2/25-2/26 Spring Training Notes

2/25/18 – Royals at Athletics (Hohokam Stadium)

Puk FB

AJ Puk was the big attraction here. He went two innings and showed why he has ace potential. His fastball sat comfortably 93-94, and the 88 mph slider looked untouchable. Seeing Puk for the first time was a treat. The body looks easily capable of starter’s workload. There is natural plus extension in his 6’7″ frame. His long arms result in a release point that is fairly high, in turn creating significant downhill plane on his offerings. Whether or not he can reach his OFP hinges on his changeup, a pitch that was thrown twice in Sunday’s outing. One fluttered out of the zone armside. The other looked league average. If Puk can refine his changeup command, he can be a number two starter.

Dustin Fowler returned to action for the first time since rupturing his patellar tendon last June. The savage injury occurred when he slammed into an unpadded wall while chasing down a foul ball. Fowler moved well in the outfield and on the bases, including a 4.17 home to first on a ground ball. While this isn’t Fowler’s max speed, it makes sense he would be ramping things up slowly in spring training, particularly after such a gruesome injury. If I had not previously known he was injured, nothing in this game would have stood out to me with regards to his mobility.

Royals RHP Andres Machado displayed plus momentum and an incredibly fast arm, touching 98 in the process. His 2015 season was wiped out due to TJ. He spent 2016, his age 23 season, in the Pioneer League where he was old for the level. That all changed in 2017 when the Royals pushed him aggressively. After 21 appearances in high A Wilmington, he received multiple promotions en route to his major league debut. The team liked him enough to add him to the 40-man roster last September. Expect Macado to be a contributor in the Royals pen this season.

Results-wise it wasn’t a good performance for Royals prospect Josh Staumont, but I can see why he has been a mainstay on Royals prospects lists the last few years. Frankly, it defies logic how he’s able to generate high 90s velocity with such an easy delivery. I am going to resort everyone’s favorite cliche’, he looks like he’s playing catch out there. This appearance did little to allay concerns over his mounting history of command issues. In 2016 he walked 7.6/9IP in 123 1/3 innings, and in 2017 he walked 7.00/9IP in 124 2/3 innings. These are not small sample sizes. In this outing, he was unable to locate his curveball with any consistency, although it flashed plus. Considering the ease of his delivery, I can see why the Royals would want to continue to develop him as a starter. 2018 may be a lost year for the Royals so it would behoove them to give Staumont another chance to figure things out.

2/26/18 – Mariners at Cubs (Sloan Field)

Unfortunately, the news du jour on Monday was King Felix getting hit in the forarm/elbow area with a comebacker. Luckily, It’s been reported the injury is not serious. Before leaving the game, Felix was 88-89 with his fastball and barely scrapped 90. His velo has been decreasing consistently over the years, and he averaged 91 last year according to Brooks Baseball. I would expect something similar from Felix this year. At this stage in his career he is a mid-rotation starter in my opinion. He is still a wizard with breaking pitches, but the unthreatening nature of his fastball curbs his ceiling.

Mariners 2017 1st round pick Evan White had two at bats in the game. As a prospect junkie, this was of immense interest to me. It’s hard to draw conclusions from two ABs, but I will say he did not look over-matched at all and appeared to have good strikezone awareness. White has been lauded as a plus-plus defender and some scouts are even advocating for a move to center field. This is an interesting guy to keep an eye on.

 

10/16/17, 10/17/17 Arizona Fall League Notes

10/17/17 AFL Notes

Shedon Neuse (3B) Athletics – If the announcer at AFL games is correct, this guy’s name is pronounced “noisy”. Baseball Reference could neither confirm nor deny. Neuse has shown me a lot this fall. He makes frequent loud contact and tends to shoot baseballs opposite field into the right/center gap. He is capable of using all fields though. He has a good feel to hit and awareness of the zone. I think the power will play to average because the approach seems more contact-oriented than power-oriented. I have yet to see him in BP, but I suspect there is more raw in the bat than he has shown in games. Defensively, he does not have the look of a typical third baseman; he is short and stocky. However, I think the industry consensus is he can get the job done there. I was thinking he has an above average arm. Then, a scout informed me Neuse used to touch mid 90s as a pitcher so it’s probably plus. This is a guy I am in on as a possible every day regular. (10/25 Edit – Today Neuse played shortstop and looked good there! He made a solid play on a tough grounder and showed quick hands getting it to first. The athleticism is better than I originally thought.)

