Scouts are people, too.
Sure, they have a job that requires an even keel and restraint, but just like us, they see certain things on paper that look better on paper than others. With minor league rosters now set, I decided to ask five of those scouts which rosters and players they are most looking forward to seeing for the 2016 season.
AL East Scout: Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers, Triple-A): “I mean, Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara. That’s two of the best offensive prospects in all of baseball, it’s pretty tough for any roster to compete with that. I’m going to be fascinated to see what kind of numbers these guys can put up, though something tells me they won’t be there for very long. I also like Patrick Kivlehan more than most; I think he has a chance to be a do a little bit of everything guy, he can play pretty much everywhere but behind the plate and shortstop and handle it. I know Chi Chi Gonzalez isn’t a prospect, but he’s pretty nice to get to see, as well; he’s got a chance to pitch in the middle of someone’s rotation for a long time.”
NL Central Scout: Hartford Yard Goats (Colorado Rockies, Double-A): “This is sort of a best of a bad situation, but this is a pretty dang talented roster. I haven’t seen (Raimel) Tapia and (David) Dahl in person but I hear great things, particularly about Dahl. I really liked what I saw in a limited look from Ryan McMahon, there’s a chance for a couple of plus hit tools there, and Kyle Freeland showed some flashes when I saw him in the AFL, and I know they took him pretty high a couple years ago. There are some less than exciting rosters, but I’ll look forward to when Hartford comes down here.”
AL West Scout: High Desert Mavericks (Texas Rangers, High-A): “This one’s not close. I don’t think there’s a better group of pitchers than this, and I’m fascinated to see what they can do in such treacherous surroundings. Luis Ortiz is a top-of-the-rotation guy from what I’ve seen, Yohander Mendez has one of the best changeups of any southpaw I saw this spring, and after seeing Ariel Jurado’s stats I’m really curious to see if they’re sustainable, because that strikeout-to-walk ratio is sick. The hitting isn’t as good, but Josh Morgan, Travis Demeritte, Jairo Beras, and some other guys make this the best by a substantial margin.”
AL East Scout: Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay Rays, Double-A): “Loaded. Taylor Guerrieri is a legit No. 2 starter potentially, there’s a ton to like in that arsenal. People don’t know the name Jacob Faria yet, but they will, that’s another mid-rotation starter. Justin O’Conner is one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball, if he can hit even a little bit he’s a starter. (Willy) Adames is their best hitting prospect, he doesn’t have that standout tool but he can do a little bit of everything at shortstop. I also am really excited to see Jake Bauers after everyone raved about him in the AFL, if he can actually stay in the outfield with that hit tool he has a chance to be a regular.”
NL West Scout: South Bend Cubs (Chicago Cubs, Low-A): I’m looking forward to seeing this pitching staff. Both (Carson) Sands and (Justin) Steele are southpaws with a couple of plus pitches, and southpaws with two plus pitches have a chance to pitch for a long time. I know a lot of people really liked James Norwood out of St. Louis, and even though he’s old for the league I look forward to seeing the stuff. But the big draw here is the outfield. Eloy Jimenez, Eddy Julio Martinez, Donnie Dewees, these are all potentially impact players. I don’t see any other team in the Midwest League who has players like that.”
Me: Fresno Grizzlies (Houston Astros, Triple-A): It would have been High Desert, but because we frown on repetition, I’ll go with Fresno. If A.J. Reed played any position but first base he’d be a top-10 prospect, as the offensive skill set here is delightful. Tony Kemp is diminutive, but he also is a “gamer” who has a chance to be a regular at second base or a nifty little (pun definitely intended) utility player. Colin Moran has shown flashes of being an above-average regular at the hot corner, and Andrew Aplin is not without his charm in the outfield. The pitching leaves a bit to be desired, but Michael Feliz has a plus-plus fastball and above-average curveball, and he’ll either be a high-leverage reliever or backend starter. I’ll also mention that guys like Joe Musgrove, Francis Martes and Alex Bregman will very likely be up by the time I see them, and while you may say that’s cheating, I’ll say that I don’t care. There aren’t many things that would make me make a trip up to Fresno, but this is one of them.
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