Wednesday gave us Cal Quantrill’s first Midwest League start, and he did not disappoint. Over the course of three innings Quantrill had a demeanor on the mound that espoused the intensity and poise needed to be a big-league pitcher, something that wasn’t as immediately present in any other pitcher I had seen this year. His fastball sat comfortably between 93-95 mph, with slight arm-side movement. He would occasionally let them sail, with some inconsistent command. He wasn’t afraid to work up in the zone, nor did he seem uncomfortable with throwing to any section of the plate. He showed that he could really spin his curveball, with the ability to manipulate it as needed. His changeup flashed plus in the low 80s and a consistent ability to throw it for strikes and keep hitters off balance. His delivery was quick, with a leg lift, a full circle, and arm speed, and he followed through with intent, if not some effort. He occasionally pulled towards first base, but with more consistency and reps his delivery will become more natural as it was an effect of overthrowing a pitch when he would pull off. —Grant Jones
David Paulino, RHP, Houston Astros (Triple-A Fresno)
Listed at 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds, Paulino has a tall and projectable frame, and enough athleticism to mitigate, if not entirely dismiss, the concerns evaluators generally have about pitchers over six-and-a-half feet. Mechanically, he has a long, straight stride and an over-the-top arm slot, and he stays tall enough to get good plane on his pitches. His arm path can get long though, and he doesn’t hide the ball particularly well.
While he’s thrown harder in the past, Paulino worked with an 88-92 mph fastball in the first few innings in my viewing. It’s possible that he touched higher after the second inning, but by that point torrential rains had swept the radar guns (or at least the scouts who carried them) out of Cheney Stadium. He kept the ball down throughout his outing, occasionally elevating to chase a whiff, and generally locating arm-side, where he felt more comfortable. Hitters had trouble making hard contact on the pitch, as the fastball’s late life largely pushed it off of barrels.
Paulino also has an average fading change, but if the profile comes together, it will be because of the curve. It wasn’t a consistent offering in my viewing, but it’s a mid-70s, 12-6 bender with a ton of late spin, and at its best, the curve’s late break is difficult to hit. Often, he left it up and more than once it just spun feebly out of his hand. But it flashed above-average, and he’ll need the best version of that pitch to reach his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter. Given his relative youth, inexperience (he’s missed considerable time throughout his career due to injuries), and the slow developmental path tall pitchers often toil on, there’s plenty of time for the profile to come together. —Brendan Gawlowski
Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Detroit Tigers (Short-Season Connecticut)
After Funkhouser finished what would be his last outing of the year, a fan who had been chatting me up asked my opinion. This is a dangerous game for me. I am going to write the player up of course, but loudly proclaiming your opinion in the scout section is not really my thing. I equivocated somewhat, and he followed up with:
“So he should have taken the money?”
“Well, that is easy for me to say now.”
Funkhouser was 91-94. The fastball is a little straight and he has to squeeze and give a little head whack to get the top end of the velo. The curve will flash 55 with good 12-6 action at times. It is slurvy at others. There’s a changeup and a slider. He looks the part of a polished college arm, a mid-rotation starter, but it doesn't quite fit.
I am not an amateur scout. I sat on a few Sean Newcomb starts when he was in college, because it was literally ten minutes from my apartment. I probably should have seen Matt Cleveland this year, considering he pitched five minutes from my office. But there is something to be said for letting the area guys do the hard work for me, and it also allows me to ignore amateur pedigree. It’s both liberating, and, well, a bit lazy. So it fits me well.
