I wanted to try an unconventional game report for Friday’s matchup between Justin Grimm and Drew Pomeranz, so I thought I’d give you the notes as I wrote them down, word for word. No editing, no polishing. This is what is in my notebook from the game. I didn’t try to pull together any final thoughts, as I would normally do from my notes, instead letting my notes speak for themselves.
Each inning contains velocity numbers I was reading from a Stalker radar gun (not from the stadium gun), and the innings that have numbers right below the velocity numbers are innings with delivery times for the pitchers with a runner on. The play-by-play for each inning with any comments are below that, and I take you through the matchup as I saw it, alternating between Grimm and Pomeranz. I think you’ll get the feeling of why I really loved what I saw from Pomeranz.
I can address any terminology questions in the comments, but without further delay, here are my notes from the best head-to-head pitching matchup I will probably see this year:
1st – Grimm
90 x 2
91 x 1
92 x 3
76 CB x 1
Ferguson F-8, Medium on 92 FB
Tracy 4-1, Grimm good athleticism
Smith lineout to 1B
90 x 1
91 x 4
92 x 4
77 CB x 1
78 CB x 2
79 CB x 1
81 CB x 1
84 CU x 1
1.46, 1.49, 1.55
Taylor out on 1-3 GB, jogged, but 65/70 speed
Verdin BB, command shaky early
Hyams K on 91 FB
Cone out on F-5, 78 CB, plus power just to get ball that high
2nd – Grimm
89 x 1
90 x 1
91 x 3
92 x 1
84 CU x 1
76 CB x 1
78 CB x 1
1.24, 1.32, 1.36, 1.38, 1.41, 1.42, 1.47
Such easy velo, but too many moving parts
-Easily get out of whack
Snyder 3U on GB, not much hard contact so far
Miller 1B to LF, hard grounder on 91 FB
Hamblin K on 78 CB, not seeing the ball well
Yarbrough out on 4-3 GB, 92 FB
-Hard hit right at 2B, 4.28 to 1st
90 x 1
92 x 1
94 x 1
76 CB x 1
77 CB x 1
78 CB x 1
86 CU x 1
Farmer K on CB, no hitters squaring up anything so far
DeLoach out on 6-3 GB, good play charging by Mort
-4.35 to 1st
May K on 92 FB
Pomeranz getting downhill plane on FB, makes it impossible to square
-Results in hitters simply unable to do anything but fight off the CB/CU
3rd – Grimm
88 x 1
90 x 3
91 x 1
68 CB x 1
85 CU x 1
Schilling with 2.22 pop time in-between innings
Hightower K on 91 FB
Mort out on F-8, very hard hit to RCF, Cone good tracking
Ferguson out on 5-3 GB, 4.28 to 1st, very slow out of the box, plus runner underway
90 x 3
91 x 7
77 CB x 1
78 CB x 1
83 CU x 1
Ruiz out on 4-3 GB, easy, routine GB out
Schilling K on 91 FB, up and away
-Stood no chance, Pomeranz started him off with 2 CBs
Taylor K on 90 FB
-Long AB, fought off FBs, CBs, and the CU, but FB just too much to handle (too lively)
4th – Grimm
90 x 1
91 x 6
92 x 2
72 CB x 1
77 CB x 1
78 CB x 2
81 CU x 1
Tracy F-9 to deep RCF on 91 FB left up
-Ball not carrying well on the night
Smith out on 6-3 GB, jogged down the line, no reading
-Wasn’t routine enough to jog
Snyder out on F-8, routine play, 92 FB
90 x 4
79 CB x 2
80 CB x 1
Verdin BB on 3-2 FB up
-Works counts well
Hyams bunts into 1-6 FC
-Pomeranz off the mound well, but shaky throw, good scoop by Mort
Cone K on 90 FB up
Farmer 3B to RCF on hung CB
-Should have been caught by Smith, but obviously uncomfortable in RF, run scored
DeLoach K on 90 FB
-Hightower with great block on 80 CB, bounced on plate
5th – Grimm
90 x 2
92 x 2
72 CB x 1
86 CU x 1
Miller out on 6-3 GB, 4.54 to 1st letting up at the end
Hamblin out on F-5 in foul territory
-May with plus instincts and awareness, leaning over dugout railing
Yarbrough K on 92 FB up
-Grimm in serious rhythm, mechanics for him are all about tempo
-Could be disrupted by pro hitters
90 x 2
91 x 4
92 x 4
93 x 3
78 CB x 3
79 CB x 1
80 CB x 1
May out on 5-3 GB, soft GB, below-average runner
Ruiz K on 92 FB
-Stood no chance, stuff simply ridiculous
Schilling BB, temporary loss of control of FB
Taylor K looking on 90 FB, outside corner
-Starting to like Pomeranz over McGuire, loving this outing/potential
6th – Grimm
89 x 1
90 x 5
91 x 4
92 x 1
76 CB x 1
78 CB x 1
Hightower out on F-8 to LCF, some juice behind it
-Left up a little
Mort out on 6-3 GB, routine GB
-Grimm working very quickly, in rhythm
Ferguson reaches 1B on GB down 3B line
-May knocked it down, safe at 1st on unadvisable throw, 4.29 to 1st
-SB on 76 CB + 2.10 pop time
Tracy K looking on 90 FB up in the zone
89 x 1
90 x 3
91 x 2
93 x 2
79 CB x 1
80 CB x 1
Verdin out on F-7, jammed on 90 FB on 1st pitch
-1st pitch swinging out of character from 2 ABs earlier
Hyams K looking on 90 FB on outside corner
Cone K looking on 93 FB on inside corner
-Pomeranz cruising, using inside corner to RHH, outside corner to LHH
7th – Grimm
89 x 1
90 x 8
91 x 1
92 x 1
72 CB x 1
74 CB x 1
77 CB x 1
78 CB x 1
Smith with 1B over 2B head, medium line drive
-77 CB almost frisby-like slurve, no break
-78 CB very sharp, command is ?
Snyder BB on 4 straight pitches
-Control has departed, visibly frustrated
Miller HBP on 1st pitch, 90 FB
Hamblin out on SF-7 down LF line, Taylor has well below-average arm
Yarbrough F-4 to shallow RF
Hightower out on F-7 on hard line drive to warning track
-Control meltdown by Grimm met by aggressive hitters, got lucky
90 x 2
91 x 4
92 x 1
93 x 2
78 CB x 2
79 CB x 1
80 CB x 1
81 CB x 1
Farmer 2B to RCF on hard line drive
DeLoach out on 4-3 GB, chopped, good play charging by Yarbrough
-4.44 to 1st, Farmer advances to 3rd
May K on 79 CB in dirt
-Just waved at it, one of the nastiest CBs of the night, but May not a good hitter
Ruiz K on 81 CB in dirt
-Another wave, also wasn’t able to read it, score still 1-1
8th – Grimm
88 x 1
89 x 1
90 x 4
91 x 1
73 CB x 1
75 CB x 3
77 CB x 2
Mort with HR on 90 FB left up, hard line drive to LCF, barely cleared fence
-Grimm noticeably tired, still left out there
Ferguson out on F-8, routine FB
Tracy 2B to LCF on hard line drive
-Command completely gone, control next?
