Longenhagen Scouts Williamsport, Gonzalez updates, bites from Reading

Scouting lower level talent is my favorite endeavor because the dream of youth and projection is alive everywhere you look. The Williamsport Crosscutters roster has it in spades. I ventured out there (and will go back again before the season is over) during a weekend series against the Lowell Spinners. Here are most of my notes..

Yacksel Rios (RHP) – Probably not the first name you’d expect me to address, but Yacksel Rios is a name you should know. Rios’ fastball sits 90-92mph and touched 93mph for me with a little bit of armside run. He left it up at times and when he did he was hit around, but I don’t expect kids at this level to be mitt-sniping assassins, I’m primarily looking for raw ability. At one point, Rios threw (by my count and an executive in attendance) 25 fastballs in a row. Clearly, developmental milestones are in mind here. Whether it’s to build arm strength or work on command or something else, Rios was working on things. The slider was below average almost all night but flashed plus, truly plus, a handful of times. When he snaps it off right it sits between 76-79mph and has significant, late, two plane movement. He barely threw anything else, certainly not enough of anything for me to confidently grade, but Rios’ arm slot, hand size and loose, athletic delivery suggest that when he starts to work on the changeup there’s at least a chance it’ll take and the few he threw had intriguing action on them. He throws from a low-3/4s slot and he needs to work on repeating it and his delivery in general.  Late in his start, especially, he was clearly becoming fatigued and was struggling to maintain his mechanics. Just 20 years old, Rios is listed at 6’3” and 185lbs. There’s quite a bit of physical projection left here. While I’m not certain his body indicates he’s going to get bigger (he kind of has the look of one of those guys who is always going to be skinny) the possibility certainly exists for him to add mass. So keep in mind that if and when Rios gets stronger he may add velocity and become more coordinated as he grows into his body. I think there’s potential for a backend starter here, maybe more if physical growth yields more velocity.

Andrew Pullin (2B) – Pullin has a much more mature body for his age. At just 19, he’s already weighing in at 185lbs at an even 6’. His lower half is a tad thin and I’d like to see him add to it. A converted outfielder, Pullin is still making some violent adjustments to his new position, second base. His routes to ground balls need work and his throwing motion is awkward and choppy and leads to inaccurate throws. He has almost half a decade to get that stuff right and I think he has the athleticism to do it, eventually. For now, however, it’s an issue. Pullin’s bat is interesting but flawed. He tracks the baseball well, is short to it and has fine bat speed, but the swing is handsy and I don’t think he’s going to hit for anything but doubles power if he doesn’t learn to incorporate his lower half into his swing. Pullin’s swing mechanics lack consistency. His hands set up a little different from swing to swing and his feet vary as well. These are things that players this age have plenty of time to work on. He makes encouraging hard contact, but right now I have a hard time projecting the power to anything better than 40-45. Pullin is a legitimate plus runner, timed just above 4.10 seconds from the left side a few times.

Zach Green (3B) – Another physically mature bat, Green has your prototypical third base body at 6’3”, 210lbs. He’s thick in the thighs and forearms, two places you like to see muscle. He’s not a great defensive third basemen but I think he has the flexibility, hands and arm to play there as long as he doesn’t get too much bigger and slower as he ages. The bat is ok. He has good raw strength but the bat speed is a little lacking for me. I get the feeling it was a bad look, and I’m looking forward to seeing him some more in August. For now though, I’m not enthusiastic about his ability to hit going forward. I timed him at 4.42 down the line (40).

Malquin Canelo (SS) – He’s an exceptional defensive shortstop for someone his age and that alone could allow him to go quite far. He’s not Freddy Galvis or Gustavo Nunez r Eduardo Escobar or anything, yet, but he’s extraordinary. Canelo makes strong throws from multiple platforms and has good range in both directions. He’s still just 18 years old and so he’ll make a fundamental mistake here and there, but the pure skill in undeniably present. What’s certainly not there, at least right now, is any semblance of offensive competency. Canelo lacks bat speed, strength and he doesn’t track pitches well. Moreover, I’m not sure Canelo has a lot of physical projection to dream on. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some, as Canelo is 5’10” and just 156lbs, but his diminutive frame suggests he’s likely done growing. It’s a shame, I actually like his bat path and think if the bat were quicker that there’d be something pretty nice here. I can’t see those offensive holes closing unless he grows. Grow, Malquin, grow. Oh, and his  name is Malquin Canelo.

