Victor Robles, CF, Washington Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown)
I could write at great length about Victor Robles being a five-tool wonder. I saw two games from Robles last week, and everything I saw fit well within the reports that give Robles the potential for four plus or plus-plus tools — hit, run, field, and arm — with credible power as well. Everything Robles got a bat on was smashed. If anything, the tools will play up because of his on-field instincts. Robles made one of the best start-to-finish reads and catches on a ball in the gap that I’ll see this season at any level, including the majors. He stands so close to the plate with such little fear that nearly anything inside hits him, which will cause the hit-by-pitches to pile up (he’s up to 28 since arriving stateside) and Robles’s OBP to inflate. He bunted for a base hit with great form and ease. The plate approach is highly advanced for his age and level, and this 18-year-old was able to recognize spin that was badly fooling advanced college bats. Robles was our 29th-ranked prospect entering the season, and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn by predicting that he’ll be a lot higher very soon.
Yet none of the above was the most striking thing about Victor Robles, because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a top prospect having more fun and carrying himself more positively on the field than Robles had last week. He was uniquely demonstrative in positive ways. A big base hit had him pumping his fist halfway down the first-base line. When his right fielder botched a ball near the wall, Robles sprinted over just to give him a pat on the rear, and then sprinted back to center for the next pitch. Robles wears his hat loose and it comes flying off frequently in the outfield. He dances to the between-innings music over the stadium public address. Robles congratulates his teammates with seemingly genuine enthusiasm, and he does it all with the stride and apparent confidence of a major-league vet. It’s a lot of extra excitement from a player whose tools and skills already generate great excitement.
I have no idea whether any of the fun-having truly matters in projecting him as a player. What I do know is that Bryce Harper is on a mission to Make Baseball Fun Again. And Victor Robles is going to be standing beside him in Washington — perhaps sooner than you think — having as much fun as he can. -Jarrett Seidler
Conner Greene, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
Watching Greene tear through a feeble lineup of A-ball hitters is like the penultimate episode of your favorite TV show; it's great, but you’re left waiting to see how it’ll play out in the finale. Greene cruised through this Saturday start, and a promotion back to Double-A couldn’t be more than a week or two away. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound righthander racked up six strikeouts and left Tigers hitters frustrated at the plate. His fastball is the main event, topping out at 97 and sitting 93-95 with armside run. This pitch is MLB-ready as is; Greene had no trouble commanding it on either side of the plate. As he continues to mature and add weight to his frame, the fastball should continue to improve, and considering he’s added considering he's gone from touching 92 mph up to 97 mph, there's a decent chance he'll flirt 99 by the he's in the majors.
Greene pairs the fastball with an 11-5 curve and a splitter. The curve projects as average, but is inconsistent in its current form. It has impressive depth, but Greene struggles to replicate his arm speed, and opposing hitters were quick to pick it up. Based on earlier reports, the pitch has clearly come a long way, and a little more polish should bump it up to a solid-average secondary offering. The splitter is a pleasant addition to his arsenal and keeps hitters honest at the plate. Greene didn’t rely on the pitch in this outing, but from what I saw it has good bite and betting on it to arrive as average is more than reasonable. For Greene to hit his upside, he’ll have to refine these pitches, but the strength of the fastball alone should allow to move quickly through the system. -Will Haines
Andrew Benintendi, CF, Boston Red Sox (High-A Salem)
I got my first live looks at Benintendi last week since seeing him as a prep outfielder in Ohio, when he was an undersized player lacking impact tools but high on hard-nosed play and feel for the game. How times have changed in just over two years. High-A is already a fairly advanced assignment for a recently drafted player, but Benintendi’s outstanding blend of tools and instincts will likely force their way to Double-A before too long. The tools and feel show up in the stat-line, too, where Benintendi has posted an OPS north of 1.000 through the season’s first month, walking more than he’s struck out. He repeats a very short stroke featuring a level swing path, allowing him advanced plate coverage as well as the ability to clear his hips and loft inside pitches for pull-side power. Benintendi showed he’s perfectly wiling to take what’s given, staying on pitches to the outer-half for hard-hit, opposite-field contact. His ability to control the zone and work himself into hitter’s counts where he was likely to see fastballs was impressive.
