Pleskoff Scouting Report: Willie Calhoun

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10 July 2016: Team USA (11) Willie Calhoun (LAD) during the MLB All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park in San Diego, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

  • TEAM: Los Angeles Dodgers
  • AGE: 22
  • POSITION: 2B
  • BATS: Left
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 5-foot-8
  • WEIGHT: 187 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The Los Angeles Dodgers selected Calhoun in the fourth round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. Calhoun transferred to Yavapai after first attending the University of Arizona in Tucson. The Tampa Bay Rays originally chose Calhoun out of Benicia High School in Benicia, California in the 17th round of the 2013 Draft. He chose not to sign and attended University of Arizona instead.

*****

STRENGTHS

If one was walking down the street and happened to bump into Willie Calhoun, it is highly unlikely he would be mistaken for a professional baseball player. He just doesn’t look the part. Physically, he is rather short and stout. He may remind some of former big league player Walt “No Neck” Williams. Or Ronnie Belliard. Or even Kirby Puckett.

No, Willie Calhoun is not tall and thin. Or even short and thin. Willie Calhoun is well…stout will have to do. But make no mistake; he can hit.

Calhoun was named the Most Valuable player in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game that took place midway thru the 2016 Fall League season. In the game he had two loud singles and a home run. He drove in three runs and scored twice. He did all that by using a sweet, compact swing and hitting the ball squarely on the barrel of the bat. That seems to be his calling card. He does not get cheated at the plate.

My first scouting looks at Calhoun have come in the Fall League. From what I have observed so far, he is very much an offense-first player. Although he really hustles when he gets on base, he doesn’t have much speed and he doesn’t play great defense at second base. But he can use his huge lower body to drive the ball. He especially favors his left-handed pull side.

Using good balance at the plate and excellent eye-hand coordination, Calhoun can pound the ball over the fence. At Yavapai College, he hit 31 home runs on his way to a .432 batting average in his 61 games prior to being selected by the Dodgers. Regardless the quality of completion, and regardless the collegiate environment, a player still has to have power to hit the ball over the fence.

Calhoun has an excellent knowledge and feel for the strike zone. He recognizes pitches quickly out of the hand of the pitcher and he adjusts accordingly. The ball makes that “special sound” coming off the barrel of his bat. He was born to hit a baseball.

Calhoun makes hitting look easy with a measured stroke and good hitting mechanics. Even though he has a tendency to pull the ball, he knows how important it is to get his trunk as well as his hands involved in his approach. If he remains a second baseman with the Dodgers, his power will be more than welcome at a position where home run hitters are not the norm.

Teammates love Calhoun due to his excellent work ethic. He goes all-out and gets the most from his ability.

WEAKNESSES

I have not seen great footwork or range from Calhoun at second base. He is far from a “clank” but he isn’t going to make anyone mistake him for a gold glove defender. He might be better suited to play the outfield, or even third base, a position he played in college.

Clearly, he does not have speed. However, I have seen first hand that once he gets his body moving, he can motor around the bases well enough. He just won’t be a stolen base threat.

In reality, Calhoun is a bit stiff on defense. He doesn’t have soft hands at all. Basically, he may be viewed as a player limited to good offense with excellent power potential. Ultimately, he could become a designated hitter, as that role was designed for a player like Calhoun. Of course, for that to happen he would have to be traded to the American League or the designated hitter would have to expand to include National League games as well.

Compounding his issues as a potential third baseman or outfielder is his limited arm strength compared to most major league-level players.

(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

NARRATIVE

Calhoun has played parts of two seasons in the Dodgers organization. In his rookie year, he began at Ogden with the Dodgers Rookie League team in the Pioneer League, hitting .278 in 175 plate appearances. He was promoted to the team’s Great Lakes Class-A club and hit .393 in 66 trips to the plate. Finally, his third team in his rookie year was at Class-A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga in the California League. He hit .329 and finished his rookie year with a composite .316 batting average and 11 home runs. He struck out only 38 times.

Calhoun spent this past season at Double-A Tulsa. It was yet another promotion, and he hit .254 in 560 plate appearances. He hit 27 home runs and drove in 88 in the Texas League. He was a Dodgers representative at the July Futures Game in San Diego. He went hitless in two trips to the plate, entering that game as a substitute.

Many scouts feel he has a very limited path to the big leagues. They feel his bat is very solid, but they share concerns about his defense. It is for that reason some feel his best role may ultimately be as a left fielder or third baseman.

THE FUTURE FOR CALHOUN

If he only had to hit to be a big league player, Calhoun would have little difficulty making a 25-man roster. However, his defense is limited. He does make errors at second base and he doesn’t show much range or arm strength.

The pop in his bat is well worth giving him every chance to improve his defense while he still hones his power.

A pretty consistent pull hitter with his left-handed stroke, Calhoun has good hitting mechanics and seems to be a natural hitter. His offense is valuable and he can contribute if a role can be found for him.

CONCLUSIONS

Willie Calhoun looks heavier than his listed weight. He carries a great deal of weight in his trunk with big legs and a wide caboose. He will have to be very cautious about keeping his weight at the current level or lower. If he gains weight he will further damage his mobility and range.

A natural hitter, he can power the ball over the wall with his loud barrel approach. He makes good contact and seems to realize that his bat has to be his big league messenger for success. He is a natural pure hitter with a sweet swing and a solid hitting approach.

As of this writing, Calhoun is hitting a respectable .294 with a double, a homer and six RBI not counting the Fall Stars Game in the Arizona Fall League. He has struck out only four times in 37 plate appearances, counting his three walks. He is a very projectable hitter.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR CALHOUN: A solid hitter for power and average with limited defensive ability.

SCOUTING GRADE FOR CALHOUN: 50 – A member of an every day lineup limited to offensive production.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

The post Pleskoff Scouting Report: Willie Calhoun appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

Source: Knuckleball

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Pleskoff Scouting Report: Travis Demeritte

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03 AUG 2016: Travis Demeritte (16) of the Mudcats during the Carolina League (CL) game between the Winston-Salem Dash and the Carolina Mudcats at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, NC. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

  • TEAM: Atlanta Braves
  • AGE: 22
  • POSITION: 2B/3B/SS
  • BATS: Right
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 6-foot
  • WEIGHT: 180 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The Texas Rangers selected Demeritte in the first round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft directly from Winder-Barrow High School in Winder, Georgia. In July of this past season, the Rangers traded Demeritte to the Atlanta Braves for right-handed pitcher Lucas Harrell and left-handed pitcher Dario Alvarez.

*****

STRENGTHS

Demeritte has very exciting tools that make him a projectable major league player. Even though I feel he is still a bit under the radar in prospect discussions, he has flashed some excellent skills during this edition of the Arizona Fall League.

First and foremost, Demeritte has shown some true power. He has two doubles, two triples and two home runs among his 17 hits on his way to a .266 batting average through 15 Fall League games. He has been to the plate 72 times, walking eight times and striking out on 17 occasions.

Not only does Demeritte hit with power, he has upside enough to hit for a good batting average. He hasn’t always shown much of a career batting average, having hit only .244 in parts of four minor league seasons. He outperformed his career mark this past season, hitting .266 playing for Class-A Advanced High Desert in the California League and Class-A Advanced Carolina in the same league after he was traded to Atlanta in late July.

