Kevin Maitan, SS, Atlanta Braves (short-season Danville)
I saw the Braves $8 million investment two games recently. It was a reminder in patience, projection, and rawness, as the (listed) 6-foot-2, 190-pound (more like 205) 17-year-old has a ways to go to get to his ceiling. Maitan played shortstop in both games but will move, the hope being to third. He is already filled out, and the body will require some maintenance, especially into his mid-late 20s. While his footwork is good, his hands and arm do not portend well for the left side of the infield. At present it’s a 45 arm and a 45 glove at third base, so he could stick there, particularly if the bat profiles. Also he’s not a runner: 4.55 home to first (as a left-hander).
But we’re here for the bat. Physically, he is built for power, and the combination of bat speed, barrel control, and zone awareness projects to a plus hitter, should he commit to going the opposite way. He showed this in batting practice to some extent. At present, Maitan’s game swing gets pull-heavy and long. He starts his hands below the letters, away from his body, bringing them in and up (elbow above parallel), before forcefully accelerating through the zone. This swing provides the bat path and launch angle power-buffs drool over, but he was vulnerable to velocity up in the zone, and the swing produced more whiffs, pop-outs, and roll-overs than power at present. In his final two at-bats of the series, he raised his hands and took a more contact-heavy approach, which is promising. I did not see right-handed swing, but a pro scout confirmed it is similar to the left-handed one, such that one is not clearly superior to the other at present.
There’s no reason to believe that Maitan won’t be able to shorten his swing, thereby increasing his hard contact while maintaining his power. The extent of those adjustments presents a wide range of potential outcomes, and I’m not about to throw a comp on him after two games. But: it’s unfair to expect instant results for a kid this age against older competition—this could be a slow burn, and that’s fine because he’s not even old enough to vote. Development is nonlinear. I look forward to another look this month, including the right-handed swing, before writing a full report.
Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox (Double-A Birmingham)
Kopech is an outstanding example of just how many pieces go into the typical prospect puzzle, especially when that prospect has star potential. Part of the massive haul that the Sox got from Boston in the Chris Sale deal, Kopech has an ideal pitcher’s body at his listed 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds.
He has an 80 fastball that he can both run and cut. Both have explosive, late movement that create swings and misses, as well as weak contact. The fastball sat 94-98 (t99) in this outing. The talk is that he is trying to stay a bit more under control of his mechanics and is sacrificing velocity for command, and the results of that effort have been rather impressive as Kopech, who has had some control issues in the past, has walked just five batters in his last 34 innings (five starts). His slider (84-87) is another plus pitch that has good, late bite and is effective against both righties and lefties. He also has a change that has similar velocity to the slider with good, late fade when it’s working, but it’s not a pitch that he has any consistent feel for right now.
This arsenal is deployed from a high-three-quarters slot. The delivery does not have a lot of effort, given the velocity Kopech can generate, and features some deceptiveness as the throws across his body. He is a fierce competitor, but can let his emotions get the best of him on the mound. In my view, Kopech was visibly upset when he allowed his first hit, a soft single to the ninth batter of the game, and immediately followed with a wild pitch and a four-pitch walk. This is an example of where things go badly for him as the loss of focus can creates mechanical issues. Kopech is a front of the rotation talent with work to do to realize that potential. Given the improvement in his walk rate recently, it seems he certainly accepts his shortcomings and works to improve them. If he finds any kind of consistency in his changeup and learns to harness his emotions, MLB will have another ace on their hands. —Scott Delp
Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Oakland Athletics (complex-level AZL)
Acquired by Oakland in the deal that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals, Luzardo was an overslot third-rounder in 2016 despite requiring Tommy John surgery less than three months before the draft. He made his professional debut this summer, making three abbreviated starts in the GCL without walking a batter. He’s an athletic 6-foot-1 lefty with relatively broad shoulders and average strength through his lower half. He has a repeatable, athletic delivery with a high-three-quarters release, and moderate head whack and spine tilt. He stays closed until late, adding some deception to his delivery. There’s a slight stab followed by close to full-circle arm action. It’s an easy, fast arm without being overly exerted. He throws what appears to be a two-seam fastball with armside run and quality downhill plane at 92-94 (t95). His low-80s changeup has plus projection, with pronounced fade and sink. It’s deceptive out of the hand, causing good hitters to leak heavily. He has some feel for a high-70s curveball, flashing the ability to bury it for an out-pitch, though I also saw a couple turn into cement mixers that stayed up or didn’t bite over the plate. There’s also a low-80s slider. All things considered, Luzardo is a very intriguing arm and it’s not too difficult to see why Oakland targeted him. He’s polished, especially considering his age and the missed development time from TJS rehab. He has a four-pitch mix featuring a fastball and changeup that both project as plus and two breaking balls that flash potential future out-pitch. He’s shown the ability to avoid free passes in his brief career while racking up strikeouts at a very solid clip. He’s thrown less than thirty professional innings, all at the complex level, but the combination of polish and upside from the left side make for a very interesting pitching prospect. —Matt Pullman
Greg Allen, CF, Cleveland Indians (Double-A Akron)
Cleveland’s 2014 sixth-round pick profiles as the typical table setter for Double-A Akron because of the contact-oriented game and plus speed that he brings to the table. At 24 years old, Allen is not exactly young for the level and he has experienced his fair share of difficulties in his second go around in the Eastern League. After hitting .290 in 37 games last year, the center fielder has only posted a stat line of .244/.333/.329 in 2017. This is a bit of a surprising development given that there’s not much projection left in his game/body, so it was expected that Allen would reach Triple-at some point this season.
