Trent Clark, Brewers, OF
Clark was the Brewers’ first-round selection in 2015 out of a Dallas-area high school. He impressed scouts throughout the showcase circuit and leading up to the draft with a polished hit tool, tremendous feel for the game, and impressive leadership and makeup—all from a very physical left-handed frame.
Physically, Clark looked about the same as he did as an amateur. He’s got a football look to his muscularity, and though there isn’t much physical projection remaining, Clark’s musculature is more explosive than the type that weights down his first steps. Clark has shown as a hustle player, one who gets the most out of his speed by digging hard out of the box and on the bases.
Clark hits from a relaxed, slightly open base with a quiet hand-load and trigger as he closes off his front side before the swing. I noticed he had changed his hand-grip on the bat: in high school, he gripped the bat-handle with an unusual, golf-like positioning of his top hand’s thumb—pointing it straight up towards the barrel. In my Cactus League looks, he appeared to be holding the handle more traditionally. While he utilizes more of a pure hitting approach rather than a swing geared for power, the strength in his frame and good balance throughout his stroke allows for average raw. Clark’s calling card is still his plus bat speed, and he does well to make contact out in front of his body. He’s consistently shown ability to barrel balls hard to both fields, earning 60-grade hit tool from me prior to last year’s Draft—some scouts carried an even higher grade on his future batting averages.
Defensively, there’s some split as to whether Clark will remain a center fielder or move to a corner. While he is certainly a good runner, it plays closer to solid-average on defense and he doesn’t have the length of many true big league center fielders. His instincts and positioning give him a better to stay in there than the body and raw tools suggest, though an arm that’s closer to 45- or 50-grade makes left field a more likely destination if he does eventually move. On the bases, Clark’s aforementioned hustle, instincts, and acceleration make it likely that he’ll steal more bases than his straight-line speed would suggest.
If Clark can play an average center along with his offensive toolset, he’s a potential All-Star. If he moves to left, he’s still got “quality regular” written all over him, even without massive power outputs. Clark’s hit tool, high-energy play, mature makeup, and clubhouse presence make me all the more confident he’ll set a standard for his teammates and be a solid big leaguer for years to come.
Demi Orimoloye, Brewers, OF
Much like fellow Brewers farmhand Monte Harrison the year before him, Orimoloye held the crown of “freak athlete” in 2015’s prep position class. Similar to Harrison, Orimoloye’s potential lack of feel for the game and present hit tool caused plenty of disparaging views from team to team on Draft day. He’s an absolute beast, and looks like a linebacker and would stand out physically on a big-league field—the prototypical physical power/speed package. His chiseled, bulky muscularity doesn’t cost him any straight-line speed, as he’s consistently shown above-average run times. In fact, the first time I saw Orimoloye as an amateur he was playing center field in one of the showcase circuit’s All-American games.
Though Orimoloye surprised the industry by demonstrating more immediate hitting ability than was anticipated during his pro debut, there’s no doubt that his hit tool is the largest point of developmental emphasis moving forward. He’s now hitting with a very simplified stance and trigger, with limited movement to his front foot or hands throughout his load. The new swing mechanics seem less-than-natural, though the goal surely is to increase the barrel’s time in the hitting zone. One look at Orimoloye’s frame and easy plus bat speed through an uppercut path gives insight into the type of raw power he can generate. His natural strength and quick-twitch physicality allow easy bat-whip through the zone, though it is a top-hand-dominated swing that leads to an out-and-around hand-path to the baseball, causing present issues going the other way with authority.
Working at game speed, Orimoloye didn’t always stay within his best swing, often losing balance in his lower half and falling out of the swing’s finish. Especially with his natural athleticism, this is no doubt a correctable issue—but it’s worth noting it’s difficult to drive the ball for power without one’s base firmly balanced and incorporated throughout the swing. Orimoloye barreled a few balls with loud contact and impressive strength through extension—he also flailed at plenty of soft stuff and showed difficulty identifying off-speed pitches.
Fans shouldn’t expect a quick ascent for Orimoloye, and if he’s assigned to a full-season club to start the year, there might be some initial struggles bringing out his best contact in game action. Despite lots of risk and a low floor, there’s also no denying that if a player as athletic, explosive, and physical as Orimoloye figures out a way to polish up his hit tool and approach, he could be an impact corner outfielder on offense, with plus power and speed.
Tyrone Taylor, Brewers, OF
Tyrone Taylor fits the Brewers’ mold of athletic and football-esque toolsets in the outfield. He’s been one of the better athletes and notable prospects in Milwaukee’s system for a few years now, though he reached Double-A for the first time in 2015. While Taylor possesses plus speed and a fairly quick bat that allows sharp stings to the gaps at best, I haven’t seen enough baseball skills come together to feel confident projecting him as an MLB regular. Taylor’s grade of athleticism gives him leeway as far as his ability to make unexpected adjustments is concerned, but Taylor hasn’t proven himself to be strong enough in any one aspect of the game to profile as an everyday player.
