Mitch Nay, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
Nay gained some prospect traction because of his prototypical size for the hot corner and some moderate success at a young age, including 34 doubles in the Midwest League as a 20-year-old last season. The overall package is underwhelming, however, without a true carrying tool. With only average bat speed, he can get beat inside with average velocity. He needs to get his hands extended in order to drive the ball with any authority. He’s strong, but his up-the-middle approach leads to more doubles than home run production. Most importantly, he struggles to recognize spin. On defense, he’s already limited by his range, with a poor first step and below-average foot speed. He’ll never be better than an average defender at third base, and even that would take some natural refinement. He’s currently below average.
In order to end up with any kind of regular playing time, he’ll have to learn to drive the ball more consistently. Without the ability to catch up to premium velocity, his only way to do that will be on mistakes with breaking balls. – Jeff Moore
Josh Bell, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates (Double-A Altoona)
Bell has changed his swing since our reports from last year. What was once a wide, balanced stance that produced a swing geared more towards contact now includes a prominent leg kick in the load, generating more torque and thus more power. The results, at least during my viewing at the Futures Game, were noticeable. The display in batting practice was more impressive from both sides than their counterparts on the back fields before Florida State League games last year. It has yet to manifest itself consistently in games, so we can’t claim it as a cure-all just yet, but to see him attempting to drive the ball with the authority befitting his size and strength is a good sign. Even with his barrel and contact skills, Bell will need to hit for more power whether he’s at first base (which he’s still not comfortable at) or the outfield. – Jeff Moore
Alex Bregman, SS, Houston Astros (Low-A Quad Cities)
Bregman has a well-earned reputation as an advanced prospect, and he showcased both high baseball acumen and tools in a recent viewing. Bregman has plus bat speed with mild leverage, and some strength leading to average raw power. His swing is balanced and he tracks pitches well. The results aren’t there but the potential for an above-average hit tool is present.
Bregman’s smooth actions allow for projecting out plus hands as he progresses through the Astros’ system. He deadens the ball out in front of him and has good footwork and fundamentals. He loses some carry on his throws from the 5/6 hole and his limited foot speed all work against his case for sticking at shortstop. Bregman can stick at short in the modern age of defensive shifting, but could excel at the keystone should he move there. – Mauricio Rubio
Yairo Munoz, SS, Oakland Athletics (Low-A Beloit)
Signed as an international free agent for $280,000 in 2011, Munoz is an interesting prospect. He has the potential for plus raw power as he produces tremendous backspin on balls to go along with an advanced feel for the barrel and above-average bat speed. The approach is very troubling, as he’s quite susceptible to spin and has trouble identifying it. He was consistently chasing pitches in hitter’s counts and making weak contact, and hasn’t really shown the ability to take a walk. He’s still young, so the approach has time to improve, and the power and barrel control will be there waiting for it.
His defense is below average at shortstop. He has solid range and a quick first step, but the footwork needs significant work. He had excessive choppy steps, and really lacked the smoothness to his glove side that you look for in a shortstop. He may lose some agility and speed as his body matures, and he’s better suited for a move to third base down the road. He has plus arm strength with accurate throws, and the arm is definitely strong enough to stick on the left side of the infield. A move to third would hurt his stock as the power wouldn’t have as much impact as it would from a shortstop. – Brandon Decker
Francis Martes, RHP, Houston Astros (High-A Lancaster)
Plucked from obscurity out of the Marlins’ Gulf Coast League affiliate by the Astros in a deadline deal for Jarred Cosart last July, Martes allowed all of six earned runs on 33 hits in 52 Midwest League innings to start the year. That performance earned him a ticket to High-A as a 19-year-old, and in his debut start for Lancaster it was easy to see what all the fuss was about. He carries himself with requisite swagger, and he opened his California League career by striking out consecutive hitters with a fastball that ran up to 98 mph and a wicked power curveball. The latter pitch came in hard at 83-85 all night, flashing a potential 7 offering repeatedly in this outing with a tight break and tremendous 11-5 bite. He showed the ability to bury the pitch to lefties and he front-doored it with abandon to righties, tallying seven of his nine punchouts on the night with the pitch, including five looking. After the early burst, the fastball settled in at 92-95 for most of the night, coming out easy with plus run and late life. He showed the ability to trade velocity for movement, and the raw material showed a 6 pitch with room for more as he refines his command. He also worked in a firm changeup in the high 80s that showed tumble and some promise as an average or better third pitch.
His command remains very much a work in progress, though he showed glimpses on that front as well. It’s a simple delivery; he generates a ton of early momentum with a deep rock, and while he was inconsistently balanced for most of the night, the drive is hard and impressive, with a powerful push and long stride supporting a clean arm action and premium arm speed. It’s going to take some time for him to learn how to effectively harness all of the force he generates, however. His lower half was consistently quicker than his top, and his hip rotation was inconsistent leading to frequent misfires to the arm side. His foot strike is extremely firm and will need some clean-up as he goes.