Smith K looking on 77 CB
-Completely fooled him, expecting FB on 3-2 count, long AB
-Questionable call too
Snyder K on 91 FB, serious head tug on swing
88 x 1
89 x 3
90 x 8
91 x 2
92 x 1
78 CB x 1
79 CB x 2
1.45, 1.47, 1.47, 1.56, 1.57
Schilling out on F-9 on 1st pitch, 90 FB
-Easy play and bad AB
Taylor with slap 1B to LF in hole between SS and 3B
Verdin K on 90 FB
-Taylor steals 2nd on bad throw caused by Verdin lunging swing obstructing Hightower
Hyams K on 89 FB
-Pomeranz shows grit, down 2-0 and 3-1 in AB, came back for K, should be done
9th – Grimm out, Pomeranz in for 1 Batter
89 x 1
Cone with 1B up the middle on medium velo GB
-Pomeranz pulled (why even bring him out for 9th?)
That wraps up the duel between Justin Grimm and Drew Pomeranz. Ask me any questions about interpretation or about the performances, and I’ll be glad to answer.
It’s about time I get this writeup done. These past two weeks have been hectic to say the least, so I’m happy to be able to focus back in here.
On Saturday, I caught a matchup between Georgia Perimeter JC and Middle Georgia JC in Newton, Georgia. It was played on one of Perimeter’s campuses, and it is officially in the middle of nowhere. We drove down a dirt road to get there. That’s how country it is.
I was going to the game in order to see a number of prospects. The most notable name that is recognized nationally is Reggie Williams, who was a top prospect in the 2009 draft, only to slip due to signability and pitch recognition issues. He went unsigned by the Rangers as their 32nd round pick, and he headed to Middle Georgia to increase his draft stock. He’s already 20 years old, making him the same age as junior college sophomores, so he might be more signable than the majority of junior college freshmen.
The other hitting name I wanted to see was LeAndre Davis, a freshman shortstop for Perimeter who went unsigned as the Twins’ 13th round pick in 2009. Unfortunately, Davis has been in a season-long slump, losing ground both in terms of draft stock and in terms of playing time. He’s not the regular shortstop for Perimeter anymore, and he didn’t play during the game I attended. I think he’s played himself off of any sort of early draft contention for 2010, instead putting himself in a position to reestablish his value next year as a junior college sophomore, when he’ll be more signable.
The pitching matchup on the day featured the best pitching prospect from each team. For the home team, Perimeter, Nathan Fawbush took the hill. Fawbush has prototypical starter size, towering over most players at 6’7’’. He still has plenty of room to fill out, too, making him very projectable and very intriguing to watch. I watched him closely from about 15 feet away during his pre-game bullpen session, and it’s clear that there’s mechanical work to be done, especially with his breaking ball deliveries, but there’s a good amount of potential.
On the hill for Middle Georgia was another intriguing name, one that could almost match Fawbush’s size. Blaine O’Brien is listed at the same size as Fawbush, but I’d say he’s an inch or two shorter, and his body is more mature physically than Fawbush’s. He easily has 15-20 pounds on Fawbush, and he carries more present strength. O’Brien was a 34th round pick of the Phillies out of high school in Massachusetts in 2008, but he made his way to Middle Georgia instead. Though O’Brien has more advanced stuff now, the two scouts that were there at the beginning of the game were there for Fawbush, so that should tell you something. O’Brien has a scholarship to Maryland if things don’t work out in the draft this year, though I think some team will like what they see.
Fawbush got the ball in the first inning, and he was much more confident on the hill than he was in the bullpen. In the bullpen, he was clearly uncomfortable with his pair of breaking balls, a slider and a curveball. In the game, he was much more confident attacking with his fastball. Reggie Williams was the first hitter up for Middle Georgia, and he promptly deposited a Fawbush fastball into right field for a single, with the hit registering 105 mph off the bat of Williams. Williams flashed plus bat speed and read Fawbush’s pitches well to start off the game. The negative I saw immediately in Williams’ game is raw baserunning ability. With the next batter up, Fawbush delivery a wild fastball up and in, barely missing the batter and getting by the catcher. Williams misread the ball completely, running back to first base. However, he had the speed to get to second once he realized where the ball was, but against better catchers, he could have been nailed at second. Fawbush was quick to the plate during the time Williams was on base, too, registering times of 1.20-1.35 to home. He was really struggling with his release point and consistency, and his command was well below-average for most of the game. I graded his control out to be below-average in the future, with his command being worse. There’s just not a lot of feel to the way he pitches. He pitched mainly 86-88 with his fastball in the first, getting above-average armside run on the 86 mph pitches, but his 88 mph fastballs were straight as an arrow. He added in below-average sliders and a curve, the sliders coming in at 77 and the curve at 71. He was more comfortable with the sliders, but neither pitch was strong. His best secondary pitch was a 79 mph changeup that didn’t have much depth, but it got plus late fade for a lot of weak contact when he buried it. It looks like a potential above-average pitch with some work. However, after not being able to put hitters away over and over, he left an 88 mph fastball up to Middle Georgia hitter Javy Sujo, who promptly hit it about 375 feet and over the wall in center field for a grand slam, making it a quick 5-0 MGC lead. Fawbush fought back to end the inning, getting a strikeout of a left-handed hitter with a deadly 81 mph changeup, then getting an easy groundout to third base. The damage was done, though, and it was clear where Fawbush needed to improve.
Blaine O’Brien came out for the bottom of the first, and by the time the inning was done, it was clear that it was going to be a slugfest. O’Brien looks like a slinger when he’s on the mound. He delivers from a whipping three-quarters arm slot that scares me. He did quite well to last a long time in this game, but after seeing his motion, I would want to put him in the bullpen, where he’d be able to go all-out with his fastball and devastating slider. He came out in the first inning firing fastballs in the 87-90 mph range, adding in an 80 mph slider with plus late break at times. He had a couple of tough breaks in the first, allowing a pair of infield hits to start it off, then allowing a double just inside the right field line on a wicked 80 mph slider that scored those two runners. He then walked a batter, which happened a lot in this game, but recovered well, getting three consecutive outs to end the inning. The first two came on a baserunning mistake, as the runner got doubled off at first on a line drive to the first baseman, then O’Brien induced a groundout to the shortstop to end the inning with a 5-2 lead. There wasn’t any hard contact early on, but it was clear that O’Brien also lacked control like Fawbush.
Fawbush came out in the second working in the range that he normally sat for the rest of the game, 85-87 mph, touching 88. That’s fringe-average for a right-handed starter, but there’s room for more in his frame. He consistently added 77-78 mph sliders and 78-81 mph changeups, the changeups being his best pitches throughout the entire game. After getting a quick, lazy flyout to start the inning, Reggie Williams came up to bat again. This time, Williams promptly delivered a fastball out over the plate into the right-center field gap, and I timed him at 4.21 seconds to first base on the turn towards second. Unfortunately for Williams, he stumbled around first base, falling to the ground hard. He managed to get up and get to second base with his plus speed, but that kept him from a possible triple. After an infield single, MGC first baseman T.J. Rich, who has a Memphis scholarship for next year, went with an 86 mph fastball on the outside corner, hitting a double down the left field line from his open left-handed stance. That double scored a pair of runs, and I was impressed with Rich’s hitting ability for most of the game. He doesn’t have much power or power projection that you’d like to see in a first base prospect, but he features a solid-average hit tool and a good idea of what he’s doing at the plate. After another flyout, I saw the first in a long line of errors to come in the game, which I quickly labeled as the sloppiest game I’ve seen this year. With Rich still on second and two outs, Fawbush induced a normal groundball to shortstop Dadynoel Lorenzo, who turned towards second to do an underhand toss, as if there was a runner at first and there was a force at second. After realizing that he made a big mistake, he delivered the ball high over the first baseman’s head, scoring Rich and extending the inning. Fawbush got a groundball from the next hitter to end the inning, but now Perimeter was down 8-2 due to Lorenzo’s big mistake.
