Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer (2016 Draft Class)
You can’t teach the type of impact Lewis offers, and that’s why he’s seen as a potential top-five overall pick. The bat speed is borderline plus-plus from incredibly quick hands and strong wrists. He shows over-the-fence power to all fields, including some of the best opposite-field power you’ll find on an amateur player. A couple scouts I recently sat with noted the right-center power is remarkable. The ball flies off the bat with a different sound, and it carries to all fields with natural lift in the stroke. The approach is power before hit, though. There will always be swing and miss in his game. He tends to chase outside all quadrants and is ultra-aggressive. That makes for some risk that early in the first round and leaves me questioning whether no. 2 overall is a real possibility. Lewis makes good reads and routes on balls to center field. The range is average at best, but he’s an above-average runner underway and compensates with good reads and aggressiveness. The power potential plays at any position, but the ability to stay in center boosts his stock even higher. A team will believe in the profile enough to not be worried by the miss in his approach, and he should go high. The payout could be tremendous. —David Lee
Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Chicago Cubs (Triple-A Iowa)
Power is Vogelbach’s calling card, and he has a lot of it. He launched a homer off of a curveball from lefty James Paxton, and while the 23-year-old didn’t get the best part of the barrel on the ball, he still sent it comfortably over the right-center field fence. He generates his power from above-average bat speed, a leveraged swing with a lofted finish, and a large frame conducive to hitting home runs. He also gets himself into good counts: a patient hitter, Vogelbach shrinks the strike zone early in counts, and he isn’t easily enticed to chase a breaking pitch off the plate. He is sometimes guilty of pulling his head, and he’ll have his share of swings and misses. Still, he covers the plate well, and should be a well above-average hitter at the next level.
Defensively, his best position is hitter. His feet aren’t quick, his range is well below-average, and he doesn’t get great reads on pop ups. Still, Vogelbach looks like he’s in much better shape than when I last saw him four years ago and he looks better around the bag because of it. While he’s not really a first baseman long term, he won’t kill all of his value if he has to play there. Worse defenders have held a glove. —Brendan Gawlowski
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Washington Nationals (Double-A Harrisburg)
Now arguably the hardest thrower in Washington’s system, Lopez has seen large developments in his physicality and fastball since signing for a nominal international bonus in 2012. Signed two years later than most Dominican arms at the age of 18, he’s now a muscularly-built six-footer. While he’s still short for a righty, Lopez’s frame has the broad, athletic features of a power pitcher. His arm strength is rare, but it comes at the expense of effort in his delivery. His arm works explosively through a three-quarters slot, but he consistently flies open at release, dragging him off-line from the plate and causing issues with the consistency of his command and breaking ball.
Lopez features an overpowering fastball that touches 98, while sitting 94-96—even as a starter. The ball explodes through the zone with a second gear, taking off to his arm-side as well when he elevates fastballs. He backs up his double-plus fastball with two solid secondary pitches, possessing encouraging feel for his changeup for a young arm-strength pitcher. He throws a hard curveball in the 78-82 mph range that flashes above-average shape at times, though I’ve seen him struggle to execute it consistently on nights where his effort-laden mechanics are out of sync. In two viewings, Lopez has maintained his electric arm speed on his changeup, flashing the ability to get swings and misses over a pitch with late, diving arm-side turnover in the upper 80s. While he’ll never lack in pure stuff, he will likely always have to overpower hitters to account for bouts of wildness and hitter’s counts if he remains a starter. His power three-pitch mix is tantalizing if it can be harnessed as a starter, though given Lopez’ height, effort, and a fastball that could touch 100 mph in a short-exposure role, he might have a future as a late-innings bullpen piece. —Adam McInturff
Keury Mella, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (High-A Daytona)
Would it really be a Monday Morning Ten Pack without discussing an intriguing arm in the Cincinnati system? Keury Mella may be occasionally overshadowed in the Reds’ collection of pitching prospects, but his upside is hard to overlook. Mella hurls two- and four-seam fastballs with plus velocity and fringe-average command in addition to a fairly standard changeup and a peculiar breaking ball that can best be described as a slurve. When he’s on, these pitches eat up High-A hitters who don’t quite know what to expect from the thickset pitcher. When he’s off, the strike zone shrinks to the size of a postage stamp and fastballs are left belt-high. Mella is no longer the mechanical mess he once was, but his unconventional delivery still lacks repeatability. Keury’s low floor/high ceiling combination is both risky and tantalizing, and whispers of a move to the bullpen aren’t entirely unfounded. The combination of Mella’s composure and stuff would make him a potentially excellent high-leverage reliever, but there’s enough upside here to see if he can’t stick in the rotation in the meantime.