Martes is raw to be sure, but he has all the makings of a premium pitching prospect, and one who should shoot up organizational rankings this off-season. – Wilson Karaman
Brendan McCurry, RHP, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton)
It’s not often you’ll read about guys recently drafted in the 22nd round in this space, but then again there aren’t a lot of guys like McCurry in the minor leagues right now. Since signing last summer on the heels of a dominating senior season as Oklahoma State’s closer, all he’s done is post a 1.34 ERA and 0.78 WHIP with 93 strikeouts and 14 walks in 74 professional innings. His listed 5-foot-10 frame may even be generous by an inch or two, as his newly acquired battery-mate Jacob Nottingham looked to have an easy six inches on him. But he showed multiple deliveries and arm slots that helped average raw stuff play up into a headache for hitters.
McCurry worked primarily out of a high-three-quarters slot with a fluid motion and strong drive. His fastball sat 90-91 out of that slot with heavy boring action and solid plane to the bottom of the zone. He peppered in a 72-75 curveball with good depth and showed a 78 mph changeup with solid fade away from left-handed hitters. All three showed plus movement and average or better overall potential with command. But wait, there’s more! He dropped down to a low-three quarter with a half-dozen offerings as well, hitting 85 with extreme arm-side run on his lone fastball and showing a high-70’s slider with sweep through the zone on the others. – Wilson Karaman
Trevor Megill, RHP, San Diego Padres (Short-season Tri-Cities)
Megill was the Padres' seventh round pick in 2015, and it’s easy to see what San Diego likes in the big right-hander. At 6-foot-8, he’s a giant on the mound. He gets great plane on his tailing fastball, which hit 95 mph in my viewing, and he had a lot of success elevating the pitch and inducing whiffs from hitters who struggled to see the ball out of his hand. His curveball isn’t quite as refined but his best ones had sharp 12-6 break, and with repetition, he’ll develop more consistency. The Loyola Marymount product also has a changeup, although I didn’t see many in my look at him.
As you might expect from someone of Megill’s stature, he’s a project. His feel for the strike zone comes and goes, he’s prone to spiking both of his pitches, and his arm speed isn’t consistent on the curve. He’s clunky mechanically, with stabbing arm action and a stiff arm path. A lot of that screams "reliever," and he will likely wind up in the bullpen when all is said and done. He could do very well there, though, particularly if his fastball takes a step forward in short stints and his curve improves in the interim. With 23 strikeouts and just two walks in his first 16 professional innings, he’s off to a good start. – Brendan Gawlowski
Michael Feliz, RHP, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi)
The Astros added Feliz to their 40-man roster this winter. He hasn’t been dominant in his three stops this season, but he has shown some improvement with decent results. Every bit of 6-foot-4, Feliz is a commanding presence on the mound, with control that comes and goes. In a recent start, Feliz ran his fastball up to 97 mph in a wild first inning, but was much more in command of the pitch in the 92-94 range. His slider, which generally sat 83-86, and his changeup both had some tumbling action, but had no real dramatic difference in break. His slider has reportedly had better break in other outings, but consistency will be key for the right-hander. Though Houston is still starting Feliz, his future likely lies in the pen, where he can get the most velocity out of his heavy fastball and use his better off-speed pitch, which right now looks to be the slider. – Kate Morrison
Taylor Hearn, LHP, Washington Nationals (Short-Season A, Auburn)
Though he signed for just under slot value in the fifth round last month, it is easy to see why Hearn has been drafted four times dating back to 2012. From the instant he steps on the field, eyes steer toward his lanky, 6-foot-5 physique, as he’s gifted with long arms and legs, and solid strength. An obviously athletic individual, Hearn is built and moves as much like a wide receiver as he does a pitching prospect, moving with fluidity and ease on the field. The eyes are forced to remain on Hearn as he begins to pitch, pumping fastballs in the 91-94 mph range across several innings, reaching as high as 96 on a couple of occasions. Things become tougher to watch as he tries to locate his fastball or when he mixes in a breaking ball or changeup. Hearn’s mechanics are very inconsistent from his balance point through release, with separation varying. The differing arm strokes and variety of arm slots are not an intentional part of his approach.
The breaking balls Hearn threw during his start bounced between a downward-breaking curveball and more horizontal slider, both of which lacked tight spin and bite. The changeup was forced throughout the outing, with his large hands appearing to choke the ball and preventing it from coming out cleanly. There are a lot of raw ingredients to like when looking at Hearn, including his exceptional physical presence, athleticism, and easy fastball velocity, but the warts are sizeable and will likely prevent him from putting things together. If he can find the strike zone with some regularity down the line, Hearn could profile as a power left-handed reliever, but even that is a long shot at this point. – Mark Anderson
Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State Golden Flashes (Cape Cod League Orleans Firebirds)
This southpaw from the MAC has impressed all summer on the Cape, leading the league in strikeouts. He was also the winning pitcher in the Cape All-Star Game on Saturday. With an easy, athletic delivery that he repeats well, Lauer already has the kind of present command to succeed as a pro. The fastball velocity and raw stuff aren't overwhelming, though. The fastball has been mostly 89-91. He's more of a guy who fills the zone with four solid offerings: a curve, slider, and changeup that all flash above average but none of which may end up a true plus or out pitch. With excellent mound presence and an extremely mature feel for the craft of pitching, it's easy to project Lauer as at least a no. 4 starter in the big leagues. He's certainly projectable enough that I expect a few more ticks of velocity and the secondary offerings to tighten up. That would give him the profile of at least a no. 3 starter. With a high floor and the potential for more, you can bet scouts will be flocking to the Kent State campus on Fridays next spring. –Al Skorupa
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