O’Brien settled in to his normal routine of 88-89 mph fastballs in the second, along with sliders in the 81-83 mph range, though he snapped off one power slider at 85 that was just nasty, a plus-plus pitch that is rare from any pitcher, much less a junior college sophomore. He allowed a single, a swinging sacrifice bunt, then a double, setting up the next hitter with runners at second and third and only one out. Lorenzo then stepped up and had a quality at-bat, not trying to do too much after his error, instead lofting a flyball to right-center field, where Reggie Williams made the catch, both runners tagging and advancing. Williams tried to throw out the runner going to third, flashing an average arm in the process, but both runners were safe, making it 2 outs with a runner on third. O’Brien allowed one more single for another run, and then I got to see how Williams breaks in on line drives. The following hitter hit a low, sinking line drive, and Williams got an excellent read off the bat. He was charging in hard, made a great effort for the ball, but it short-hopped his glove, kicking off to the side. He did a great job of keeping the ball in front of him, despite not catching it, and that saved at least a run. The runners ended up at second and third, but O’Brien sat down the next hitter with a plus 81 mph slider, ending the inning with an 8-4 lead.
Now that you’ve gotten a feel for the offense and the pitching in this matchup, I’ll take you through the highlights of the rest of the game in terms of scouting notes:
-Fawbush continued to lose velocity bit by bit for the rest of his outing, and he only lasted 4.1 innings, throwing 89 pitches in the process. By the time that fifth inning came around, he was sitting 84-86 with a 69 mph curveball and a 77 mph slider, and neither pitch had much break on it. He seemed to lack the durability you want in a pitcher, especially one his size, and though it could have been the heat, he didn’t really impress me. The scouts there lost interest at about the same time I did, so I know he has a lot of work to do. He could be an early-teens pick for me, but only if he signs for under $100K.
-Williams finished out the game 3-6, and he essentially confirmed everything I’ve been hearing. He has real trouble reading breaking balls, but he has good raw tools to work with. He’s really big for a speedster, and while I peg him as a 65 runner right now, he might be a 55-60 runner as he matures. However, with an average arm and plus range, he’ll be a very good center fielder. He has some raw power in his swing, and he could hit 10-12 home runs a season in his prime, but he’s probably a bottom third hitter due to his pitch recognition problems, as he should strike out a fair number of times.
-O’Brien was the most physically impressive pitcher on the day from a scouting perspective, but he didn’t get the results his stuff indicated. He was still sitting 87-89 in the sixth inning, but he lost all control late, and he was left out to dry a little by his coach, who didn’t want to bring in any more arms, as this game was game one of a doubleheader. There are some positives to work with here, and I think he could make a shutdown eighth inning guy as a pro. I don’t like his arm action, but his two-pitch mix really works for him in short stints, and he can dial it up to 91 over a six inning outing, so I can see him up to 95 as a reliever. He’s an interesting 8th-12th round name if he’s signable as a reliever.
-Most of the hitters on the day were mistake hitters. Josh Purvis, the DH from MGC, hit a pair of home runs, but they were on a pair of pitches that should be driven, so I don’t give him a lot of credit other than to say he’s a solid mistake hitter. The ball was carrying well to right and right-center on the day due to 10-15 mph winds headed that direction, and the four home runs took advantage of that.
-The only other pitcher of note was the Perimeter pitcher that followed Fawbush. Bryan Benzor has a high-effort delivery from a smallish frame, and he has middle reliever written all over him. He pitched in long relief on the day, and while he didn’t exactly put out the fire, he did a solid job of keeping his team in the game on a day where the field was a launching pad. He worked 88-90 with his fastball and was very confident with a 79-81 mph changeup that got some swings and misses. He had the best actual performance of the day between the pitchers, as he struck out 7 batters in just 4 innings. He looks like an interesting summer follow, as he’s only a freshman, but he could be an 8th-12th round guy next year.
It’s always frustrating to watch a game with 10 errors, especially at the junior college level. That’s in addition to the 13 walks, 3 wild pitches, and the hit batter. It was just a really sloppy game. Dadynoel Lorenzo showed some potential and some tools, but his three errors and mental mistakes were frustrating, and I wish LeAndre Davis had been out there at shortstop instead. However, when you’re out scouting, you don’t get to pick the lineups, so you go with what you get.
If you have any questions about the players I saw, post them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you. Stock up/stock down to come tomorrow.
Going to high school games can always be a bit of an adventure. You never know what you’re going to see, and you definitely don’t know whether the player you’re going to see will actually show up with any sort of consistency. On the flip side, though, you could see something you never imagined. That was more the case on Monday night at Starr’s Mill High School in Fayetteville, Georgia.
Just to kick it off, I reached the field about an hour and 45 minutes before game time, with Starr’s Mill taking batting practice. I didn’t necessarily want to key in on any batting practice performances, and the only player that really stood out in the few rounds I saw was Miles Jaye, who was the starting pitcher on the day for Starr’s Mill. Jaye’s a tall, lanky switch-hitter that is a shortstop when he’s not pitching, and he should be a solid two-way player at Kennesaw State. I’ll get more into what I saw from Jaye later, but he was obviously the key player on the team. As the team went to warm up and stretch, Jaye was also the obvious leader of the team, and it seemed that all the players answered to him. I wouldn’t get too much out of that, but it’s just worth noting.
Sandy Creek didn’t get to the field until about a half hour before game time, causing a little delay in the start time of the game. Starr’s Mill got out to take infield only about 10-12 minutes before the scheduled start time, and the player I noticed then was shortstop Eli Sanchez, who shows solid infield actions. He flashed an average to slightly below-average arm for a shortstop, but his actions tell me he could be a very good second baseman at the college level, though his hitting left something to be desired. Sandy Creek’s infield was much sloppier, and though Chris Triplett stood out, he also stood out for his sloppiness, too, and his release is just so long and slow that his average arm isn’t good enough for shortstop, convincing me even more that he’s a second baseman at Georgia Tech next year.
On to the game action, Jaye was facing a fairly formidable lineup from Sandy Creek in the first. Andrew Toles, the man every scout was there to see, was the leadoff hitter for the opposing squad. About 15-20 scouts showed up in anticipation of what they might see from Toles on the night against a quality opposing pitcher. He stepped in to start the game, and then he promptly punched the ball down the left field line for a hit that he stretched into a double. There wasn’t an opportunity to really clock him down the line to first base, but on that double, with a wide turn, he clocked in at 4.24 seconds to first, an average number even with the turn, showing what kind of speed he has. Toles eventually came around to score in the inning, and Triplett and company didn’t seem that impressive against Jaye. That run turned out to be the only run scored until the top of the sixth inning, so Toles’ ability to stretch his hit into a double turned out to be pretty critical for the makeup of the game.
