Joey Wentz, LHP, Atlanta Braves (Low-A Rome)
Velocity concerns have followed Wentz since his pre-draft days that included a dead arm, but if his fastball continues to pop like it did during a recent outing for Rome, sitting low-90s instead of mid-90s won’t be an issue. He was 88-93, touched 94, and consistently sat 90-92. There was the occasional dip to 88-89 as he labored but, again, the liveliness is the thing to pay attention to here.
Wentz’s fastball only features slight arm-side run and the overall movement is minimal, but it’s effective based on extreme plane from a high slot and 6-foot-5 frame. It jumps from the hand and rides hard to both sides of the plate. He can also work up effectively with the pitch, although his command wavered at times and he left it up and arm-side too often. Wentz’s curveball was 77-81 with tight, two-plane break when he spun it well. The break came late and featured above-average depth. It typically came in at 1/5 and was consistently hard and downward with above-average feel. His changeup didn’t match the first two pitches by lacking feel. It was constantly firm out of the hand. He threw one usable, average change with some fade.
Wentz is the model left-handed pitcher with size, length and strength. His frame and delivery mimic Cole Hamels’ in a clear-cut way. There’s the occasional flying open and arm drag that cause him to miss fastballs up and away to right-handed batters, but the delivery is repeatable and it’s a matter of getting his long limbs in sync. The potential outcome is a no. 2 starter with an above-average to plus fastball, plus breaking ball and enough of a changeup to keep batters honest. Scouts have seen a better version of Wentz’s changeup than I did, so it appears to be the usual growing pains and working to gain a more consistent feel for his stuff. He could realistically slide into a mid-rotation role. —David Lee
Zach Granite, OF, Minnesota Twins, (Triple-A Rochester)
Granite is a 2013, 14th-round gem out of Seton Hall that probably doesn't get enough recognition. The 24-year-old, left-handed center fielder displayed a bevy of tools & appeared as your prototypical leadoff type. The best of these tools was Granite's 70 grade speed with 4.1-4.15 home-to-1B times and he's a stolen base threat every time he get's on. At the plate, Granite showed advanced pitch recognition and bat-to-ball ability. He was aggressive in hitters counts when he got a pitch he knew he could handle. Granite stands with his feet close together and is quiet in the box with his hands in a position away from his body. His hand positioning seemingly creates a hole up and in where he was beat on fastballs for his two strikeouts this series. Granite has a smooth, line-drive oriented swing and all-fields approach, and he’s going to continue to hit. The question is will he hit for enough power to profile as an everyday type. It's well-below-average power with minimal projection. However, he has enough strength to drive the ball gap-to-gap and forces outfielders to rush due to his speed. Defensively, Granite covers plenty of ground and looks to be an above-average defender in center with average arm strength. You'd be hard pressed to find many faults with Granite outside of the well-below-average raw power which some evaluators will jump to label him as a 4th outfielder type. Granite has the floor of a fourth outfielder that can give you above-average defense at all three outfielder positions and a ceiling of an everyday center fielder providing a spark hitting at the top of a lineup. —Chaz Fiorino
Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies (Double-A Reading)
The former second-round pick has used a great start to his second full season to put his name on the map as a possible contributor for the Philadelphia Phillies this season. As of now, Kingery is making a strong case to be the Eastern League MVP, batting .308 with an impressive 18 home runs through 62 games. While the increase in power is good to see, after watching him for a series last week, it seems that this recent surge might be more lightning in a bottle than anything substantial. There is no doubt that Kingery can hit. The second baseman utilizes a quick stroke and plus bat control in order to make frequent hard contact. Kingery is near picture perfect in his fundamentals at the plate and he is a smart hitter that will be a tough strikeout even at the highest level. He brings these fundamentals to the field as well, with enough athleticism to make the flashy plays when he needs to. He’s also a plus runner who hustles whenever he is on the diamond. With that being said, his smaller frame coupled with a lack of leverage makes me think that he won’t hit for even close to this type of power moving forward. He’s probably more along the lines of a 12-15 homer guy over the course of a full MLB season, on the back of his average pull-side power. Kingery plays as more of a contact guy who can hit any pitch anywhere on the plate. He’s easy to root for and brings a profile that projects him to be a first-division regular. The power he’s hitting for right now will probably just not translate when he does make the jump to the big leagues. —Greg Goldstein
Jacob Nix, RHP, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
Nix is a sturdy right-hander, with a mature frame and moderate stiffness to his movements. It costs him a bit of effort to get up through his leg kick and down the hill, and he lands inverted off a fairly short stride with some crossfire and cut-off. The arm action is clean and reasonably consistent to a high three-quarters release, but he doesn’t max out his lower half and leaves the arm strength to do a bulk of the work for him. He repeats the delivery pretty consistently and controls his pitches effectively as a result, though there’s a not insignificant gap between the control and command profiles, as he’ll struggle some to land pitches where he wants in the zone.
