full time for the beginning of his professional career. While Cronenworth is liked as a reliever by many scouts, and can touch 93-94 mph, the Rays clearly like the swing he displays as a second baseman.
Cronenworth's swing does not have a ton of force, with fringe raw power at best. He uses a leg kick and moderate load to generate some pop off the bat, and he's able to do this while keeping his arms and upper half quiet. Cronenworth has barrel control and average bat speed, and I do think he will hit his way to Double-A. I don't see a player who will have a carrying tool as a second baseman, and ultimately this hinders the overall profile moving forward. At the very least, the Rays have a utility profile that can play a few positions and even jump on the mound eventually if that's a path they decide to venture down again. –Tucker Blair
Jefry Rodriguez, SP, Washington Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown)
After multiple viewings of Rodriguez this season, he remains the biggest enigma I have seen this year. While he has an ideal pitching frame, and a big arm to go along with it, the mechanical issues in his delivery are very inconsistent. He will have a long way to go before seeing success at any level of full-season ball.
The main issues I have with his delivery are the inverted foot landing, the opening of the front shoulder, and a crossfire that goes along with this. Rodriguez is essentially having an internal battle between his upper and lower half. His hips are routinely out of unison with his shoulders, and this is sapping all command from his fastball. While his stuff has been impressive at times, with the fastball sitting anywhere from 91-95 mph, it will not matter if he can't find the strike zone. The curveball and changeup have not improved this season either, with the arm speed replication and release points being inconsistent. While Rodriguez has a long way to go before seeing success, it's too early to write off a prospect with such talent and not a ton of experience on the mound. –Tucker Blair
Braxton Davidson, OF, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome)
Most of the talk leading into the season on Davidson typically touched on the offensive potential, especially the early feel for the strike zone and raw power, with questions surrounding the glove. A first-round pick in last summer’s draft, the Braves decided to work the 19-year-old in the outfield in an effort to see if a corner spot could end up a viable path. While Davidson is athletic for his size, the foot speed is on the fringy side and the early returns last year revealed a lack of fluidity. There’s a very long way to go, but Davidson has shown signs of making progress this year, which at least points to a chance to develop at the position as opposed to an outright move in the early career.
The main attraction here is the bat, so in reality the defense just needs to be passable if things end up at full bloom. Thanks to strong wrists and forearms, Davidson generates excellent bat speed, with the type of extension in his swing to drive the ball with loft to all fields. The advancement of the approach and willingness to go deep into counts has come as advertised as well. While the length in the outfielder’s swing and propensity to take chances to drive the ball are likely to always lead to higher strikeout totals, the early maturity is a strong clue that Davidson can continue to take strides with his secondary skills as the competition advances. It’s extremely early in this player’s journey, with many twists, turns, and bumps to come, but the initial returns have offered verification that the tools have begun to sharpen within the professional game. –Chris Mellen
Willy Adames, SS, Rays (High-A Charlotte)
Adames has loud tools and a loud swing that, when I saw him earlier this season, often got in the way of translating his talent to in-game production. In my second look at him, this one coming in the Florida State League All-Star game, Adames showed real progress in areas where he had had some prior issues. The first was on identifying a breaking pitch, in this case a slider that he ripped for a single to left field. Previously I had seen him have trouble identifying the more advanced breaking pitches that he was seeing for the first time at this level, so it's encouraging to see him make the necessary adjustments. The second was an impressive walk drawn at the end of a long at-bat in which he took multiple close pitches, some fastballs just off the plate. In previous looks, his over-aggressiveness had gotten the best of him on multiple occasions, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him with a more refined approach. Watching a player make adjustments from viewing to viewing is always a positive sign for the developmental process, and two months appears to have helped Adames take at least a few small steps forward. –Jeff Moore
Ricardo Sanchez, LHP, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome Braves)
Sanchez's Rome Braves just finished the first half of the season, but it's already been a tale of two halves for the 18-year-old lefty. He got knocked hard in four April starts and had weaker stuff, throwing in the upper 80s to lower 90s and struggling to command his secondaries. He went on the disabled list to rest, came back a month later, and has since been a different pitcher.
Sanchez has allowed one earned run with eight strikeouts in 14 innings spanning three starts since returning. In a recent look, his fastball sat 91-93, hit 95 twice, and consistently hit 92-93 with what continues to be an above-average command profile. He works all four quadrants of the zone with confidence. His curveball continues to be a plus-potential pitch that flashes plus each time out with big depth and downward action. His changeup features better separation with the increased fastball velo, but the pitch needs further development to reach average. His fluid delivery and easy arm action help project the pitch, and it features decent downward action when he turns it over.
