Last week the Eastern League held its all-star game, and Adam McInturff and Grant Jones were there to take in the festivities. Below are their notes on some of the most prominent stars from the Eastern Division. In case you missed it, they wrote about the best of the West yesterday, and you can find that piece here.
The “Jorge Alfaro project” is still in the works, but the Phillies still hold out hope that he’s their catcher of the future. The report on Alfaro has read the same for years, and he’s basically a further-along version of that same guy: a muscular, strong-armed catcher who could have an impactful bat for the position but who still faces plenty of questions about whether he’ll be able to block and receive well enough to actually stick behind the dish. Alfaro showed his plus raw power in BP, and what’s interesting is the power the other way that his strong, level swing-path allows. It isn’t the quickest bat through the zone, but the barrel is in the zone a long time, which gives him the ability to drive the right-center gap like a left-handed pull hitter. His ability to track off-speed pitches is improving, but still isn’t great, and Alfaro gets to his front foot early on the regular against good secondary pitches. He’s strong enough to muscle some of them for hits, as he did on a slider he was fooled on in Wednesday’s game. Some scouts have said his receiving looks like it can get to average this year, some still think it’s awful—the reality may just lie somewhere in between, depending on the day you see him. He’s got a thick lower half and lacks much agility moving to either side, and he struggles to hold low targets. Alfaro can look hard-handed when catching good velocity, especially reaching across the zone towards the left-handed batter’s box. In a best-case scenario of steady defensive improvement, Alfaro is a bat-first catcher whose bat is likely to be ready long before his glove is, meaning his timeline to impact is probably longer than most of Philadelphia’s other top positional prospects. –Adam McInturff
Matt Carasiti, RHP, Colorado Rockies (Hartford)
A 25-year-old former sixth-rounder from St. John’s (NY), Carasiti saw immediate results once he migrated to the bullpen in 2014, and he’s taken another big step forward this year. He has struck out nearly 30 percent of the hitters he’s faced in 2016, while walking just five percent and holding the opposition to a batting average around the Mendoza Line. He pitched briefly in the all-star game—recording just the last two outs—but in that time he showed a quick arm with a 93-96 fastball on the end of it, and at his best he’ll touch a tick higher than that. The out pitch is a nasty changeup, and he has a ton of confidence in it; he went to it frequently in this outing, keeping up his arm-speed and drawing quality arm-side fade with excellent velocity separation in the low 80’s. –AM
Dylan Cozens, RF, Philadelphia Phillies (Reading)
Cozens focused on making more consistent contact in 2015, and while those adjustments briefly impacted his game power in the Florida State League, he’s come out on the other end a new man. The 2016 edition of Dylan Cozens has walked twice as often as he did last year while tapping in to the true 70-grade power he’s flashed since his high school days in Arizona. Standing a gargantuan 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, Cozens has a frame that naturally elicits comparisons to the Dave Winfields and Giancarlo Stantons of the world for its natural size, strength, and surprising athleticism. It is not at all a land-locked body, as he boasts a lean lower half and moves more like a defensive end than a lumbering future first baseman in posting average run times up the line. The extreme power shows up in both the raw thump and a canon of a throwing arm in right field. As with most sluggers, how much of that raw he’s able to turn into game power will dictate his role. He has continued to struggle mightily against left-handed pitching this year, but the impact power potential of a star is in there. His size, power, and athleticism make for an extremely rare, valuable tool set. –AM
In a game stacked with hitting prospects that rank among the best in baseball, Fowler’s well-rounded skill still stood out. Though he’s less known to prospect-watchers than other outfielders in the all-star game, Fowler is a solid player with a chance to be a regular in his own right. The body is lean and twitchy at 6-feet and 195 pounds. His actions are loose on both sides of the ball, and his plus wheels play with utility both in center and on the bases. He has a very loose, athletic left-handed swing that finds hard contact, and while he’ll never be mistaken for a power hitter, there is more juice in the bat than you’re expecting. Fowler stung balls to the pull side (some of them foul) in the game and in batting practice. The best-case scenario is a speedy catalyst who steals bases, profiles in centerfield, and brings enough offense to the table to get everyday playing time. Short of that, he still has the auxiliary tools to help a major league team in a bench role. –AM
Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies (Reading)