On the mound for Sandy Creek was 6’7’’ righty Aaron Warren, who is committed to UAB. Despite being 6’7’’, Warren throws from a low three-quarters release point, leading to more movement, but he doesn’t take advantage of his size. If I coached him, I’d take him as close to over the top as I could, though a high three-quarters might suffice to keep that movement going. Despite some command problems, Warren was highly effective on the night against solid hitters. In the first, he was continually pumping in 87 mph fastballs with good arm-side run, though you could tell the movement was fairly new to him, as he was struggling to locate that pitch with the movement he was getting. Out of the stretch, he was more in the 84-86 range, though he could power it up to 87 or 88 for a crucial pitch. Instead of taking you inning-by-inning, I’ll just give you the quick writeup on Warren’s game. Though he struggled to locate his fastball, he showed some promising offspeed stuff. His primary offspeed pitch was a low-70s curveball with 10 to 4 movement, the result of his release point. It stayed mostly in the 69-71 mph range, but was best at 72, with a little more late action and bite. With his arm slot, I’d be more willing to show him a slider, as his curve is slurvy enough now, but if I took him over the top, he already shows enough promise with the curve to make it into an above-average offering. His third pitch was a changeup that he threw at just the right time. It didn’t have much fade, but it did have good depth, and it came in consistently at 76, a solid 10 mph difference from his fastball. He got a few strikeouts with that change, and I think it could be an average pitch with time. When he was in trouble, he went almost exclusively to his curveball, which got nastier as the game went on. He got a few good hitters out on that pitch, including striking out a pair of hitters with a runner on third and one out. It was pretty impressive, and I’m interested to see if he fills out to become a low-90s pitcher in college, which would make him a solid top ten rounds prospect. I’d keep him as a starter, change his motion a little, and then run with it, as he has very good promise.
A quick report on Jaye has to include some impressive velocity, especially considering I only had reports of him up to 87 mph in the past. In the third inning, as he got loose and more amped up, he started pumping in 89 and 90 mph fastballs, though they were straight as an arrow. He showed a good ability to elevate his fastball in counts where it was to his advantage and also against hitters he knew couldn’t handle it. He didn’t try to go high with his fastball against Toles and Triplett, a good sign from a young pitcher. His mound presence left something to be desired, as he was too emotional and got too frazzled when things went against him, but it was a solid overall performance. His mid-70s curve/slurve didn’t show a lot of shape, though he firmed it up in later innings. After throwing in the 89-90 range, he got tired more quickly, and he ended up in the 85-86 range in his last inning of work in the fifth. He has a projectable frame, though he’s also built more for the bullpen than the rotation, as he’s a little too slight to hold up, and his velocity numbers prove that. He was fast to the plate, which was the opposite of Warren, but it cost him a few ticks of velocity, which is normal on a slide step delivery. However, it did shut down Toles and Triplett on the basepaths for the most part, so it was worth it.
Now on to the fun part. Though Chris Triplett didn’t really show much of anything except some defensive shakiness on the night, Andrew Toles stole the show in the sixth inning. With Eli Sanchez on to pitch, the Sandy Creek offense awoke against 79-80 mph fastballs. Toles was intentionally walked, one of two walks on the night, after there were runners at second and third, loading up the bases for number two hitter Joey Munson, the team’s second baseman and a good contact hitter. Munson proceeded to hit a medium velocity ground ball up the middle, just beyond the dive of Starr’s Mill’s second baseman. The two runners in front of Toles scored easily, and that seemed to be the end of the play if you weren’t watching closely. However, as I tracked Toles around the bases, I was treated to something incredibly special, something you don’t see very often, even in high school games. Toles had the benefit of a good lead at first, being the trailing runner, and he got an incredible jump on the ground ball, and he might have even been safe at second if the second baseman had come up with the ball. I saw Toles rounding second with his plus-plus speed already under way, and I knew he’d be a third easily, which was a solid baserunning move, and an aggressive baserunning move, which I knew was like Toles, having seen him take third earlier in the game on a wild pitch only a few feet from the catcher. However, as Toles was nearing third this time, I was amazed to see that he wasn’t slowing down, but he was speeding up. Starr’s Mill’s center fielder had fielded the ball without any noticeable bobble, and he was in the middle of delivering it to the cutoff man, the first baseman, on the other side of the pitcher’s mound from home plate. Toles took a big turn and just kept running. With some of the best speed I have ever seen in person, he made it down the third base line in almost no time, and he was about three-quarters of the way down the line when the first baseman received the ball. He couldn’t get the ball out of his glove cleanly, and Toles slid in to home safely without a throw. A bases-clearing single. I was one of a few scouts behind home plate watching this, and we all just looked at each other like “What did we just see?” We all had this little grin on our faces, and then most went crazy on their notepads.
Needless to say, Toles is gaining steam fast in the scouting community, and I didn’t meet a single scout who was really there for Chris Triplett, who was considered at least close behind Toles entering this season. Triplett’s play is just a little too loose, and he’s not as physically gifted as Toles, and it was fun to see Toles show patience at the plate, along with good production when he got a pitch in the zone. Triplett didn’t see the ball well on the night, and though he had a decent game, he didn’t really stand out, which was disappointing. He couldn’t read Jaye’s curveball to save his life, and that sort of pitch recognition, when combined with his fringy shortstop skills will lead to him dropping off boards. Toles, on the other hand, looked like a third or fourth rounder with upside as a top of the order burner, as well as having an above-average arm in center field with good range. That’s an excellent combination.
Here are a couple of tidbits of info in addition to the writeup:
-Eli Sanchez, while not possessing physical strength or much promise as a hitter, got down the line in 4.04 seconds out of the left-handed batter’s box on a bunt single, which is plus speed by any metric. Combined with his solid infield actions, he could be a good utility player. I expect him to end up in college, though.
-Ricky Harris, Sandy Creek’s number four hitter and third baseman put big rides on high curveballs from Jaye, though all landed foul. He flashes above-average raw power, but he pulls off of pitchers, resulting in such foul balls and strikeouts against soft stuff low and away. He wasn’t on my list to follow on the day, and I wasn’t a big fan when I left, either.
Since I’ve already given a lot of information on the hitters and pitchers of Georgia Tech and Rutgers, and since this is the second time I saw Brandon Cumpton, I’m going to do a different kind of game report. I’m going to do a kind of “stock up, stock down” look, looking at what players here have done for their stock from the two games I saw this weekend, having talked to a few scouts about their impressions.
Steve Nyisztor, 2B, Rutgers: Nyisztor was absolutely impressive. He showed some tools, along with impressive size and strength for a freshman, and even though that didn’t always carry over to game production, he has a big future if he continues to improve. He was only 1-for-7 in the two games I saw, but he put the bat on the ball against two experienced pitchers, one with excellent stuff, and his defense up the middle was a true plus. He should move over to shortstop next year when senior Dan Betteridge is gone, and I think he has the necessary tools to stick there as a pro. He put on solid batting practice displays, and I see him as a top five round candidate for 2012. He was the main Rutgers guy to catch my eye, and I know he caught the eye of scouts, as well.
Chase Burnette, OF, Georgia Tech: I put Burnette here based on the five games I’ve seen him play in so far. He has come out on fire this year for Tech, and it’s for good reason. He’s stronger, having put on over 15 pounds of weight since last year, and he’s seeing the ball better than ever before, adding up to solid production. I had a conversation with a scout about Burnette, as he hadn’t seen Burnette yet this year until Friday afternoon, and he didn’t have anything on him from previous years. He was impressed with Burnette’s batting practice display, as he did put on the best display both days I was there. He’s showing most of what it takes to be a fourth or fifth outfielder, which is up from a spot as an organizational outfielder. He sprays the ball around well, and he shows fringe-average to average power, which should be good enough for that bench lefty spot. He’s a decent defender, but he did drop a ball coming in and to his right on the Saturday game, resulting in a big error that cost his team some runs. His arm is below-average, and he’ll have to be a left fielder at the next level.
Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech: Even though McGuire didn’t have his best stuff on Friday, and it wasn’t as good as I saw him two weeks ago, he showed something that has been a question mark in his game. He showed tenacity. He worked through his command problems, found his money pitch for the day, and then he efficiently shut down the Rutgers offense. That’s hard to do when you’re having trouble commanding your fastball, but he did it. I know a few scouts were concerned by his lack of zip on his fastball, and it was moving less than when I saw it a couple weeks ago, but his slider was much better than a couple weeks ago, when his curveball seemed like the more reliable pitch. He also threw less changeups, but they were still solid pitches, and he’ll likely incorporate it more against more advanced hitters than the cold-weather Rutgers lineup. All in all, after a tough first inning in which he had to work hard to get out of a jam, he was incredibly efficient, working with what he had for the day and still managing to throw 8 shutout innings, striking out 9 and walking only 1 without his best command.
Brandon Cumpton, RHP, Georgia Tech: There were only four scouts in attendance for Saturday’s game, and two didn’t even bother to gun Cumpton. After having a so-so performance a couple weeks ago, I think I saw him at one of his worst times on Saturday. He was sitting 88-91 with his fastball, but was working more in the 88-89 range, and he had no life on the pitch. One scout called it “too smooth.” His average velocity was just too easy and too straight, and there was absolutely no deception. He shows the ball behind his body well before he even releases it, and players with good eyes will catch that and smack the ball around. He also lacked command and control on the day, and he was leaving pitches up and getting hit hard. Very hard. If this was ACC play, he would have been chased after a couple innings. His curveball showed no bite whatsoever, and it was more of a soft, smooth pitch without command. He hung a few and got hurt, and it looked downright awful, more like a 40 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale. I think he may be seriously dropping down boards very quickly, as area scouts are coming in for a Saturday game and leaving without much wish to come back to see him.
Derek Dietrich, SS, Georgia Tech: Dietrich had a solid game on Saturday, but he is definitely losing steam in the scouting community. He’s trying to pull everything in the air, resulting in a lot of lazy flyballs, pop-ups, and swings and misses. He’s doing a very good job of not striking out, but it’s been frustrating to watch him do what he is not built to do. In batting practice, it’s almost like he’s been told not to hit the ball the other way. Everything is right of second base and in the air, and he’s not a power hitter. He’s next to last in slugging percentage out of the team’s starting lineup, and he needs to change his approach to suit that. He could be a high-average hitter if he sprayed the ball around the field, and he showed a little life in that regard on Saturday, with a hard-hit double to the left-center field gap. However, for the most part, Dietrich is slipping heavily, having really showed no improvement at shortstop and at the plate. He did do a short two-inning showcase at third base on Saturday, and he made a couple of excellent plays, so he did put that thought into some scouts’ minds, but there were only three scouts left at that point, so I’m not sure how much of an impression he made other than to get a couple of scouts to look at each other and smile.
Jeff Rowland, OF, Georgia Tech: Rowland has quietly had a miserable season at the plate. Of the five games I’ve seen, I have simply not been impressed. He has an incredibly long stroke for a leadoff hitter, causing him to strike out way too much. He’s showed some decent pop for such a smallish frame, but that’s not what he should be about. Like Dietrich, he doesn’t know his place. When he gets a wood bat in his hands, he’s absolutely going to fail, and I have no doubt about that in my mind. He’s going to need a re-work, and it’s going to be tough to do, as he’s bulked up to become a power hitter with a fairly short fence in right field. He’s still fast, a true plus runner, but he doesn’t take advantage of that in his offensive game. He needs to get on base and cause havoc, not swing for the fences and strike out more than a third of the time. His range is good in center field, and he has a below-average arm, but I don’t see anyone taking him before the mid-teens at this point.
Hope this is a more creative way of looking at the Saturday game, as there wasn’t really a ton of action that stood out. Cumpton was flat, the Tech offense teed off against poor pitching, and it ended up in a blowout pretty quickly after Tech fell behind 4-0 early.
I’m going to do a special writeup on Kevin Jacob sometime this week, as I have a few things to say about him, especially knowing he got absolutely hammered today by Rutgers while trying to finish out a shutout started by excellent sophomore arm Jed Bradley.
I’m going to be up in Dalton tomorrow evening to see Heritage HS catcher Tyler Austin, a very toolsy player, and the odds are that it will get too cold too early for me to use Twitter throughout. I will have a report up late at night after I get back, though.
Tuesday’s schedule has changed, as I won’t be going to see Young Harris JC. Instead, I’ll be catching one of the better metro Atlanta names pitch. Andrew Smith, a righty from Roswell High School and a North Carolina signee, will be going as much as 80 pitches on three days’ rest. I’ll be interested to see how his arm will bounce back, as he threw on Friday. Cam Bedrosian follows that on Wednesday, then Mott Hyde on Thursday before returning to Georgia Tech to see Deck McGuire again on Friday against Wake Forest. Chevez Clarke follows that on Saturday, so I have an excellent week ahead of me.
I’m sorry for not being able to catch Reggie Williams today, but I had a family thing come up. Life happens sometimes, and it’s better to be there for your wife than to see a draft prospect that I’ll have multiple chances to see as the season goes on. I’ll catch him in a few weeks, and hopefully that will give me a chance to compare him to other people I’ve seen as the season goes on.
Hope you guys had a great weekend, and I’m looking forward to a great week of coverage here on MLBBonusBaby.
Tonight’s game between Georgia Tech and Rutgers at Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta was rough to sit through. I arrived at the ballpark about two and a half hours before game time, and I caught batting practice for both teams. It was a nice day at that point, in the mid-50s without a cloud in the sky, and it was pleasant to sit in the sun and soak up the sights and sounds. However, for the most part, both teams put on bad batting practices. Rutgers’ hitters were almost all of the metal bat variety, meaning they simply sliced balls the other way, using the metal bat to get leverage instead of a fundamental load in their setups. I was on the lookout for Jaren Matthews, Rutgers’ first baseman. I watched intently as he took BP, and I came away with the idea that Matthews needs to get stronger. As I mentioned in a tweet, his load and swing look similar to David Ortiz’s, though Matthews is more vertical, and he lacks the raw strength to really drive the ball in the way that Ortiz can. But he does drop his front shoulder and try to lift the ball, but without the same effect. His batting practice session didn’t look that great, and I generally wasn’t impressed with him today.
The person that stood out to me, and to other scouts, on the Rutgers squad was freshman Steve Nyisztor, their second baseman. Pronounced “Nice-ter”, he has the highest ceiling on this Rutgers team. He has projectable size, excellent bat speed, and good defensive tools. Keep his name in mind for the 2012 draft, as I have him well above Matthews for the moment, though Matthews is still an interesting 2010 prospect. None of the other Rutgers names stood out, and I was generally disappointed, though I understand that they still can’t really get outside to hit at home, so this is still very early for them.
