Evaluating in the public realm can often turn into a big-game hunting event, with a prominent portion of the coverage directed towards the eventual major-league talent. This happens because the big names draw the largest crowd, so it's not an uncommon strategy to target those players that will garner the most buzz. Player evaluation is not so cut-and-dry, however. Over the course of the season, scouts and evaluators watch hundreds of players and are grading more than just the next mid-rotation starter or potential first-division shortstop. Most of the players we lay eyes on are simply minor league filler. This article is meant to highlight some of the talent in the extreme lower levels, while also providing brief notes on players of all stripes.
Kevin Gowdy, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
A second-rounder this year, Gowdy has been playing down here with top-pick Mickey Moniak—a nod to the fact that the money saved from Moniak’s signing bonus went to pay the nearly $2 million over slot that it took to ink Gowdy. The appeal is obvious: a premium athlete, he has a slender 6-foot-4, 170-pound body with loads of projection remaining. His delivery is clean, with a compact arm action, plus arm speed, and a standard three-quarters slot. While my viewing was a short, one-inning affair, his fastball ran between 93-95 and featured average or better life. The command and movement were both inconsistent, but showed flashes of elite potential that, if harnessed, could play at a peak level down the road. He also showcased an 86-87 slider that featured above-average bite with moderate tilt. While it lacked in depth currently, the action and power behind it suggest it could be an average or better offering in time.
Anthony Castro, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Castro, a 6-foot, 174-pounder out of Venezuela, has re-emerged as another arm from the Tigers prosperous international scouting finds. Originally signed out in 2011, Castro got a mention in the Tigers top 10 prior to 2015, which noted that “there is a big risk profile in a teenage, complex-league arm. However, this is a pitcher who could firmly place himself on next year’s top ten with a strong 2015 campaign.’ Unfortunately the risk did materialize, and he missed the entire 2015 campaign with elbow surgery that clouded his future outlook. Even with another year of physical development and strenuous rehab under his belt, Castro still has some projection remaining in his lean, wiry body. He features an athletic drop-and-drive delivery with a soft, stabbing arm action. It’s not the prettiest takeaway, though it can boast above-average arm speed from a high three-quarter slot.
His heater sits 93-94 with above-average cut that will flash plus movement and life. He effectively jams left-handed hitters, and can move the pitch off barrels to righties as well. His curveball generally works 79-81, but he’ll bump it up to 83 with power action and plus depth on the end of an 11-5 shape. While he doesn’t locate the pitch for strikes currently, it is still effective as a chase pitch against both hitters. His changeup is a clear third offering, but he already has some present feel for the offering. Coming in from 83-85, the pitch has a tendency to cut on him. He maintains quality arm speed for the offering, and he showed an ability to throw it for strikes against left-handers. The physical risks around Castro still remain high, and they are magnified by his lack of prototypical size for a starting pitcher. But keep an eye on him as he progresses down the road.
Jacob Taylor, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Originally drafted in the fourth round in 2015, Taylor was talked about as a relatively fresh arm given that he didn’t have much baseball experience. The thought at the time was that his size and arsenal would translate well to full-time baseball duties. So naturally he succumbed to Tommy John surgery just two innings into his professional debut.
Back on the mound now, Taylor certainly looks the part of a workhorse, with a sturdy 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame and athletic, clean delivery. He pitches from a half windup, with a compact arm action and above-average arm speed to a standard three-quarters slot. His fastball came in at 91-92, topping at 93 with mild run when he located it down in the zone. Given the arm speed and delivery, I can see Taylor adding a tick or two of fastball velocity down the road as he rebuilds arm strength. His curve works 80-81 and features 11-5 shape with flashes of moderate depth and consistent shape. He did struggle with his feel for the offering around the zone, but that’s just as likely attributable to regaining form after the lost repetitions. His change is a distant third pitch, coming in from 83-85 and lacking deceptiveness and movement.
The potential for Taylor to be a workhorse starting pitcher is still there, though the road will be longer and bumpier than originally hoped.
[ed. note: This table is sortable, so if you are interested in grouping players by a specific team, click on the "Team" header.]