Andrew Knapp (C) – Knapp, this year’s second round pick, hasn’t had any work behind the plate due to injury but he’s almost back to full health and should start squatting soon. I did get to see him hit and I have mixed feeling about the swing. From the left side his feet are simple and classic as he simply strides right toward the pitcher (a basic and sound mechanical feat I rarely see), toe touches and plants and begins to transfer his weight. The front foot will come down a little late at times. Knapp’s bat path, however, is odd. It takes an odd, sharp change in direction as he comes through the ball, something I’ve never seen before and, frankly, have a hard time articulating. The swing is a little long but the bat speed should play and average raw power is already present. I only got to see BP swings from the right side. His has a slight hitch as a righty and doesn’t incorporate his lower half as well. I need to see more of him, preferably as a catcher, and maybe talk to some player devo guys about his swing. He’s certainly a prospect with.

Dylan Cozens (RF) – Cozens is a large young man. At 6’6” and a listed 235lbs (though I wouldn’t argue if you told me he weighed more than that) there aren’t many big league outfielders who possess a physical composition like this which is both really captivating and concerning. He has no positive physical projection remaining, a rarity for someone his age (he’s only 19) and a fact that may lead him to first base at some point soon as he gains weight. He’s not great in the outfield right now. He took tentative routes to several balls hit in his direction last weekend and isn’t the fleetest of foot anyway. He has enough arm for right field, but I can’t project him to be any better than average out there. There’s plenty of raw power in the bat, though it shows more at 5 o’clock than it does at 7 because Cozens’ hands drift something awful during game action and the hit tool. There are some things to like on the offensive side. He’s remarkably patient for his age and his footwork in the box is so simple and clean that I can’t imagine it’ll ever need fixing. I think both the Phillies and Cozens have some work to do here. The swing needs some fixing (I’d put a 35 on the bat right now with 45 projection) and Cozens needs to make sure he stays in shape befitting an outfielder because I don’t think the bat is going to play at first base. As a corner outfielder, there’s already a ton of pressure on it.

 

A few more notes:

I continued to reach out for info on Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and the general consensus around the league is that he’s a backend starter. Pitch by pitch, reports tend to read like this: Fastball 89-93mph, touching higher but he doesn’t command it when it does. 55 Splitter, 45 Changeup, Cutter is in its nascent stages, Curveball grades out at 40 and he tips it. Control is ahead of command as he’ll leace pitches up a little too often. One AL scout told me the medicals on his elbow (he’s had issues with it in the past) were fine. I’m sure the Phillies think higher of him and, due to the odd nature of his recent playing career and routine, wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him being better. Lots of people were shocked the Dodgers gave Yasiel Puig the contract they did because he was rusty and overweight. That looks like it’ll work out. It’s at least possible that Gonzalez, who didn’t pitch competitively for two years when he was caught trying to defect, might turn things on when he gets into an actual routine.

I saw Jesse Biddle again this week and he does not look good. He’s not getting on top of the fastball causing it to sail up toward hitters’ eyes. Same goes for the curveball which lacks bite and shape. He’s not throwing strikes, at all. And all of this is killing his changeup development because he’s not getting into counts in which he can throw it. Several times this past start he’d throw a pitch and look at his fingers while rubbing them together. Maybe a blister there? Pure speculation. Earlier this year he was spotting everything down in the zone and the curveball was a consistent plus pitch. Right now, he’s a mess.

Maikel Franco’s approach continues to be atrocious but he continues to hit. A lot. It’ll catch up to him eventually, but I’m more confident in his ability to make adjustments than other writers are when it does.

Kelly Dugan can play some ball and he’s going to get a full write up sometime in August when I can see BO and outfield drills as a supplement.

Brody Colvin was moved to the bullpen and his fastball velo and the curveball are playing up as a result. His control is still horrific and he still has very little idea as to how to pitch, but at least as a reliever he has a shot to put on a big league uniform.

Sebastian Valle looks like he’s kind of mailed it in. He’s popping a little slower than he was last year (2.07 for me this week) and there’s more swing and miss in his cut than ever. I still think he’ll be a backup but I thought Jason Jaramillo would be one, too.

Anthony Hewitt put on a typical Anthony Hewitt show for Jill and I on Sunday, striking out in his first three at-bats while looking completely overmatched before unloading on a ball in the ninth inning that was in the air for about 6.5 seconds before landing in the left field bleachers.

Adam Morgan pitches tonight in Lehigh Valley. I’ll be there before catching a flight to Florida.

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20 comments

  1. Nick

    August 01, 2013 09:19 AM

    I was at the Williamsport game that Saturday. I don’t fancy myself any type of scout, and was really there more as a fan and observer. That being said, Rios looked from my angel (down the 1st base line), that he was having command issues, I was impressed by Tromp’s speed, and Zach Green’s pedo-stache was creapin me and my fiancee` out.

  2. Eric Longenhagen

    August 01, 2013 09:30 AM

    Yes, he clearly needs work there but based on how fluid he is, it’s ok to be optimistic that he’ll improve. You’re dead on about Jiandido Tromp. I had him timed at 4.14 from the right side. That’s 65 speed, he can really fly. I’d like to see him work in centerfield but Gustavo Martinez has similar speed and they both can’t play out there at once.