Hoskins, Cozens, and Alfaro have developed into a potent middle of the Reading lineup, and while there’s always trepidation from scouts going in on first baseman-only types – especially those of the right-handed variety – Hoskins has done nothing but mash since signing from the college as a fifth-rounder in 2014. In this game he promptly capped a breakout first-half in Double-A with a no-doubt homerun to left field off Giants’ prospect Tyler Beede. He has a fairly simple setup at the plate, with loose, direct hands to the ball. During BP, it was clear he was focusing on spraying the ball and hitting with a plan as opposed to simply hell-hacking his way into showy homeruns. His stroke has a little more yank and effort in games, and while it allows him to get to more of the power, he has appeared uncomfortable tracking quality secondary stuff in numerous looks this season. –AM
Jerez is an interesting story. Born in the Dominican, he moved to the United States and was drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2011 draft – as an outfielder. The athletic 6-foot-4 Jerez showed promising raw power and a canon of an arm, but the pure hitting ability never developed as hoped and Boston decided to try him on the mound in 2014. Now 24, he’s decidedly younger than that in “pitching years,” though his athleticism has helped him make adjustments more quickly than most. He throws from a slingshot three-quarter slot and hides the ball well, giving his delivery an angle that’s extremely tough on lefties. His fastball sits in the low-90s and touches 95, with a slider that flashes above-average at its best. There’s still plenty of risk to the profile, but if he keeps putting it together, the end result could be a bullpen lefty with the ability to shut down same-side hitters at the highest level. –AM
Jesmuel Valentin, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies (Reading)
A piece in the Roberto Hernandez trade of 2014, Valentin had himself a nice game to contend for MVP honors. His swing is nice and compact, with mild leverage and quick hands into the zone to create gap power. His defense is also average, and he showed solid instincts on the base paths. He isn’t the kind of player that will show up on many prospect lists, but there is evident big-league potential here. –Grant Jones
German Marquez, RHP, Colorado Rockies (Hartford)
An athletic righty with a live arm and fairly clean mechanics, Marquez has raised his stock this season to where he now firmly sits among a stellar top tier of Colorado pitching prospects. He was impressive in his inning of work in Akron, sitting 95-97 and touching 98 with a fast, controlled arm action. He typically has been sitting in the 93-96 range during actual starts, though scattered reports have suggested a recent uptick early in starts. The few sliders he threw came in 83-85, and though he primarily worked off his fastball in a short look, the slide piece had the power and shape of a quality secondary pitch. Big fastballs were abundant in Wednesday’s game, but Marquez’ fairly low-maintenance delivery stood out over plenty of reliever-only arms, and there’s a chance that he remains a starter going forward. –AM
Nick Pivetta, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (Reading)
Pivetta has flown under the radar at times in a revamped Phillies system, but he has turned some heads in the Eastern League this year and looked impressive in Wednesday’s game as well. Checking in at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, he’s got the sturdy, broad physical features of a potential innings-eating workhorse. His mechanics feature some turn at the top of his delivery, though there isn’t visible effort to his finish such that he falls into the ‘definite reliever’ category. He showed more raw stuff than the profile in this outing, with a fastball that sat in the mid-90s for an inning and touched as high as 97 with heavy life. He also snapped off a handful of power curveballs with late bite in the low-80s. Pivetta is an interesting arm who isn’t all that far away from Philadelphia. –AM
Raimel Tapia, CF, Colorado Rockies (Hartford)
Tapia showed a classic speed-and-table-setting offensive profile, with the defensive chops to have the chance to patrol centerfield. His is a uniquely sinewy, lanky frame, and keeping weight on while maintaining the strength to turn on big league velocity will be keys. A left-handed hitter, he doesn’t have tons of raw power, but his swing and approach are well-geared to his offensive strengths, as he naturally comes out of his stroke getting up the line to first base. A high-contact, low-strikeout-and-walk type of hitter without much power, there will be a lot of pressure on his hit tool as well as his ability to use the speed to net some extra hits.
Tellez was an over-slot sign in 2013’s 30th round, and he has made good on the Jays’ investment thus far, showing signs he just might hit enough to overcome the bat-only profile. He’s always featured an advanced approach, controlling the strike zone well against older pitchers. At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, Tellez has loose hands, plane, and natural leverage in his left-handed swing, giving him requisite raw power to his pull side. The 21-year-old has heated up as the season has progressed, posting a .855 OPS in May, .920 OPS in June, and has mashed a .472/.525/.806 line so far in early July. Scouts aren’t quite sold on the hit tool just yet, however; he doesn’t adjust well to secondary stuff, and he hasn’t demonstrated an ability to use the other field with authority. His tracking isn’t great against same-handed pitching either, with nearly 30 percent of his plate appearances against same-side pitching ending in strikeout. The size, patience, and left-handed power combine to give him a path at least a potential platoon future, and the baseline tools are there for more.
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