Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia Phillies (Double-A Reading)
Alfaro came into the 2015 with the fanfare, excitement, and hope that a top-10 organizational prospect usually carries. Unfortunately, the hype was short-lived due to underperformance and injury that kept Alfaro on the DL most of the season. He spent most of June, July, and August on the DL with an ankle injury only to come back for the remaining 3 games for the GCL Phillies. Prior to the injury and trade Alfaro showed flashes of greatness in his 70- to 80-grade arm from behind the dish in Double-A Frisco (Rangers), but alarmingly that was all he showed. At the plate Alfaro appeared uneasy and indecisive, never seeming to have the confidence that you might think his 60 raw power grade would inspire. He was consistently beat on fastballs in and often gave up at-bats when behind in the count. The impatience and lack of command of the strike zone that has been a hallmark of Alfaro since his signing was evident as well. With only nine walks and 61 strikeouts in 207 plate appearances at Frisco, Alfaro failed to make the adjustments that we as scouts and writers were hoping for finishing with a pedestrian line of .253/.314/.432 at Double-A Frisco.
Defensively, Alfaro was very raw in his setup, receiving, and handling of a staff. He has a propensity to take balls out the strike zone when receiving and angles his body making him a small target for pitchers. His left knee will occasionally drop as the ball comes into the strike zone creating movement of his glove, affecting any type of framing that could benefit the pitcher. While his arm is of the gods, it does not override the glaring deficiencies in his catching mechanics and fundamentals. Alfaro is still young and has a lot to learn in the way of correcting these deficiencies at catcher. Hopefully, a healthy and more focused Alfaro will bring out the prospect in 2016 that has been so highly touted. —Colin Young
Monte Harrison, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (Short-season Helena)
Harrison was Milwaukee's second-round pick in 2014 out of a Missouri high school. The three-sport star turned down a scholarship to Nebraska and generated plenty of buzz with his crazy athletic ability and more advanced than anticipated baseball skills. Harrison was a name scouts frequently mentioned as one of the most impressive prospects on the backfields this spring training in Arizona. Sadly, spring training backfields were the high point of Harrison's 2015 season. The toolsy outfielder was given a very aggressive assignment to full season ball in the Midwest League and he really scuffled and looked overmatched. He hit a paltry .148/.246/.247 while striking out 77 times in only 46 games. Harrison started to put things together after a midseason demotion to Rookie level Helena. Then in July the biggest hit came; Harrison tore ligaments and broke his ankle in a horrifying fall at third base on wet grass. He missed the rest of the season. Obviously a severe ankle injury to a player whose best attribute is his athleticism is tremendously concerning. Overall, a very disappointing year for a guy I had pegged as one of the biggest breakout candidates of 2015. While I was already rooting for the guy, this setback gives us even more reason to want to see Harrison to realize his tremendous potential. Here's hoping he has a strong bounce back in 2016. —Al Skorupa
Josh Hart, OF, Baltimore Orioles (High-A Frederick)
It is difficult not to arrive at the park with certain expectations for a first-round selection, even if you know that they haven’t lived up to them thus far. It’s like when you go to a trendy restaurant, even though you’ve heard an occasional disappointing review. You want to know what spurred all the interest in the first place. So with that frame of mind, I was excited to get a look at Hart when I arrived in Frederick, as he was the main attraction in a Chance Sisco-less Keys lineup.
Hart has a quick bat but there isn’t much feel for the barrel, so while he won’t swing and miss a ton, there is a fair amount of weak contact generated. Don’t let the word “weak” escape you here, as Hart is at the bottom of the scale when it comes to power. He was never going to be a power hitter, but the lack of overall strength means that achieving even gap power requires a lot of things to go right on a given swing. His speed is probably his best asset, though he can struggle to get out of the box on time. Hart does steal bases well though, easily lifting a bag off the pitcher in the one attempt I saw. He employs his legs well in the field too, ranging to both gaps with aggressive routes and strong instincts. He has been caught going all out for a ball when the better play might have been to pull up but given his reads off the bat, it’s mostly a positive attribute. Hart profiles as a fourth outfielder due to his deficiencies at the plate, though if the hit tool doesn’t progress as anticipated, he’ll be more of a defensive replacement. –Craig Goldstein
Kyle Holder, SS, New York Yankees (Short-Season Staten Island)
The Yankees raised some eyebrows on day one of the 2015 draft when they selected University of San Diego shortstop, Kyle Holder with their first-round pick. Holder’s ability to pick it at short is evident: he possesses an ideal shortstop’s frame and his basketball-playing background is very appealing, but his bat is awfully light, and it very likely will prevent him from being anything more than a utility infielder when all is said and done. Essentially, he’s Cliff Pennington if the bat comes on. That’s a fine floor for a guy taken 30th–overall, but it’s far from a desirable ceiling. The Yankees after all, are THE YANKEES, and a cost-controlled, shortstop-capable utility guy isn’t nearly as valuable for their purposes as it would be for a team more concerned with payroll dollars and cents.