|Tigers||Niko Buentello||1B||L/R||6'3"||230||7/8/1994||Draft (18th, 2016)||Big boy, already large and maxed out; even stance, length in frame, long swing, struggles to get to the inner half, below-average bat speed, moderate leverage, average, maybe a tick better raw power, hit balls show loft and carry; not a runner, well below-average, first base-only, below-average arm, moderate mobility, shows some footwork around the bag; lower-level first-base depth|
|Tigers||Randel Alcantara||3B||L/R||6'1"||220||5/13/1997||International Free Agent||Big kid, present physicality, controls his body fairly well, frame will require maintenance going forward; hand hitch at load, long into the zone, moderate bat speed; flashes average game power at present, projection for more at maturity; average arm strength, plays at third; slow foot speed, footwork and range is lacking; bat-first profile, unlikely to stick at third|
|Phillies||Lenin Rodriguez||C||R/R||5'9"||175||3/26/1998||International Free Agent||Open setup, leg kick squares him off, mild present strength, below-average bat speed, present approach to the gaps, power could play to average at maturity; slender build, larger than listed height and weight, projection for more strength; already slow, will be well below-average runner; average arm strength, 2.04 pop, raw receiving; lower-level catching depth|
|Pirates||Boomer Synek||C||L/R||5'9"||185||6/9/1993||Undrafted Free Agent||Undersized catcher, lacks strength, not much physical projection remaining; below-average bat speed, mild leverage, line-drive plane, below-average raw power; below-average speed; 2.03 pop, lacked mobility, struggled with blocks in viewing, poor receiving; lower-level catching depth|
|Tigers||Elys Escobar||C||R/R||6'0"||190||9/21/1996||International Free Agent||Below-averge present strength, poor bat speed, line-drive stroke, gap-to-gap approach; slow runner, 4.5 home-to-first; struggled behind the plate, lacks size and agility; 2.17, 2.19 pops, average arm strength plays down with slow hands, poor transfer; lower-level catching depth|
|Tigers||Keyder Aristigueta||INF||R/R||5'11"||165||2/2/1996||International Free Agent||Even stance, low hands at launch, average bat speed, mild leverage creates some loft, struggles to pick up spin; below-average power utility despite present strength, looks larger than listed weight, minimal projection remaining; 4.5 home-to-first, well below-average runner; mild athleticism, but struggles fielding groundballs, poor hands; bat-first profile, mid-level depth|
|Blue Jays||Randy Pondler||LHP||L/L||6'2"||160||10/8/1996||International Free Agent||Stretch-only, long arm action, below-average arm speed, three-quarter slot; fastball 87-89 (t90), lacked life; changeup 80-81, telegraphed pitch, easy pickup out of hand, poor arm speed; curveball 77-80, lacks feel, below-average break; lean, wiry strength, projectable; lower-level depth|
|Phillies||Will Stewart||LHP||L/L||6'2"||175||7/14/1997||Draft (20th, 2015)||Lean and long, moderate physical projection; full-wind, loose arm action, average arm speed, three-quarter slot; mild crossfire adds deception; fastball 88-90 (t91), mild sink, shows some present control; curveball 74-76 (t77), slurvy, occasionaly sharp, flashes depth, inconsistent offering, below-average control; changeup 83-84, sells it with consistent arm speed, late fade, comfortable throwing to left- and right-handers, shows feel with average command projection; interesting left-handed rotation depth, lacks an out pitch but feel for off-speed and projection for another couple ticks of fastball velocity|
|Pirates||Ronny Agustin||LHP||L/L||6'2"||185||9/18/1994||International Free Agent||Full-wind, long arm action, some stiffness, fringe-average arm speed, high three-quarter slot; fastball 90-91 (t92), lacks life, moderate control, kept it around the zone, large frame is filled out, unlikely to add velocity; curveball 74-76, 1-7 shape, quality depth, lacks bite, consistent shape, pitch plays at this level; changeup 84-85, fringe pitch, lacks feel; mid-level depth|
|Tigers||Evan Hill||LHP||L/L||6'4"||175||8/18/1993||Draft (24th, 2016)||Full-wind, tight arm action, fringe-average arm speed, three-quarter slot; short-strider, throws with whole body, stiff motion, poor balance, lacks remaining physical projection; fastball 89-90 (t91); slider 79-82, below-average offering, flashes some tilt, lacks bite; changeup 80-81, below-average movement, poor arm speed; mid-level depth|
|Tigers||Cristhian Tortosa||LHP||L/L||6'4"||170||10/30/1998||International Free Agent||Full-wind, loose arm action, fringe-average arm speed, high three-quarter slot, inconsistent release, will drift down to three-quarter; fastball 90-91 (t92), lacks life, poor control, misses up in the zone; changeup 82-83, quality arm speed, below-average movemet, lacks feel; curveball 70-74, below-average pitch, poor bite; lean, projectable body is interesting, but lack of feel for off-speed limits ceiling; mid-level depth|
