By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
February 13, 2012
A fine Saturday was had at Major League Baseball’s Dominican Republic facility in South Los Angeles. I took some time away from my duties editing my “Bushville Wins!” typeset pages from my publisher, St. Martin’s, to put on the old scouting hat and go see what the Disco Dan Spectacular had in store for us here in 2012.
My first comment is that 2012 is vastly better than 2011. I’m glad, because last year nearly crushed my will to live. I mean, there are guys starting at schools in the Pac-10 as freshman who weren’t invited to this thing last year, so I always enter the thing with a little bit of a grain of salt and half a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich to get me through. And I don’t have black wingtip shoes on, so I know I’m not an agent, and none of the kids are mine, so I know I’m not a dad. I’m not even a snarky shrimpy scouty sniffer type. Hey, look at me. Man of the people.
OK, my usual social commentary aside, here’s the deal. It’s a good year for right-handed pitching. It’s an OK year for defense at the skill positions. Save for one dude, there is virtually no raw power. There’s not a whole lot of speed to go around. There are only a few hitters I would really feel confidant dreaming on at the major league level. In other words, it’s a pretty typical year save for a few real obvious prospects and the right-handed depth.
What I’m going to do in these two stories is recount everyone I saw. I have notes on everyone and I have tons of video. I’m going to depart from the norm and do a top 10 prospects list off this thing, but not here. This is to encourage new readership, since many people find us for the first time because of coverage of events like this.
We will run a top 10 list, forthcoming, with video, in the coming days.
And as for the new readers, kids and families and fans, etc. – yes, this is how I write this site. I absolutely play no favorites like the pay-to-play world does, though I often am harder on guys I like the most. Yes, I do enjoy my voice. Just don’t crush my will to live. Thanks.
First the pitchers, in no special order:
Lucas Giolito did his thing, 92-96, comfortable 94, downhill with control, frequent late tail on right-handers. This was a pretty typical Luc look – big body, long lines, easy arm action, smooth extension and landings. He’s got all the physical attributes you look for in top-shelf high school right-handers, which is no big revelation. The change-up is 82-83 and really pretty good for a guy who throws as hard as he does, and there is a straight and sinking variation of it, but not even Trevor Bauer threw his change-up as frequently as Giolito has the last few times I’ve seen him. I think he needs to be mindful of the temptation to throw it too many consecutive times to hitters people are expecting him to blow away. He has to remember that despite a love for locating his stuff, he is still a big arm with big stuff, and that if he nibbles too much with his secondary stuff, it creates the illusion that he is not attacking hitters with the weapon he is wanted for — the fastball.
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Justin Garza is a guy who lives to attack hitters. You look at him and think, what is kid this doing here? He’s listed at 5-foot-10, and you know rosters are like Twitter, don’t believe everything you read. But here’s the deal. I don’t care how tall he is because he’s got a good arm. He sat 94 in his inning with a smooth arm action. His arm speed is a blur. Secondary stuff is solid average, 78-81 slider flashes late bite, serviceable change-up, 80-81. I think somebody goes in good for Garza because arm strength is arm strength and there’s never enough to go around. I saw him twice last summer and he was better in this look. Better than he was at Area Codes and better than at some All-Star game I saw in June. He’s going to have to convince the pro world that he is strong enough and durable enough to pitch a lot of innings, not break, and withstand the rigors. I think his height buries him for some people no matter what he does. And I think this is why Garza attacks like he does. The guy has the desire to prove a lot of people wrong. But the thing is, you should like the arm, period, no matter if he is tall or short, green or blue. Who cares? Don’t make it harder than it is.
Had my first look at Cody Poteet since the summer – Roy Oswalt body, short-armer, 90-92 strike thrower with natural sink, slurvy breaking ball just OK in this look, change is OK at 78, not afraid to throw strikes and challenge hitters. The best thing about Poteet is that he knows he’s not a big power arm and as a result of knowing his own limitations, he relentlessly pounds the inside corner against right-handers. That right there might get him into pro ball out of high school.
Max Fried, the Spahn to Giolito’s Sain. There was some guy filming these two dudes in the bullpen at about cup-level. Seriously, get out of Spahn and Sain’s junk. I had the damn courtesy to film them far away and press zoom. Well, too bad the rest of the birds aren’t as savvy or courteous as me.
Fried was just fine in this look. He’s growing, 6-foot-4 now, equal to Hank Greenberg, but lacks the raw home run power. Can’t win them all. Fried is an easy 90-92 with sporadic bumps to 93. The curveball is an absolute hammer. It was 74-75 in this look, but it’s the shape that makes it – starts at your shoulder, ends at your knees – and he loves to flaunt it. He absolutely buried a right-handed hitter with it. (Name withheld to protect the innocent.) The thing about Fried is his arm is smooth, easy, full circle and he’s got more in there. The body will fill. There’s lots of projection and power to come and personally I like him better than Owens from last year.