In order to justify the pick, you have to believe Holder’s textbook actions at shortstop will manifest in the form of 7 or 8-grade run prevention at the Major League level. That’s an entirely defensible take on Holder but with minimal offensive upside in tow, he necessarily must clear a very high defensive threshold to warrant everyday playing time. If his manifested run prevention ability underplays the aesthetic brilliance of his glove by a tick, he’s a utility type and if it underplays by two ticks, he’s an up-down guy. The hope is that Holder’s newfound ability to focus solely on baseball will expedite positive offensive developments, which will in turn diminish the degree to which he’s reliant on the glove as his meal ticket. While he’s not entirely a lost cause at the plate, there simply isn’t a ton to work with as below-average bat speed and a number of subtle, but nonetheless concerning mechanical flaws cause his punchless swing to break down in game action. I’m all for drafting young, defensively-talented athletes with upside and teaching them how to hit, but that’s a bet preferably made later in the draft—not with a team’s first-round pick. —Ezra Wise
Alex Jackson, OF, Seattle Mariners (Short-season Everett)
Low-A production, or in this case lack thereof, is to be taken with a large grain of salt, especially when you consider age vs. level and prospect pedigree. In my initial viewing, Alex Jackson showed some of the skills that made him a top draft pick in 2014 with a few warning signs that are not atypical to California teens tasked with playing baseball in the 40-degree climates that are an April trademark of the Midwest League. Jackson did show plus bat speed and double-plus raw, he did show some knowledge of the strike zone and he did show some ability to cover the holes in his swing. What Jackson didn’t show was the surprising athleticism that made him intriguing and at this point you have to squint to see the time when evaluators thought he could potentially catch as a professional. As the season progressed Jackson simply did not. He posted abysmal numbers and never really showed any progress in covering against velocity in on his hands. He was eventually sent down to short-season ball where he flashed his power but had some serious strikeout issues. Jackson’s season was abbreviated; he had 318 plate appearances before landing on the DL. There is still room for the bat to grow and it’d be folly to give up on the player now but there’s no way around his 2015 season. It was a major disappointment. —Mauricio Rubio
Tyler Kolek, RHP, Miami Marlins (Low-A Greensboro)
It isn't so much the stat-line that's been disappointing for Kolek—though his 4.51 ERA and 81 strikeouts in just over 108 innings pitches certainly aren’t awe-inspiring—but rather how he looked while attaining those numbers. The second-overall selection of the 2014 draft still has an elite 80 fastball with sink and the occasional trip into the triple digits, with an above-average to plus breaking ball to boot, but too often he didn't show any feel for those offerings, nor a show-me change that is worlds away from being good enough to face big-league hitters. He also struggled to throw strikes, and to repeat his mechanics for most of the year, pronating late and not getting the extension someone of his size should.
There were certainly flashes of brilliance—and there's plenty of time for Kolek to get things figured out—but when you consider the Marlins passed on Carlos Rodon and several other talented players because of what they saw in Kolek, his 2015 campaign has to be considered disappointing. —Christopher Crawford
Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets (Triple-A Las Vegas)
Things seemingly were starting to come together for Nimmo last season. After a bit of a lost campaign in 2013, marred by a hand injury that never quite fully healed, he added some good weight to his frame and started to tap into the raw power he would show in batting practice. Finally you could start to see the outline of a major league centerfielder with a strong idea of the strike zone and potentially average power. The Mets talked highly of him throughout the 2014 offseason, and he seemed destined for an assignment to Triple-A and potentially a late 2015 major league debut.
So it was a bit odd when he was sent back to Binghamton to start this season. He did make some changes to his swing while working with the Mets new hitting coach, Kevin Long, so perhaps the organization just wanted him to work on some of those tweaks at a level where he had already seen a bit of success. The return engagement in the Eastern League didn't go nearly as well. The new swing is longer and more mechanical, and he was often late against average velocity. The power he started to tap into in 2014 disappeared and a knee injury cost him over a month of game time. He's shed a bit of speed now, and that makes the true center field profile a little harder to see.