Demeritte is playing second base most of the time in the Arizona Fall League. He has used his quick feet and quick first step to make plays. Second base may well be his best position.

WEAKNESSES

Demeritte can have trouble at times with a lack of plate coverage. He can be beaten a bit with pitches on the outside corner and he takes some wild swings at breaking balls. His aggressive approach speaks to his desire to see his swing result in balls flying over the fence. If he tempers his swing a bit, he will likely improve his long-ball chances.

NARRATIVE

Demeritte was quite a player in high school. He hit .402 with 12 home runs and 37 RBI in 29 games. That’s what led to his first-round selection as No. 30 overall in 2013.

In high school, he played second base, shortstop, and third base as well as being a pitcher. He remains a versatile athlete.

Demeritte began his career by hitting .285 in 175 plate appearances for the Texas Rangers club in the Arizona Rookie League. That was in the summer of 2013. It was a nice beginning. He then hit .211 in his second season, but he smoked 25 home runs and drove in 66 at Class-A Hickory. He began to show the power in his bat.

During his third season, Demeritte was suspended 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

He made up for some missed at-bats by playing in the Australian Baseball League this past summer.

My first quick look at Demeritte took place in the 2016 All-Star Futures Game in San Diego. He played for the Rangers at the time because the game was a month before his trade to Atlanta. At the time of the Futures Game, Demeritte had already hit 20 homers. He finished the season with a total of 28 home runs, making this the second consecutive season of 25 or more home runs.

10 July 2016: Team USA (2) Travis Demeritte (TEX) during the MLB All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park in San Diego, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

10 July 2016: Team USA (2) Travis Demeritte during the MLB All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park in San Diego, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

Without question, a player capable of hitting more than 20 home runs a year can be pretty special. And Demeritte has the upside, the swing, and the bat speed to accomplish that feat. But there will be strikeouts to accompany the long balls.

Perhaps it is due to the fact he plays for a team with a deep prospect pool, or perhaps it is because Demeritte is making up time for his suspension, but whatever the reason, he is still under the radar this fall. Maybe he doesn’t get the buzz because he strikes out a lot. Whatever the reason or reasons, conversations of the best players in this year’s Fall League don’t generally include the name Travis Demeritte.

They should.

He’s a very solid prospect with a loud, loud bat. Every time I scout him in a game he makes me sit up in my seat and take notice with hard, barrel-of-the-bat contact.

THE FUTURE FOR TRAVIS DEMERITTE

The Atlanta Braves have outstanding infield prospects. Dansby Swanson has already assumed the role of the team’s starting shortstop. Ozzie Albies is a very talented middle-infielder. He may be the team’s next second baseman on the horizon. Kevin Maitan plays shortstop; Austin Riley and Rio Ruiz play third base. There is a lot of competition.

In September this past season, Albies fractured his right elbow. He suffered a right elbow olecranon fracture (the bony part of the elbow) when he fouled off a pitch in a Double-A playoff game. The Braves are certainly hopeful he will be healthy by spring training.

Where does the Albies injury leave Demeritte? Frankly, with his power I project a role with the Braves will find him. He could be a very credible third base candidate and may get serious consideration at that position.

A player that can hit with the power of Demeritte will play somewhere. Even if he has a limited role, he may be part of a rotation of infielders in the Braves future until he nails down a permanent position.

CONCLUSIONS

Demeritte has a very exciting bat, especially for a second baseman. But he also has the type of power that plays well at third base. If he keeps hitting as I have observed, he will carve out a role somewhere with the Braves.

He may get some additional spring training looks in the event prospect Ozzie Albies is not fully recovered from elbow surgery. If that happens, he will be able to face even higher quality pitching than he is seeing in the 2016 Arizona Fall League.

The Braves have a very deep farm system that includes many talented infielders; Demeritte will have to be patient and continue to show the pop in his bat.

Versatile, athletic and highly capable of hitting with power, Demeritte has an aggressive swing. He swings and misses often, but when he makes contact he can drive the ball a long way. It is a rare game this autumn when he doesn’t smoke a ball on the barrel of the bat. From what I have seen, I am very bullish on his future.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR DEMERITTE: A solid offensive player with home run potential.

SCOUTING GRADE FOR DEMERITTE: 55 – An everyday player on the 25-man roster

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

The post Pleskoff Scouting Report: Travis Demeritte appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

Source: Knuckleball

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Dodgers’ Calhoun leads the way during Arizona Fall Stars Game

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(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

The West Division soundly defeated the East Division by a score of 12-4 in the Arizona Fall League annual Fall Stars Game. The game was played at Surprise Stadium Saturday evening, November 5.

An announced 5,344 enthusiastic fans were in attendance on a beautiful 80 degree autumn evening.

The game included four home runs, two by each team. The longest of the night may have been hit by Los Angeles Dodgers first base prospect Cody Bellinger in the sixth inning. Other home runs were hit by Rockies prospect Ryan McMahon, Tigers prospect Christin Stewart, and Dodgers prospect Willie Calhoun.

Calhoun finished the evening with three hits and three RBI. He also scored two runs and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Here are some of the aspects of the game that caught my attention:

— West Division starting pitcher Brent Honeywell of the Tampa Bay Rays was outstanding. He went two innings without yielding a hit or a walk. He struck out five of the six batters he faced. The winning pitcher in the game, Honeywell handcuffed the East Division with his wipeout screwball, a very tough pitch to control.

— On the opposite side of the spectrum, San Francisco Giants pitcher Chris Stratton started the game for the East Division team. He yielded four runs on four hits with a walk and one strikeout in his two innings of work. He took the loss in the game.

— Boston Red Sox pitcher Michael Kopech came in to spell Honeywell for the West and threw his fastball up to 98 miles per hour in two scoreless, hitless innings.

— Highly touted New York Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres went hitless in the game, striking out three times in four trips to the plate.

— The home run hit by Bellinger went deep into the night beyond the berm in right field. Using his uppercut swing, Bellinger hit his homer off of Diamondbacks lefty Jared Miller.

— The West team went five-for-nine with runners in scoring position. They put the game out of reach early, scoring eight runs combined in the second and third innings.

— San Diego Padres outfield prospect Michael Gettys may have had the biggest hit in the game. He smoked a huge three-run single to help give the West a lead they never really relinquished.

— St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader had two hits in the game and scored two runs for the West.

— Big Kansas City Royals first baseman Ryan O’Hearn got a hit, walked twice and scored three runs for the West.

— The victory gave the West Division their second consecutive win in the Fall Stars showcase game. The West has won four of the past six contests.

— No player from the East Division got more than one hit. The team got only six hits off the West pitchers. The West team had 11 hits off East pitching.

— The East Division team made three errors while the West Division played errorless baseball.