Sanchez is only 18, so time is on his side, and the Braves are moving him along slowly. The up-and-down velocity has been a bit of a concern since he signed, and he'll need to prove his durability in the future. It'll likely be a decently long development road to the majors, but Sanchez's combination of stuff, command, and mechanics spell out mid-rotation potential. –David Lee
Drew Robinson, IF, Texas Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
Robinson is an unusual dude. Currently hitting .213/.354/.444 in Double-A Frisco with 13 homers and 13 doubles, he doesn’t lack for either power or positional utility, but his inability to make consistent contact has caused him to sink further and further down Texas prospect lists.
Robinson’s never been very high on those lists, but the pieces were there for him to have a breakout season when he was promoted to Double-A at the beginning of 2014. Tasked with taking on the outfield for the first time in four years, Robinson instead utterly collapsed offensively. Instead of his normal patient approach, Robinson was swinging early and often, striking out 132 times in 104 games, split between Triple- and Double-A.
This year, he's walking again, albeit while striking out at a higher-than-acceptable rate. Robinson does still have a good eye for balls/strikes, but getting the bat onto strikes consistently has eluded him—an evaluator commented that "he misses his pitch." When he doesn't miss his pitch, or when a meatball so meatbally is thrown that he can't help but hit it, he shows some good pop, but there's the question of whether or not he's ever going to get his bat to enough pitches to show that pop consistently.
He's also shown a seemingly contradictory lack of patience this year—if he gets ahead in the count on the first two pitches, he'll wait out a potential walk, but if you throw him strikes, you can get pop-ups or ground balls. He’s more aggressive when he’s ahead in the count, but becomes overly defensive when he’s behind, making it hard for him to come back and create opportunities for himself to see his pitch.
Defensively, Robinson’s been moved back into the infield, where he’s played a combination of second base and shortstop. He's an athletic fielder with smart positioning and can read a play as well as anyone, which can make up for what he lacks with his first-step on the shortstop side. If he can ever figure out how to hit enough, his defensive versatility adds to his value. –Kate Morrison
Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Low-A Peoria Chiefs)
It was a weird amateur career path for the 6-foot-4 righty out of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical school. Originally drafted by the Cubs in 2013, Poncedeleon lost his amateurism in a complicated situation after signing a contract, but failing his physical. Thus, the former Houston Cougar was forced to transfer to an NAIA school to play out his senior season.
Poncedeleon has a high waist and a thin frame with some projection left. He displayed above-average arm speed out of a low three-quarters arm slot with a clean drive and foot strike, mild effort in the delivery, and a slide step out of the stretch. He also has a head whack that will cap his command potential. Poncedeleon has a plus fastball that operates comfortable in the 92-94 mph range; there is moderate run and mild sink to the pitch, and he held the velocity well into seventh inning and touched 95 three times in my viewing. Poncedeleon has two sliders, one that he uses in the 81-83 velocity band and a harder slider that’s 85-87. Both have 10-4 movement and are at present inconsistent offerings that flash plus bite and tilt, but also can get loose and flat when he misses up in the zone.
Poncedeleon’s changeup is far behind his slider; while he flashed fade and drop with the offering he lost the feel for the pitch as the game progressed and defaulted to his slider when he got into trouble. There’s a curveball in there as well, but he only threw it twice. The frame does look like it can fill out some, but the body might not be up for the rigors of starting. In that case, Poncedeleon’s fastball-slider combination would work well in a high-leverage setting as his command can get to average. –Mauricio Rubio
Danny Diekroeger, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals (Low-A Peoria Chiefs)
The 2014 draftee has a projectable baseball body with a high waist and a frame that can add good weight as he matures. He also has a pretty swing from the left side; it’s a quiet path to the ball with above-average bat speed, moderate barrel control, a minimal load, and balance. The swing plane is linear and the barrel stays in the hitting zone for a long time pushing hope that the hit tool can get to average. Diekroeger has 40 raw power, all pull-oriented, and 20 in-game thanks to a lack of leverage in the swing.
He has above-average hands at third as he routinely deadens the ball out in front of him and shows smooth actions in the glove-to-hand transfer. The arm is a big question mark as it might not be enough to stick at the hot corner, possibly pushing him out to left, which would be a hit to his prospect stock. He’s accurate enough with his throws, but the arm strength is fringy at best. Diekroeger’s upside isn’t anything to get excited as his overall future potential is likely that of a fringe big-leauger. Still, if you can find someone in the 10th round who can plug a hole or contribute at the major-league level it’s a win. –Mauricio Rubio
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