But the biggest disappointment for me was Nimmo still struggling to turn his strike zone knowledge into an actual approach at the plate. The approach is overly passive even when he gets into hitter's counts (which granted, is often), and you just want to see him really sting a 2-1 fastball far more than he does. If he doesn't figure out how to do that, the offensive profile may collapse against better arms. There's enough of a skillset here that Nimmo should be a major league contributor, and as soon as 2016, but after nearly 700 plate appearances in the upper minors, there is only so much projection left. —Jeffrey Paternostro
D.J. Peterson, 1B, Seattle Mariners (Triple-A Tacoma)
It almost seems unfair that he’s being labeled as a Triple-A hitter in his tagline above, mostly because he played four games there (poorly, to boot) and then hurt his Achilles, ending his season. The 2015 calendar year was not kind to the supposed future Seattle slugger, both at the plate and in the field. There were always questions about whether he could stick at the hot corner as he progressed through the minors, and those questions finally appeared to be answered, as the Mariners stood him next to first base (59 games) nearly twice as much this season as they did on the opposite side of the diamond (30 games). That said, some of the same traits that made him a poor third baseman also limit his defensive ability down the spectrum, as he can be statuesque and lacks the soft hands you’d ideally want to see.
But you can live with all of that (quite easily, actually) if the bat could live up to expectations. After punishing Cal League hitters and holding his own in Jackson in 2014, the walls cratered around him in a return trip, as he continually had trouble refraining from chasing breaking balls out of the zone. This isn’t a new problem for Peterson, as he saw more secondary offerings and fewer strikes than his more successful 2014, and that’s to be expected. The troubling part is that he did less damage with the fastballs and strikes he did see. At times, the problem looked more like pitch recognition than anything else, which might make it more difficult for the big right-hander to bounce back as he sees better and better arms. —Bret Sayre
Dwight Smith, Jr., OF, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
There’s inherent risk in learning too much about a player before you scout them on your own, leaving you with the challenge of observing without bias and allowing yourself to truly see what it is in front of you. I may have fallen victim to this a bit in 2015 when it comes to Dwight Smith. Entering the year I had heard plenty of strong reports on him as a player from the Florida State League in 2014. I could see the solid statistical line in a league that typically depresses offense. All of that, along with the pedigree, left me expecting a player that would impress me each time I watched. In the end, I frequently left the ballpark underwhelmed and wanting more. Truth be told, Smith is a solid enough player; one with a likely Major League role down the line, but what I saw this year did not match my expectations and I was left with a sour opinion of a player that may not have deserved such a fate. Smith can do many things at an acceptable level, including showing average speed, quality instincts, a good approach at the plate, and some feel for hitting. His power and arm strength come up short for me, both in the below-average to fringe-average range. With only average speed and a poor arm, Smith is limited to left field, where the bat has to max out for him to be a viable everyday player. Given the consistent timing issues I witnessed this year, often starting his high leg kick too early and ending up out on his front foot on everything, I have a hard time seeing the offensive profile fitting in left field as a regular. That said, he won’t embarrass himself in any phase of the game regardless of the defensive position he’s asked to play, and while I may have expected more entering the year and I head toward the off-season slightly disappointed in my observations, Smith is still a big-league player down the line. —Mark Anderson
Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies (High-A Modesto)
On one hand, I don't feel entirely comfortable labeling a 21-year-old kid who hit .300 at High-A a "disappointment." On the other, Tapia has the kind of innate bat-to-ball skills to where he could hit .300 in High-A with one arm tied behind his back. The questions with Tapia have never been about his raw hitting ability. They've been about whether he can consistently put himself in position to hit against good pitching, and they've been about, well, everything else in his profile. And a full season in the California League left a lot of those questions wide open.
Tapia's approach was excessively aggressive in my looks across the first half of the season, and both reports and second-half numbers suggest he made little forward progress on that front. His ability to manipulate the barrel and cover every corner of the zone is impressive to be sure, but he also continued to chase pitches to and beyond each of those corners on a regular basis. His game outside the batter's box also remains very much a work in progress, particularly in the field where his reads are raw and showed few signs of improvement. The hit tool and athleticism still give him a potent baseline to develop into a solid major leaguer, but the skill development stagnated this season and it remains unclear just what kind of a profile we're really looking at here. —Wilson Karaman
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