— Diamondbacks executive and the founder of the Arizona Fall League Roland Hemond was in attendance.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

The post Dodgers’ Calhoun leads the way during Arizona Fall Stars Game appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

Source: Knuckleball

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Pleskoff Scouting Report: Brett Phillips

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31 March 2016: Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Brett Phillips (77) swings a bat on deck during the Brewers 6-1 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Tx. (Photo by Stephen P. O'Brien / Icon Sportswire )

  • TEAM: Milwaukee Brewers
  • AGE: 22
  • POSITION: Outfield
  • BATS: Left
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 6-foot
  • WEIGHT: 185 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The Houston Astros selected Phillips in the sixth round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Seminole High School in Seminole, Florida.
  • In July 2015, Phillips was traded from Houston to the Milwaukee Brewers along with pitchers Josh Hader and Adrian Houser and outfielder Domingo Santana for outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitcher Mike Fiers.

*****

STRENGTHS

While he doesn’t have one overwhelming skill that will carry him to the big leagues or to stardom, Phillips does have a very good mix of tools that grade as average or above. However, if I had to single out a couple tools that stand out above the rest, they would be his defensive ability and his very good arm strength.

I have watched him play a great deal in both the Astros and Brewers spring training camps and in the 2015 and current Arizona Fall League seasons.

Athletic but still relatively young, Phillips has already completed parts of five minor league seasons as well as participating in the two Fall League seasons. He has received excellent training in his development programs of both the Astros and Brewers. He played the entire 2016 season at the Double-A level. He got a hint of playing for the same Double-A Biloxi team in the Southern League for 23 games at the end of 2015.

Phillips’ skills include a level and compact swing without much uppercut, reducing loft on the ball. However, he has good bat speed and can spray the ball to all fields with his left-handed bat. He has the potential to hit for average, but he has scuffled recently.

Phillips has the speed to cause some pressure on the defense by stealing some bases. The speed also helps him chase down balls in the outfield from his normal center field or right field positions.

Phillips has very good arm strength with carry on his throws. His defensive ability and his arm strength will help him move along in his development even if his offense doesn’t progress as expected.

WEAKNESSES

Phillips has just completed a very bad offensive year at Biloxi. He struck out a whopping 154 times in 517 plate appearances.

It may have been better-quality pitching that caused his steep decline from a combined 2015 batting average of .309 at the Astros’ Class-A Advanced Lancaster (.320) Double-A Corpus Christi (.321) teams and .250 for the Brewers’ Biloxi Double-A team. At any rate, he hit only .229 playing the entire 2016 season. To his credit, Phillips walked 67 times and stole 12 bases in 19 attempts.

As we head into the last half of the current Fall League season, Phillips is hitting a miserable .222 for the Salt River team. He has struck out 12 times in his 12 games played while walking 12 times as well. So, once again his walk rate has been really good. He has stolen two bases in four attempts.

Phillips is an aggressive hitter. He does not get cheated.

He had a terrific and very consistent high school career in Seminole, Florida. He hit .355 as a sophomore, .345 as a junior and .354 as a senior. He was scheduled to attend North Carolina State University after high school, but signed with the Astros instead.

Phillips probably had his best overall season in 2014 while still playing for the Astros. He hit a combined .302 that year playing for Class-A Quad Cities and Double-A Lancaster. He was named the organizations Minor League Player of the Year.

Ironically, Josh Hader was named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Both Phillips and Hader were included in the trade to the Brewers.

31 March 2016: Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Brett Phillips (77) gives his teammates high fives after the Brewers 6-1 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Tx. (Photo by Stephen P. O'Brien / Icon Sportswire )

(Photo by Stephen P. O’Brien / Icon Sportswire )

THE FUTURE FOR PHILLIPS

Allegedly, both the Brewers and the Astros before them tried to tone down Phillips’ swing and have him concentrate on hitting the ball up the middle.

His hitting decline is problematic. It remains to be seen if he will ever approach the type of hitter he was in high school. The pitching he is facing is far more consistent and far superior. But there is no mistaking the fact he is scuffling on offense.

The good news is that Phillips is a very good defensive outfielder with a much-better-than-average throwing arm and good speed. Whether those tools alone will help his quest to become a big league player remains to be seen.

The problem for scouts and for members of the Brewers front office is fairly simple. Is Phillips going to convert to a complete offensive and defensive player or is he going to be limited in what he brings to his game? His recent offensive showings have been disappointing.

His good walk rate means Phillips can get on base and use his speed to steal, get in scoring position and score. But his on-base percentage will have to be carved from getting base hits as well as bases on balls.

CONCLUSIONS

A star hitter in high school, Brett Phillips started his pro career with good offensive numbers. He has declined of late as the pitching competition has gotten stronger.

Now spending his second consecutive autumn in the Arizona Fall League, Phillips is trying to regain his hitting stroke and quicken his path to the big leagues. However, he is struggling to hit in the AFL as he did in the recently-concluded regular season. He has to return to using the entire field and not try to pull every pitch.

A very good defensive outfielder with a strong, accurate arm and speed to chase down balls in the outfield and steal bases on offense, Phillips has a good eye at the plate. He accepts bases on balls, but he has struck out far too much this past season.

He has always been rated highly by scouts and those evaluating baseball talent. From what I have seen lately, I just can’t be as bullish about Phillips as I was in the past.

While I think he is still young and he has the physicality and the basic ingredients to succeed, I think I have to temper my enthusiasm until Phillips comes out of his prolonged swoon at the plate.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR PHILLIPS: Good defender, but underachieving outfielder with more to prove on offense.

SCOUTING GRADE FOR PHILLIPS: 50 -He will have to hit for average and then fight for his spot on the 25-man roster.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

The post Pleskoff Scouting Report: Brett Phillips appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

Source: Knuckleball

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Pleskoff Scouting Report: James Kaprielian

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06 OCT 2016: James Kaprielian of the Yankees during the Florida Instructional League (FIL) game between the FIL Yankees and the FIL Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

  • TEAM: New York Yankees
  • AGE: 22
  • POSITION: Pitcher
  • BATS: Right
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 6-foot-4
  • WEIGHT: 200 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The New York Yankees selected Kaprielian in the first round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft. He was chosen out of the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2012, the Seattle Mariners selected Kaprielian out of Beckman High School in Irvine, California. He failed to sign, electing to attend UCLA instead.

*****

STRENGTHS

The tall and lanky Kaprielian is a dependable starting pitcher with a very complete and above-average four-pitch mix.

Kaprielian uses his four-seam fastball to set up his other pitches. His fastball is strong and steady as it sits between 92 and 95 miles per hour. The pitch moves well and helps him establish a good focal point for the rest of his arsenal.

Kaprielian uses an effective slider that, at this time, is probably the most polished of his secondary pitches. He gets some deception on the slider because the velocity varies from a low of 79 miles per hour to a high of 86 miles per hour. The velocity range and the difference in plane from his fastball keep hitters off balance.

I have seen Kaprielian use his changeup to his advantage when he wishes to further disrupt the hitter. Arriving at the plate at a steady 83 to 84 miles per hour, Kaprielian uses the same arm slot to throw the pitch. He gets good sink on the pitch and he can use it to induce ground balls.

His fourth and probably least-frequent pitch so far in the Arizona Fall League is a 78-80 mile per hour curveball. He teases hitters with the pitch in the middle of a sequence, sounding the alarm that the pitch is available, if needed. When Kaprielian is back at full strength as a pitcher, he will likely use the effective curveball far more often. I’ll discuss more about that in a bit.

From what I have observed, he can command and control each of his four pitches and he need not worry about which pitch to throw in the count. They all work for him.

