Cody Reed, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Low-A Kane County)
Following his selection in the second round of the 2014 draft, Reed put together an impressive start to his professional career. The left-hander has a big, wide frame and attacks the strike zone from a low three-quarters slot. His delivery is unique and while it’s not how you would draw it up, he repeats it well and it works for him. Reed cranks down into his back leg with a slight twist before exploding into a flexed front leg with blocking of his front hip. The delivery also has deception which helps his fastball play up.
Reed’s fastball isn’t overpowering, sitting 88-91 and touching 92 in this outing, but plays above-average because of the deception and sink in the zone. There is plenty of weak contact and swing-and-miss to the fastball. He can locate the pitch to both sides of the plate and will elevate it at times for the strikeout. The slider will be the main off-speed offering in the future with three-quarters shape and late bite in the zone, but his curveball shows promise as well. The curve’s shape varied from 1/7-2/8 but he showed the ability to throw it for strikes, and as a chase pitch. Reed didn’t throw the changeup much in this outing, but the few he did flashed tumble and proper arm speed. If everything comes together for Reed, the Diamondbacks will have a no. 3 or 4 starter on their hands, with the potential for three above-average pitches and the ability to fill up the strike zone. – James Fisher
Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat High School (NJ)
For the last two Saturdays, I’ve ventured to tiny high school fields in Ocean County, New Jersey to crowd behind the plate with scouts and onlookers to see Baseball Prospectus’s top 2016 draft prospect, Jason Groome. Groome, only 17, looks strikingly like the prototype lefty on the mound—tall, lean with strong lower body, picture perfect motion. And at least in flashes, the stuff matched the hype.
The two games I’ve seen of Groome were his first two back from a bizarre suspension saga. His fastball has sat 89-94 mph. Earlier in games, the higher end of that velo band tends to be explosive high heat with late movement, and the lower end usually shows noticeable sink or cut. Given the unusual nature of his season, the weather conditions, and his age and build, Groome stands a good chance to gain a few more ticks on the fastball moving forward. His curveball is an absolutely magnificent pitch to watch, capable of being thrown for strikes or as a chase pitch, with beautiful two-plane break in the mid-to-high 70s. Groome commands it well, and it is a completely unfair weapon to be thrown against high schoolers, often giving umpires as much of a fit as the batters. That curveball should remain his out-pitch all the way up the ladder, and is why we’re talking about him at the top of the draft. He also featured the occasional change at similar velocities to the curve, which flashed potential.
Especially in my second look against Toms River North, Groome looked great early, but had some trouble with fastball command as things progressed. He noticeably tired as early as the fourth inning, with velocity on all pitches dropping. In the fifth inning, things went south fast, and North chased him out of the game with a five-spot, most of which was on Groome and not his defense. Toms River North is a legitimate offensive force in the Shore Conference, and the player with the key hit, Joey Rose, is a real prospect himself, committed to Oklahoma State, but it’s still striking to see the potential number one overall pick get shelled in a high school game. So it goes in trying to evaluate the New Jersey high schooler. – Jarrett Seidler
Drew Jackson, SS, Seattle Mariners (High-A Bakersfield)
Jackson is an athletic specimen at the six spot, with a high waist and strength throughout his frame. He moves fluidly, showing lateral range built on quick breaks and impressive foot speed, and the hands showed as soft on receipt. The arm strength really stands out, and it is more than enough to compensate for a slower transfer and gather. The defensive package looked to be that of an above-average shortstop, and it wouldn’t shock me if additional looks led to a plus grade.
With the caveat that one-game looks are one-game looks, the rest of the game appeared quite raw. At the plate he starts wide open with a lower-half crouch and rigid upper body, hands high and tight, with his weight leveraged on his front leg. The ensuing load is long, noisy, and stiff, with a mild wrap and an arm bar adding length and compromising barrel control. He flashed some spin recognition and signs of an approach, though the swing is linear with very little in the way or leverage or plane to drive the ball. There is at least plus raw foot speed, but his reactions on pick-offs and reads were a tick slow, and he struggled to time first move in both of his trips to first base. – Wilson Karaman
Dominic Smith, 1B, New York Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
My feelings on Smith are a matter of public record at this point. I am the low man among public evaluators. Every look is an opportunity to refine though, and I caught Smith for four games in April, giving me around 15 full-season ball looks at him. Smith is showing a bit more power, both raw and game, than in the past. The best game power is still oppo, and every pulled ball almost feels like a mistake, as if he was just strong enough to topspin one into right-center field after getting out in front of something slow. I did see the best BP session from a raw standpoint in the last three years. But it’d be like a 55 raw grade, and one of the two balls that went out is a warning track fly in most major-league parks. It’s still progress though.
