At times, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing a prospect’s path from amateur ball to the big leagues is relatively standard; then we get snapped back to reality where every prospect’s path is wildly different. Enter, Roemon Fields. After first playing JUCO ball and then transferring to NAIA Bethany, where he ran track and played baseball, Fields was working for the Seattle Postal Service when the Blue Jays signed him out of an amateur exhibition series. Fields stands out for his lean body with fast-twitch athleticism, and his explosiveness on the field. An exceptional runner, Fields consistently got down the line in 4.01-4.08 seconds over the weekend, putting pressure on defenders every time the ball was in play, and he showed an ability to easily utilize his speed both on the bases and in center field. Fields is still raw at the plate, but he hung tough during at-bats, fouling off difficult pitches before finding one he could put in play; typically via a solid line drive or ground ball. At nearly 25 years old, Fields has a limited window to impress and reach the big leagues, and while his future likely resides on a major-league bench, if anywhere, he has some potential to develop into a top of the order, slap-hitting burner. While Fields has taken a unique path to Double-A since signing late in 2013, his journey becomes a nice secondary note after seeing him play for several games. – Mark Anderson
It can be difficult to properly evaluate a player on one viewing, particularly one who comes in and shows stuff that doesn’t match up with reports. It would have been hard to discern Julio Urias' status as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball from this one outing, though a 19-year-old lefty with success in Double-A is exciting enough. A short lefty with an unathletic body, Urias sat 92-94 mph with his fastball, reaching back once for 96 mph, but he couldn’t throw it reliably as a put-away pitch. His changeup was his best offering of the night, sitting 82-84 and showing savage drop; he got seven swinging strikes on it alone, including three from one plate appearance.
While Urias has been described as a pitcher mature above his years, he pitched closer to his age (one day over 19 years old) in this viewing. An obvious frustration with the strike zone—along with a lucky hit down the line—turned into a loss of the fine command he has been credited with. This being Urias, even a trying appearance finished with no walks and six strikeouts, but a lack of locational finesse meant that the Frisco batters could barrel the ball more often than perhaps the lefty has been used to. This is where the previously mentioned difficulty comes in: The Urias seen in this outing isn’t the same one who's been seen by most evaluators across his time in the Dodgers’ system. There were flashes of that pitcher, but for once, the phenom looked 19, rather than 25. – Kate Morrison
Alex Reyes has a special arm. In six innings of work, he allowed one hit, one walk, and struck out 10 with incredibly easy velocity. The fastball explodes out of his hand, sitting 94-98 mph consistently across the outing with both horizontal life and impressive sink, and he manipulated the location of the pitch to induce off-balance swings all the way through the lineup. The curveball, his top secondary offering, was on-and-off in regards to quality, and sat in the 77-80 mph range. The break on the pitch is inconsistent, but dives in with occasionally ferocious tilt, catching the hitter off balance, particularly when paired with the fastball. Though the changeup is Reyes’ weakest pitch, he threw it confidently in this look, using it against both left- and right-handed hitters. At 87-92, it can be too flat at times and end up resembling a slower fastball, but it flashed good location and drop. Mechanically, Reyes is more compact now than in 2013, and repeated the delivery well.
Reyes held both his velocity and his command through the outing, only showing some signs of tiring in his last inning of work. Though he did reach back for 98 to begin the sixth, he lost the zone at one point and allowed his only walk of the evening, bouncing back to strike out the next batter and induce a groundball. While Reyes looked like a top-line starter in this outing, he hasn’t consistently been able to make it through five innings, something he’ll need to improve on if he is to stay as a starter moving forward. No matter his potential future in a rotation, if the Cardinals go into September wanting to bolster their bullpen, bringing Reyes up for an introduction to the majors in that role would be far from the worst idea. – Kate Morrison
Connor Sadzeck is a big, solidly built right-hander, taken in the 11th round of the 2011 draft by the Rangers out of a Texas junior college. The 23-year-old missed all of 2014 with Tommy John surgery, and started 2015 with the High-A High Desert Mavericks.
