Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Boston Red Sox (GCL Red Sox)
After starting his professional journey in the Dominican Summer League, the Red Sox saw enough from the 17-year-old to give him an aggressive bump to the Gulf Coast League and in the process begin the right-hander’s assimilation to life stateside, on an earlier than expected timeline. The intrigue with Espinoza goes well beyond the $1.8 million signing bonus inked by the youngster a little over a year ago, with tangible evidence this could be a special arm in the making. Though, the expectation on the timing of that type of potential payout is well down the developmental road.
Despite presently being slender and thin, possessing a typical teenager’s body, the righty already shows impressive arm strength and natural looseness which enables him to dial his fastball into the mid-90s routinely. This isn’t an arm where it’s an exercise in projection when it comes to future velocity gains. Early chatter has highlighted the late explosiveness on his fastball that gives hope that it can evolve into a premium offering with some progression of his command. That talk also extends to his two secondary pitches, with early feel for creating tight rotation on his curveball, and shaping his changeup. Both represent offerings that can grow into executable weapons as experience continues to build through repetition.
It’s important to understand where an arm like Espinoza is in his professional journey, and not get too wrapped up in focusing on an end product that is a small dot on a distant horizon. There’s going to be plenty of time to dissect and assess the Venezuelan’s progress. The initial identification of a potential special package has been made, however, and it’s likely to carry into increasing prospect status as the year comes to a close. – Chris Mellen
Francisco Mejia, C, Cleveland Indians (Low-A Lake County)
The trials and tribulations of young developing ballplayers are well documented, and while we all want to see them immediately excel, the reality is that the ebbs and flows play out on a much longer timeline and require considerable patience. Mejia’s talent is evident on both sides of the ball, and he shows the ability to get into the flow of the game, asserting himself defensively and doing damage at the plate with an aggressive mindset.
The rawness in Mejia’s offensive game did come to the forefront during the Midwest League’s first half, often struggling with over-aggressiveness that lead to inconsistent contact. Recently, there’s been a change for Mejia when it comes to managing sequences more efficiently, and that’s translated into a run of success as we’ve gotten deeper into the summer. It’s still a little early to call it a firm adjustment and claim victory that things are moving forward, but the initial step seems to have been taken and could be something to build on heading into the offseason. – Chris Mellen
Gareth Morgan, OF, Seattle Mariners (AZL Mariners)
Morgan was one of the more “debated” prospects of the 2014 draft; as the Canadian outfielder was viewed as a potential first round pick by some scouts I spoke to, but with more than one talent-evaluator believing he was closer to a non-prospect than a day one pick. There’s plenty of time for Morgan to prove those doubters wrong, but based on what we’ve seen of him as a professional, the latter looks more likely to be correct than the former.
Morgan’s best asset is his strength, as the 6-foot-4, 220 pound right-handed hitter has a very mature frame and that, along with a swing that has loft, allows him to hit the ball out to any part of the field when he makes solid contact. Unfortunately, “if” is the operative word, as Morgan has loads of swing-and-miss in his game as evidenced by his 65 strikeouts in 154 plate appearances this year. His seven walks in the same timeframe also show how poor his approach is right now. He’s a below-average runner which limits him to the corner outfield, though the arm strength is good enough for him to play a competent right field.
It’s way too early to give up on Morgan, but without a significant improvement in the approach it’s highly unlikely he’s anything more than roster fodder, which is not the role the Mariners had in mind when they took Morgan in the second round last year. – Christopher Crawford
Parker Dunshee, RHP, Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Cape Cod League Chatham Anglers)
After a Swiss Army knife season in the ACC, in which he started, ate up middle innings, and closed a few games for good measure, Dunshee dominated the most potent lineup on the Cape in an elimination game last week. Despite sitting “just” 90-91, his fastball showed outstanding late life and explosion at the finish. He registered a full 18 swings-and-misses with the pitch in or around the margins of the zone, and Orleans hitters were routinely late on it, making weak contact when they did get a piece of it. He worked in a handful of sliders that showed bite in the low 80’s and a couple changeups with modest tumble in the same velocity band. His repeated success with the heater continued all night, however, and never really required him to move on to Step Two of the game plan.
Mechanically it’s a low-effort delivery, albeit one with some inconsistencies. Dunshee’s arm is quick and clean, though the length of his arm swing will vary from pitch to pitch. While his drive action is clean, he’ll decelerate his front foot before strike, resulting in inconsistent command. It certainly wasn’t a problem on this night, however, as he worked the ball to all quadrants with precision. He’s likely to get a crack at full-time starting in the Demon Deacons’ rotation next spring. – Wilson Karaman
Bobby Dalbec, 3B, University of Arizona Wildcats (Cape Cod League Orleans Firebirds)
Coming off an impressive season as a two-way standout for the University of Arizona, Bobby Dalbec has continued to mash on the Cape, leading the league in homers, and delivering a monster two-homer, six-RBI outburst in the decisive game of the first round of the playoffs. He’s grown into his 6-foot-4 frame, looking every bit his listed 225 pounds, showing greater control of his body, and confidence in his actions. I’m still not in love with his swing, however. He has a hitch and employs a deep load in an effort max out his separation. It adds a bunch of length into the zone, and he was late on several in-zone fastballs in these looks. There’s above-average, possibly plus bat speed here, generated by impressive torque in his hips when he fires. He’s certainly a strong kid, and the swing path is highly leveraged to where he’s capable of doing serious damage when he catches hold of one.