However, I still project Allen as a potential major-league regular given that he still uses a smooth, compact swing in order to frequently put the ball in play. The bat stays in the zone for a long time and he makes it tough on pitchers who try to put him away with two strikes. His speed plays to infield singles as well, and he can wreak havoc for catchers as he’s a threat to steal anytime he reaches base. Allen has a bit of sneaky doubles pop to him as well, but the lack of a consistent leveraged swing plays more to the gaps than even semi-frequent over the fence pop. Overall, Allen’s prospect status has taken a slight hit this season because of how is projected average hit tool hasn’t translated to those raw numbers with about a month left to play. Still, the Indians outfield prospect has a clean enough stroke and the defensive chops to top out as a steady top of the order hitter who will play plus defense in center. At the very least, he’ll fall back to a quality fourth outfield option for a contender. —Greg Goldstein
Deivi Garcia, RHP, New York Yankees (short-season Pulaski)
Signed for $200,000 as part of their 2015 IFA class, Garcia handled himself extremely well in the GCL. So much so that he was promoted to Rookie-Pulaski after just four appearances. Listed at 5-foot-10, 162 pounds, Garcia is lean and while he lacks much height projection, he can still add good muscle to his athletic body and frame. Pitching from a full wind-up, he has a compact arm action with above-average arm speed from a traditional three-quarters slot. While he does show a back turn from time to time—in an effort to disrupt hitter timing—this is still a sound delivery that has relatively low effort. His fastball is already a plus offering, coming in at 91-93, with mild sink. His best offering at present is a 74-77 curveball that shows 10/4 shape with good downer action. While he struggled to drop it in for a strike in my viewings, he was able to bury it and use it as a swing-and-miss offering. Like other young pitchers, he has a changeup (86-87) but it is firm and he lacks feel for it right now. While lacking in traditional size, Deivi has good arm strength, a feel to spin, and can throw strikes. The rosy projection is an intriguing starting pitcher, but the most likely outcome is a later-inning arm. —Steve Givarz
Jose Trevino, C, Texas Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
Trevino doesn’t come off as the most impressive prospect on the field at first look, but the more I see him, the more little things I notice he does well. His short, compact swing and plate discipline contribute to his low strikeout rate. That plate discipline doesn’t translate to a high walk rate though, as Trevino is up at the plate to make contact. His power is limited to pull side, but he sprays a fair number of singles the other way. He’ll need to find a way to tap into his power more consistently if he’s going to contribute at the plate, as his utter lack of pop, combined with a poor on-base percentage makes him a black hole in the lineup. Pitchers and coaches rave about his make up. Trevino has an excellent rapport with every pitching staff he catches. Defensively he boasts a plus arm with excellent instincts blocking balls in the dirt, especially for a player who didn’t catch consistently until his pro career. —Brice Paterik
Chase Vallot, C, Kansas City Royals (High-A Wilmington)
Vallot suffered one of the scariest injuries of the 2016 MiLB season, when he was hit in the jaw with a fastball during an at-bat. He still wears extra protection when he comes to the plate, but the injury is in the rearview mirror these days. And that's a good thing, because Vallot has shown plenty of promise at the plate, with plus raw power and above-average plate discipline. He's capable of generating above-average bat speed with his strong lower half on a minimal leg kick, and he has flashed above-average game power. At just 20 years old, Vallot still has a lot of learning to do: three-true-outcomes guy the last two seasons. He has started to recognize off-speed stuff more as the season has gone along, though he was struggling mightily and chasing junk pitches earlier in the year, leading to many of said strikeouts.
He continues to be a work in progress behind the plate, but shows above-average arm strength and 1.9-1.95 pop times. His accuracy on throws has lagged, and there are more than a few questions about whether or not a guy of his size is athletic enough to play the position. His framing and receiving tools show some promise, but they're inconsistent at the moment.
