Cody Reed, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
Catching Reed was fun. He showed off the tools—a mid-90s fastball with plus movement and a sharp, biting slider with late dive—and held his own against a Padres lineup that featured plenty of big leaguers. His low three-quarters arm slot will be death on lefties, and as a good athlete with a repeatable and fluid motion, he’s more than capable of pounding the strike zone.
I am somewhat concerned about his ability to throw a secondary pitch for a strike. He can pump strikes with the fastball, but his change is a clear third offering that he doesn’t use much, and nearly all of his sliders landed in the dirt. Maybe he’ll make it work anyway, but for now, stealing a strike or trying to induce weak contact with an offspeed pitch is not part of his game plan.
[Ed. note: Here is a gif of Reed whiffing Francisco Lindor on said slider earlier this spring]
Alex Young, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Young was Arizona’s second-round pick out of TCU last summer, drafted as a pitchability lefty with limited upside but a fast track to the big leagues. That overview held in my backfield viewing last week. There are a lot of moving parts in his delivery: he works with a three-quarters arm slot, high leg kick, and a pronounced twist in his upper body. Still, he was able to move the ball around effectively and stay out of danger spots in my look. In two innings of work, his fastball sat in the 80’s, reaching 91, with fair movement. He complements the pitch with a slider —a two-plane offering that flashed above average when he didn’t spike it—and a changeup that features good arm speed replication but minimal fade or tumble. He’s not sexy, but there’s enough here to project a backend starter, and he could move quickly if he can execute his offspeed pitches more consistently.
Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s always disconcerting to watch a top prospect struggle, as De Leon did in my backfield viewing. Caveats first: De Leon is a good prospect with a track record of throwing hard and pitching effectively. With two backfield games going at Camelback Ranch, I was more interested in looking at players I didn’t know than catching De Leon, and so I only saw him face 5-6 batters scattered across two innings. Pitchers are not robots, and even aces have days when their arm doesn’t feel great or their curve doesn’t dance.
That said, De Leon had one of those days. He sat 89-91 and touched 92 with his fastball, down a bit from where he usually sits. He also had trouble commanding both the heater and his slider. The breaking ball isn’t the signature pitch in his arsenal—that would be the plus-changeup—but he struggled to stay on top of it, and left a number of them up in the zone. Dead arm period? Just a bad day in March? I don’t know. I’ve seen him look much better this spring (on video) so I’m tempted to scrap the look and file his outing away as a reminder that even top guys aren’t on all of the time.
Tyler O’Neill, RF, Seattle Mariners
It’s hard to get a feel for a hitter in a drive-by viewing, but a 1-3 day with a homer and a strikeout is a pretty fair synopsis of O’Neill’s upside and limitations. On the positive side, he deposited a fastball from Triple-A veteran Nik Turley well beyond the center field wall. He’s a tremendously strong athlete, with thick forearms, and when he makes contact, he has more than enough loft in his swing to drive the ball a long way.
But O’Neill’s lengthy and leveraged swing have led to plenty of swings and misses in the past. Concerningly, he’s also a bit of a one-pitch, one-spot type of hitter. He was beat by mediocre breaking balls, and while he laid off of a few sliders down low, he showed no ability to adjust the barrel once he started his swing. O’Neill mashed in spite of these flaws last season in the California League, but the circuit is famous for its friendly confines and good hitting weather, conditions that incentivize teams to steer their top pitching prospects elsewhere. He’ll face much more developed arms in Double-A this season, and based on what I’ve seen of him, I anticipate that he will struggle initially.
Jake Barrett, RHP, Arizona
Purely a reliever, Barrett’s violent and max-effort delivery is ill-conducive to pinpoint command. He’s a downhill thrower with a pronounced leg kick and some spinal tilt. There’s a lot of movement in his motion: his center of gravity changes throughout his delivery, which may partially explain his inconsistent landing spot and difficulty replicating his delivery. The stuff is good, although a bit too light to project him as an impact reliever, given the control problems that stem from his delivery: He sat 92-94, touching 95 with a tailing fastball. His best sliders were plus, low-80’s offerings with sharp drop and a bit of run on them. He’s had walk problems throughout his career, and while he’s on the cusp of the big leagues, he’ll need to throw more strikes to thrive at the highest level.
Phil Ervin struggled in the three at-bats I saw, popping up twice and never making solid contact. His bat looked slow, he looked uncomfortable in the box, he expanded the zone, and if his jersey didn’t have “Ervin” on the back, I probably wouldn’t have given him a second thought… Zack Nehrir isn’t a big prospect (he was Arizona’s 16th rounder last summer) and he doesn’t have a particularly smooth stroke, but he’s athletic, has a good feel for the barrel, and is strong enough to hit for power than he did in college. A deep name for Diamondbacks fans to hang on to… Texas gave Eric Jenkins $2 million last summer in the hopes that he’ll hit enough to let his 80-grade speed play. He’s built like a sprinter (he was the thinnest guy in the stadium in my look, and that includes the 6-foot-6, 175-pound author) and while his short, whippy swing accommodates his approach well, it’s tough to make the contact-speed skill set work when you have no power at all… Right-hander Myles Jaye sat 89-92 in my viewing with a two-plane slider and a mid-70s curve that drew a whiff from Brandon Drury. He throws strikes, but none of his pitches looked better than average. He had a good season as a starter in Double-A in 2015, but it’s hard to see his career accelerating without a shift to the bullpen.