While he isn’t the most jaw-dropping raw athlete you’ve ever seen, he has a fluid, long stride underway; the plus instincts showing up in direct lines to the ball in center field that get the most out of his speed. Similarly, he showed a feel for taking extra bases and knowing when to put pressure on the defense by being aggressive. The raw tools grade out to be a high-probability, solid regular with an above-average hit tool and 50-grade power, but he gave off the vibe of a player that demonstrates the special ability to play above his tools the more you see him. If this winds up being a role 60 guy on the strength of a consistent style of play and highest-level instincts, it shouldn’t surprise. -Adam McInturff
Jose Campos, RHP, New York Yankees (High-A Tampa)
Campos, who goes by his middle name Vicente has certainly had a rough fall since being ranked eighth in the Yankees top 10 in 2012. Since then he missed multiple years with injury, including 2014 with elbow irritation, which caused him to go under the knife and get TJ surgery. Back then Campos was a high-profile prospect acquired with Michael Pineda as Jesus Montero went to Seattle. Back then he was a mid-90s flamethrower with a hammer of a curveball, all from a projectable frame and quick arm speed.
At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, he has a large muscular build and lacks projectability. So at this point what you see is what you get. Campos pitches from a full-windup with a compact arm action and fair arm speed, all from a three-quarters slot. In his last start, he was 91-93 that was firm with some running movement down in the zone. His control of the pitch was above-average as he was able to pound the zone with strikes, but they weren’t quality strikes as he would miss over the heart of the plate, but survived with minimal damage. His curveball isn’t as sharp as it used to be but was still effective at 75-78 mph. The pitch had a distinct 11/5 shape and he was able to locate it over the plate for strikes. Again, he was able to throw for strikes but his command was lackluster. His cambio was perhaps the most effective pitch this night, at 84-85 mph, he maintained arm speed on the pitch and featured good tumbling action.
With Campos’ body, size, and stuff he could make it as a back end rotation pitcher, but until the command takes a noticeable step forward he is more likely a middle relief arm. -Steve Givarz
Jacob Nix, RHP, San Diego Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne)
Jacob Nix has a higher profile than most third-round picks, following the high-profile issues with Brady Aiken and the Houston Astros two years ago that affected both him and Mac Marshall. Some of Nix’s faults at the time were control and a consistent delivery, but those issues seemed to have abated, at least on Wednesday night. Nix has always been known for his fastball, he worked 93-94 mph, while touching 95. The movement on his fastball becomes more evident the more he takes off the pitch, flashing some running arm-side action at 91 mph. Throughout the game he showed he was comfortable moving his velocity up and down in exchange for some extra movement.
Nix’s secondary offerings include a 78-mph curveball that he looked comfortable throwing to both righties and lefties, including being willing to back it up in right-handed hitters. It has more of a sweeping action than most curveballs that you’ll see, meaning it will need to tighten up a little bit as he moves to higher levels. The surprise of the night for me though was the change up. Nix only threw it a handful of times, but you can see it flash more potential than just a pitch to keep lefties honest.
Overall, you can see the issues that occasionally hampered Nix in his delivery as a prep. He can show effort at times, including a late whipping action on his arm when he follows through leading him to almost hit his left armpit at the end. This is a consistency issue that will fix itself with reps, something that he is being held back from right now with a three-inning limit, as he builds up his arm strength. Since being drafted he has cleaned up his delivery, kept his velocity, and improved his changeup, which is about the best-case scenario for such a high-potential arm. Nix profiles as a future number four starter at present, with the upside of a number three starter. -Grant Jones
Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros (Low-A Quad Cities)
Tucker is the Astros first-round pick from the 2015 draft and has been given a tough assignment in Low-A Quad Cities. The long, athletic outfielder has responded well to the challenge with 15 hits in 55 at-bats while being almost two years younger than most of his competition.
At the plate, Tucker starts from a tall, balanced stance with his hands near his armpit. He has raised them slightly from his amateur days and it looks to be an improvement. He starts his load with some backward movement with his hands, and a touch of drop, but compensates with above-average bat speed. His timing is great and he gets his foot down after a small stride. Tucker does have an arm bar at times but he gets the barrel through the zone quickly and extends well out front. He does have one hole in his swing, in and on his hands, but as he becomes more comfortable with his higher starting position that should close. He will get to an average power tool as he continues to mature because of his bat speed and barrel instincts. Overall, Tucker will be an above-average hitter in the future.
In the field, he has played both right and center field but looks to be the better fit in right. He has an average arm with accuracy and carry to the bag. He has a tall, rangy frame, and his athleticism helps him track down balls in the field. While he isn’t a glider, he has average speed and can steal a bag if forgotten about. Tucker will be an everyday outfielder at the big league level with the power and bat to profile in both corner spots. -James Fisher
Ty Blach, LHP, San Francisco (Triple-A Sacramento)
Sometimes, you drive to the park to watch a pitcher and he throws better than expected, so you drive home and sing his praises. Other times, you don’t get so lucky. Such is the case with Blach. That may be considerably less exciting than unearthing a hidden gem, but it’s a good reminder that not every Triple-A lefty with an 88-mph fastball is a no. 4 in waiting.