After watching Mella’s disastrous first start to the season, a game where he went only 3 1/3 innings, I was pleased to see him making adjustments and having success. The right-hander, who has struggled early in the season with his walk rate and efficiency, allowed only an earned run and a walk in his seven innings of work. Mella has improved his control in the short term by sacrificing velocity, and relying more on his two-seam fastball. Older reports had Mella topping out at 97, but he sat 92-94 in this start, maxing out at 95. If this reduction in velocity is purely intentional (and I believe it is), then it is a strategic choice that has allowed Mella to throw strikes when he needs to. His fastball command is still fringe-average, and opposing hitters were able to make strong contact when the pitch found the middle of the zone. If Mella is going to stick with this new approach, he’ll have to refine his command, as he’ll no longer be able to blow his fastball by guys on pure velocity alone. I think what we’re seeing here is Mella’s transition from thrower to pitcher, but there’s still much work to be done here. —Will Haines
Steven Duggar, RF, San Francisco Giants (High-A San Jose)
This kid can play. Duggar brings outstanding athleticism and flashes of all five tools to the table, highlighted by a 65-grade run time that may even undersell the raw tool. The speed plays in the outfield, where he covers huge swaths of real estate in right; he made three highlight-reel plays on Friday night, while also showing off a plus arm on a pinpoint throw home on the fly from medium-depth to nail a runner. The skill set appears easily translatable to center, though the organization has had him play almost exclusively in the corner out of deference to teammate Ronnie Jebavy. His baserunning instincts are on the raw side, as he struggled to time first moves and appeared passive against a couple slow pitchers. I saw no reason why he shouldn’t evolve into at least an above-average base-stealing threat, however.
He certainly had ample opportunity to run in my looks over the weekend, with three scorched base hits on Friday and two more on Sunday. He’s loose in the box, with a rhythmic, simple load and quick bat into the zone despite a mild wrap. He controls an aggressive leg kick, showing solid balance and allowing for in-swing adjustments. Combined with an eye for spin and an advanced command of the zone, the ingredients of an above-average hit tool are present, and it can play up with additional on-base projection. He generates some separation and torque, though the leverage is mild and the game swing is geared for line drives at present. There’s nascent power in there, but he’ll need to adjust his approach if he’s going to find it regularly in games. Regardless, he showed an impressive package of skills and athleticism that deserves some attention, and at least last weekend he looked like a sixth-round steal for San Francisco. —Wilson Karaman
Joe Gatto, RHP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Low-A Burlington)
Gatto was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft by the Angels out of a New Jersey high school. He was a touch older than most high school draftees but Gatto’s combination of size and stuff warranted the selection. Standing 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Gatto’s body is how scouts like to draw it up: Long legs with plenty of strength through his chest and shoulders. His arm works well from a high-three-quarters slot with no issues on the back side and a flexed, on-line landing out front.
Fast forward to 2016 and Gatto’s stuff is still there. The fastball sits 90-93 mph and touches 95, but is mostly flat, with minimal movement. He showed some feel for side-to-side location but his glove-side command was marginal. His command of the pitch will have to improve greatly because the lack of movement won’t leave him much margin for error. He hints at a two-seam fastball in warmups, and it sat 89-91 in-game but the movement was fringy with only slight run. The breaking ball is slurvy sitting 71-78 and featuring 11/5 break, though it was a better pitch at the higher velocities. He can throw the pitch for a strike or bury it down on the batter’s feet. His changeup sits 82-84 and flashes down action but the arm speed varied from pitch to pitch.
The key for Gatto going forward will be his ability to command the fastball and pitch off of it. His breaking ball shows some promise and could get to average if he continues to make strides with his arm speed. The Angels have a promising arm here, albeit with a lot of work to do. —James Fisher
Wuilmer Becerra OF, New York Mets (High-A St. Lucie)
Becerra looks like your prototypical big corner outfielder. The 21-year-old is a lean 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, and has plenty of room to add good weight to his frame. Becerra is big, strong, and fast. He fits all that “good body nonsense” as Billy Beane says in “Moneyball.” The question is “can he hit?” and the answer is “yes.” Becerra is currently leading the Florida State League in batting with a slash line of .360/.393/.424, good for an .817 OPS. However, he has just eight extra base hits (all doubles) out of 45 hits. Where is the power?
What I have witnessed is good bat speed, loud pop, but line drives falling just short of deep playing outfielders. He doesn’t look like he is trying to lift and separate. He’s implemented a contact-oriented approach this year that has dropped his strikeout rate significantly, but could also be robbing him of long-ball power. There’s also a possibility that the lingering shoulder soreness he’s dealt with this year has sapped some power, and we haven’t even mentioned the contractually required “the FSL is a pitcher-friendly league” point yet. While there is no real way to pinpoint the reason for Becerra’s lack of power, his manager Luis Rojas doesn’t seem concerned. Rojas attributes the lack of power to Becerra’s strike zone discipline and sticking to his plan of just hitting the ball hard and not worrying about what happens after he “squares it.” Rojas went on to say that the power will eventually come, that he is sure of. While the power hasn’t showed up yet, Becerra flashed above-average to plus speed. He has swiped three bags over the last six games while not having any in the previous 28 games played. Becerra’s speed is deceptive, thanks to his long, easy strides while showing above-average baserunning skills.