|Blue Jays||Dany Jimenez||RHP||R/R||6'3"||190||12/23/1993||International Free Agent||Arm-strength velocity guy; wiry frame, good height, body still maturing; half-wind, clean arm action, above-average rm speed, high three-quarter slot, generates steep angle of attack; fastball 93-95 (t96), sink and life down in the zone, average control; slider 85-88, flashed fringe-average, quality tilt, lacks bite, rounder break, feel came and went; did not show a changeup, left game with injury midway through third inning (40 pitches); older arm, later sign, additional risk but interesting relief potential|
|Blue Jays||Juan Meza||RHP||R/R||6'2"||172||2/4/1998||International Free Agent||Projection righty; lean muscle, projection for additional good weight; stretch only, low three-quarter slot, below-average arm speed, pushed the ball at times; fastball 84-86, lacked much life or explosiveness, curveball 68-70|
|Pirates||Eduardo Vera||RHP||R/R||6'2"||185||7/3/1994||International Free Agent||Full wind, stiff arm action, fringe-average arm speed, three-quarter slot; fastball 88-91, two-seamer with quality sinking action; changeup 80, consistent arm speed, moderate fade, deception; occasional curveball 79, lacked feel, only spun a couple; missing 2015 recovering from Tommy John, frame is large and filled-out; lower-level reliever|
|Pirates||Mister Luciano||RHP||R/R||6'0"||170||3/6/1996||International Free Agent||Brief two-thirds inning look; compact arm action, fringe-average arm speed, three-quarter slot; fastball 88-89, changeup 82; proportional frame, lacks projection|
|Tigers||Oswaldo Castillo||RHP||R/R||6'0"||193||8/18/1996||International Free Agent||Mid-sized three-pitch reliever; stretch-only, long arm action, fringe-average arm speed, three-quarter slot; fastball 92-93 (t94), two-seamer with moderate run, mild life, lacks command; changeup 82-85, preferred secondary, average tumble, generally maintains arm speed, below-average feel and command, frequently left them up; curveball 80-81|
|Tigers||Stanley Martinez||RHP||R/R||6'3"||185||11/29/1994||International Free Agent||Big kid with some growth ahead of him; full wind, deep arm action, mild stab, average arm speed, three-quarter slot; fastball 88-90 (t91), straight pitch, works it north-south with some effectiveness, thin margin for error; curveball 71-74, 11-5 shape, moderate depth, lots of rollers, not a tight pitch consistently, lacks bite; slider 79-81, one-planer, lacks tilt; lower-level pitching depth|
|Tigers||Kilber Santana||RHP||R/R||6'1"||160||10/15/1998||International Free Agent||Very young kid, immature body, lean frame, plenty of remaining physical projection; full wind, long arm action, below-average present arm speed, three-quarter slot; fastball 84-85, one slow curve at 67; very aggressive assignment, should probably still be at international complex|
|Tigers||Jose Lopez||RHP||R/R||5'9"||174||6/21/1995||International Free Agent||Short two-pitch righty, undersized but filled-out, muscular, compact strength, no remaining physical projection; half-wind, above-average length to arm action, above-average arm speed, three-quarter slot; fastball 91-94, two-seamer with some life down in the zone, poor plane; slider 79-80, early break, mild bite, lacks tilt, more of a sweeper; mid-level relief depth|
|Tigers||Javier Villarroel||RHP||R/R||6'1"||180||10/31/1997||International Free Agent||Younger kid, inexperienced, lean body, room to add strength with physical maturity; full wind, low-effort delivery, deep arm action, fringe-average present arm speed, three-quarter slot; fastbal 88-89 (t90), lacks life, around the zone, showed average control, misses down low; curveball 74, soft pitch, not sharp; all fastball right now, lacks even mild secondary development, no out pitch; lower-level SP depth|
|Yankees||Jhony Brito||RHP||R/R||6'2"||160||2/17/1998||International Free Agent||Intriguing young arm, wiry strength, physically immature, projectable frame; full wind, loose arm swing, average arm speed, three-quarter slot; fastball 90-91 (t92), mild life, moderate control with flashes of average command, inconsistent, too many in the heart of the zone, projection for additional velocity; curveball 77-80, slurvy, not sharp, average depth, has some feel to spin it, early break, frequently backed up; changeup 86-87, firm, offering lags, limited feel|
|Braves||Nicholas Shumpert||SS||R/R||5'11"||180||11/11/1996||Draft (28th, 2016)||Middle-infielder with some strength and pop; solidly built, projection to fill out; even stance, toe-tap, strength swing, not a ton of bat speed; line-drive stroke, potential 40 game power at maturity; average runner, 4.28 home-to-first; fringe-average arm, throws lack carry, stiff fielding actions, better fit at second|
|Tigers||Chad Sedio||SS||L/R||6'3"||205||3/30/1994||Draft (27th, 2016)||Present physicality, body is mature, limited projection; open setup that stays open through load, long swing, below-average bat speed, some strength, poor pitch recognition; lacks lateral movements and range for middle-infield, arm would play at third; lower-level infield depth|
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