I saw Funkhouser pitch opposite Lowell’s Michael Shawaryn, who got similar money from the Sox as a fifth-round pick this year. If I knew nothing about the two (sadly impossible) I might prefer Shawaryn. The fastball was 91-93, but had a lot of glove-side life from a low-three-quarters arm slot. The secondaries probably weren't quite as polished, the body a little softer. What do you want from a mid-round college pick? Both fit best under the scouting category of “just a guy.” One will sound like disappointment, one might have an “unexpected” major league future in the pen. The Tabula Rasa remains tantalizingly just out of reach. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Jose Hernandez, RHP, Houston Astros (High-A Lancaster)
There are, in fact, multiple farmhands who answer to the “Jose Hernandez” moniker currently in the employ of the Astros organization. This particular one has quietly emerged as one of the more out-of-nowhere pop-up prospects in the California League since his promotion in the second half of July. Most recently he’s shut down the two best offenses in the league in just awful pitching environments, yielding a grand total of two earned runs across his last three starts – all seven-inning affairs. The 21-year-old right-hander was an unheralded international signee out of Mexico last March, and with a smallish 6-foot, 180-pound frame and a fastball that sits pinned around 90 with limited plane, there isn’t a ton of raw material that jumps off the page. But this kid knows how to pitch.
The fastball sat 89-91, scraping 92 a couple times. It’s a fairly true pitch, though there’s some deception to it and hitters consistently struggled to pick it up all night. He moved it around the zone meticulously, hitting his spots in all quadrants and getting above barrels to induce weak fly-ball contact. He also kept hitters off the heater by working backwards often, leaning in particular on a solid 79-81 straight change with quality separation and arm speed to generate some dozen swings-and-misses. A slider at 82-84 featured short break and some nice vertical action to induce a few chases, while he deployed an occasional low-70s curveball to steal early strikes in spite of below-average bite.
The change was the only offering that really flashed as more than an average pitch, and the fastball really doesn’t leave him with much margin for error. But it is an advanced pitchability and command profile that offers some mild intrigue, and he’ll bear watching as he moves up the ladder. – Wilson Karaman
Daulton Jefferies, RHP, Oakland Athletics (Complex Level AZL)
Selected 37th overall out of UC Berkeley in this year’s draft, his stock fell due to calf and shoulder injuries. He has an athletic build, and looks a bit like a middle-infielder, listed at 6-feet, 185 pounds. He has an abbreviated, repeatable delivery, crossfiring with a high-three-quarters slot and a quick arm action. He threw strikes and worked efficiently, using both sides of the plate with command, and showing impressive pitchability. His fastball was 92-94, touching 95 with arm-side run and late life. He throws a heavy, tumbling, 85-87 mph changeup which he masks well, generates significant arm-side run, and he isn’t afraid to throw it in any count—even as an out-pitch. He kept it down in the zone and showed potential to miss bats, amplifying the life on his fastball. He also flashed a 10-4/10-5 slider at 86 mph. It had some bite down, but turned into a frisbee when elevated. He appeared to be too advanced for the AZL, but the A’s are taking a cautious approach with him, and for good reason. The durability concerns are real considering his short arm action and slight frame, but he stands a chance of developing into a back-end rotation arm with some upside. —Matt Pullman
As the New York Penn League regular season wraps up, it is fitting to discuss one of its best hitters from start to finish this year. A 19th-round pick by the Red Sox in 2014 out of Delaware Military Academy, Hill has enjoyed a breakout season for the Spinners, slashing .332/.400/.487. At 6-foot and 195 pounds, the 20-year-old possesses an athletic frame with some remaining projection. His impressive hand-eye coordination, good bat speed, and plate discipline help him hit for average while his slightly leveraged swing and strength make him a threat to hit for power (including a home run in the all-star game). Defensively, Hill remains relatively inexperienced in the outfield since he played catcher for the majority of his high school career. Left field has served as his primary position this season, but he could also handle center and right due to his above-average speed, excellent athleticism, and decent arm. The Red Sox system is quite deep and they have one of the most talented outfields in the majors, so Hill continues to remain under the radar. Nonetheless, he is capable of making an impact at the big-league level in a few years if he demonstrates the ability to adjust to more advanced pitching and becomes more instinctive in the outfield. —Erich Rothmann
Jermaine Palacios, SS, Minnesota Twins (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
Signed out of Venezuela in 2013, Palacios has a solid frame, with lean extremities and some room for added strength. While he has struggled spending the full season in the Midwest League, it’s worth noting the 20-year-old is young for the level.
At the plate Palacios starts from an open, upright stance with his hands near his shoulder. He combines a level, line-drive swing with feel for the zone that gives hope for some doubles production down the line. He’s at his best when he goes with what is thrown and lets the hands work, stinging the baseball to all fields. Power will not be a part of his game long-term but he will put 3-5 balls out a year. While he isn’t a burner, he consistently turns in average to a tick above times with athletic strides.