WEAKNESSES

The major issue surrounding Kaprielian is the status of his recently-injured elbow. Yankees team doctor Christopher Ahmad diagnosed him in the 2016 season with a right elbow flexor tendon strain.

After considerable rest, Kaprielian is pitching well and showing no indication of pain or discomfort in the Arizona Fall League. In fact, his delivery looks very clean and easy. He is showing no sign whatsoever that he is favoring or treating his arm with any special care.

However, it is more than likely Kaprielian is not using his curveball as much due to his recent elbow injury. That is very understandable.

None of Kaprielian’s pitches overpower the hitter or cause enough distraction or deception to deem him unhittable. As a matter of fact, from what I have observed so far, he can give up plenty of hits when his fastball doesn’t have as much movement as he would like. He has to really mix in all his secondary pitches to keep the hitter off balance.

Going forward, and when he gets the green light, Kaprielian will add a great weapon if he is permitted to use his curveball more often. From what I have observed, the pitch appears to be a solid, dependable offering that gets slighted in the pitch-mixes so far for obvious reasons. But once he gets the green light to throw more curves, his entire pitch sequencing will change and improve.

06 OCT 2016:      James Kaprielian of the Yankees during the Florida Instructional League (FIL) game between the FIL Yankees and the FIL Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida.   (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

06 OCT 2016: James Kaprielian of the Yankees during the Florida Instructional League (FIL) game between the FIL Yankees and the FIL Phillies at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

NARRATIVE

Kaprielian was an outstanding high school pitcher. He finished with a 33-3 record at Beckman High School. His 250 strikeouts, 0.96 ERA and 23 complete games helped get him selected by the Mariners.

Kaprielian went on to have an outstanding career pitching for UCLA. He had a career ERA of 2.06 while striking out 275 in his 66 appearances, of which 31 were starts. He finished with a 17-10 collegiate record and made the All Pac-12 First Team in 2014 and 2015.

Kaprielian has completed parts of two seasons in the Yankees organization. He has compiled a 2-2 record in his seven minor league appearances. Starting six games, he has only pitched 29 professional innings. That does not include his Fall League experience.

Kaprielian missed most of the 2016 season due to his elbow injury. He made only three starts and did not return to the mound after April 21.

He now has the chance to gain some innings in his development program by working against some quality minor league hitters pitching for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League. At the halfway point in the short autumn season, Kaprielian has thrown 13.1 innings in four starts. He has yielded 14 hits and ten runs, with seven of them earned. He has given up two home runs, both in his most recent start.

The best news other than his improved health is that Kaprielian has walked only four while striking out 15 after his long layoff away from baseball.

THE FUTURE FOR KAPRIELIEN

Watching Kaprielian pitch is like watching a pianist try to play “Piano Man” with a broken piano key. Kaprielian does not have all his required tools to do a complete job. His curveball is missing. The Yankees are being very careful with him. They want him to get his work in on the mound, while being cautious about an elbow that recently caused him to be shut down. Once his curveball returns, he will return as a complete pitcher.

When he is totally recovered and the scare of elbow issues is not at the forefront of his appearances, I believe Kaprielian will fulfill his outstanding potential and earn his high prospect standing. If he isn’t the best, he is certainly among the best Yankee pitching prospects.

If and when he returns to form, Kaprielien can likely find his way to at least the middle of the Yankees rotation. He has a solid repertoire and combination of pitches that will likely still be guided by the success of his four-seam fastball. But changing the direction of his pitches by throwing quality curveballs, sliders and changeups will allow him to navigate lineups deep into games.

It is likely Kaprielian will be able to go deeply in games due to keeping the hitter off balance and by changing the direction of pitches.

Karprielian has a clean delivery with little extraneous movement or motion. He takes charge on the mound and sets a good pace for himself by repeating his delivery.

CONCLUSIONS

James Kaprielian was a good pitcher in high school. He was a good pitcher in college. And he will likely continue to be a good pitcher as a professional with the New York Yankees.

A right elbow flexor tendon strain has caused a pause in his development. The injury has also been a bit of a warning for the future. Can he return and regain his entire repertoire?

It appears he is on the right track. However, elbow issues have a way of cropping up, so everyone involved must proceed with caution. He is a valuable pitcher, but caution must be used.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR KAPRIELIAN: A solid pitcher attempting to restart his development following an elbow injury.

SCOUTING GRADE FOR KAPRIELIAN: 55 – A solid starting pitcher

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

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Pleskoff Scouting Report: Anthony Alford

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24 MAY 2016: Anthony Alford of the Blue Jays during the Florida State League game between the Lakeland Flying Tigers and the Dunedin Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

  • TEAM: Toronto Blue Jays
  • AGE: 22
  • POSITION: Outfield
  • BATS: Right
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 6-foot-1
  • WEIGHT: 215 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The Toronto Blue Jays selected Alford in the third round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Petal High School in Petal, Mississippi. Even though the Blue Jays selected Alford in 2012, he chose to go to Southern Mississippi as the team’s quarterback. He then transferred to the University of Mississippi, where he played as a defensive back. Ultimately signing with the Blue Jays, Alford determined he would be better off playing baseball.

*****

Alford’s sports history is a bit different than most premier athletes. Often, dual sport players make their choice out of high school and remain in that chosen sport. Not Alford.

Alford attended Southern Mississippi as he had planned. He did very well. Conflicted after the Blue Jays chose him in the third round of the June draft, Alford played football in the fall and baseball with the Blue Jays, working out with them in the spring. He also played a month of minor league games.

Alford transferred to University of Mississippi and played there as well.

He is now firmly committed to playing baseball full-time and is participating in the Arizona Fall League to gain repetitions at the plate and hone his skills.

SRENGTHS

Without a doubt, Alford is an excellent athlete. He has a number of tools that could translate well to big league success.

He has exceptional speed for such a big man. Looking bigger and stronger than his listed height and weight, he has a very strong and powerful upper body and a very well proportioned frame that can help him drive through the ball at the plate. Power will continue to develop.

Defensively, Alford has looked very capable as a center fielder with very good instincts and a strong, accurate arm. He looks natural in the outfield as he closes quickly on balls hit to the outfield. He has shown no signs of being intimidated by the difficult-to-play high, sunny skies in the Arizona desert.

Finally, I think Alford and the Blue Jays will be patient with him as a hitter. He has the plate discipline to hunt good pitches that he feels he can drive. While the power may develop late, he has the upside to become a very credible hitter with a solid batting average.

His speed, defensive prowess and his projected hitting ability and potential power are especially exciting for a center fielder.

WEAKNESSSES

In the time I have scouted Alford in the Arizona Fall League I have noticed that his swing lacks loft. He is rather flat through the ball, relying on pure bat speed to hit the gaps. He can start running and keep on running. He may be more of a doubles and triples hitter than one that hits a large number of home runs. If he gets a bit more uppercut in his swing, the loft might increase. For now, however, his swing is fine and the results will come.

If there is any concern about Alford going forward it might be his ability to stay healthy. He has suffered a knee injury as well as a concussion in his past. The bigger concern may be the knee. And of course, questions can be asked if he suffered any long-term injuries or has lingering issues from his football days.