Blach hides the ball, and he does a couple of things—notably with a glove throw and a slight crossfire—to add deception to his delivery. It’s not the simplest motion, but he’s capable of moving the ball around and he mostly stayed out of trouble spots. The rest of the package lacks upside, however. Neither his curve nor his slider projects as a bat missing offering. Both feature two-plane break, but the movement isn’t sharp, he doesn’t consistently finish either pitch, and he slows his arm down on the curve. The changeup is his best secondary, a fading barrel misser that he can throw for strikes or run off the plate, but the movement is average and the pitch occasionally flattened out on him. It was just one outing—and he pitched part of it in a steady drizzle that ultimately delayed the game by approximately 45 minutes—but at this point, Blach looks more like depth than a projectable rotation piece. -Brendan Gawlowski
Andrew Moore, RHP, Seattle Mariners (High-A Bakersfield)
The Mariners have one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball on paper, and I was highly critical of their second-round selection: Oregon State right-hander Andrew Moore. It’s very early, but the Mariners may have had good reason to be so high on the right-hander. He was particularly impressive Friday night, giving up no hits in his seven innings of work against Lake Elsinore, walking just one hitter and striking out three.
Moore does it with four pitches, starting with a fastball that he commands to each side of the plate and sits 88-91 mph. It’s not straight and there is some plane, but it’s a 50 offering, at best, even with the ability to throw it for strikes. The best offspeed pitch is his change; a pitch that comes from the same arm-speed as the fastball and also offers some late fade, making it his best swing-and-miss pitch. He’ll also show an average curveball without huge spin but it’s another pitch for strikes, and a show-me slider that he can bury at the feet of left-handers when ahead in the count.
The upside isn’t huge here, but because he throws everything for strikes, he should move quickly through the Mariners system, and a backend starter is a very realistic floor for right-hander. -Christopher Crawford
Domingo Leyba, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks (High-A Visalia)
The Diamondbacks assigned Leyba to High-A for a full season last year grabbing him in the Didi Gregorious trade, and he was so young then that he’s still the sixth-youngest regular in the California League as of this writing. I got several looks at him over the course of the year, noting that while he had “the look of a guy waiting for a late bus in the batter’s box,” his compact swing and bat-to-ball were notable strengths, and he improved his approach as the season progressed. The frame’s the same, stocky and with a thicker lower half that doesn’t necessarily look the part of a shortstop. He’s also only an average runner and thrower at best, yet he’s managed to keep the possibility of a future in the six spot open. The hands and transfer are both outstanding, and he shows instincts for reading contact and fluidity breaking on the ball. He’s a confident player defensively.
At the plate he’s a switch-hitter, though in some teenaged number of at-bats now I’ve still only ever caught him left-handed. On that side he starts from a tight coil and wide base, bat on his back shoulder before he wraps it at trigger. He’s rhythmic with his lower half, using a leg kick with a short, rigid stride. The weight transfer gets him to his front side early and robs him of any leverage at all. It’s an arms swing, and the bat is quick into the zone in spite of the added length. The same hand-eye that props up his fielding also does so with his hitting, and he’s going to need the contact skills to translate at higher levels. If it does there’s a solid utility player skillset here. -Wilson Karaman
Tyler O’Neill, OF, Seattle Mariners (Double-A Jackson)
This is a pivotal season for the 20-year-old Canadian outfielder to show he can make contact on a consistent basis, but the early returns are strong in his Southern League debut. He tagged rehabbing Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani for two home runs Saturday night and carries a .311/.386/.557 slash line through 16 games, including three homers in his last seven.
Though he’s been trigger-happy on offspeed pitches in the past – both knocks against DeSclafani came on curveballs – manager Daren Brown is impressed with his outfielder’s pitch selection. O’Neill walked just once in 75 plate appearances in April 2015 but already has eight walks this month. The Mariners aren’t concerned with his strikeout rate, 25.7 percent this season and about 30 percent over his career, and chalk some of it up to youth as he adjusts to more experienced pitchers.
O’Neill can put on a show in BP with quick hands and easy power, and nothing is lost in the translation to game action. The former high-school catcher is making his way up the learning curve in right field, occasionally getting a bad jump on balls, but he has the speed to compensate and flashes a plus arm. O’Neill should be a major-league regular with a few tweaks and more reps in right, and the Mariners otherwise have the organizational depth to let him develop. -Kourage Kundahl
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