His fastball worked 91-94 and touched 95 once. It’s got moderate life in the zone, though it can lack for a late gear and he gave up some squared contact when balls leaked into dangerous parts of the zone. It had the look of a 55 pitch on this night. The curve may just project a tick better, as it flashed plus throughout the night at 77-80. The pitch shows solid bite and depth, with a workable shape into the zone to steal strikes, and he commanded it well in doing just that early in the game. It’s less consistent as a chaser right now, but the feel for spin is there to project gains. He worked an inconsistent change into things in the middle innings, turning a few over at 85-87 that flashed average third-pitch utility, but it plays well below that at present.
There are ingredients of an innings-eating No. 4 starter here, but I didn’t leave this start seeing a likely path to the kind of fine command consistency that his arsenal would require to get past that ceiling. —Wilson Karaman
Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals (Triple-A Omaha)
After writing about Naturals and Storm Chasers recently, this week I promised myself I would not submit anything on a Royals prospect even though the Storm Chasers/Dodgers series was the only one that matched my schedule. Promise to myself aside, if you are in attendance on a day that Kyle Zimmer is activated from the DL and makes in into a regular season game, you take advantage.
As a result of his injury history Zimmer looks like a reliever at this point. He has altered his delivery a bit, and he looks a bit tentative on the back side during his wind-up. Despite the hitless outing and throwing 14 of his 24 pitches for strikes, he was obviously shaking off some rust. The command was not there consistently, but the things that made him a first round pick are still obvious .Despite the Thoracic Outlet procedure the fastball velocity is still respectable, mostly coming in at 91-92, but hitting 94 twice, and finishing off his outing with a 95 mph fastball that struck out Max Muncy. The hammer curveball is an easy plus pitch and came in anywhere from 73 to 76. Two good changeups fooled hitters, with one getting Alex Verdugo to ground out to first base and a foul tip from Muncy on the pitch before he struck out. Hopefully he can keep the injury bug away and Kansas City fans will see him at the big-league level for the first time before the year is up. —Keith Rader
Michael Chavis, 3B, Boston Red Sox (High-A Salem)
Last year was a bit of a mess for Boston's 2014 first-round pick, as he dealt with a serious injury (torn UCL in his thumb), then played through another one for a good chunk of the year (broken middle finger) that he didn't tell anyone about. He certainly looks healthy in 2017 though, showing off plus raw power and fringe-plus bat speed. He exhibits a mild bat wrap but his swing isn't impeded by it, as he has quick hands that get the bat through the zone. He has an above-average feel for the strike zone, tracks pitches well, and shows a real ability to work the count. Defensively, Chavis has an above-average arm and flashes average range at third base, with instincts to stick at the position long-term. That being said, due to some inconsistent footwork, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him move to second base or perhaps even the outfield, particularly if the bat develops to a point where he wouldn't hurt a team in left field.