17 MAY 2016: Anthony Alford of the Blue Jays during the Florida State League game between the Ft. Myers Miracle and the Dunedin Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

NARRATIVE

A terrific athlete, Alford was the first player ever to be named Mr. Football and Mr. Baseball in Mississippi in the same year.

After dabbling in baseball for parts of the 2012 and 2013 seasons in Rookie League baseball for the Toronto Gulf Coast Rookie teams, Alford got more playing experience in 2014. That year, he played at the Blue Jays Bluefield Rookie level club and at the Class-A Lansing team before going to the Australian Baseball League in the offseason.

Playing for the Canberra Cavalry in Australia, Alford got 152 plate appearances in his 36 games. On the way to a .200 batting average, Alford had four doubles, a single and three home runs among his 26 hits. He stole seven bases in nine attempts. The time in his career was significant because he finally got sustained at-bats.

In 2015, Alford’s bat seemed to come to life. He hit .298 while playing for Class-A Lansing (.293) and Class-A Advanced Dunedin (.293).

Alford repeated Class-A Advanced this past season, hitting .236 at Dunedin in the Florida State League. He had a couple of significant statistics that helped define his season. First, Alford walked 53 times in 401 plate appearances. And he stole 18 bases in 24 attempts.

At the halfway point of the Arizona Fall League, Alford has played 12 games and has been to the plate 50 times, getting 13 hits, and walking six times. He has hit two doubles and two home runs. Alford appears to be making the best of his opportunity to hit against good, quality minor league pitchers and catching up on some missed at-bats in his development.

THE FUTURE FOR ALFORD

I would classify Alford as a very good candidate to play some center field in Toronto at some point in 2018. At this point I would say he is rather “raw” as a player. He needs the extra plate appearances and at-bats he is getting in Arizona during the Fall League.

It is likely Alford could sustain a big league job with his much-better-than-average defense. However, he projects to hit well enough to be a viable outfield option as an offensive player as well. His home runs should increase to double-digits at some point soon.

As I scout Alford, I see a hitter with a better comfort level and excellent results against left-handed hitters in particular. While I think he will succeed against righties as well, I think he can drive the ball more effectively and efficiently against the angles provided by left-handed pitchers.

CONCLUSIONS

It is difficult to transition from football to baseball or vice versa in highly competitive professional sports. Coincidentally, New York Mets “prospect” Tim Tebow is trying to make the same transition from football to baseball. Without question, to date in the Fall League, Anthony Alford is having more sustained success in the Phoenix desert. The two players have experience in both sports and are having much different outcomes. Of course, their physicality differs as well.

Alford has the physical frame and the agility, speed, reflexes and baseball acumen to be successful at the major league level. He looks like he can play either sport, but he is totally dedicated to moving forward in professional baseball.

The fact Alford plays center field increases his viability as a top-flight prospect capable of carving out a big league career. His speed and athletic ability are highlighted with him being the focal point of the outfield. He has a fine arm and he gets a very good jump on balls hit in his area. I think he will more effective in center than as a corner outfielder.

If he continues to grow and remains dedicated to his craft, Alford should become part of the Blue Jays 25-man roster at some point in 2018.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR ALFORD: A solid, but still “raw” player who is still learning the nuances of both offense and defense.

SCOUTING GRADE FOR ALFORD: 55 – An everyday player on a big league roster.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

The post Pleskoff Scouting Report: Anthony Alford appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

Source: Knuckleball

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Pleskoff Scouting Report: Michael Kopech

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27 AUG 2014: 2014 draft pick Michael Kopech of the Red Sox before the Gulf Coast League game between the GCL Red Sox and the GCL Orioles at the Ed Smith Stadium Complex in Sarasota, Florida.

  • TEAM: Boston Red Sox
  • AGE: 20
  • POSITION: Pitcher
  • BATS: Right
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 6-foot-3
  • WEIGHT: 205 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The Boston Red Sox selected Kopech in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Mount Pleasant High School in Mount Pleasant, Texas.

*****

STRENGTHS

To put it mildly, Kopech has an incredibly powerful arm. He has very little difficulty hitting 95-98 miles per hour on a consistent basis with his four-seam fastball. And he throws strikes with that fastball.

Kopech is dominating hitters in this year’s edition of the Arizona Fall League, where he is using a very effective combination of his blazing fastball and a very solid 87 mile-per-hour slider to keep hitters off balance. He has also mixed in a changeup that arrives at the plate at 84 miles per hour. In essence, if he so desired, he can easily go from 97 to 87 miles per hour from pitch to pitch.

At this early stage of his professional career, I think Kopech is more comfortable throwing his fastball than either of his other two pitches. He just seems very confident he can miss bats with that four-seamer. His fastball has excellent late life, changing the eye level of the hitter in the process.

Kopech’s command and control of his entire repertoire has improved with experience as a professional.

He has a bit of an unorthodox delivery with high effort. His current delivery, however, has less overall movement and aggression than he showed when he first turned professional.

He hasn’t changed his mound demeanor complete, however, as he is still a bit aggressive on the mound. He comes right after the hitter, with tempting and challenging high velocity pitches that may look easier to hit than they are. The hitter can’t let his guard down a bit without having to worry about the velocity and location of the pitch on its way. Once a hitter digs in for the fastball, the slider or changeup can fool him easily.

Most solid hitters will sit on Kopech’s fastball and let the secondary pitches pass them by.

WEAKNESSES

I have been able to scout the last two of Kopech’s Arizona Fall League starts. He is impressive due to the vast speed variation and the way he can use the entire strike zone to his advantage. However, he could be even more effective if he mixed in his slider even more often and trusted his changeup as a meaningful third pitch. As it stands, he merely spots that pitch to give the hitter something to think about so the hitter doesn’t sit on the fastball. Broadening his repertoire would make Kopech even more dangerous than he is today and keep the hitter from doing what I suggest is possible, eliminating the secondary pitches and thinking only about the fastball.

Kopech missed development time due to a 50-game suspension in July 2015 for the use of banned substance.

He doesn’t have the same command of his slider as he does with his high-velocity fastball. He will have to throw that slider for strikes to improve the efficiency of his four-seamer.

NARRATIVE

An extremely highly-regarded high school pitcher, Kopech’s velocity began to increase from a high of 92 miles per hour in the beginning of his senior year to the mid- to upper-90’s late in that same year. He made some adjustment to his pithing mechanics that helped boost his velocity. Scouts took notice.

He had planned to attend the University of Arizona, but the Red Sox signed Kopech after drafting him with the 33rd pick in the 2014 draft.

In addition to his suspension, Kopech also missed three months of development time this past spring due to a broken hand he suffered in a fight with a roommate. He did begin to pitch in June, when in essence, he started his season at the Class-A Short Season Lowell team in the New York-Penn League. He was there for one start, going 4.1 innings before being promoted.

Kopech then threw 52 innings and finished his season at Class-A Advanced Salem, compiling a 4-1 Carolina League record in 11 starts. He had a very fine 2.25 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP.

He may be in the Fall League to make up for innings missed, or he may be pitching in the Arizona desert because he is so far advanced in his development as a pitcher. Both may be true.

In his career to date, a couple of trends have developed in his statistical background. Kopech’s ability to overpower less advanced hitters in parts of three seasons in the Red Sox system has led to a very low number of home runs being hit against him. In fact, he has yielded only 0.2 home runs per nine innings in 134.2 innings pitched.

