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Oscar de la Cruz, RHP, Chicago Cubs (Low-A South Bend)

 

In his second start in full-season affiliate ball, de la Cruz’s curveball proved too much for Fort Wayne (SD). The 21-year-old racked up a ton of swinging strikes on the pitch, which features two shapes and varying velocities. When arriving between 72-74 it shows more true 11-5 action, whereas at 76-78, it has more of a 10-5 action. What makes the pitch so effective is its tight rotation and the way in which de la Cruz employs it—largely with his ability to command it out of the zone, making it a legit out-pitch in both its variations. He can spot it backdoor too, and it is especially effective at the higher velocities sweeping away from right-handed batters with tight rotation. The command on this pitch is advanced, though he can get on the side of it at times. As de la Cruz works his way back from some injuries, his heavy fastball sat 89-91, touching 93, with late life, mild run, and some sink. Industry reports have the righty (medium 3/4 release point) up to the mid-90s with the fastball. He also featured a changeup at 80-81 with tail and some sink to it, with room for projection. He worked backwards with the pitch at times. At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, de la Cruz has an ideal, durable, athletic frame. The delivery lacks fluidity, but the long arm action is pretty clean, although I do feel there are some mechanical issues with stiffness (and mild crossfire) that could affect the overall command profile. —Will Siskel

Johan Mieses, RF, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
The Dodgers have tweaked Mieses’ setup and swing mechanics vigorously over the past few weeks in an effort to get him quicker to the ball, as length into the zone was one of the two main culprits driving his extreme swing-and-miss in the season’s first half. In this video from the first couple months of the season you can see a lot of noise in his hand load, along with the wide-open, slight crouch. That led to both inconsistencies in the timing and his ability to control the barrel, and the aggressive leg kick and stride to close up had him struggling to cover the inner-third. Contrast that with this video from July 26th: they’ve quieted down the setup, with the hands now flowing into a shorter, more controlled load. There’s more crouch now, and the leg kick has drifted into history’s dust bin in favor of a measured toe tap. The length into the zone has been trimmed a good amount, and without compromising his bat speed. He still struggles with his timing and barrel delivery on account of persistent difficulties recognizing and adjusting to spin, however. Those issues are likely always going to limit his hit tool, but he’s made some strides that are cause for cautious optimism about his path towards the 40 grade I dropped on it earlier in the season. —Wilson Karaman

Jose Taveras, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (Low-A Lakewood)
Taveras won’t blow an evaluator away with stuff, but there’s a reason his first 100 innings in the South Atlantic League produced 112 strikeouts to 15 walks. He has a sneaky two-pitch mix that baffles right-handed A-ball hitters, and there’s enough of a third pitch to keep left-handers honest. His fastball sat 89-92 and touched 93 with average run and sink that comes late. He’s 6-foot-4 but doesn’t take advantage of his height with a low three-quarters slot. What makes his fastball difficult is the tough angle produced by heavy crossfire and the ability to work inside. Combine that with a low-80s slider from the same slot that breaks away with average bite and it’s tough for right-handed batters to get aggressive on the plate. His mixes in a changeup at 82-85 with good arm action and decent fade, but he has an inconsistent feel for it and can float it. None of Taveras’ pitches stand out as more than fringe-average, but he works from a tough angle and locates them well enough to make them play up. There could be enough between the fastball and slider for middle relief. —David Lee

Ibandel Isabel, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)

 

A minor-league free agent signee during the 2012-2013 IFA period, Isabel looks to be worth the minimal gamble the Dodgers made. The bat is what will carry him, if he’s to reach the majors, as it figures to be a first base-only profile, though there is some athleticism. Isabel put on a special, special batting practice in two viewings. It’s near top-of-the-scale raw and it’s not just pull side. Isabel is one of those guys who just hits the ball so incredibly hard that it plays to all fields, as each of his professional homers have been to the opposite field. His line drives seem to carry and carry. There is not too much strategy to his BP, but the power is rivaled only by high-profile Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez at this level. Isabel, 21 years old, actually barreled a lot of balls in my viewings, including a hit up the middle that registered between 111mph-118mph off the bat, according to Trackman data—easily the hardest single I’ve seen at this level all season.

