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Richard Urena, SS, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
As I watched the Eastern League All-Star game, I couldn’t help but think that Urena has more talent than most of the players actually selected for the event. Unfortunately, he wasn’t at the game due to his inconsistent performance in the field (nine errors) and at the plate (slashing .246/.291/.372 through 370 plate appearances). He has been of the more frustrating players to evaluate this year. Three Eyewitness Reports have been published on him since July 22, 2016, and the hit tool grades range from 45 to 60. The reason for this high variance is likely his overly aggressive approach. He rarely walks and is prone to chasing bad pitches, which leads to excessive weak contact. Nonetheless, he will have stretches like the first two games of this past Portland series (5-10 combined) when he consistently drives the ball and looks like a plus hitter. The 21-year-old switch-hitter does have a loose, contact-oriented swing and above-average bat speed. He is capable of squaring up any pitch and uses the whole field. All things considered, I feel most comfortable giving his hit tool a 50. His power grades as below-average although it’s better from the left side and he should continue to bulk up. In addition, he is a good athlete and possesses the arm strength and range to develop into an above-average shortstop. The errors typically result from a lack of focus. These mistakes will hopefully dissipate as he continues to mature. Troy Tulowitzki is not getting any younger, so Urena should eventually have an opportunity to become the Jays’ starting shortstop. But he has a long way to go. —Erich Rothmann

 

Saul Torres, C, New York Yankees (short-season Pulaski)
Projecting teenage catchers is a fool’s errand (just check the failure rate of prep draftees), but I am cautiously optimistic about Torres, who signed for $300,000 in 2016 out of the Dominican Republic. Torres spent his signing summer in the DSL, and the Yankees aggressively promoted him to the Appalachian League this season despite just turning 18 in February. If you are scout of stat lines, you probably won’t like Torres who has struggled with contact in 2017 and looked periodically overmatched at the plate in my recent viewing. If he was in the more age-appropriate GCL, I expect his numbers would be much improved. Torres impressed (scouts and the author) with his defensive actions, size, arm, and power. He has an athletic comfort behind home plate, demonstrating soft hands and the ability to block breakers in the dirt, moving easily. His build and actions are mature for his youth, and he had pop times of 1.92 and 1.94 seconds. He puts on a good BP with plus raw power, currently leveraging up for fastballs up in games that he looks to pull. His hit tool is the major question, and he has struggled mightily with contact so far in 2017. Recognizing pro-quality secondaries and staying in the zone is a key first step for Torres, but there is a lot to work with here, especially defensively as he projects to be an above-average catcher. Whether he’s a defensive-minded backup with some pop every fifth day or an everyday option will depend on the many, many rungs of development remaining, and I won’t guarantee the hit tool ever gets there. But it is not everyday you see an 18-year-old who is every bit a catcher already. He’s years away, but Torres is one to watch. —John Eshleman
 

 

Shane Bieber, RHP, Cleveland Indians (High-A Lynchburg)
“Advanced college arm with plus control” has become a popular draft profile over the past few seasons. Cleveland’s fourth-rounder in 2016, Bieber falls into that category quite comfortably. The knock on Bieber coming out of UC Santa Barbara was that the velocity might not play up enough to succeed in pro ball, but he is now sitting comfortably at 91-93 mph with his fastball and is capable of touching 95. The pitch itself is mostly straight and flat, so if he’s not locating it impeccably it can be left in the zone for hitters to pounce on. Thankfully for Bieber, that hasn’t been too much of a problem. He has displayed plus control and hasn’t allowed a walk in 14 of his 18 starts this season between Low-A and High-A. Bieber delivers from a three-quarters slot with a long stride, and is a speedy worker, but when he ran into trouble he slowed the game to a snail’s pace and seemed to get inside his own head. The changeup and curveball are average offerings, with the changeup at 84-85 mph with flashes of above-average tumble on it. The slider shows average tilt, but neither off-speed offering looks like a true out pitch. The Indians have put a focus on finding arms with plus control (think Adam Plutko), and Bieber is another in that mold. His uptick in velocity since his drafting is enough of a reason to keep an eye on him. He could easily be a fast-riser through the system if he displays this type of control, and profiles well as a back-end starter. —Victor Filoromo

 

Thomas Hatch, RHP, Chicago Cubs (High-A Myrtle Beach)


With hard-throwing righty Dylan Cease moving to the White Sox as a part of the Jose Quintana trade, the 22-year-old Hatch moves up the Cubs organization pitching depth chart. A former third-round pick, Hatch has performed well in High-A thus far, pitching to an ERA in the mid-3.00s, while striking out over a batter per frame. In the five-inning start I saw, Hatch brought a plus heater to the table, sitting 93-94 deep into the start, topping out at 96. He’s a mature pitcher that offers little projection left in his frame. He already possesses two fringe-average secondaries that should be able to work their way to average by the time he reaches the majors. He uses a low-three-quarters arm slot to garner solid, late break on his slider, which he commands fairly consistently to the glove-side corner. His changeup also flashes average with solid fade that should be able to get swings and misses when he works it off his fastball. However, Hatch will be most effective when establishing his two-seamer for weak contact. The pitch barrels down and in on right-handed hitters, which yields a lot of ground ball outs. He has a loose arm and easy delivery, which allows his stuff and command to play deep into starts. Hatch’s four-pitch mix, along with his ability to command with consistency, projects him as a fairly safe bet to slot in the back of a good rotation. There’s a bit of concern that his low arm angle will make him a high-leverage reliever at the major-league level, but for me his athleticism and ability to hold his velo and stuff will keep him in the starting rotation long-term. —Greg Goldstein
 