Georgia Tech’s batting practice was uneventful, and I was underwhelmed with their performance. They looked flat, and that was the case in the game, too. The hitters just looked either tired or uninspired, and I think they were taking Rutgers a little too lightly. They weren’t concentrating during BP, and it was evident. I felt like I had wasted my time coming out to see them hit, and that was too bad, because they have a number of hitters with decent raw hitting tools.
During infield, the big thing that struck me was how strange it seemed that Matthews was stuck at first base. He flashed an average arm in warm-ups, and he’s plenty mobile to handle left field, and I wonder if the only reason he’s playing first base is that they don’t want to put someone else there. He’s a plus defender there now as it is, so it’s not a dumb move by any means, but I just don’t see teams jumping on Matthews early as a first baseman, as he doesn’t have that bat. He’d be better as a solid-average fielder in left with a solid bat. Like I said before, he’s not going to hit for much power, but he’ll spray some balls around the diamond.
About 15-18 scouts were on hand to see the game action, though, as Deck McGuire was the main attraction. Let’s jump into the game action, as much of everything else before the game was not worth mentioning. McGuire started out the first inning with a bit of a bump, as he hung a 90 mph fastball to Rutgers center fielder and leadoff hitter Mike Lang. I was interested in how Lang was going to look, and outside of a smoked double on that hanging fastball, he was downright horrible. You would hope that any top ten round possibilities can hit a hanging 90 mph fastball, so that was nothing special, but the rest of the day told me that Lang is going to struggle against quality pitching. For the rest of the inning, McGuire sat 90-91 with average movement on his fastball, and his command of it was bad. He snapped off a 73 mph curve, which was decent in shape, but in general he looked uncomfortable in getting his arm going. He was saved by the plus range and speed of Georgia Tech center fielder Jeff Rowland on tracking down a liner in left center field. After some unluckiness on a Jaren Matthews infield single off the very end of his bat, McGuire finally finished off the inning by inducing a line out to right fielder Chase Burnette. McGuire didn’t look too good in the first inning, and I was wondering if I was going to get to see how he handled things when his stuff wasn’t great.
Rutgers’ starter was right-handed senior Casey Gaynor, a solidly-built pitcher that lacks any sort of projectability. Gaynor immediately fell into bad luck in the first inning, when Tech put 3 runs on the board with only a pair of hits. He was sitting in the 84-86 range for most of the day, sometimes dipping down to 83, and that is well below-average velocity for someone without excellent secondary stuff. Rowland jumped on one mid-80s fastball for a line drive single to right field, and that was only the beginning. Gaynor then hit Derek Dietrich with a soft fastball, and I started clocking how fast Gaynor was to the plate. He was consistently recording 1.55-1.65 second times to home plate, which are very slow. The Major League average is somewhere in the 1.3-1.4 second range. This made Gaynor vulnerable to running, but Tech didn’t take advantage of that. Tech’s first baseman Tony Plagman followed up the Dietrich hit by pitch with another line drive single to right, and Rowland scored from second to open up the scoring. Gaynor started nibbling with his offspeed stuff at that point, and I think he lost almost all confidence in his fastball. He walked Burnette in a tough pitch sequence, but came back to strike out Tech catcher Cole Leonida on three pitches, all soft away, the last being a soft curve outside that Leonida pulled his head off and missed by a mile. It’s becoming more apparent that Leonida’s slow bat speed and approach will limit him to being an organizational catcher at best. After the strikeout, Gaynor looked like he was getting more under control, but then balked, scoring Dietrich from third and moving runners to second and third. Matt Skole, who was down in the six-hole today, looked incredibly uncomfortable at the plate, and you can tell that he’s afraid of striking out now, whereas a couple weeks ago he was swinging for the fences. He did get the third run in, but it was painful to watch. Gaynor induced a flyout to end the inning, but Tech put 3 runs on the board, taking a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
McGuire came out to more 90s and 91s in the second inning, though he left up another fastball to Rutgers right fielder Ryan Kapp, who lined a single to left field. McGuire can’t get away with that kind of pitching against more experienced hitters. With Kapp on first, McGuire was usually in the 1.25-1.35 second range to home plate, which is great for a pitcher his size. He lost the next hitter, left fielder Jarred Jimenez on a walk, and that was when he started mixing in multiple pitches, including an 83-84 mph slider and 72-75 mph curve. His best pitch of the inning, however, was an 83 mph changeup that was hit hard into the ground for a 6-4-3 double play, making it two outs and a runner at third. He started relying more and more on a sharp, biting slider that was his best pitch throughout the afternoon. He ended out the second with a plus 82 mph slider with late diving action, getting a swinging strikeout, his first of nine strikeouts. His stuff was obviously not at its sharpest, but he was working well without it.
Gaynor’s second was pretty uneventful, and it was the first of five straight scoreless frames that he put together with a below-average 85-86 mph fastball. He got Tech hitters to consistently chase his 72-74 mph curveball that featured some good late break early, though it flattened out fairly quickly as the innings went on. His best pitch of the game was probably a 73 mph curve in the second that was absolutely wicked, though it wasn’t commanded to a spot. He seemed like an organizational arm throughout, and I’m surprised that Tech couldn’t put up more runs on him.
McGuire started working off of his slider in the third, realizing that his fastball was just not working today. He was consistently 90-91 throughout this inning, too, but since it wasn’t used predominantly, Rutgers hitters were made off-balance by an average pitch. Working off his plus 83 mph slider, he ended up freezing Lang with a 91 mph fastball on the inside corner for a called strike three, and I liked what I saw from McGuire, as he started becoming more efficient, hitting his spots with the pitches that were working, and he was still incorporating his fastball some, and he used it more and more as the innings went on.
After I watched Gaynor go through another scoreless frame, I moved up to the open side of McGuire in order to get some video and to get a better view of his mechanics. If I had to sit through another frame of Gaynor’s in the same seat, I probably would have fallen asleep, as his lazy fastball was just being hacked at by impatient Tech hitters. I still like what I see from McGuire in terms of his mechanics, and he’s simply free and easy with his delivery. He still separates his hands lower than is optimal, but I don’t see any red flags for injuries in the future. I watched him mow down Rutgers hitters over and over, and it was a pitcher’s duel while I stood for a pair of innings.
I returned to my seat behind home plate for the start of the sixth inning. McGuire had been commanding his fastball much better over the middle innings, and he continued to do so as I sat back down. He was down to throwing 89 mph fastballs, but they were much better in terms of command and movement. He was still firing in 84 mph sliders, and it still had that excellent break. In the sixth, I had a chance to clock Rutgers freshman Steve Nyisztor to first on a ground ball, and he clocked in at 4.31 seconds from the right side, getting an average grade for speed. He didn’t have the best day today, but he was far from overmatched, especially compared to the other Rutgers hitters. He didn’t strike out on the day, and despite a 0-4 line, I was impressed with how he handled his at-bats against McGuire. He should be a star pretty soon.
Gaynor had tired by the sixth inning, and though he got out of it unscathed, his stuff just wasn’t the same. He was dipping down to the 83 mph range for his fastball, and his curveball lacked the bite it had early on. His frame isn’t conducive to large inning totals, and I see him as a reliever if he gets drafted. He got plenty of help from Nyisztor, who flashed plus range up the middle with his backhand, using an average to above-average arm to make a great throw to record an out. I’m telling you, this kid looks great. Gaynor did show a changeup in the sixth, though I don’t think it’s usable at the next level. The inning went by rather boringly again, and the score stayed 3-0 Tech going into the seventh.