Kopech earns lots of swings and misses. To date, he has struck out an average of 11.5 minor league hitters per nine innings. That strikeout rate will be tough to maintain as his competition improves, but it illustrates his power arm and the good location of his pitches.

There are those that say Kopech has hit 105 miles per hour with his fastball. Based upon what I have seen, that could very well be true.

THE FUTURE FOR KOPECH

It is difficult for me to believe Kopech is only 20 years old. He pitches with much more confidence than one would expect from a man with 134.2 innings as a professional pitcher. He is extremely advanced for his age and experience.

Watching him pitch, I find very little to quibble about. Yes, I think he should use his slider and changeup more often so hitters don’t just sit on his fastball. Yes, I think he should have the same confidence in his secondary pitches that he does in his four-seam fastball. Neither of those are a big deal.

The repertoire refinement will come. If he spends one more season working on commanding a complete repertoire he should be ready for the Red Sox starting rotation in 2018. And he could even arrive sometime next season depending upon his progress and the needs of his team. That’s a long shot, but it could happen. I hope not. He needs the time seeing better quality hitters at Double-A and Triple-A to advance his career.

That said, Kopech is seeing some very high quality hitters in the Arizona Fall League. And some of them have touched him up a bit for some hits.

As of this writing Kopech has made three starts in the Fall League. He has yielded ten hits in ten innings. He has an ERA of 2.70 with one walk and 12 strikeouts. Outstanding numbers. He has given up one home run among three earned runs.

My projection of Kopech includes All-Star appearances for him. I believe he will be an effective starting pitcher with high velocity and good command to eat innings and give his team a chance to win games. Much will depend upon his willingness to broaden his repertoire and throw his secondary pitches with confidence.

CONCLUSIONS

Michael Kopech throws high-velocity fastballs with late life and good enough movement to earn swings and misses, high strikeout totals and ground ball outs.

If he further develops his overall command and refines his secondary pitches that include a slider and less-often-used changeup, he will be very difficult to beat.

Kopech pitches as if he knows he’s good. I like that. He is good.

When Kopech improves his secondary offerings, he will slot into an important role in the Red Sox rotation. His exact slot will be less important than his ability to eat innings; 96, 97, and 98 mile-per-hour arms are to be cherished and developed. That’s what’s happening with Mr. Kopech.

In the event he does not develop his slider and changeup, he can be one outstanding late-inning reliever or even a lights out, dominating closer. But I like him much better as a starting pitcher.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR KOPECH: A star in the making that is working his way up the Red Sox food chain.

SCOUTING GRADE FOR KOPECH: 60 – An All-Star quality power pitcher

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

The post Pleskoff Scouting Report: Michael Kopech appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

Source: Knuckleball

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Pleskoff Scouting Report: Franklin Barreto

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This is a 2016 photo of Franklin Barreto of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. This image reflects the Oakland Athletics active roster as of Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • TEAM: Oakland Athletics
  • AGE: 20
  • POSITION: SS/2B
  • BATS: Right
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 5-foot-10
  • WEIGHT: 190 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The Toronto Blue Jays signed Barreto as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2012. In November 2014, Barreto was traded to the Oakland Athletics along with infielder Brett Lawrie, and pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman for third baseman Josh Donaldson.

*****

STRENGTHS

Berreto was very highly regarded on the international market when he chose to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays. He may have been the highest-rated international player to sign.

Perhaps his best of many tools is his ability to hit for a solid batting average. Still only 20 years old with parts of four minor league seasons to his credit, Barreto has fashioned a very solid .293 batting average in his 1469 plate appearances.

He is such a highly -egarded prospect that he has already spent time at the Athletics Triple-A Nashville club, where he finished this past season, playing in four games for the Pacific Coast League team.

He uses a short, measured stroke at the plate and has enough bat speed to take pitches where they are thrown. He has the patience to let the ball travel deep in the strike zone and use his quick hands and wrists to barrel the ball to all fields.

While Barreto is not the biggest of players, he still has enough strength and pop in his bat to spray the ball to the gaps. Eventually, I believe he will gain even more strength and his home run rate will increase.

Speed is a very important and increasingly-advancing tool for Barreto. He can steal bases and he will cause pitchers and catchers some true hiccups. He has a good first step and his mechanics stealing bases are improving.

As I have witnessed in scouting Barreto, he has incredibly good baseball instincts as well as flexibility and agility. He has made some terrific plays that have required jumping to catch hard hit balls with split-second timing.

This past season Barreto played most of the year at Double-A in the Texas League. He had 507 plate appearances and hit .281 before he was sent to Triple-A Nashville. Among his 136 hits this past season were 25 doubles, four triples and 11 home runs. Those are solid hitting statistics.

WEAKNESSES

There are several parts of his overall game that Barreto still needs to refine.

An aggressive hitter, there is some swing-and-miss in his offensive game. While it isn’t an overwhelming issue, he chases pitches outside the strike zone at times and has some trouble with secondary pitches. Sliders, cutters and curveballs down and away outside the strike zone are difficult for Barreto to recognize early enough to avoid.

His aggressive approach means he is swinging more than taking pitches. While his walk rate improved this year, he could still improve his overall game by walking even more. He finished 2016 with 36 walks and 94 strikeouts.

Probably my greatest concern in projecting Barreto is a bit of carelessness I have seen on defense. At times he doesn’t seem focused enough on the routine play and that results in foolish errors. However, he made great defensive strides this past season.

I don’t think Barreto is energized on every play, every game. He can get a bit lackadaisical leaving the batter’s box at times and he doesn’t always use his best speed going home to first. I would like to see a more consistent, higher-energy approach to his overall game.

Primarily a shortstop, Barreto has played second base, and left field as well as center field in the Athletics organization. It appears the club is working hard to determine the very best defensive fit for his tools. The last thing Oakland wants is for Barreto to take any defensive concerns with him to the plate.

Ultimately, the Athletics will have to determine a best defensive position for Barreto. After watching him in the Arizona Fall League, I think he is best suited at second base. His arm strength and range are best suited for that less-demanding position. I’m not sure the Athletics will agree with that assessment, as they may want him to be their long-term answer at shortstop.

Oakland Athletics shortstop Franklin Barreto dives for a base hit by Chicago Cubs' David Ross during the sixth inning of a spring training baseball game in Mesa, Ariz., Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Oakland Athletics shortstop Franklin Barreto dives for a base hit by Chicago Cubs’ David Ross during the sixth inning of a spring training baseball game in Mesa, Ariz., Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

NARRATIVE

Before projecting a promotion date to the big leagues for Barreto, his age and raw ability must be considered. From what I have seen in his minor league and Arizona Fall League performances, he is still a raw, but talented, prospect.

Barreto’s performance in the Fall League to date this season has been rather inconsistent. I have seen good at bats with good selectivity and an adequate knowledge of the strike zone. On other occasions, I have seen him become impatient, aggressive and frustrated at the plate. He chases pitches way out of the strike zone too often. He has to reach a balance in his approach.

Barreto is hitting only .222 in his 37 plate appearances in the first two weeks of the Fall League season. One of his seven hits was a double. He has struck out 11 times, and that is due to his penchant for swinging at bad pitches.

