Trent Clark, CF, Milwaukee Brewers (Low-A Wisconsin)
The Brewers first-round selection in the 2015 draft was recently promoted to Low-A Wisconsin and has already shown advanced hitting ability. Clark has a physical frame with plenty of strength through the chest and lower half. As he continues to fill out he will profile better in a corner with the bat to match.
At the plate, he starts from a slightly open stance with his hands at his shoulder and grips the bat like a golfer would. There was plenty of talk in the scouting community about his grip and how it affected his swing during his amateur days but that shouldn’t be an issue going forward. He combines above-average bat speed with a patient approach to drive his pitch. As his approach continues to develop, Clark will start to drive balls earlier in the count aggressively instead of being passive at times. At this point he has 10 walks compared to six strikeouts and four doubles in 29 plate appearances. The power is mainly gap-to-gap at this point, but Clark drives the ball to all fields with authority in batting practice and the long ball will emerge quickly.
Defensively he is alert and anticipates well with first-step quickness. While he came up short on a couple of pop ups in my viewing, that was more a factor of being uncomfortable with his infielders range than his own and being deferential to them in his first few games in Appleton. While he doesn’t have a cannon, Clark shows the proper arm mechanics and on-line carry through the bag that you want to see in an everyday outfielder. The arm is plenty for center but if he has to move to right it would profile just fine. He is just getting started in his first full season of professional ball but with that caveat aside, there is a lot to like and in time he should be patrolling the outfield in Miller Park. —James Fisher
Harrison Bader, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (Double-A Springfield)
A word cloud of Cardinal prospects in recent years is just the adjective “polished” with a lot of fine print. Enter Harrison Bader, an SEC veteran who skipped High-A and is currently pummeling Double-A pitching a month shy of turning 22. Listed at 5-foot-10, and 200 pounds, Bader is lean and strong. His strength isn’t wasted in the batter’s box, where he takes a long stride but loads and fires quickly with some explosion through the zone. His swing is frequently maxed-out, with balanced violence, leading to a manageable amount of swing-and-miss and a lot of granite-hard contact. He’s walk-averse because of early aggressiveness in the zone. The strikeout rate is a little high, but commensurate with the production.
Bader’s athleticism translates well to the field, where he is refining his routes to maximize his above-average speed. He has a strong arm that sprays a little. He might be stretched slightly in center, but he can play adequately or better at all three spots for now.
Praised for his maturity and response to coaching, he carries himself as a hard worker who expects to make adjustments constantly in order to compete. Yawn. Just another polished Cardinals outfield prospect. —Kit House
Brock Dykxhoorn, RHP, Houston Astros (High-A Lancaster)
Brock Dykxhoorn is, um, large. Every bit of his listed 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, he’s a moose of a Canadian man whom the Astros plucked in the sixth round in 2014. If you can believe it, he uses his gigantic frame to generate a whole bunch of plane on his pitches. He throws from a true three-quarters slot with an extremely stiff delivery. The hand break is early, and his arm swing is more of a drift into a rigid, locked “L,” which turns into a downhill slingshot release. The foot strike is as firm as they come, and his back leg bounces and cuts off as he finishes his drive. It’s an ugly duckling of a delivery, and yet at least on this night it kind of worked.
The fastball sat 90-92 mph throughout his six innings, topping at 93. It’s a fairly straight pitch, though he’ll generate ample boring action with it thanks to excellent plane. He really drives the ball to the lower quadrants, and he controlled it consistently throughout, also showing an occasional willingness to challenge hitters up in the zone. It doesn’t have a ton of life to it, and the fine command lags considerably behind, leading to more aerial contact than you’d think. The changeup was his best pitch, with well above-average fade and solid separation at 82-84. He showed feel and trust in it, consistently turning to it behind in counts and generating a handful of swings and misses along the way. He did not throw a rumored slider, instead working in several developmental curveballs in the low-70s that showed some depth but lacked much bite and came in advertised by a slowed arm.
I’m not sure I saw enough to buy him as a starter, but he showed consistent signs of an average fastball and above-average change. With some baseline command for a man his size, it’s at least an intriguing enough package to think about for a bullpen future at the highest level. —Wilson Karaman
A.J. Puk, LHP, University of Florida (2016 Draft Class)
A militia of scouts arrived in Gainesville this weekend to lay eyes on the big left-hander projected to go with the first pick of the 2016 draft. Puk, who weighs in at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, certainly looks the part of future superstar, towering over the competition on the mound while pitching with unbridled intensity. He boasts an intimidating arsenal of three potentially plus pitches, with upside for even higher grades. His mechanics are elegantly executed, refined after three years toiling in the Florida humidity. He is the second coming of the power pitcher, born to rack up double-digit strikeout counts start after start. The Gators have created a monster in the swamp, a towering, shrewd, downright frightening starting pitcher.