Graphic From MLBFarm.com

Sheldon Neuse_HeatMap

10/16/17 AFL Notes

Nicky Lopez (SS) Royals – The Royals made a shrewd selection when they took Lopez in the 5th round of the 2016 draft. He has the look of a second division regular. There are a lot of average or better tools in his proverbial box. Offensively, he can control the zone and foul off pitches until he gets one that he likes. In today’s game he was able to take a Sheffield slider oppo for a double. The bat control is real. Ex post facto, I wasn’t surprised to look at his fangraphs page and discover he only struck out in 9% of his plate appearances this season. One fair criticism is his swing plane will not generate much power. On the bases, I have seen him in the 4.15-4.20 range from the left side, which grades above average. He looks to be a capable defender at short as well.

10/19/17 Instructs Notes

Giants at Royals – Surprise, AZ – Surprise Stadium Backfields

Heliot Ramos (CF) San Francisco Giants – Ramos is among the best players in fall instructs. It’s a sexy bat. We are talking potential 60 hit and 60 power. He has good bat speed and a very compact swing. Overall, Ramos makes the game look easy. I know that sounds reductive, but it’s true! Physically, Ramos has a thick build and a big ass. A scout comped him to Juan Uribe. Currently listed at 6’2” 185, I think he’s closer to 200 and it’s not hard to envision another 20-30 lbs on him. Right now he’s an above average runner, posting home to first times around 4.25 from the right side. I would expect him to settle in to be an average runner at maturity. It’s possible slowing down would necessitate a move to an outfield corner, but I think the bat is good enough to profile there too. It’s an impressive profile, and it’s not hard to see why the Giants made him the 19th pick in last year’s Rule 4.

Joe Marciano (LHP) San Francisco Giants – The heir apparent to former Giants QB Jared Lorenzen’s nickname, Marciano is a hefty lefty. He’s listed as 6’5” 250 lbs which might be a little light. A lot of guys his size struggle with body control, but it’s not an issue for Marciano. He pitches with a gracefulness that I find oddly endearing. Marciano’s repertoire is headlined by a plus high 70s curveball with big two-plane break. I have seen him get swinging strikes in and out of the zone with it. His fastball hovers around 90. His third offering is a mid 80s change. Marciano has an outside shot to be an innings-eating backend starter, which would be an amazing outcome for a 36th round pick. In my humble estimation, it was a great job by the Giants amateur staff finding this guy.

Diego Rincones (OF) San Francisco Giants – He continued doing Diego Rincones things today. The approach is ultra aggressive. I think he saw five total pitches in four at bats. In spite of the approach, he makes a ton of contact. He reminds me of Vlad Sr because he is a good bad ball hitter and likes seemingly every pitch that he sees (*disclaimer not a comp*). Today he had another three hits. This is a wait and see guy for me because I am worried about how his approach will play at higher levels. Right now it’s working so you can’t bash it too much.

MJ Melendez (C) Kansas City Royals – The words defensive wizard will be used to describe Royals catcher MJ Melendez. He oozes athletic ability in a way few other catchers do. He displayed impressive quickness and a plus arm. I loved his blocking ability and a throw he made from his knees with a 1.90 pop. He likes to test runners and is able to get out of the crouch quickly to fire throws over to first. At the plate he took a 98 mph pitch from Melvin Adon to the opposite field for a double. If the bat can be a 40 or 45 this guy is a major league regular.

Khalil Lee (OF) Kansas City Royals – The first thing I noticed about Lee is he swings the bat extremely hard. At 5’10 170 (basically my build!) he does not have the look of a power hitter, but make no mistake, he can mash baseballs. There is a lot of loft in his swing due to an uppercut that should result in a high FB% and high ISOs. He hit a deep home run to right center in today’s game. In my looks there was a decent amount of swing and miss on breaking pitches. I don’t have a great feel for Lee’s arm, but have read that he was a two-way player in high school so it can’t be half bad.

10/14/17, 10/17/17 Instructs Notes

10/17/17 – Royals at Giants – Scottsdale, AZ – Giants Complex at the Intersection of Hayden and Camelback

Glenn Sparkman (RHP) Kansas City Royals – Sparkman was my favorite arm of the day. His arsenal featured a sinking fastball that ranged from 92-95 and moved either glove side or armside. The cambio was his top offspeed option. To my eye, it looked like he could manipulate it to either drop 12 to 6 or to have fade and drop. The change was in the 83-85 velo band. His curve was high 70s and was a serviceable third option.

10/14/17 – Dodgers vs White Sox (shared complex) – Glendale, AZ – Camelback Ranch Backfields

Justin Bruihl (LHP) Los Angeles Dodgers – “Crafty lefty” is a hackneyed term, but they were the first words that came to my mind as I watched Bruihl. His stuff was not overpowering. The fastball sat 90-91, touching 93. The slider was 74-77. And the change was 80-84. I was impressed by Bruihl’s willingness to throw seemingly any pitch in any count and pitch backwards. I also like his smooth low three quarters delivery, which he repeated well. Despite the positives, this is still a command guy who will need to hit his spots and sequence to succeed. The good news is right now he appears capable of doing that effectively.