I knew McGuire hadn’t thrown a lot of pitches heading into the seventh, but I was pleasantly surprised when he started added velocity in the inning. He was up to 91-93 mph, though he lost some command again. He flashed an average changeup at 80 mph with late movement, and he was starting to pitch aggressively off his fastball and change. He worked through the inning rather quickly, working around a leadoff single, but his best pitch was still his plus slider, which came in at 82 in the inning. He finished off the inning with an impressive 93 mph fastball on the inside corner that was called strike three, and I wondered if he would be out for the eighth.
Gaynor came out for the seventh, but he was noticeably gassed. He left a fastball up to Jeff Rowland, who barely squeaked the ball over the right field fence for a solo home run to lead off the inning. Gaynor then walked Dietrich and was pulled. He was followed by Dan O’Neill, who induced a line drive double play and a weak ground ball, ending the inning with a 4-0 Tech lead.
Observers were treated to an eighth inning from McGuire that was gone as quickly as it came. He was sitting 90-92 with his fastball, and he was aggressive and hitting his spots. He mixed in a couple more plus sliders, this time at 83 mph, and the inning was over on a swinging strikeout on the slider. I was amazed with how McGuire fought through not having his best stuff, and he ended up throwing 8 shutout innings before I could blink, needing only 96 pitches to strike out 9 and walk only 1. It was impressive. I think that he would have come out for the 9th inning if this were a month from now, but his day was over after 8, and he has to feel good about how he competed in front of some high-level scouts, despite lacking zip and command on his fastball.
Skipping over the bottom of the eighth, in which Tech added another run, let’s jump to the ninth, when first-round hopeful Kevin Jacob came in. Jacob, just like a couple weeks ago, was not even near the reported 99 mph sightings from last summer. He sat 91-93 in the ninth, along with his 82 mph slurve that lacked much of anything on the evening. He allowed a hard-hit groundball single to Matthews with his hardest ball of the night, a 93 mph pitch up and away, and Matthews went with the ball through the normal shortstop hole, as Dietrich was shifted towards the middle. Despite lacking in the elite velocity expected, Jacob did get excellent downward plane due to his windmill delivery that has him releasing the ball as over the top as they come. Whenever he hits the bottom of the strike zone, it’s impossible to put any lift on the ball, as it has gone from a high point above his body to a low point in the zone. Jacob induced a 5-4-3 double play to end the game, and despite not having great stuff, Jacob came in and did his job, too.
In general, both teams were extremely flat and disappointing today. They were sloppy, throwing wild pitches, having passed balls, balking, and committing errors, and the pitchers were far from having top-tier stuff. It was just one of those days.
I’ll be back at Russ Chandler Stadium again tomorrow for the matchup between Georgia Tech and Rutgers, with Brandon Cumpton getting the start for Tech. After that 1 pm game, I’ll be heading to Blessed Trinity High School to see first-day hopeful Jake Skole, Matt Skole’s brother. Another Tech signee, Alex Cruz, also plays for Blessed Trinity, though I saw Cruz in the fall at the PG Southeast Top Prospect Showcase. Stay tuned for more Twitter updates tomorrow, as it will be a warmer part of the day.
If you didn’t notice already, I abandoned using Twitter for today’s game, as the weather turned too bitter cold to have my hands out of my gloves, which is what an iPhone requires. This weekend features plenty of draft prospects in action, but today’s game of the night for me was in Athens, Georgia for the matchup between the Georgia Bulldogs and Stetson Hatters. Not a great name for the Stetson club, but it works for them. I purposely didn’t show up in time for batting practice tonight, because I wanted to see the Georgia hitters at work in games without the influence of what I saw earlier. I already knew that the likes of Zach Cone and Chase Davidson could put on batting practice shows, but I was there to see what kind of adjustments they make and whether they could hit live pitching as well as their tools indicate they can. I’ll have plenty of chances to catch them for the rest of this season and next before their draft year, so my goal tonight was simply to get acquainted with the hitters and how they handle live stuff.
The pitching side of the game, however, was different. While I was less excited about Stetson’s starter, Lindsey Caughel, I went into the game thinking about him as a solid second day prospect for next year’s draft. I paid plenty of attention to what he could do, as it might be the last time I see him live between now and June 2011. The main event for tonight’s game, though, was Georgia’s Justin Grimm, a borderline first round prospect for this year’s draft. A lot of you that know my stuff know that I’m not a big fan of ranking players, but I always have a fairly updated personal top 50 on my site, and Grimm came in ranked at #31 overall. I saw players ranked #5 (Deck McGuire) and #28 (Kevin Jacob) last weekend, so I was looking forward to seeing another top arm for this class.
Since I already established that I showed up after batting practice, let’s get straight to the game action and the things I observed. Game time temperature was somewhere in the mid- to low-40s, so I knew I might not be getting a realistic view of some players’ talents in the frigid conditions. I went over to check out Grimm’s pre-game bullpen session, of which I got some video which I’ll share with you. I immediately noticed the kind of high-maintenance delivery he has, and it’s very timing-intensive. Getting a consistent release point looked like a struggle for him, and while I didn’t see any glaring red flags for injury concerns, I immediately knew that I’d be treated to a game in which command might be fading in and out.
Grimm’s first two fastballs were solid pitches at 91 and 92 mph respectively, and they were located well to get things going. Then Grimm started getting really amped up and threw his hardest pitches of the day, with fastball velocities of 96, 96, 97, 94, 93, 93, 96. It was impressive to watch, but at the same time, you could easily tell that he was absolutely speeding up his arm to get these readings, and the pitches were definitely flattened out compared to his first two offerings. That string of 7 fastballs were located in about 7 different areas of the zone and outside of it, making him effectively wild, but as I said in a tweet, Stetson hitters are a little easier to get out than pro hitters, or even SEC hitters that will see Grimm later this spring. He only threw a single offspeed pitch in the first, a borderline plus curveball with excellent shape at 81 mph, and he used it to get Stetson’s leadoff hitter, Spencer Theisen, fishing for a swinging strikeout. Grimm got through the first inning easily, but I was wondering how long he could keep up the hard-throwing antics.
Caughel came out in the first, and it didn’t take long to tell that he didn’t feel like he belonged with Georgia’s hitters. He was incredibly timid on the mound, much more so than I’ve seen from anyone so far this year, and that immediately turned me off from a scouting perspective. After leadoff hitter Johnathan Taylor singled to center to lead off the inning, Caughel’s pace slowed to a halt, and there was one span during the second hitter’s at-bat that Caughel threw over three times and stepped off the mound twice between pitches. It seemed like an eternity. His stuff was fringe-average, but passable if located well, but his demeanor was of a scared pitcher on the mound, and he nibbled around the outside corner, to little effect. His fastball in the first was an 88-90 mph pitch with average life, and he added a fringe-average curveball in the low-70s, his best pitch being a 73 mph curve. It doesn’t have good shape, and it doesn’t project to improve in the future, so even in the span of a single inning, I felt like I was watching a future middle reliever or organizational arm. The strangest part was how the two-hole hitter, Chase Davidson, essentially bailed Caughel out. After all the throws to first and the stepping off of the rubber, Davidson seemingly got impatient, getting out on his front foot on a fringy fastball, rolling over it to the third baseman for an easy double play. I clocked Davidson at 4.50 seconds to first from the left side, which is bad news, getting an easy 20 or 30 grade, well below-average speed. Caughel got Georgia’s three-hole hitter, Peter Verdin, an early-rounds 2011 prospect, to ground out to short to end the inning, with Verdin getting down the line in 4.29 seconds from the right side, which comes in right about average for speed.