 

Matt Krook, LHP, San Fransisco Giants (High-A San Jose)
The Giants’ fourth-rounder a year ago certainly looks the part, standing every bit his listed 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. It’s a reasonably athletic frame, with a sturdy build that has some fluidity in motion. There’s good rhythm to the early takeaway, but the motion starts to fall apart pretty quickly through his leg kick and especially at the drop stage of his drive. He lacks for balance and consistency, with timing into the arm swing that was all over the place. A long arm action further exacerbated issues getting to his release point. The delivery is too loose, and it winds up mechanical and unbalanced in spite of those shades of athleticism and fluidity underlying it. The arm just never quite synced up in this outing, and there were enough flags in the delivery to suggest this’ll be a persistent theme in his development.

 

 

As is the wont of the vast majority of Giants’ pitching prospects, they have him working heavily off a two-seam fastball right now. At 88-91 (t92) it’s a little light on velocity, but it is extremely heavy on movement. So much so, in fact, that even if he were to solve all of the mechanical issues I’m not sure how much command of the pitch he could reasonably expect to develop. He struggled throughout to keep the heater in the quadrant he wanted, and he paid for it with walks and wildly missed spots through the zone. He leaned heavily on a mid-70s curve as his preferred secondary in this one. It also flashed plus in terms of raw stuff, but he couldn’t command that pitch, either. It’s a tight offering with grueling bite, but he had a lot of trouble starting it in the zone, and the ones he tried to finish there hung on multiple occasions. There were a few changeups in there, too. Those were hard pitches, only a mile or three per-hour behind the two-seamer, and he coaxed out solid fading action with it to where you could squint and see some utility down the line.

I can see the appeal of the frame and raw stuff, but there’s a lot of work to do here if he’s going to begin translating it consistently into a workable arsenal with playable command. —Wilson Karaman

 

Cal Quantrill, RHP, San Diego Padres (Double-A San Antonio)
Yes, you are old: Paul Quantrill, who threw his last major league pitch in 2005, has a son in Double-A. The San Diego Padres just promoted right-hander Cal Quantrill to San Antonio following a less-than-spectacular performance in the Futures Game, but he had the results in High-A previously to deserve the bump up a level.

Tall, and fairly lean, Quantrill has a involved delivery from the windup that he nonetheless repeats consistently, using a high leg kick, but from the stretch he reduces the moving parts and simplifies—something that might be worth looking at as he continues to develop. The arm is rapid during the forward part of his motion, and he has little to no recoil across the body post-delivery, rather letting the arm dangle loosely. In this outing, Quantrill showed all three of his pitches, relying mostly on his 92-95 MPH fastball. The pitch itself is solid, but it was clear that Quantrill is not used to facing higher-quality hitters, as he occasionally left the ball in very hittable locations. His changeup, which ranged from 78-85 MPH, has solid drop, and is thrown from the same release point as the fastball and his third pitch, a breaking ball that also is thrown in the same velocity band. At its best, this pitch resembled a slider, with break across the plate away, but if he’s going to rely on it as anything more than a change-of-pace pitch, it will need definite refinement. As is, Quantrill is one of the better pitchers in the Padres system, if not quite up to the level of some of the top pitching prospects out there. —Kate Morrison
 

Nick Allen, SS, Oakland Athletics (Complex-Level AZL)


 

 

Signed for $2 million ($1.3 million overslot) after being drafted in the third round this past June, Allen is a rangy glove-first shortstop with natural actions, exceptional hands, and a plus arm. He’s small (listed at 5-foot-9, 155 pounds) in a way that doesn’t hurt his range, as he has proportionately long arms and legs, and plus agility. He keeps a low center of gravity and has advanced footwork. His hands are prepared, quiet, explosive, and work well together. He has above-average arm strength, boosted by the quickness of his hands and his overall coordination. He can generate velocity from awkward positions, allowing him to make throws from anywhere on the diamond. He primarily throws from three-quarters or lower, but he has the ability to let it loose over the top. It’s fun to watch him play shortstop. He’ll make some errors, but the instincts and physical tools make it easy to envision a path to the big leagues.

