Minor league all-star games are a great way to get quick looks at lots of dudes (and even a few Dudes), albeit those looks are quite limited. I enjoy all-star games as a way to get an initial look at someone I’ve been dreaming to see or to round out/update reports that are already in progress. No pitcher threw more than one inning in the game, and offense was in scant supply, the lone scoring coming in the first on a two-run double by MVP Michael Chavis.
This isn’t a top prospects list, just a run down of who and what caught my eye in Salem last week.
Michael Chavis (Salem Red Sox, 3B; 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI): Chavis acquitted himself well, earning MVP honors with the game’s only RBIs and one of only two extra base hits the entire night, a double to the left-center gap. He’s been raking in 2017 with upticks in all his offensive categories, most significantly his power production. He’s a plus hitter, and he needs to be, since defensively Chavis is below average at 3B with a 4 arm. I remain optimistic he can stick, but a move to first isn’t out of the question. If he rakes, it won’t matter. His was my favorite BP, hard contact every swing, and you can see the plus bat speed:
Eloy Jimenez (Chicago Cubs, DH; 0-3): I missed the home run derby, but this is all you need to know, although Brewers’ prospect Jake Gatewood walked away with the crown. Jimenez featured 7-grade raw power in BP with the ability to drive the ball to all fields (and I’ve heard 8 grades from some). I caught a 4.4 run time (40 speed) and although he DH’d here, I’ve seen him in right field where he profiles well. The Eloy hype train was rolling down hill in 2016, and nothing in 2017 thus far suggests anything short of one of the top offensive prospects in all of baseball.
Nicky Lopez (Kansas City Royals, SS; 1-2, R, SB): Lopez is a defense/speed infielder who I hadn’t seen before, and I came away hopeful that he can be a big-league contributor. It’s plus-plus speed, (4.0 run time to first from the left side), and he easily swiped second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch to start the game. Speed like this plays up at the lower levels, but Lopez matches it with plus footwork and enough arm for short and third. The bat is light, and it’s 30 power, but I’m bullish on Lopez contributing as a role 4 utility player in the bigs. Here he is demonstrating his game with oppo hit against Adbert Alzolay:
Corey Ray (Milwaukee Brewers, CF; 0-4, 2 K): I’ve seen a lot of Corey Ray, but I was looking forward to this game to see him against elite velocity. There is so much to like with Ray’s glove, athleticism, and speed, but he remains vulnerable to plus fastballs, the primary culprit of his 31.6 percent 2017 K-rate. I’ve discussed it with several scouts and the consensus (not absolute) view is that Ray’s bat may prevent him from an everyday big league role, but he is the sort of dynamic contributor that will have lots of chances to prove us wrong. To wit: he made an outstanding diving catch in center on a liner from Ryan Mountcastle, but did not show well at the plate:
Adbert Alzolay (Chicago Cubs, RHP; 1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, Loss): Alzolay started for the south and was on the receiving end of Lopez’s speed and Chavis’ double to the gap. He was 94-95 mph with an 82 mph slider that showed vertical drop, and he looked amped up, struggling with command more than previous views. Alzolay’s plus fastball and above-average to plus slider have been the keys to his success in 2017, but the development of his change-up will be the definitive indicator of his future role. He didn’t throw it in his one inning, but previously it’s been below average—firm in the 86-88 velo band with little action. He’s also slight in frame, but that is less of a concern to me than the change up, since his delivery is not overly effortful.
Cody Ponce (Milwaukee Brewers, RHP; 1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K): Ponce works with a 91-92 fastball that is above average when it’s on, but quite hittable when he’s loose with this command. I’ve seen it both ways and, in that velo band, it’s obvious that the margin for error is slim. Ponce caught my eye in this outing because his delivery looked smoother than it has in 2017. In prior viewings he struggled with his balance to max leg lift, quickly accelerating with a burst of momentum that made the delivery difficult to sync up. I’m still concerned that Ponce’s fastball isn’t quite good enough to remain in the rotation, but it’s promising to see him take steps forward. He pounded the zone against Lopez, Austin Hays, and Chavis in his 1-2-3 inning:
Richard Lovelady (Kansas City Royals, LHP; 1 IP, 2 H, 1 K, 0 BB): The 6-foot, 175-pound reliever won the velocity crown, touching 98 mph in his lone inning. These types of velocities are common enough to barely register, but Lovelady brings it from the left side with movement and good enough command to have a shot, so long as he develops his curveball enough to keep hitters off balance. An intriguing pen arm from the 10th round of the 2016 draft.
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