Recently I got my first look at Becerra in the field. Having been held out primarily to designated hitter duties due to the aforementioned shoulder tenderness. Becerra looks comfortable and confident in right field, showing speed and agility. On two plays in particular, he ran down balls hit to the right field corner, fielded, spun, and threw with ease on the fly to second base, holding the runners to long singles on both occasions. His fielding, throwing motion, and throws looked controlled and effortless. As it stands, Becerra looks the part as much as any other “good body” outfielder in the Mets organization, and could be ready for the majors sometime in 2018. —Thomas Desmidt
Beau Burrows, RHP, Detroit Tigers (Low-A West Michigan)
At the beginning of the month Beau Burrows talked about coming to terms as a “pitch to contact guy”, which was concerning. With a fastball that topped out at 96 mph (97 on one gun), and was sitting 93-95 on Friday night, it was obvious that the comment had to have been off hand. With some arm-side run as the velocity was tempered down, Burrows showed good feel as a starter throwing downhill. His curveball has a slurvy look to it at times and looks slower than it actually is because of his fastball velocity, but flashed aa average to slightly above-average. His changeup also had good looks, as he showed he was comfortable throwing and controlling it with arm-side fade and drop.
Burrows feel for pitching and his mound presence is easy to see. Though he is not a tall pitcher by any means at 6-foot-2, he looks more imposing on the mound than would be expected. His delivery has some funk to it, but he repeated and maintained it well, allowing him to hit his spots for the most part. Most high school pitchers don’t move through the minors quickly but Burrows looks more polished than most, and he has the potential to move quickly. —Grant Jones
Luis Castillo, RHP, Jupiter Hammerheads (High-A Jupiter)
I remember it as if it was yesterday…
It seems like he has been able to put that gaffe behind him and re-emerge phoenix like from the ashes.
Oh this is another Luis Castillo? Silly me.
Luis Castillo the pitcher is an even 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, with a high-waisted, lean body that has potential to fill out even more. He pitches from a half-windup with a rocker-step style delivery that he repeats well since there are not many moving parts. With a smooth arm action and a three-quarters slot, Castillo can generate some easy velocity as he sat 97-99 mph and touched 101 in my viewing. The velocity is a solid 80 on the scale, but the pitch itself is flat, and because his arm action is so smooth, it lacks deception so it does not play like the monster it purports to be. He has above-average control of the offering, which helps the pitch play back towards its gigantic ceiling, so it’s still scary. His breaking ball is more of a slider than a curveball, as it was 82-84 with inconsistent action and shape as he often got on the side of it. At its best, the breaker flashed plus with good bite, and above-average tilt and depth. But more often than not it was more of a 45 than a 60 and needs further refinement. He had surprising feel for an 88-89 changeup that had good fade, with deceptive arm speed. Castillo did not sell the ball well, tending to slow down his body and telegraph where he wanted it. It is currently a below-average offering but potentially a usable one down the road.
Castillo is a potential 3/4 rotation arm but has a higher ceiling if he were shifted to the pen where the Fastball/breaking ball combination could really play well in the late innings. —Steve Givarz
Chris Shaw, 1B, San Francisco Giants (High-A San Jose)
I’ve gotten a handful of looks at Shaw now going back to a couple on the Cape in 2014, and he’s left me with the same impression each time. He’s one of those guys where it’s easy to focus on the weaknesses and deficits of his game at the expense of appreciating his strengths. The base running is bottom-of-the-scale, with a Molina-esque lumber and zero second gear. And while he’s not a terrible defender at first, he lacks mobility and doesn’t show the softest hands on receipt. He’s a big, stiff guy, with a big, stiff swing: The lower half is mechanical, with a short stride and weight transfer that leaves some on the back side. He has a mild bat wrap and length into the zone, and combined with bat speed that is at best a tick above-average and some trouble reaching balls up in the zone, there’s ample swing-and-miss.
But man is he a strong kid, and he’s got an idea about how to hit. Shaw will jump an early fastball and he is aggressive in-zone when he’s ahead, but he shows an advanced ability to get himself into those favorable counts, and it is by and large a good kind of aggressiveness. The raw power is a true 70, built on leverage and top-of-the-scale raw strength. He can take it out to any part of the park, and he showed it over the weekend with bombs to dead center and the left-center power alley. He hangs in against same-handed pitching and produces all-fields contact with extension to the outer-third.
The pressure on the bat is undeniable, but there’s enough baseline to the offensive profile (along with just enough glove) to project an average big-league starter at the cold corner, and if the offensive development maxes out he can have himself a nice career as a feared power hitter at the highest level. —Wilson Karaman