Dalbec takes an aggressive approach at the plate, sitting red early, and lacks the ability to make adjustments or contain his swing once committed. There are enough warning signs there to question the development of his hit tool and the ultimate utility of his prodigious raw power. He’s a below-average runner, and while he handled himself well enough at the hot corner in these looks, his frame and lumbering actions suggest a first base profile may be the ultimate defensive future. That means a lot of pressure on his hit tool to develop past where I’d currently project it. – Wilson Karaman
Granden Goetzman, OF, Rays (High-A Charlotte)
Alliterative name aside, Goetzman is probably best known for being a part of the Rays famed 2011 draft that saw them make 12 of the first 89 selections, which was supposed to revitalize their depleted farm system.
I mentioned Goetzman in last week's notes, but I wanted to expand on his issues. Goetzman is a physical specimen, but he's the living embodiment of why our grandfather's generation was hesitant to introduce weightlifting into baseball. His physique is impressive, but it's forced his swing into a stiff, muscle-bound, one-dimensional plane that allows him only to pull inside pitches. He has some bat speed and the ball jumps when he catches it with the barrel, but pitchers with command, a decent breaking ball, or a plan will carve him up, as evidenced by his struggles in the Florida State League the past two years. He's unable to finish his swing, getting no extension on the back end, struggles with his approach, and with identifying breaking pitches. Despite impressive speed and athleticism, there's simply not enough there with the bat for Goetzman to project as a major leaguer at this point, despite his lofty draft status. – Jeff Moore
Yoel Araujo, OF, Rays (High-A Charlotte)
Araujo represented the Rays biggest international investment when they signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2010 for $800,000. He also represents the kinds of risks teams are taking with these types of signings.
It's easy to see why the Rays loved him as a teenager, and he's developed into the physically gifted player they likely envisioned. Unfortunately, he has little translatable baseball skills. He's strong, well-built with thick legs. He's also a good runner, timing at 4.15 to first base from the right side, making him a 65 runner. That speed goes to waste in the outfield, however, where he's already been resigned to a corner spot and doesn't track the ball well at all.
At the plate, things are just as raw as they were when he signed. he generates tremendous bat speed, but there isn't even hint of barrel control or contact skills. With a huge load, he unleashes an out-of-control, violent swing that can get beat with anything that moves in a direction other than straight forward. He's incredibly aggressive, deciding to swing even before the pitch has been delivered, and does not identify breaking balls at all. He's got tremendous raw power, but it doesn't come out in games, and likely won't. Despite his physical gifts, it's hard to envision him ever becoming a big leaguer. – Jeff Moore
Tyler Wade, SS/2B, Yankees (Double-A Trenton)
Nothing about Wade is flashy, but he does a number of things well enough to profile as a future big leaguer. He split his time on both sides of the keystone this season, with the majority of the time coming at shortstop. He can handle the position defensively, though he's only average at it. He's a good athlete, but not great, and that translates into being a productive and reliable shortstop but not a plus one. He has enough arm to handle the position, but it's not an asset there. When at second base, however, his range is less important and his arm becomes a plus weapon. He can handle either position, but he's better suited for second base over long periods of time. With the bat, Wade shows a very good feel for the barrel and recognizes spin well. What he doesn't do, or make any attempt to do, is drive the baseball with any authority. It's a contact-oriented approach and swing, and one that he executes quite well, but limits his profile.
Wade doesn't have much potential for impact, but his contact skills, left-handed bat and ability to play two up-the-middle positions gives him a chance to play a nice role on a big league roster. – Jeff Moore
Ian Happ 2B, Chicago Cubs (Low-A South Bend)
The Cubs selected Hap with the ninth overall pick the 2015 draft. His advanced approach proved to be too much for short season ball, earning him a promotion to Low-A after his impressive stint in Eugene. Happ has a thin frame and a closed stance with his hands held low and away from his body. He has average bat speed and a leveraged swing. His batting practice session produced fringe-average pull-oriented power. Overall his bat is more impressive in-game thanks to an advanced approach and an ability to recognize weak spin out of the hand. Happ isn’t a passive hitter either, he jumped all over a first pitch fastball and roped a hard wall-banger double in my viewing. Happ’s pure physical profile was less than inspiring but there is baseball acumen and skill present, and the overall approach will help out his hit tool. – Mauricio Rubio
Chris Mariscal, SS, Seattle Mariners (Low-A Clinton)
He’s short, narrow-hipped, and overall an unimposing figure, so Chris Mariscal didn’t jump out at you physically. It’s his feel for the game that shows up the more you see him. At short, Mariscal has solid fundamentals, good hands, and a strong enough arm to play the position. His limited range is augmented by his instincts and feel for defense. At the plate Mariscal has above average bat speed, moderate feel for the barrel and a line-drive swing. He does lose his balance at the plate against off-speed stuff; he tends to go out over his front foot and not stay back on those offerings. Overall the package isn’t anything special but Mariscal is a fun player to watch play. – Mauricio Rubio
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