Taylor hits from a very wide, open base that forces his front foot to travel a great distance to close off before he starts his swing. For the type of player he is—one that will contribute more with his speed than his power—this isn’t ideal in terms of his ability to spring out of his stance quickly and get up the line. Additionally, the degree to which he’s wide in the swing’s base causes a natural back-side collapse, which absolutely kills his ability to remain balanced through the back part of his stroke. Even in batting practice, Taylor was flailing and falling out of his swing at an alarming amount of pitches, unable to barrel the ball with authority the other way. Taylor possesses a quick, whippy bat, but it’s a long swing and he’s shown issues recognizing off-speed pitches. Strikeouts were an issue at the Double-A level, and he will continue to rack up high strikeout-rates until some of the mechanical issues in his swing are remedied. Even then, he profiles as a swing-and-miss prone player who might always be more athlete than genuine big leaguer.
Taylor’s supplementary tools are solid, a direct byproduct of his quick-twitch athleticism. He’s a no-doubt plus runner who has racked up gaudy stolen base totals throughout his professional career. He certainly has the legs to aid a big league club on on the basepaths and in numerous outfield spots, but if more offensive progress doesn’t start to show—and show soon—Taylor will be overshadowed in Milwaukee’s system by some of the new toolsy outfielders the Brewers have added the past two years.
Isan Diaz, Brewers, SS/2B
I touched on Brewers’ recently-acquired prospect Isan Diaz earlier in the week, so I’m including him as a quick hit as opposed to a lengthier write-up. To echo my sentiment in this week’s Ten Pack, Diaz’s natural feel for the barrel and high-energy play during the Cactus League was cause for excitement. Milwaukee has so many high-ceiling/low-floor athletes, mixing in players of Diaz’s toolset is a vital addition to a system that seems bereft of hit-tool-centered prospects. Diaz is a pure hitter with more pop than you’d expect from his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame. While he’ll almost certainly be more of a doubles guy, he isn’t a slappy hitter either, and should be able to boast respectable home run power for a middle-infielder. Diaz hits from a wide, crouched base with a loose, low handset. There’s lots of natural rhythm in his load, though he doesn’t quite come to a full pause before starting his swing and showed a propensity to drift to his front foot on off-speed pitches. That’s a fairly easy adjustment though, and considering the degree Diaz lit up the Pioneer League last year—plus hitting tools and a stroke that stood out regardless—I’m confident he can continue developing his hitting ability. His hands work well through a linear two-handed finish, and he showed consistent ability to square the ball up to both fields with good extension through his point of contact. While Diaz will continue to try his hand at shortstop in the short-term, there’s a significant chance he’ll have to kick over to second base at the big league level. Even so, I’m high on this guy—the ceiling is a gritty everyday regular at the keystone, providing at least a 50-plus hit tool and good pop for the position. Failing that, the balanced toolset and baseball IQ give Diaz a fallback as a utility infielder off the bench.
Jacob Gatewood, Brewers, 3B
Gatewood is another exciting Brewers prospect falling into the physical, athletic, risk/reward mold. Gatewood was an extra-tall, right-handed-hitting prep shortstop that flashed jaw-dropping raw power, and as a pro, he’s begun to fill out his monster frame. Gatewood scared off plenty of clubs in the 2014 Draft because they didn’t believe he would ever get to his raw power in games. While the initial line during an aggressive full-season assignment to Low-A Wisconsin demonstrated the degree to which Gatewood can struggle to make contact, the adjustments shown during my Cactus League views were positive. No, it isn't a night-and-day difference, but Gatewood's back-side balance and swing-length were noticeably improved. While Gatewood has already made the move to 3B, he showed the actions of a former shortstop at the hot corner, while flashing a strong arm. How Gatewood takes to a repeat full-season assignment in 2016 will be telling, but I'll take my chances on toolsets like these—risk aside. Too often players with this size and power leave scouts wondering why they passed on them as high schoolers—at least, the times that it does click. There's undoubtedly a chance Gatewood doesn't figure it out, but Gatewood’s best-case profile is that of a prototype first-division corner infielder.
Gilbert Lara, SS/3B, Brewers
While Lara struggled statistically at the plate in 2015, it’s important to note that a stateside assignment to the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues is a very aggressive ask for any 17-year-old. The physicality and tools that earned Lara his bonus are clear: he has a big-league look to his frame, and the raw actions on both sides of the ball to match. He holds his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame larger than it’s listed, and will be a very big guy at the end of the day when you factor in how young he is. A move to third base or an outfield corner seems likely, though it’s hard to say which one so early in his physical development. Lara showed stiff-ish hands playing shortstop in this look, though his actions and first step didn't look like they'd be horrible at the hot corner. Despite the hard hands with the glove, he did show a strong arm across the infield—adding to the hope he can stay on the left side. Lara has easy, fluid bat speed, though his swing had some timing issues and didn't come to a quiet pause before he started his hands. It will be interesting to see if Milwaukee pushes Lara aggressively this season too, sending him to Low-A Wisconsin—though a more traditional assignment to extended spring training, and then the Pioneer-League assignment sounds more likely, as Lara will play the entirety of this season at 18 years old..
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