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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.