The advanced hit tool has always been what Smith’s proponents hung their hat on, and the kid has feel for sure. His swing is still very much geared for contact; the hips slide early and he casts the bat head, cutting off whatever raw power he will show in BP. He has a nose for barrel contact though, and is strong enough to get the ball into the outfield even when fooled. My main concern for him at the plate is New Hampshire pitchers were able to get him out by relying on very pedestrian off-speed stuff low and away, with the occasional fastball above the hands to keep him from zoning the soft stuff. Now, not every Eastern League arm is going to be able to pull that off, and Smith is a good enough hitter to punish mistakes, but there is a book on him, and until he starts showing more game power, that’s a tough profile as a singles-hitting first baseman. The pop and glove look better this year, but I still have the same concerns about the hit tool and the body. It is a major-league OFP, but it is tough to find a role for a bad-bodied, first-base-only left-hander if everything doesn’t work out all rosy from here on out. – Jeff Paternostro
Nick Howard, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (High-A Dayton)
To say Nick Howard has struggled in his pro career is akin to saying that the sky is blue. Of course, dealing with the yips will do that to you. In my two viewings of Howard this year he has made some strides compared to when I saw him in Arizona. In warm-ups pre-game he seems to be throwing with intent at his target, showing that he can start the day well. He is pitching from the stretch only now, in an attempt to simplify his delivery. The breaking stuff that made him so highly rated is still there, as he can drop 60 sliders with ease and when he needs to get a strike over. The problem right now is that there is zero fastball control. He is pitching at 88-90 just to try and get strikes, and while he will get around the plate it is more to one area than throwing to spots. When he ramps it up to 92-93 he has no clue where it’s heading. His mound presence, as you would guess, is very poor right now, as it is easy to get defeated when you have this scenario happen to you every couple of days. Just think about it, the thing he has been doing since he was little, that got him into a major college, to be a premier player in that college program, to be a first-rounder… to now have to be his own Sisyphus, repeatedly climbing a mound only to see a ball roll away, without any sense of when relief or success might come. – Steve Givarz
Erick Fedde, RHP, Washington Nationals (High-A Potomac)
Fedde’s unsightly ERA is more a result of a disastrous first start of May as opposed to a year-long struggle in the Carolina League. Pitching from a semi-windup, he has a unique delivery that hides the ball from right-handed bats, but has aspects that likely will need to be smoothed out in order to unlock consistent command of his fastball. His arm wraps badly in the back of his delivery, and an extra-long stride can cause him to land hard and pull off the target at times. His athleticism helps him throw basic strikes and limit walks despite shaky in-zone command—evidenced by a roughly 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio—but getting softer in his landing and precise within the zone will be development keys as he climbs the minor league ladder.
Fedde has above-average stuff, pitching mostly off a lively running fastball and a late-breaking slider, both of which show the potential to play as swing-and-miss offerings at the big-league level. He’ll scrape 95 at times while sitting in the 92-93 range with his fastball, and his quick arm gives the pitch natural, heavy action and quality arm-side movement. His slider ranges from 81-85 mph, and while its depth isn’t the biggest two-planer you’ve ever seen, the lateness of the slider’s glove-side movement plays well off his fastball. His mid-80s change works more as a complementary pitch right now and is still a bit crude at times, but it flashes average at its best and will only ever need to be usable to keep opposite-handed hitters at bay. Fedde needs to continue to demonstrate health and start-to-start consistency at this stage of his career, but he could reach Washington in the next two-or-so seasons, with the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. – Adam McInturff
Nate Smith, LHP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Orange County (Triple-A Salt Lake City of Utah)
Smith may not be LAA’s top pitching prospect, but he’s close, and after getting knocked around in his first tour through Triple-A, he’s settled down a bit this year. Smith works with a fastball in the high 80s and low 90s. He uses a high three-quarters arm slot, and at 6-foot-3, he gets good plane on his pitches. He’s not overpowering by any stretch, but he’s adept at finding the corner with his fastball and he gets himself in a lot of good counts. He complements the fastball with an above-average change, a slider, and a curve to keep hitters off balance.
