AFL Notes 11/14/17
Monte Harrison (OF) Milwaukee Brewers – The term tool shed was made for guys like Monte Harrison. A college football recruit at Nebraska, he is a premium athlete. The speed, arm and power are all plus tools. I think Harrison best fits in right due to his arm. It’s an easy 60 maybe 70 from what I have seen this fall. I have Harrison 4.25 home to first, which is plus from the right side. Taking a glance at his Baseball Reference page, he stole 27 bases in 31 attempts last year. This leads me to believe he can read pitchers well and has base stealing acumen. At the plate, Harrison’s approach was somewhat erratic. At times he displayed good plate discipline, working counts by fouling off pitches and taking borderline balls. At other times, he expanded the zone by chasing fastballs up or a breaking pitches down and away. I think there will always be some swing and miss in his game. I was talking to Derek Corr (Twitter: @dcorr82) who brought up the issue of Harrison’s hands when he swings. If you examine the swing, Harrison starts with his hands high and dips them as it begins. The bat speed is plus, but this extra motion adds length to his swing. Despite the swing and miss, Harrison gets to his power consistently in games. It’s easy plus power, generated mostly by his strong hands and quick wrists. Today he crushed a Henry Owens pitch opposite field (the open face home run in the video). I think Harrison has a first-division ceiling and a very good chance to be an every day player. Even if the hit tool lags, the compilation of other tools will buoy his overall profile.
AFL Notes 11/13/17
Estevan Florial (OF) New York Yankees – If Harrison is a tool shed, then I suppose that makes Florial a Home Depot. I’ll be here all week. The tools are “you need earmuffs loud”, and one scout cited Florial as a top three prospect in the AFL. The speed is elite (70). I have a couple sub-four home to first times and a number at 4.10 or faster. He can reach full speed by his second step, which is really impressive. Defensively, center field is the most likely landing spot. It’s worth noting his arm is also plus. Offensively, there were some concerning trends. Florial has a lot of swing and miss, especially on breaking pitches down. Right now he doesn’t appear to recognize spin, but Florial just turned 20 on Small Business Saturday (11/25) and is relatively raw for his age having come out of Haiti. For this reason many scouts are not worried about him long term. Just don’t expect a rapid Acuna-esq ascent. I think there will be growing pains. Rumors have it he’s shown plus raw in BP, but I haven’t seen it materialize much in games. The bat speed is excellent and his swing has upward plane, neither of which explain his high groundball rate. I suspect poor timing is the culprit. When he does barrel, the results are impressive. It just hasn’t happened much in my looks. Hard contact on barrels combined with his speed should help Florial sustain abnormally high BABIPs, maybe in the .350s. Overall, the raw ingredients are here for a first-division player. As is often the case, utility of the hit tool will go a long way in determining his overall efficacy. I think it’s a potential 50 at maturity. Having said that, he’s an admittedly difficult evaluation and a high variance player who is far from major league ready.
Mitch Keller (RHP) Pittsburgh Pirates – If we are doing AFL superlatives, I think best fastball command goes to Mitch Keller. Today he was surgical. The fastball ranged from 92-97. There was a three-pitch sequence to Thairo Estrada that stood out as an impressive display of command. Keller started with an 85 mph changeup at the bottom-middle of the zone for a swinging strike. Then, he went to the 97 mph heat at the top of the zone. He finished Estrada with a 92 mph fastball that was down and away. I found this to be impressive because Keller appeared to be deliberately changing the eye level of hitters to keep them off balance. The curve was also quite good. It ranged from 78-82, generating some swing and miss and weak ground balls. Keller could use it to both sides of the plate. He left one up to David Thompson, who was not able to take advantage, but for the most part Keller did a good job keeping the pitch down. Overall, it was a dominant outing that displayed what Keller is capable of. This is a polished pitcher who should get a shot in the Pirates rotation at some point next season.
I did not take any video today, but I recorded Keller in his 10/24 start.
Albert Abreu (RHP) New York Yankees – It would not be a stretch to argue that Albert Abreu has better pure stuff than Mitch Keller. The fastball sat 93-95, without much effort in the delivery. The curveball is already considered plus, and Abreu could get swinging strikes with it seemingly at will. It would drop off the table, and hitters swung over it. His changeup had more drop than fade. This pitch was effective largely due to Abreu’s arm speed, which remained constant for fastballs and changeups (1:07 on video). As a result, the timing of opposing batters was thrown off. A scout sitting behind me noted Abreu had more confidence in his offspeed pitches than his fastball. The fastball command was inconsistent. Whether or not Abreu figures this out will go a long way in determining his efficacy at the major league level.
Justus Sheffield (LHP) New York Yankees – A top prospect in the Yankees system, Sheffield looked damn near major league ready tonight. The fastball sat comfortably around 94-95 and touched 97. He throws a hard slider in the 85-87 range, which missed a good amount of bats. Guys were swinging over the top on it. His third pitch was a change in the 86-88 range. It was used primarily on the right side of the plate (batter’s view). I liked how Sheffield was able to repeat his mechanics, and he had good command of all of his pitches. This was the first time I had seen him, and I came away impressed. The offspeed pitches were better than I expected based on the reports I had read.
Alec Mills (RHP) Chicago Cubs – Mills is another major league ready guy who is waiting for an opportunity. He should generate a lot of groud balls. Mills operates mostly in the bottom of the zone and all of his stuff sinks. The fastball sat 91-92, and Mills could command it to both sides. He also employs a curveball the with 1 to 7 movement (pitcher perspective) in the 72-73 range with good depth. The slider was 78-80 with slight movement glove side. His change was also in the 80-83 range with move of a pure vertical drop. The slider and changed looked very similar to me. I am unsure whether this is a positive or a negative. I could see a scenario where hitters may think slider and get change (or vice-versa) and miscalculate a little resulting in soft contact. I could also see a scenario where hitters could be looking for something in the low 80s velocity band, and they would be able to react to both pitches, in essance giving Mills only three effective options. Overall, I think Mills is a viable fifth starter.