 

He stands tall at the plate, with proportionately broad shoulders. There’s room for him to add considerable muscle without losing much of his mobility. He’s shown some pitch recognition skills and feel for the barrel. While it’s unlikely he’ll ever hit for much power, he doesn’t have a slap-hitter approach either. He has a short swing with a tick of loft in it, which should play for some gap-to-gap power. He’s shown me 60 speed, but he could be a weapon on the bases with his quickness and baseball IQ. Overall, his ceiling is limited by the lack of power projection, but there’s potential for a four-tool everyday shortstop who will provide defensive utility well into his thirties. —Matt Pullman

 

Alfredo Rodriguez, SS, Cincinnati (High-A Daytona)
Signed for $6 million two off-seasons ago, Rodriguez is flashy Cuban shortstop. His calling card is his defense, but even there, work needs to be done. He has shown below-average range, and thankfully a lot of that is tied into his pre-pitch work. He is often late and occasionally takes pitches off. Furthermore, he does not get dirty, so balls that should be, and could be, had, are not. The legs are not Asdrubal Cabrera-heavy nor is it Jose Reyes-light, and so the pre-pitch work is instrumental to get to balls laterally. It sounds like a simple fix, but his work ethic adds significant risk into the projection.

 

The lack of effort shows in his home to first runs. He does not run hard, even on extra bases. The only time he did run hard was on a grounder a bit to the right of the shortstop, and even then, in the last five feet, he slowed drastically. He is perfectly capable of giving you more, as he is recently 23-years-old, but no, it is almost as if it is not cool to show effort or to care. Despite all this, his speed clocked in as average.

 

Though the bat has not showed positively, batting .248 over 102 games between the Dominican Summer League and Florida State League, there is a little wood in there. He makes mild impact, but a lot of the batted balls are pulled (45.4 percent) and for grounders (53.2 percent). The approach is quite raw, walking in 4.6 percent of at-bats, but he flashes a sense of the zone. He makes contact and there is a small chance for an adequate bat, but it is the plus glove at shortstop you are buying.ct I will not even discuss power as a tool, as his MiLB career ISO is .047. Rodriguez projects to be a glove-only shortstop with an adequate bat, all contingent on his ability to show at least a little bit of effort. —Javier Barragan

 

Jose Paulino, LHP, Chicago Cubs (Low-A South Bend)
Paulino, 22, pitched around an alarming first inning that saw him hit two Cedar Rapids batters. He quickly regained his form in this start, going on to post 7 1/3 scoreless innings, with four hits and seven strikeouts. Paulino overcame his faulty mechanics in the first, as he showed similar stuff to what I saw last year at this same level. In this outing, though, Paulino shelved (or got rid of) his hard cutter—an exciting platoon-neutralizing pitch he used to get in on right-handed batters that was a tight, biting pitch at 87-88. I was ultimately left wondering where the cutter went, with the Cubs perhaps shelving it for him to develop a true slider. Paulino’s fastball was 88-91, though more consistently 90-91 all night, touching 94 once. The fastball has some wiggle to it, with two-seam action and minimal sink. Paulino, as he did last year, relied heavily on his changeup (81-85, more vertical drop than fade), and he sequenced it well, generating plenty whiffs while working backwards on a few occasions. The change was most effective when buried low, or low and outside to right-handers. His slider (78-82, t83) is a sweeping offering with two-plane action (more horizontal action than tilt) when it’s right, and he developed a better feel for it as the game went on. It is his most inconsistent pitch, and development there would greatly bolster his FB/CH-heavy profile. Paulino mostly generated weak contact throughout the night, working outside-inside. He’s a loose and lean lefty, shorter than his listed 6-foot-2 but definitely heavier than the listed 165 lbs. His motion was faster than last year from both the set (1:75) and stretch (1:06), as he held runners and worked briskly and effectively in rhythm. He has an eccentricity to his delivery that adds real risk to the profile, as the first inning showed—a slight cross-body spine tilt and hunch right before he delivers. In an organization that just lost Dylan Cease, Paulino will offer depth going forward and should earn a second half promotion despite an unremarkable start to the year repeating Low-A. I view Paulino as a realistic 6th/7th starter with an above average command projection, a 5 FB, 5 CH, 45 SL. If he can show more of that 94, refine his sweeping slider, and bring back the cutter, the profile could jump a bit. —Will Siskel

 

Yonathan Daza, OF, Colorado Rockies (High-A Lancaster)
At age 23, the Venezuelan Daza finally appears to be putting things together for the Rockies’ organization. Daza sports a well-proportioned, athletic, 6-foot-2 frame, with easy movement on the bases and in the outfield. This year marks the first time Daza is on pace to have more steals than caught stealings since Rookie ball. In addition, Daza possesses a robust .356/.390/.482 slash line. Despite a questionable walk rate, Daza showed good spin recognition and zone control in my look.

 

Daza’s batting stance features high hands, with a slightly open, upright stance. He gets a little torqued in his front shoulder, and doesn’t load his back hip as well as he could. Yet, he made a moderate amount of loud contact to all fields, albeit mostly of the line-drive and groundball variety. Daza’s batted ball profile reminds me a bit of a right-handed Christian Yelich, a guy that will continue to hit the ball harder than his home run total would suggest. Because of this, I think Daza will continue to hit for average as he climbs the ladder in the Rockies’ system, but it will take a bit of a mechanical change to unlock average in-game power. Daza could play an average center field, with average to a tick above-average speed, above-average routes and positioning, and a good arm. Ultimately, he profiles as a versatile fourth-outfielder type, with the potential to provide across the board contribution, with the ability for more given his natural athleticism. —JH Schroeder

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