  3. SteveH

    August 01, 2013 09:39 AM

    Eric,
    First I love reading your reports. It’s nice to get an idea of what guys in the minors could possibly do. I have two questions.

    1. As more of a fan then a scout with an idea of what to look for in a player I ask this: what should I be looking for in Asche as he starts playing games in the majors? Are there specific things that would be positives and show that he can play and play well?

    2. I know you have been keeping us posted on Gonzalez but could you be sure to let us know if is gets a scheduled start in either Reading or Lehigh Valley this year because I would like to try to get out there to see him if I can.

  4. Eric Longenhagen

    August 01, 2013 09:44 AM

    Steve,

    On Asche: Watch and see if he improves on defense. Moving to a new level and experiencing new instruction has helped Cody improve in the past. He was a bad third baseman in Reading last year, went to Fall League and took to instruction and improved. Came to LHV this year, took to instruction and improved a bit again. I don’t think he’ll ever be better than fringe average over there but it’s something to watch. ALso, be patient with his bat. Adjusting to MLB pitching usually takes time and Asche has always experienced adjustment periods as he’s moved up. He can hit a little bit, and it will come, just maybe not right away. Watch especially how he handles big league breaking balls.

    On Alf: Hell yeah, I’ll let you guys know.

  5. mratfink

    August 01, 2013 10:06 AM

    Eric,

    aw damn i was also at the Reading game on sunday. probably sat a section over from you. or at least all the scouts i saw were one section over. had i known you were there i would have said hi

    On Franco’s approach, i noticed his first at-bat he seemed to work a count into his favor, taking the first pitch, laying off pitches out of the zone and hit a ball real hard (though right at someone), but every time after that he was swinging at basically the first strike. Did the coaches just tell him to take his first time up, or did he just stumble into a good at bat?

  6. Eric Longenhagen

    August 01, 2013 10:11 AM

    I have no idea. I know the guys within the organization that I talk to absolutely love him and are impressed that he’s only struck out 12 times. I don’t know if he’s being instructed to work on it or not. I’ll ask someone who would know next time I see them.

  7. yo

    August 01, 2013 11:28 AM

    Eric, can you better explain the “concern” with Makiel’s swing? What does he do and what might it prevent him from doing? Thanks – love the reports.

  8. Eric Longenhagen

    August 01, 2013 11:38 AM

    Yo,

    Ok, so there are a few things about Franco that people don’t alwasy like. First is what we call a “Deep Load.” To “load” refers to the way a hitter draws his hands back, almost like the string of a bow, before the fire forward to strike the ball. Typically, scouts like to see the hands go back to where they’re even with the hitter’s back foot (Provided, of course, that hitter doesn’t have some sort of freaky wide base like Jeff Bagwell or something) and if it goes past that they start to get concerned. They get concerned because drawing your hands back that far might mean your hands have too far to go now to make contact with the ball. Your swing can get long, your timing can be late, etc. For me, Franco’s bat speed is so crazy that I think it makes up for how deep his hands go back.

    Now, the other things people are concerned about are his approach (which is lousy), the effort in the swing (he swings out of his ass at all times) and his ability to recognize good breaking balls (which he rarely sees at DOuble-A).

    For me, the approach absolutley has to get better. We’ve seen guys who have all kinds of skills but bad approaches be totally undone (Josh Vitters, Delmon Young, Dayan Viciedo, etc). I don’t mind the helacious swing so much becuase I think his bat path is going to run him into a ton of contact, even if he’s losing sight of the ball a little bit. As for concerns about good off-speed stuff, I have them, but he’s made adjustments before (Go look at his first half of 2012) when faced with adversity and that allows me to be optimistic that he can make them again.

  9. Ethan

    August 01, 2013 12:13 PM

    Eric,

    Keith Law/Jason Parks/et al. keep referring to an “arm bar” with Franco. Can you explain that? I think I have a rough idea, but another, more detailed explanation would help.

  10. Eric Longenhagen

    August 01, 2013 01:02 PM

    Yeah, that’s what happens when you load your hands deep like Franco does. Your hands go so far back that your front arm (in Franco’s case it’s his left arm) “bars” or becomes totally straight. This can screw with you swing path and, again, lengthen your swing. He doesn’t quite bar that fron arm as far as I can tell. Franco’s arms are really long and his hands can go back that far while his arm still has bend in it. I think it’s fine.

  11. SteveH

    August 01, 2013 01:09 PM

    Eric,

    Thanks for the list of things. A few more thoughts…Asche for a moment. With him, you pretty much expect that he can make a play like he one he made on Pence but will also break out the wide throws like he did a few innings later? Also, do you think Phils brass will allow him to stay up and grow and adjust for the remainder of the season or do you think they will send him down if the hitting doesn’t come right away?