Smith’s slider features short break with moderate sharpness. He’s capable of burying the pitch, and his best ones will entice an occasional whiff. The curve has a consistent 1-7 shape. He can throw it for strikes, and the pitch has some depth to it, but the break is soft and it isn’t a bat-misser. The cambio is his best offering, a fading pitch thrown with good arm speed and a bit of tumble. Ultimately, Smith doesn’t have the highest ceiling in the PCL. With his best command though, he can run through a lineup a few times, and he has good enough stuff to survive in the back of a rotation in a big ballpark. That’s a pretty good ROI on a senior sign who collected a $12,000 bonus back in 2013. – Brendan Gawlowski
Keegan Yuhl, RHP, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi)
Deep draft picks often fly under the radar, are ignored, and aren’t typically written up in any prospect lists. But when low draft picks start putting up numbers that defy their draft position one must take notice. Following in the footsteps of the Cardinals’ Artie Reyes (40th round 2013), who dominated the Texas League in 2015, is right-hander Keegan Yuhl, selected in the 35th round by the Houston Astros out of Concordia University in Irvine, CA. Yuhl’s introduction to the Texas League this year has been impressive thus far with a 1-1 record and 3.25 ERA in six appearances (4 starts). More impressive is his hits to innings pitched (23 hits in 27.2 innings) and his 8.8 K/9 ratio. The Astros must have seen something in Yuhl by assigning him to the Arizona Fall League last year after phenomenal stints in Quad Cities and Lancaster. He’ll attack hitters with a fastball/slider/changeup arsenal that, at first glance, is not overly impressive. But Yuhl’s ability to command all three pitches and throw them at will overrides their lack of action and velocity (87-90 mph FB). He works quickly, never allowing hitters to get comfortable in the batter’s box. The Texas League will be a great test for Yuhl and his stuff, but it seems his makeup and ability to command that could carry him through to another productive season. – Colin Young
Josh Turley, LHP, Detroit Tigers (Triple-A Toledo)
Turley is one of the most interesting players I have seen this season. His delivery comes from a low three-quarters with some effort. He has a pitch mix that includes a soft 88-89 mph fastball, a cutter, changeup, curveball and a hard knuckleball. Being a southpaw, his fastball is passable at best, but when he mixes in more two-seamers, the movement plays much better with his sequencing. The cutter looks more like a dull slider, but works against the lower quality hitters he faced. Turley’s issue is the absence of a true out-pitch, something that he has tried compensating for by adding the hard knuckleball that has drawn more eyes to him. Coaches rave about his makeup and willingness to work on getting his consistency down, something that he will need in order to be more than a journeyman pitcher. His curve looked loopy at times, as he showed an okay feel for the pitch, but did not have the break needed to get hitters out. The change was much the same story, showing fringe at best, with arm-side movement. By the end of the outing Columbus was teeing off for hard hits as they waited on his fastball, or sat back on his curve. In order to be more than an emergency arm, or mop-up man, Turley will need to improve at least one of his many pitches. – Grant Jones
Colin Bray, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (High-A Visalia)
Bray boasts an ideal frame, with a high waist and athleticism throughout, and his tools are highlighted by speed that pushes double-plus. He utilizes it well in center field, showing excellent range into the gaps. He reads the ball well coming in, though he struggled to adjust for the wind and react to multiple chances on balls hit over his head in these looks. At the plate his is a quiet setup with a wide crouch, though there's some noise in his load as he hitches his hands and flares the bat in a loop to trigger. His stride is short and he's stiff to the front side with no separation or leverage to speak of, leaving him unable to drive the ball with much of any authority. The result is a slashing swing with some length and inconsistent barrel delivery, and coupled with a moderately aggressive approach it probably leaves him short of the hit tool necessary to overcome his 20 game power and start down the line. – Wilson Karaman