In this outing, Puk faced the dangerous Vanderbilt Commodores and delivered a solid six innings, striking out eleven and allowing a single earned run. His fastball was his main weapon, topping out at 98 mph and sitting 94-95. Puk has great command of this pitch, with the ability to locate it on both sides of the plate, looking especially comfortable with it glove-side. His slider is his strong secondary, and death on left-handed hitters. Righties frequently saw the changeup, a respectable offering with bite that sometimes was left up in the zone. Both offspeed pitches are well hidden by Puk’s wind-up and should keep hitters from simply sitting on the fastball. If there’s been a weakness to Puk’s game thus far, it would be his composure on the mound. While that can sometimes work in his favor, it has mostly held him back this season, as getting squeezed by an umpire or hitting a batter can spiral as his patience quickly wanes. Puk will need to find a way to keep his head on his shoulders in the frustrating moments in his games to avoid strong starts slipping away in the later innings, as has happened this year.
Puk also started 12 games at first base in 2015 due to team injuries, a fun, but probably insignificant fact. He can hold his own at the plate, and could enter the exclusive #pitcherswhorake club once he reaches the bigs. He looks comfortable fielding his position and has a respectable pickoff move. Puk appears to be every part of a top draft selection, and I envy the fan base who has the fortune to add him to their organization. —Will Haines
J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (Double-A Reading)
Crawford reminds me quite a bit of Carlos Beltran. This comp, of course, makes no sense at all on its face—Crawford is a lefty shortstop prospect while Beltran is an aging, switch-hitting outfielder; Beltran had a 41 homer season, and while I expect some power to come for Crawford, he's having trouble slugging .350 in the Eastern League right now. But hear me out on this one: The best athletes make baseball look comically easy, so easy that they get criticized for it. Peak Beltran made the simple acts of playing baseball look so, so simple. He'd gain so many steps with a great jump and graceful strides that he was rangier than nearly anyone else in baseball without breaking into a run. He'd look like he was jogging down the line and then you'd realize that his jog made him the fastest guy on the field.
J.P. Crawford makes baseball look really easy too. He's a very good defensive shortstop, maybe even a future Gold Glover, but he's never going to have Francisco Lindor's lateral range or Andrelton Simmons' arm. But what Crawford does better than anyone is make extremely difficult plays look like your routine 6-3 putout, because of the fluidity of every action he has at short. When he fails to make a play on a ball that's even remotely in his vicinity—as he did on an highly difficult grounder deep in the hole on a bad, fog-laden field Friday night—you're simply shocked to see him not there. And he runs fast with such little effort. In the third inning of the same game, Crawford hit a sharp grounder to second with a runner on first, a fairly routine double play ball. I didn't think he ran it out—it looked like he was in a light jog, pulling up at the bag—until I looked down at my stopwatch and he was 4.15 to first even pulling up. It was all a flashback to the old Carlos Beltran; the gracefulness of Crawford's gait fooled me into thinking he wasn't running. The worst two moments of a game were the two that shone the brightest light on his impressiveness. —Jarrett Seidler
Christin Stewart, LF, Detroit Tigers (High-A Lakeland)
If you haven’t noticed, Stewart as of Sunday morning, was leading all of the minor leagues in home runs with 13. What is making this even more impressive is that he has done this while playing in the Florida State League, which is notorious for being a pitcher’s paradise. Stewart boasts a large, physical frame and lacks remaining projection given his age and body maturity. He hits from an open-crouched stance with a leg lift for timing. While his swing has some length in it, he has quick hands and plus bat speed to compensate. He gets great extension on hits, allowing him to use his strength to put any ball into the gaps or over the fence. Stewart is a naturally aggressive hitter but isn’t allergic to walking either. As pitchers have become more cautious of his power, he is becoming more selective and understands what he can and can’t do damage with. He will always have aggression, you don’t want to take that away from a young hitter, but he is learning how to become a better overall hitter. He struggles with quality lefties and pitchers that can throw it inside, which might remain weaknesses going forward. His defensive profiles leaves much to be desired. He is glued to left field given his 40 run, 40 arm, and current below-average defense. While he does a good job of releasing the ball quickly and hitting the cut-off man, the arm dooms him to the corner. He has struggled at times with reads off the bat and not taking the best routes, but has improved since the early part of the year. With plus in-game power and a future average hit tool, Stewart should improve enough to be an everyday player who has the chance for 25+ bombs. —Steve Givarz
Luis Urias, IF, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
When you see a strong guy put up big power numbers in the Cal League, you can't help but be skeptical. When you see what someone with Urias’ skill set is doing in the league, it's much easier to be optimistic, especially when you consider he won't turn 19 until August.