He started his career stateside with a very solid performance for the Oakland Athletics Gulf Coast Rookie League team. He hit .299 for them before going to the Bluefield Rookie League team and hitting .204. He rebounded very well and has hit to expectations since.

THE FUTURE FOR BARRETO

I believe it would be a mistake to rush Barreto to the big leagues. He has some very real ability to hit the ball and make an offensive impact, but he needs refinement in both his patience and pitch recognition at the plate.

At full maturity and when his development is finished, I project him to be a very dangerous hitter against left-handed pitching as a right-handed batter. He seems to see the ball better and approaches the angles more consistently from lefties and the results have been very favorable so far.

Defensively, there is work to be done on his approach to the ball as a middle infielder. He has to work hard to get in the correct position and make routine plays consistently.

Ultimately, I project Barreto to be a meaningful player in the middle of the diamond, either at shortstop or at second base. Currently, he appears to be a prototypical “offense-first” player. But I remind myself when I see him that he has not yet reached his 23rd birthday. Patience is required.

I think his play at second base in the Arizona Fall League has been better than his play at shortstop. He looks more comfortable in that role. Perhaps that is the best position for his future.

CONCLUSIONS

Franklin Barreto is a very solid offensive player. Expectations of him may exceed his current production, but his skill and positive results may coincide within the next year or two.

Barreto has work to do to cut down his aggressive swings at the plate. He needs to identify pitches out of the hand of the pitcher more quickly and determine if he can handle the pitch.

Defensively, he has to find a comfortable home somewhere in the middle infield. I think he fits best at second base due to limited arm strength and less-than-outstanding range. He has a good first step and has the speed, but for some reason his range seems average and best suited at second base.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR BARRETO: Solid offensive player with work to be done on both sides of the ball

SCOUTING GRADE FOR BARRETO: 55 – A solid regular player

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

The post Pleskoff Scouting Report: Franklin Barreto appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

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Pleskoff Scouting Report: D.J. Stewart

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08 OCT 2015: 2015 Orioles first round pick DJ Stewart during the Florida Instructional League (FIL) game between the FIL Red Sox and the FIL Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

  • TEAM: Baltimore Orioles
  • AGE: 22 (He will be 23 at the end of November)
  • POSITION: Outfielder
  • BATS: Left
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 6-foot-0
  • WEIGHT: 230 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The Baltimore Orioles chose Stewart in the first round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Florida State University in Tallahassee.

*****

STRENGTHS

Stewart was a very highly-regarded multi-sport athlete at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. He was a four-year baseball player as an outfielder and a well-regarded running back in football.

While he really doesn’t show any one dominant or game-changing skill, his hit tool is probably his best ticket to a role on a major league team. This past year, his second in professional baseball, Stewart hit a combined .254 at Class-A Delmarva in the South Atlantic League and at Class-A Advanced Frederick in the Carolina League.

Stewart actually hit much better after he was promoted to Class-A Advanced. He hit .279 there in 240 plate appearances versus .230 in 262 trips to the plate at Delmarva.

With a rather stocky build, he could easily be mistaken for a football player. He uses his thick legs and lower body to generate some pop in his bat. He may be short, but he certainly is strong. That strength could lead to double-digit home runs as he progresses through his development and ultimately to a big league roster. This past season, he hit ten home runs.

Stewart has a very good feel for the strike zone. He is patient at the plate and knows which pitches he can drive. He walked 78 times this past season, a statistic that helped him to a .377 on base percentage.

WEAKNESSES

While he showed patience at the plate and walked a great deal, he struck out 104 times last year. He has some swing-and-miss in him as well as perhaps too much patience in not swinging at called strikes.

Not fast, Stewart won’t be stealing or taking extra bases with any amount of frequency.

Defensively, he is adequate in left field. His arm strength is fringy at best. Overall, he profiles as a left fielder if he sticks in the outfield. Perhaps he can serve strictly as a designated hitter.

NARRATIVE

In 2012, the New York Yankees selected Stewart in the First-Year Player Draft following a senior year in high school when he hit .424 with nine home runs and 29 RBI. Instead of signing with the Yankees, Stewart went on to attend Florida State.

He won an incredible number of awards and accolades while at Florida State. For example, he was named to numerous All-American teams and was a Dick Howser Trophy semifinalist twice.

Prior to being drafted by the Orioles, Stewart was known as a solid hitter with a history of turning in a good batting average and driving in runs with a line drive swing. His bat was of great interest to scouts prior to the draft.

08 OCT 2015: 2015 Orioles first round pick DJ Stewart during the Florida Instructional League (FIL) game between the FIL Red Sox and the FIL Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

When I spoke with Stewart recently, he mentioned that the Orioles organization is working hard with him to reduce his crouch at the plate and have him hit with a more upright stance. The transition is a bit difficult for him, and it looks like he is now probably midway between a crouch and an upright stance. It is hoped that he can generate more power with his new approach. But I’m not sure he is comfortable.

In games I have scouted in the current Arizona Fall League, Stewart is scuffling at the plate through the first two weeks of games. He has five hits in 27 plate appearances for a .185 batting average. His line drive bat has shown up, however, as he has two doubles and a triple among his five hits.

THE FUTURE FOR STEWART

I have always found it difficult to change the comfort level of a hitter by altering his stance or mechanics at the plate. Yet, that’s what coaches are paid to do in minor league development programs. In the case of Stewart, changing him from a crouch to an upright stance is a major alteration. It is way more than a mere tweak of his mechanics. Frankly, I believe that change is on his mind all the time, and he is working hard to hit in his new stance.

From a contact and batting average standpoint, in the early days of the Arizona Fall League his new stance is not working as well as expected. He has struck out close to 25 percent of the time, higher than the league average at this early point in the season. From a power standpoint however, the upright stance may be helping.

To his credit, Stewart is very optimistic and hopeful about his new hitting stance. He isn’t fighting the change and is working hard to try to make it work.

There is little evidence that he can win a big league job with solid defense. At best, he is marginal in the outfield. That leaves offense as his path to big league baseball.

Stewart does not have much minor league experience to determine his ultimate future as a professional. In a Baltimore Orioles system that doesn’t have depth in position players, he is situated nicely for advancement. In many other organizations that are deeper in outfield prospects, Stewart might be struggling to get the serious attention and the Fall League experience he is seeing now. After all, he is a former first-round draft choice with a financial commitment from the Orioles. He is on their radar.

CONCLUSIONS

Stewart is a warm, sincere young man with a soft side that belies his tough-looking frame. He just has a very kind demeanor and overall outlook on life. For example, he told me that when he was in middle school he was thrilled to greet a new baby brother into the family. There was a large age separation and Stewart immediately assumed a very protective posture regarding his newly-born brother. He said he always has always will look after his little brother. It is a crucial component of his life and who he is.

Stewart may struggle a bit with a new batting stance. Hitting now from a more upright stance than in a crouch in an effort to unleash more power, he has to find a comfort level that fits his persona. That may or may not happen without his crouch.

A line drive hitter, he has the upside to hit for a good batting average with some power. The trick will be transitioning from prospect to big league player. That remains a challenge.