At the plate, he starts off closed, trusts his immense strength and hands, then gradually adjusts his front foot so that it’s more of an open stance/lower half by the time the ball arrives. His feet shuffle around in the box with balance issues and an inconsistent leg kick; the swing is very long, and he can overswing; he is susceptible to fringy off-speed spin, and it’s more pure strength than bat speed. He’s not a total mess at the plate, but it’s quite raw, though his talent does flash. If he can retain some balance with the swing and refine his approach—which is extremely raw—then you’re looking at a legitimate power-hitting prospect that could reach the big leagues because of his power tool. Isabel has no trouble flicking the ball for an opposite field home run, has hit the batter’s eye in BP, and hit the farthest pull-side HR in BP at South Bend’s field I’ve ever seen—he has a remarkable carrying tool for an MiLB free agent. —Will Siskel

Lucas Erceg, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers (Low-A Wisconsin)
Erceg has a tall, lean frame with long limbs and plenty of room for added strength. At the plate he starts with a slightly open stance and his hands at his head. He has 6 bat speed and the ability to make adjustments with quick hands that he lets work. The swing can get a little long but there is a lot to like here with a natural ability to barrel the baseball. In the field, Erceg mans third base with a 6 arm and soft hands. He moves well laterally and keeps the ball in front of him. He’s a slightly below-average runner. This profile is a starter at 3rd in the big leagues. —James Fisher

Roberto Baldoquin, 3B, Los Angeles Angels (High-A Inland Empire)
I’ve seen Baldoquin across two seasons, and now across two positions, and I’ve yet to see anything resembling a big-league prospect. In the box his trigger is more fluid that it looked last year, when he did something akin to a double-clutch as the pitch was delivered and killed all early rhythm to the swing. But it’s still a disjointed effort that lacks consistent top- and bottom-half alignment, and he really struggles to shut it down once he’s engaged. Baldoquin remains extremely vulnerable to breaking balls, and he still showed as more than willing to expand up and out of the zone against velocity. In one at-bat, he ran a half-hearted 4.65 on a tap in front of the pitcher, where modest hustle could’ve forced a bang-bang play after a deliberate fielding effort. He similarly lacked effort on a couple chances at thid base, Roger Dorning a squibber to his left at one point and air-mailing a throw with plenty of time on another occasion. There’s quickness apparent in his reactions, but the first step is poor and his lateral range did not appear adequate for the hot corner. —Wilson Karaman

Quentin Torres-Costa, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers (Low-A Wisconsin)
Torres-Costa is a low-three-quarters slinger who gets long in the back and has a closed off landing. He creates a tough angle for lefties and they don’t see the ball out of his hand well. The fastball sits 89-92 with average arm-side run and sink. He likes to get the ball in on the hands of lefties. The breaking ball is slurvy with long break that Low-A hitters have trouble with but upper-level hitters will crush. At best, Torres-Costa is a left handed specialist. —James Fisher

Jose Lopez, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (High-A Daytona)
Lopez has a high leg lift, aggressive demeanor on the mound. His delivery begins deliberately but finishes with gusto and arm speed to boot, whipping his arm across his body from a low-three-quarters slot. Control isn’t always there for Lopez, but he features a few interesting pitches. His fastball sits 91-93 with occasional arm-side run, but can have it straighten out when he works on the glove-side of the plate. His changeup sits in the 86-89 mph range, and has hard arm-side fade and sink. His breaking ball sits 83-85 and had 11/5 movement, though it did show sweeping movement on occasion. He needs to work on his consistency with all pitches, as well as repeating his delivery to ensure he can have the control needed. —Grant Jones

Chris Pieters, 1B/LF, Chicago Cubs (short-season Eugene)
A pitcher until two seasons ago, Pieters has taken quickly to the offensive side of the game. He has a wide base, a minimal load, and extends his arms well on his swing. It’s an elongated swing path, but he’s able to barrel velocity, and shows a good feel for the strike zone with a patient approach. His upper body can drift towards the ball, and his swing has a hole on the lower-outside corner leading to a lot of present swing and miss. He has good feel for the barrel when he makes contact. Pieters is very raw defensively and on the bases, making errors on routine plays and getting poor reads on contact. He’s an average runner or a tick below. Pieters may not have a defensive home, but will be an interesting player to monitor given the wide gap between his present and future, but it is encouraging how quickly he’s taken to his new role.

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dgalloway15fish
8/16
Mieses is not a RHP
BuckarooBanzai
8/16
In fairness he probably *could* be, he's got a canon of a right arm. Thanks for the catch.
TheArtfulDodger
8/16
That's my fault, was thinking RF and typed the wrong thing. Thanks!
jkaflagg
8/16
If nothing else, Baldoquin should allow Billy Eppler to get a feel for which international scouts and personnel people to watch closely....iit's one thing to take a chance on a guy, but to use up your signing budget on a guy like that is another. Would be interesting to know if there was a consensus of scouts and cross checkers who endorsed the signing, or if there was one scout or personnel staff guy who saw him on the right day and fell in love. Just the type of mistake the paper-thin Angel system can't afford to make.