There are real concerns when it comes to making consistent contact, and the defensive prowess is lacking, but Vallot has time on his side. He'll be given every chance to work out as a catcher before any position change is considered. —Victor Filoromo
Robert Dugger, RHP, Seattle Mariners (High-A Modesto)
An 18th-rounder out of Texas Tech last year, Dugger has popped up on the back of excellent performance across Low- and High-A this season. There is notable athleticism and wiry present strength throughout his frame—and there’s room to project additional development. The delivery is extremely aggressive and up-tempo, with a compact, slingy arm action downhill with crossfire from a three-quarters (and sometimes lower) slot. He really darts towards the third-base side as he drives, and combined with an extra-long stride it’s a motion that creates a really effective mechanism for deception. His ball was jumping on hitters pretty good all night, beating barrels to spots and inducing weak contact when any was made.
The raw stuff is decent without the assist, however. His low-90s fastball (t93) bores hard, and he attacked the hands of right-handers relentlessly all night with it. He featured two breaking balls, including a sweeping curve in the mid-70s and a tighter slider with more vertical action at 80-83. He toggled between the two all night, staying consistently down with both. There’s also a cambio, which shared the same velocity band as the slider but worked instead off the fastball plane, with late dive and arm-side action.
The command is inconsistent, and the nature of the delivery is such that bouts with imbalance and tumbles to the first-base side are likely to remain a feature of the profile. He showed the ability to repeat reasonably well and stay around the zone in this start, but it’s a control-ahead-of-fringy-command projection for me. With a couple additional ticks at maturity and in smaller, more concentrated doses I can see a path towards an effective relief role down the line in spite of command questions. And the arsenal’s deep enough to keep developing him as a starter in the meantime. —Wilson Karaman
Heath Slatton, RHP, San Francisco Giants (High-A San Jose)
Usually pitchers with a 7.99 ERA in their draft-eligible season for a small school like Middle Tennessee State get overlooked, but the Giants scooped up Heath Slatton in the 18th round back in 2015. Slatton has become something of a journeyman for the Giants, already pitching at five levels and working as a starter and a reliever. His numbers in pro ball are unsurprisingly rather poor, with a particularly unsightly 9.19 ERA, and walk rate a 6.03 BB/9 in San Jose this year. Yet, in my look, Slatton was the most interesting reliever on San Jose. A closer look at his stuff and numbers suggest Slatton may be a player on the rise.
Slatton has a classic drop and drive delivery, using his legs and lower half very well. He has pretty easy arm action to a three-quarters release. Slatton’s fastball worked 93-97, with good run when thrown arm-side, and some late ride to the glove side. In spite of his season numbers, Stratton looked like he had at least average command, maybe better, repeating his delivery, and consistently spotting his fastball glove-side. He paired his fastball with a power curveball in the low to mid 80s. Despite slurvy action, the pitch was sharp and generated consistent swing and miss from batters of both hands. He also showed a change and a slider, likely relics from his days as a starter, but not necessary to his success moving forward. Since returning to San Jose as a reliever on July 13, Slatton has allowed just two runs in 10 1/3 innings pitched, with a 12-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The version of Slatton that is pitching for San Jose now is interesting, and if he continues to flash the stuff he did for me, it’s a relatively straightforward path to becoming a middle-innings bullpen arm. —JH Schroeder
Albert Guaimaro, OF, Miami Marlins (complex-level GCL)
First, a reminder to not trust the listed weight: do not believe the 180-pound listing. Guaimaro is dense throughout, with thunder thighs, junk in the trunk, and a barrel chest. If baseball does not work out, the dude could bounce at any of South Beach’s nightclubs right now. Sure, the weight is concerning, as it bites into his athleticism and endurance throughout the baseball season, but at least not all the weight is bad weight. There is muscle on the frame.
Now for the tools. There is some serious thunder in Guaimaro’s bat. He does not need to be in good hitting position for the ball to jump off his bat, which gets me thinking: “What if he were in a good hitting position?” Despite a lack of lower-half involvement, he hits the ball hard to all parts of the field, more for line drives than for flyballs. He also has a feel for the game, once timing the pitcher to steal second base on a no-throw. He also takes walks, and can anticipate breaking balls based on the count. He has a sense of the zone, despite a developing for spin recognition.
Guaimaro profiles as a corner outfielder defensively, showcasing a plus arm but below-average range. Given that he’s limited to the corners, he’s going to need to tap into that aforementioned raw power, to pair with a solid-average hit tool, if he’s going to make it as a regular. To do that, he’ll need to improve on his pitch recognition, balance, and approach, then incorporate some additional leverage into his swing. An 18-year-old in his second year of pro ball, Guaimaro is raw, but has the tools to one day profile as a corner outfielder in the majors. —Javier Barragan
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