Overall, he's just a well-built guy, with short yet muscular legs and the developing upper-body strength (he’s added a good bit of muscle since last season) aiding him in his ability to turn on the baseball. He won't ever be a speed demon on the basepaths with the way he's built, but as long as he stays on the ball with his quick hands and keeps his timing consistent, he'll drive the ball throughout his career, making it realistic that he's an above-average regular. —Victor Filoromo
Braden Bishop, CF, Seattle Mariners (High-A Modesto)
A third-round selection in the 2015 draft, Bishop has hung around the low minors, impressing with his speed and defense—which compose the base of a skill set that he will be able to ride to the big leagues, as long as he can hit a little bit. And “hit a little bit” he is, slashing .307/.411/.403 thus far in the friendly confines of the California League. He’s been driving the ball better and more often—despite a modest slugging percentage—thanks to a new set up and toe tap that have added rhythm to his swing and incorporated more of his full body into his swing. Bishop isn’t quite part of the “air ball revolution” given his ground ball tendencies, but he has reduced his ground rate by around 10 percentage points since last season, taking advantage of the offensive environs of the Cal League in the process. An older player, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Seattle challenge Bishop and his new approach at the plate at a new level, in the short-term. —Derek Florko
Tzu-Wei Lin, SS, Boston Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
Heading into this season, Lin was essentially a forgotten man in the Red Sox system (although he was mentioned in the “Jeffrey’s guy?” section of our 2017 Red Sox Top 10 Prospects report). To be fair, since Boston signed him for more than $2 million out of Taiwan as an IFA, he simply had not hit well at all. He displayed virtually zero power and made too much weak contact when I saw him last year at Portland. But what a difference one year can make. Through his first 155 plate appearances with Portland this year, he has slashed .294/.377/.456, hit four homers, and stolen six bases. At just 5-foot-9’ and 155 pounds with limited projection remaining, he will never become a home run threat. However, the 23-year-old does have a quick, compact swing and can turn singles into doubles with his plus speed. His solid approach and improved hard contact rate suggest a potential average or better hit tool. In addition, Lin’s strong arm and great range give him a floor as a utility player. His additional experience at second, third, and center certainly enhances that profile. He clearly is not a threat to surpass Xander Bogaerts on the depth chart but could receive an opportunity to start for a different team if he continues to hit. Lin would be a smart selection in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft if the Red Sox decide to not add him to the 40-man roster. —Erich Rothmann
Blake Perkins, OF, Washington Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown)
Perkins, plucked by the Nationals with the 69th (settle down) overall pick in the 2015 draft, has exceeded expectations in his first foray into full season ball in 2017. The skinny 6-foot-1 switch-hitter boasts aggregate fringy raw power but is unlikely to ever fully access his raw pop in games. His offensive is predicated around the utilization of his plus speed and involves a healthy diet of ground balls. Given that, his swing is still longer than it should be for someone who is not trying to hit for power and remains not yet a finished product from both side of the plate. Defensively, Perkins has the raw ability to become an asset in center down the line. He has plus range and an arm that is more than adequate enough for the position. He has a long way to go as a 20-year-old who has not yet filled into his body, but he still presently projects as a role 4 player with the upside to outperform that. —Skyler Kanfer
Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets (High-A Port St. Lucie)
Alonso, the Mets’s second-round draft pick in 2016, is off to a not so good start in High-A. This year in 83 PA he is slashing .167/.217/.269, including missed time due to an injured hand. Coming into the season, he has gained a lot of mass, and not the good kind. Fortunately, Alonso still sports his calling card: big raw power, easily hitting high fly balls from right-center to left fields. This is good stuff, but that’s about where the good stuff ends for him. He has a decent arm, yes, but the defense and speed unsurprisingly are well below average.
Alonso lacks athleticism and soft hands, often stopping the ground balls he gets to with his body, and struggling receiving throws to first base. He’s the wrong type of fun to watch when it comes to pop-ups, often overrunning them only to see them fall a few feet from him. As you might expect, the added weight has not helped him in the field either. While Alonso likes to put his power on display, the hit tool is still a question mark. There’s stiffness in his swing and he gets exposed by same-side breaking balls on the outer half. He doesn’t lack intelligence at the plate, understanding when he is being set up, but is still unable to prevent himself from expanding the zone.
Due to his difficulty in the field, Alonso would fit better as a designated hitter than a first baseman. To succeed there he’ll need to improve his plate coverage and ability to drive outside pitches the other way, something that seems unlikely given the present stiffness in his swing. —Javier Barragan
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