Stewart strikes me as the type of hitter that will feast on left-handed pitchers. This year, for example, he hit better against them than he did against righties. That may ultimately lead to a role as a platoon outfielder.

When watching Stewart play, I can’t help wonder if he wasn’t a much better hitter and overall player against high school and college competition than he has shown as a professional. But he is still new to professional baseball.

Given the lack of depth in the Orioles organizational outfield, Stewart stands a chance to grow and develop into a big league player. For that to occur, he will have to show a refined hit tool and some true home run power.

In my evaluation, if he remains in the Orioles organization, Stewart can play only in left field or as a designated hitter. That reduces his overall versatility and chances to succeed as a big league regular. He profiles best as a utility platoon player or as organizational depth to be used in the outfield in case of injury or poor performance by a Baltimore regular.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR STEWART: Limited tools with a chance to hit for acceptable average with some power.

SCOUTING GRADE FOR STEWART: 45 – A utility player

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

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Pleskoff Scouting Report: JaCoby Jones

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August 31, 2016: Detroit Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones (40) warms up during a regular season game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers played at Comerica Park in Detroit, MI. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

  • TEAM: Detroit Tigers
  • AGE: 24
  • POSITION: OF/3B
  • BATS: Right
  • THROWS: Right
  • HEIGHT: 6-foot-2
  • WEIGHT: 205 lbs.
  • ACQUIRED: The Houston Astros selected Jones in the 19th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. He chose not to sign a contract. The Pittsburgh Pirates chose Jones in the third round of the 2013 Draft out of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Pirates traded Jones to the Detroit Tigers in July 2015 for pitcher Joakim Soria.

*****

STRENGTHS

to hit for a good batting average. Combined, his power and his good hitting tool could lead to a middle-of-the order type of career. He has a career batting average of .260 over parts of four minor league seasons in the Pirates and Tigers organizations.

Jones has quick hands through the ball at the plate and has strong wrists and forearms that he can use to power balls to the gap or even over the fence.

His speed may be his least developed tool, as he can easily become a major threat to steal bases at any point in the game. He just hasn’t used his speed enough in any prolonged manner that creates game-changing impact.

This past season at Double-A Erie, Triple-A Toledo and briefly playing for the parent Detroit Tigers, Jones stole a total of 13 bases while being caught five times. The year before, he stole 25 bases. I project Jones to be a true base-stealing threat when he becomes more comfortable in that role.

Defensively, the most accomplished aspect of his game is his above-average arm strength. He has a strong enough arm to make solid throws from third base, shortstop or the outfield.

WEAKNESSES

Those critical of Jones point to the fact he is far too aggressive at the plate to use his good hitting tool and his power to their maximum potential. His swing is long and almost violent at times.

A combination of a lack of pitch recognition, a lack of pitch selectivity, and a lack of patience have held Jones back from realizing his optimal offense. He swings hard at pitches, but often misses entirely or gets weak contact due to being fooled or swinging too hard at the pitch.

Defensively, as is the case with Jones’ offense, he is a work in progress. Scouts point to defensive inconsistency at third base as the major reason he has not yet received a more permanent position commitment.

The Pirates selected Jones as an outfielder. He played center field briefly in the Pirates system before they converted him to shortstop part way through his 2013 rookie season. A second baseman in college, shortstop seemed like a solid position for a player with Jones’ athletic ability, speed and arm strength.

After he was traded to the Tigers he was returned to the outfield. But he was used some at third base as well. Utilizing his versatility and trying to find a more permanent home for Jones defensively, the Tigers even had him play some at first base.

Making matters even more confusing, at the end of the 2015 season when he went to Fall League, Jones played eight games at third base, and four games at shortstop before he left the league for his suspension.

In the 2016 season for the Tigers, he has played left field, center field and third base. To clarify matters, in the Arizona Fall League this fall, the Tigers list Jones as an outfielder. Whew! Determining the proper position for JaCoby Jones will be an important factor for his future. Versatility is one thing, but settling into a role will help him find consistency.

August 31, 2016:  Detroit Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones (40) at bat during a regular season game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers played at Comerica Park in Detroit, MI.   (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

NARRATIVE

Jones has always showed an ability to hit a baseball. He was the 2010 Mississippi Player of the Year while at Richton, Mississippi High School. He won countless honors in high school and received four All-State selections. His skill led the Houston Astros to select him as a high school player. He instead attended Louisiana State University, where he played as the Tigers’ starting second baseman for three seasons. He also earned honors as an All-SEC Team player and as a top collegiate freshman.

Jones is appearing in the Arizona Fall League for the second time. He was part of the Scottsdale Saguaros in 2015 when he hit .280 with two home runs in 54 plate appearances. He was named to the league’s Fall Stars Team. On November 15 2015, towards the end of the fall season, he was suspended for using a drug of abuse. As a second offender, his suspension was for 50 games.

Overall, Jones is a highly competitive and intense player with an aggressive approach to his game.

A knee injury in his rookie season cost him some early development time, but he has moved beyond that to play parts of four minor league seasons, where he has compiled a career .269 batting average with 47 home runs in 1575 plate appearances. Those statistics do not include Arizona Fall League appearances.

High strikeout totals have been part of the minor league development story for Jones. There are still too many swings and misses and far too many chased pitches. He has work to do to refine his approach at the plate to allow more contact.

This past season, Jones earned a promotion to the parent Tigers in late August. He made his big league debut August 30, 2016 playing against the Kansas City Royals. He had a good game, getting two hits in four plate appearances. He played in 13 big league games, finishing with a batting average of .214. Jones played both third base and center field at the major league level.

This past season, Jones hit .267 against left-handed pitching in 134 plate appearances. Going to the plate 307 times, he hit .249 against right-handers.

THE FUTURE FOR JACOBY JONES

The Tigers do not have a deep minor league system. Jones is one of their better prospects. However, he has work to do on cutting down his strikeouts, becoming less aggressive and improving his overall defensive game. He has to gain the confidence of the Tigers front office that he can produce at the big league level on a consistent basis regardless of his ultimate position.

Speed is one of Jones’ major tools, and quite possibly a skill that can help him get to the next level. In order to utilize that speed to the maximum, he will have to refine his pitch recognition and get on base more often. He has to be more selective at the plate, cut down his swing and barrel the ball with his very good bat speed.

Jones’ raw tools can’t be denied. He has pop in his bat and is very worth dedicating coaching effort to refining his game and gaining the most from his abilities

In my evaluation, he probably projects best as an outfielder. He looks more natural and confident at that position and he may not be taking the last at-bat with him on defense. I don’t think he has a comfort level as a shortstop or third baseman.

If he is to carve out a career as a big league player, Jones will have to maximize his power-speed combination in the coming season.

CONCLUSIONS

Although he was a very good high school and college player, my projections do not include a starting big league role for JaCoby Jones. I feel he is worthy of a bench role on a big league club because he does have good offensive power and the speed to make an impact.

I feel his aggressive approach and lack of plate disciple must be addressed for him to advance.

SCOUTING PHRASE FOR JONES: A player with several raw tools in need of refinement and further development

SCOUTING GRADE FOR JONES: 45 – A utility player

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff

The post Pleskoff Scouting Report: JaCoby Jones appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

Source: Knuckleball

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