Sadzeck works with a heavy fastball that sits 93-96 as a starter, but can work in the 95-98 range out of the bullpen, with the potential for more velocity as a full-time reliever. His big curveball comes in around 77-79, and when he can throw the pitch for strikes it’s a very effective change-of-pace pitch. His changeup is his weakest pitch, an 87-89 offering that doesn’t have enough distinction either in velocity or in movement to fool advanced hitters. If he does end up in a bullpen, the fastball/curveball combination would be a very solid repertoire, especially with improved command. In fact, his command is the thing that will likely keep him from remaining a starter in the long term, as he has struggled to recover in difficult innings in his short stint in Double-A so far. However, if he does end up in the bullpen, he should offer premium velocity in short stints, which has its share of value. – Kate Morrison
Drafted in the fifth round out of Stanford, Jackson’s defensive skills could carry him to the big leagues alone: he’s a plus runner with a 70 arm and he moves well laterally in both directions. He makes all of the routine plays, and he’s no stranger to the highlight reel either. Despite Jackson’s defensive chops, it’s his bat that has made him one of the most talked about players in the Northwest League this season. In 41 games, he’s posted a .398/.453/.509 slash line, placing him among the top five in all three categories. At the plate, Jackson is comfortable working deep into counts. He’s a disciplined hitter and his level stroke is geared to drive pitches on the outer half of the plate to right field. It’s important to evaluate Jackson’s success in context, however. At 22, he’s on the older side for the league and as a player who can hit a fastball and work a count, he has the upper hand against most of the pitchers he faces. He’ll have below-average power at full maturity and he can get caught off-balance against off-speed pitches. He looks like a future big-leaguer, possibly a decent one, but we’re not going to learn anything about his ability to regularly square up big velocity or hit quality breaking pitches until next year. – Brendan Gawlowski
Carter Kieboom, 3B, Walton High School (Marietta, GA)
Clemson commit Carter Kieboom was impressive at the Under Armour All-America baseball weekend as he displayed an advanced feel for hitting in workouts and in-game. Kieboom has an athletic, projectable frame. At the plate he hits from a slightly open crouch stance and uses a moderate leg kick and load. Kieboom has plus bat speed and mild leverage in the swing. He showed an ability to manipulate the barrel with two hits in the game. There's a slight hitch in his release but Kieboom has plus arm strength and good carry from the third. All in all Kieboom's weekend showed that he's a name to keep track of as the 2016 draft season gets started. – Mauricio Rubio
Cooper Johnson, C, Carmel Catholic High School (Mundelein, IL)
Ole Miss commit Cooper Johnson was impressive during the scout workout and was cheating a bit on his throws to get some pop times in the 1.8 range but his catching ability was equally impressive in-game. Johnson has a lightning-quick release and plus arm strength with carry. He was popping 1.95 in-game and was eager to show off his arm as he tried a few back picks. Johnson was able to catch velocity and showed aptitude for the position. His carrying card is definitely his defense but at the plate he showed above-average bat speed with mild leverage. He makes hard contact so he isn't a zero with the bat. Johnson showed impressive tools this weekend and his name will continuously pop up as the draft season progresses. – Mauricio Rubio
Carson Kelly, C, St. Louis Cardinals (High-A Palm Beach)
I wrote in one of the first ten packs of the year that "I'll have more on Kelly's bat as the year progresses, but the early returns don't have me optimistic that he'll be able to handle premium velocity." I later wrote a scouting report on him citing the same bat speed concerns, and mentioned it again briefly in a recent notes piece.
To properly bookend things, however, I wanted to expand on Kelly's struggles, which have led to a .197 batting average and no power. The bat speed is still the main culprit, keeping him from turning on fastballs on the inner half and forcing him to cheat with his swing. But he's also shown little feel for manipulating the barrel within the strike zone and adjusting to the pitch. The swing path is the same every time, regardless of pitch location or speed and the only hard contact I've seen in many viewings has been to the opposite field, not because of an inside-out approach but because the of the barrel lagging through the zone.
Kelly is still young enough for improvements and adjustments, but at this point it's difficult to envision him becoming any kind of significant offensive contributor at the major-league level. The offensive bar for backup catchers is exceptionally low, so there's still the potential for a big-league career, but it looks at this point like the glove will have to do most of the heavy lifting. – Jeff Moore
On the one hand, being 24 in High-A and hitting for no power—I'm talking literally none—almost always rules a player out of prospect status. On the other hand, left-handed hitters who can play multiple positions, one of which is catcher, are an extremely valuable commodity. Thus Swim, a 22nd round senior sign from 2013, is an interesting player assuming one’s expectations are appropriately tempered.
With a short, left-handed stroke, Swim's approach and swing are geared toward contact and limit his ability to drive the ball. He'll run into some doubles when his line drives find a gap or a foul line, but it's generally a singles approach. He does show good feel for the barrel, and the shortness in his swing makes for plus contact rates.
Naturally a catcher, Swim isn't a weapon behind the plate but he's good enough to stay there. The Twins have used him at first base and right field as well, and he's competent enough at both to use at the big-league level.
The overall result isn't the most exciting package, but it's a unique set of skills that could come in handy, especially on a National League roster. – Jeff Moore
I was critical of Naylor in a recent notes piece, and those criticisms were warranted, but there are undoubtedly positives to his game too which deserve mention, especially given that he was the 12th overall selection just two months ago.
It's easy to see why teams were attracted to Naylor, especially in today's amateur environment filled with showcases and workouts. Naylor puts on a show in batting practice, featuring impressive raw power thanks to strong wrists that generate plus bat speed. A scout watching alongside me one day said about Naylor, "he could be better than [Dan] Vogelbach," which is an impressive sentiment in terms of hitting prowess, though the all-bat, no defense comparison is almost a given.
At present, Naylor isn't anywhere close to where Vogelbach was at 18 years old in terms of approach or pitch recognition, still attacking every offering with the same unbridled aggressiveness that worked in high school but will get exploited against better pitching. It's working against the unrefined offerings of his GCL opponents, but I've seen multiple examples of average breaking balls making him look foolish. Still, it's early and this is by far the best competition he's faced on a consistent basis, so it's too early to make pitch identification a major concern.
The biggest concern at present is the overall profile. It's not that bat only guys can't be prospects or great big leaguers, it's just that the level of difficulty is that much higher. The road is tough enough for first base–only guys, even the athletic ones who are good defenders. It's even steeper for guys who offer no value outside of their bat. – Jeff Moore