When you hear someone say a swing is geared towards contact, they're talking about Urias. It's simple with a quick path, and there's very little swing and miss in his game. There's also very little power, but you can take the trade off if the hit tool is above-average or plus, and Urias' could reach that grade. He also will take pitches and work counts, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if this was a guy who walked more than he struck out.
Urias plays second base almost exclusively at Lake Elsinore, and that's his most likely landing spot. He's an average runner with an average arm, so while there was once a thought he could play shortstop, it's really unlikely he'd be anything more than fringe-average there. He'd obviously be much more valuable on the other side of the bag, but his ability to get on base makes him interesting at any position, really. —Christopher Crawford
Yoanys Quiala, RHP, Houston Astros (Low-A Quad Cities)
Quiala was signed by the Astros last summer after leaving Cuba, and is now 22 in his first full season stateside. When he signed, he was talked about as a future reliever with a 96-98 mph fastball. Unfortunately, as with some international prospects, Quiala’s velocity seems to have been overhyped, as his fastball sat 89-92 on Thursday night with only a little bit of action on the fastball. His slider sat around 83, showing a slurvy look on it. His changeup featured fair tumble as it fell out of the zone, but he struggled to keep pace with his arm speed and wavered as he delivered the pitch.
Quiala has some work to do on his mechanics, as his lower half is mostly quiet, but as he turns his body towards first base, he turns over to keep his head on-line. He has a stocky build, and has a problem with changing his arm slot and speed slightly to adjust for each pitch, which does not bode well for higher-level competition. He got hit hard for two home runs in four innings allowing five hits in his full season debut. His control looked adequate, ands he allowed no walks. —Grant Jones
Dylan Cozens, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (Double-A Reading)
So far this season, I’ve added two games to the 43-game total I had observing Cozens since he was drafted in by the Phillies in 2012, and in just those two games I am comfortable saying he is a “different” player. That’s not to say he’s not the same physical beast he’s always been, because he is, or that he doesn’t possess the same power one could always dream on, but his approach and ability to find his power in game situations was markedly improved. Cozens will always strike out, but that is an acceptable tradeoff for a corner player that can drive the ball out of the park, just as he already has on ten occasions this season. A likely left fielder, Cozens still has to maximize his offensive potential to maintain an everyday projection, but he looked closer to achieving that feat this year than he had in any of my prior five seasons scouting him. Based on my past experience and the new observations this season, I would contend Cozens will still require a full season at Double-A, and another at Triple-A, before the Phillies should test him against big-league arms. If the club is patient, they could discover a solid regular left fielder with 20-25 home run power at his peak. —Mark Anderson
Josh Staumont, RHP, Kansas City Royals (High-A Wilmington)
Perhaps the hardest thrower in last year’s draft, concerns about Staumont’s control led to him falling to the second round despite his stuff. He started 2016 strong—striking out 23 against seven walks his first few outings of the season—demonstrating the degree his stuff dominates when he limits free passes. Since then, Staumont has walked just as many as he’s struck out, and his ERA sits above 5 after a disastrous outing on Sunday. Despite a fairly low-maintenance delivery, the front side in his motion can get soft as he drives to the plate, and his upper-half finishes too upright to consistently extend to the plate.
So long as Staumont is working as a starter, there might always be some “Jekyll and Hyde” to his control, but not many starters in the minors can match his power fastball/curveball mix. He’ll routinely touch the upper-90s, and settles in with a fastball sitting in the 95-96 range across numerous innings. His power breaking ball is a true curveball in the low-to-mid-80s; when he’s able to get on top of it, the pitch shows above-average depth and bite. His best changeups have more separation and movement than the pitch had in his amateur days, and Staumont seems to be working on developing a more traditional three-pitch mix after working mostly off his fastball and curve in college. It isn’t guaranteed Staumont ever toes a big league rubber in a starter’s role, but his electric mix of plus pitches gives him the best-case ceiling of an impactful contributor to a big league staff, even if he ultimately moves to a ‘pen role. —Adam McInturff
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