Palacios has played only shortstop for Cedar Rapids this year and while he does have the arm strength for the position, his range is somewhat limited especially to his right side. The first step is a tick short but he is an alert defender and positions himself well on the field to compensate for the lack of range. In the end, Palacios is a solid, but unspectacular defender down the road with a bat that will play well off the bench in the big leagues. —James Fisher
Dustin Fowler, OF, New York Yankees (Double-A Trenton)
I’ve seen Dustin Fowler roughly a couple dozen times now—he’s been at Trenton all season, and boy have I seen a lot of Trenton—and yet I’ve been avoiding writing him up. It’s not that I don’t like him, I do; it’s that I see basically what everyone else sees. He’s got the starter kit for a quality center field prospect: 60 runner, he can play center, he’s got the potential to hit for a pretty good average, and there’s better power than you’d think from the stat line.
Fowler had some helium last offseason because he looked pretty good in the Arizona Fall League, which is a great place to look pretty good because half of the player evaluation community is there. He was sort of terrible for Trenton in April and May, and between that and the Yankees turning a deep system lacking in impact talent into one of the best in the game over the course of this summer, Fowler started to get lost in the shuffle. But he’s started to unlock that sneaky raw power into game power as the season worn on—he slugged .492 in June, .515 in July, and .525 in August—which raises the chances that he’s an everyday outfielder instead of a reserve. All in all, this was a successful first season in the high-minors for Fowler, and his stock is clearly a tick up, even if it might seem down when he shows up lower on all the team rankings. —Jarrett Seidler
Jeff Brigham, RHP, Miami Marlins (High-A Jupiter)
Named as one of the Marlins representatives to the AFL last week, Brigham has a major-league future. Traded to the Marlins at last year’s deadline in the Mat Latos deal, Brigham looks the part of a starter at the next level with his solid 6-foot, 200-pound build, clean arm action, and above-average arm speed. Unfortunately, his future calling might be in the bullpen.
Brigham routinely sits 94-96, with reports of touching up to 99 in-game. The pitch lacks movement though and his below-average control of the offering causes it to play down. While the velocity will help make up for mistakes now, he won’t be able to get away with it as often at higher levels. His primary breaking ball is a 83-85 mph slider that has 10-4 shape, with good depth and fair bite. While the pitch starts its break early, he was able to locate it for strikes, as well as to finish right-handed batters. While Brigham does have a changeup, it is a 30 offering and isn’t part of his usable arsenal.
While Brigham’s premium velocity, delivery, and clean arm action point to a guy who could start, a deeper look at the player’s arsenal reveals a player who is more likely a seventh-inning man at the big-league level. —Steve Givarz
Jose Trevino, C, Texas Rangers (High-A High Desert)
Texas has a lot of high-ceiling, low-floor catching prospects in the system. Trevino doesn't fit that description, but he might have the best chance of reaching the majors out of all of them.
The Rangers sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft out of Oral Roberts, Trevino has spent time at several positions in his amateur—and for a short time professional—career, but Texas moved him behind the plate permanently, and it appears it was the right decision. He has quick reaction times and gets rid of the ball in a hurry, which allows his above-average arm to play up. He has excellent hands and does a solid enough job of blocking balls in the dirt, and internal sources rave about his improved feel for both receiving and calling the game.
Trevino is slightly more advanced with the glove than the bat, but there's some offensive upside too. There's natural strength in his swing, and while there's not a ton of loft, his strong wrists and lower half give him a chance for at least average power, with above-average pop a possibility. He's an aggressive hitter who won't draw many walks, but he does have excellent hand-eye coordination, and he makes a lot of contact to all parts of the field. Ultimately you're probably looking at a player with a fringe-average hit tool and average power, and when you consider that he'll be spending his career behind the plate, those tools could easily be good enough to allow him to be an everyday catcher. If not, he's a nifty backup who can provide enough defensive and offensive value to carve out a long career. You can do a lot worse. —Christopher Crawford