Shane Watson is a right-hander whose lanky body, arm action and athletic actions remind me an awful lot of Kevin Gausman. Watson doesn’t have that kind of raw power at this time, but was 91-93 with natural downhill life and is just scratching the surface. This is the kind of high school right-hander you would come back on in April or May and find him bumping 94-95 from time to time. He’s got a slurvy little breaking ball and not much of a change yet, but he’s got an arm to like, and I’m pretty sure I’ll see scouts sitting on him waiting for that bump. And the thing is, the pro guys will want this, because they’ll gamble the instructors can teach the breaking stuff. I kind of like him, raw as he is. It’s kind of one of those max-effort elbow-twisting deliveries, but if I’m drafting, I gotta go for the raw power and see what develops. Roll the dice, I need pitching.
Chase De Jong, another one of these Long Beach guys, has a tall frame with mid-hips, a little bit of a Tago body. I think what I like most about De Jong is the late life I see on the 76-78 slider. The change-up is 82 and just OK. The fastball is 89-91 and if he works hard and gets stronger I think he can realistically expect to pitch at 92-93 with a good slider in the coming years. Those two weapons give him a chance to pitch in the big leagues, but I’d like to see development and strength in the coming years. If that happens, he’s going to be fine.
Troy Conyers. Bet you didn’t see this name coming next. Funk be this guy’s name – a funky left-handed low-three quarter natural delivery gives off 86-88 fastballs that dive, sink, swerve and tail. He’s probably best as a college guy first, but you’ll see him come out of college drafted inside ten rounds and then be profiled as a bullpen specialist who is death to lefties and has just enough to face a right-hander or two. Mitch Beacom at UCLA did this. The Giants took him just because Funk was also his name. The rest is up to you, kid. Go get it.
Zack Jemiola is a big, husky 6-3 right-hander. Durable body type, a short-armer who threw a heavy 91-93 fastball. The heavy fastball was what I liked – just a workhorse who can pitch to contact, throw groundballs, and bump up when needed.
Kyle Twomey is a long, lean loose left-hander who was 86-88 with a workable change-up. I really, actually, want to like him right now more than I can. I think his arm works, but I think he needs to get stronger and get to college and physically mature. I expect somebody to take a flyer on him, but I haven’t seen too many lefties throwing 86-88 in February go very high in June. Doesn’t mean he’s not a guy, more it means that this probably isn’t his time.
Nolan Gannon, I have always liked. But I think he needs college and needs to clean some things up, because I think the mechanical issues are corrupting how good his arm should be. I’ve always liked his arm action, as I am partial to the guys whose arms work full circle out of the full windup, but he drags his back leg, cuts off his extension, and we’re getting 89-91 out of arm that ought to be giving us 90-92. I still feel like he’s got nowhere to go but up, but it might take college first.
Connor Baits throws four pitches and a sinking and diving fastball at 90-91, pretty decent control and command across the board. Corey Oswalt has a long, lean pitcher’s body and a raw arm that touched 91. Brooks Kriske went 89-91. Tanner Kiest touched 92. Daniel Starwalt (88-89) and Dillon Tate (87-89) round out the rest of the red uniforms.
Left-hander Hunter Virant was 87-89 in this look. I saw him at 90-92 last spring. He was coming off a sickness recently so he might be working back up. I still think the Ventura County comparisons to Cliff Lee are off the mark. He looked taller than when I saw him last, but that might also be because he wasn’t wearing pants that didn’t fit like every other guy at the Ford Motor Company Game at Pet Store field. In this look, he made me think he needs college because he’s simply not physical enough yet for pro ball.
Kieran Lovegrove is a guy who throws 92-93 practically standing against the wall, which tells you he has arm strength, and makes you wonder what he might have in him if he had some instruction and work on his delivery. When you find a raw kid just blowing 92-93 with nothing but arm strength, the first thought is, somebody get this guy a pitching coach before he gets hurt. I remember thinking that I liked this arm at the Area Codes. My notes today say, “fast arm, ball has life.” So he’s got the building blocks and now needs to work at developing the complete package.
Ryan McNeil was a little bit down, 88-89, from earlier looks I have seen. I did think his body had trimmed up. The breaking ball was 73-74 and the change-up 79-81. I think he has a chance to really blossom in college, but I also wouldn’t quite count out a velocity jump midway through the spring.
Andrew Potter is a guy I ran across last spring. He was 90-92 here, same as when I saw him as a junior, thick trunk and stocky legs. A bit max effort but not afraid to let it rip. Needs secondary pitches.
Felipe Perez (89-90) was a guy I liked at Area Codes a little bit more than I liked today. He’s a guy I still want to like. James Kaprielian was 91, a lanky guy who flashes arm speed. Jake Pintar was 89, a long and lean right-hander, a Slim Jones kind of guy, or Sad Sam Jones if you can remember that far back. Zach Williams is a short-armer who touched 90.