    Switching to Biddle for a moment. You said maybe he had a blister and maybe he didn’t. Did you think his mechanics were totally out of whack or did it seem like something that could’ve been more injury related?

    One final question, what’s the latest progress report on Caesar Hernandez and centerfield? Thanks.

  12. Eric Longenhagen

    August 01, 2013 01:52 PM

    Steve,

    Asche: The play he made on Pence is the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen him do. I don’t expect that sort of boom to occur very often. He’s not like Rickie Weeks where he’ll make an incredible play and then botch a grounder hit right at him. I think the front office will have him up for the rest of the year as evidenced by their desire to work him in the oufield to shoehorn him into the lineup should Michael Young stick around. And, just to make him more versatile, which doesn’t hurt.

    On Biddle: Typically issues like the ones we’ve seen with Biddle have to do with release point issues.

    Hernandez does not look good in CF but it’s a hard position to play. I suppose there’s a chance it works out, albeit a slim one, but it’ll take some time. Right now I’d have him up playing 2B everyday while Utley played first base.

  13. KJ

    August 01, 2013 02:03 PM

    Eric,
    Love your write-ups and am looking forward to learning more. My question is concerning Ethan Martin being called up to start Friday. I’ve heard differing projections on him, from back end starter to bullpen arm. Where do you see him ending up long term? Thanks.

  14. SteveH

    August 01, 2013 02:24 PM

    Eric,

    There have been a lot of questions on here about Franco’s bat. What is his defense like?

  15. Eric Longenhagen

    August 01, 2013 02:32 PM

    KJ,

    I’m going to try to have a full Martin report up sometime within the next day. If not, I’ll post something in the comments here.

    Steve,

    I have a full Franco report up on here already so check that out for more info. Generally I think he’s fine over there. He’s slow and his range is limited, but his arm is strong enough to make up for those ills. Even if he doesn’t field a ton of balls in a sound fundamental position, his arm strength allows him to make the throw anyway. It’s not ideal and I don’t think he’s ever going to be great over there, but he’s good enough to play there and just be okay.

  16. Jon Cheddar

    August 02, 2013 09:12 AM

    Eric,

    Are Keivi Rojas and Manny Martinez any kind of prospects at W’port? I know they’re minor league relievers so I’m not terribly optimistic

  17. Plaidgolfpants

    August 02, 2013 10:23 AM

    Great stuff Eric.

    There is no substitute for actually seeing players “live”. I actually believe in the idea that you can make (some) determinations about prospects by how guys carry themselves, body language etc.

    Changing gears, I’ve never seen Franco in person. To the extent I know about him is based exclusively on accounts of others and some videos which are edited in such a way that don’t give a feel for his approach.

    Having said that, the image that comes to me (not that it’s a comp) when I hear descriptions of Franco is Vlad Guerrero. Vlad hardly ever hit an actual strike. If approach was the sole gauge for graduating a prospect, Vlad may have never made it to MLB. It could be that Gerrero was a “once in a generation” talent that got away with his idiosyncracys.

    Not saying Franco is a future HOF’er but just maybe we shouldn’t try to fix him to the extent it diminishes his natural gifts.

    If he keeps it up he’s probably going to force the issue of sink/swim at the MLB level, whether as a Philly…who knows.

    I get the feeling the Phillies do think he is special.

  18. Phillie697

    August 02, 2013 12:58 PM

    @Plaidgolfpants,

    We “fixed” Dom Brown and look how well that turned out. Brown’s batting stance and approach has drastically changed from when he was in the minors vs. today. MLB is not the same as minor league baseball.

  19. Plaidgolfpants

    August 02, 2013 04:58 PM

    Brown was always pretty selective and for sure never had his approach described as “attrocious”. He also didn’t have a technical swing problem as much as he couldn’t settle on where it felt comfortable to hold his hands.

    What we have in Franco (if you listen to those who play up his negatives) is a 20/21 year old that apprently has no idea what he is doing at the plate and has a fatal flaw in his (arm bar) swing yet, oddly, you can’t get a ball past him and his production has accelerated with each bump.

    I once saw an analysis of Derek Jeter’s swing…his MLB swing, not a MILB swing. From a technical perspective it was considered one of the worst ever. 3,000 hits later…

    The only prudent thing to do with Franco is to leave him alone and keep challenging him with promotions until he experiences failure that makes changing what he is doing make sense.

  20. Phillie697

    August 06, 2013 12:10 PM

    @Plaidgolfpants,

    On a team with more patient fans and a FO that understands prospect development, I would be fine with that. We. Have. Neither. May I present you Domonic Brown as Exhibit A. I don’t want to put Franco through that. Fix him now I say.

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