As you can tell by now, I was really working to pick up the technical details in this game, having had my warm-up weekend last week. It felt good to really be working the stopwatch and getting readings and writing reports at the same time, as well as getting video. It felt more normal than simply sitting there last week trying to take it all in with just a pen and my phone up for Twitter. To start the second inning, Grimm’s first pitch was a solid 95 mph fastball, but despite bringing that seemingly plus pitch, Stetson’s Nick Rickles turned it around for a solid shot to center field, which held up for Cone to catch for out number one. I didn’t a good feel for how well Cone covered ground in center, as he didn’t have to go far for anything all night. Grimm started settling down into his more normal range for the night to the next hitter, Sean Emory, sitting in the 92-94 range with an 80 mph curveball. Emory also put a decent charge into a 92 mph fastball, which was caught by Taylor in left field. Grimm was simply leaving his fastball up and over the plate, and he was lucky that it was Stetson hitters, and not a Hunter Morris or other big power hitter at the plate. Those balls would still be traveling. He started dipping down to some 90s and 91s to the next hitter, Robert Crews, as well as hitting a 94 and 95, and Crews slapped a blazing ground ball right to the left of freshman shortstop Kyle Farmer, who got eaten up by the ball, kicking it off the heel of his glove and into center field. Grimm flashed a decent, perhaps a future average, changeup to the next hitter and wriggled out of the slight inconvenience of the error with a line shot caught in center by Cone. Grimm was throwing it all over the zone in the second, and he was lucky not to allow a single official hit.
Caughel started out the second by allowing a base hit the opposite way to Georgia third baseman Colby May, who simply turned away a 90 mph fastball with an inside-out stroke to right field. Zach Cone came to the plate, and I grabbed some film of him at work. He didn’t have his best at-bat, or his best night, but he beat out of little chopper in the infield with a 4.12 second time to first base, plus-plus speed. I’ll get to his swing more in other at-bats, where he showed me a little more. After another single, Farmer showed me something interesting with a solid swing with good bat speed, hitting a blazing line drive to right center field, scoring Cone. After seeing a few more of his at-bats I rate his hit tool as a true above-average tool, with room for some growth as his presence at the plate grows with time. He’s only a freshman, and I see good things to come. Caughel induced a double play ball and strikeout on a 74 mph curveball in the dirt to finish out the inning, but allowed another run on a wild pitch in-between, leading to a 3-0 Georgia lead after two innings.
Grimm’s third inning confirmed my worries about his busy windup and delivery. After showing good stuff to the leadoff hitter, including an above-average 79 mph curveball for the strikeout, he then proceeded to walk Stetson hitter Jeff Simpson on four straight pitches, all fastballs in the low-90s. For those of you who don’t know, Simpson isn’t exactly the type that someone pitches around. Grimm simply lost his release point and started getting out of whack mechanically. It did give me an extended opportunity to see how fast Grimm was to the plate, and the vast majority of my times were in the 1.2 to 1.4 second range, which is slightly above-average to average. He walked another batter after Simpson, putting him in his first real jam of the night. He worked on the next hitter with a 94 mph fastball, followed by 88 and 89 mph fastballs, then a solid curveball that induced an inning-ending double play.
Caughel started working in his more normal fastball range in the third inning, sitting 86-88 from then on out. He was very slow in terms of his pace, and he paired that with a very slow delivery to the plate, all with times of 1.5 seconds or higher. Johnathan Taylor stole second and Peter Verdin stole third in the inning, all a function of his slow delivery. Taylor had been placed on first by a walk, and then scored when Verdin chopped a ground ball over the third baseman’s head for a double. However, Verdin was stranded at third after the steal, as May chased a low and outside 73 mph curve in the dirt and Cone followed that up with a real inability to put the bat on the breaking stuff. He struck out on another slow curve, waiving at a pitch that was actually hung out over the plate. Georgia’s lead was 4-0 after three.
Grimm came out firing with fastballs in the fourth inning, all of which were in his more normal 90-92 mph range. The Stetson lineup was absolutely bailing him out with early swings, despite his proven inability to command the strike zone, and they were simply pounding the ball into the ground, as Grimm adjusted his mechanics to be able to keep the ball down in the inning. That didn’t last, mind you, but it was a nice glimpse into his ability to adjust. Crews hit a hard ground ball into right field with two outs, but Grimm worked around it by inducing another weak ground ball to first base to end the inning. It was a very quick inning and helped stretch Grimm’s life in the game out.
Caughel’s fourth inning was one to forget. He did manage to flash a fringe-average changeup in the inning that was slightly encouraging at 81 mph, but in general his nibbling came back to bite him, as the Georgia hitters could sit on what they knew was coming. He didn’t allow many truly hard-hit balls, but the hitters were going with them and finding holes around the infield. That only caused him to nibble more, and he started to give up the big hit. He was also a very nervous fielder, as he fielded a chopped ball with runners on the corners, and proceeded to hastily throw a ball home that was luckily caught on a bounce or two by the catcher for the tag that got Farmer at home. He was very lucky that the ball didn’t go bounding to the backstop, as he completely rushed a play that didn’t need as much effort as he thought it did. It was clearly the sign of a nervous pitcher making a nervous play. He then essentially fell apart, allowing a solid line drive hit to left field by Taylor, and the left fielder, Simpson, booted it while attempting to catch it on a slide, allowing the ball to go all the way to the wall. The third base coach waved Taylor around to score, but he was thrown out on a good relay. Davidson stepped up with two outs and put an absolute charge into the ball the other way with easy raw power, and he was robbed of an extra-base hit by Simpson who caught the ball leaping into the air while hitting the hard, wooden-like wall at the same time, holding on for the out. Davidson’s easy opposite field raw power was impressive, and he still has that plus raw power in his bat somewhere. All in all, the damage added up to 3 runs in the inning and a 7-0 Georgia lead.
Grimm had a tough time coming back out after a longer inning sitting in the cold, and after a quick ground out that was once again handed on a platter to him by Stetson, he walked Simpson on four pitches, three fastballs and a 1-0 curve. The umpire helped him out, though, with the next batter, as he threw an 81 curve, 86 changeup, and 80 curve for a called strike three on three consecutive pitches, making me wonder if he felt like he had lost his fastball command, so he had temporarily ditched it in favor of his offspeed pitches. He continued to be about average for speed to the plate, clocking in at 1.35 seconds multiple times. He walked another hitter to make things even worse for him, using multiple curveballs again, and I did not like his pitch sequences, especially with a runner on first. He did pop a pair of 94 mph fastballs in that at-bat, but the overuse of his curves, which weren’t commanded any better than his fastballs, was concerning. He started throwing more changes again to end the inning, and he finished off the inning with an 89 mph fastball for a swinging strikeout. Overall, it was obvious that Grimm was tiring quickly, and even though it was only the fifth inning, Georgia was going to need some bullpen help to finish off the blowout.
Caughel’s fifth inning was even worse than his fourth, and he ended up getting pulled after he allowed a leadoff home run to Verdin on a hanging high-80s fastball. He was allowed to stay in to face a few more batters as the reliever warmed in the bullpen, getting two outs, but his day ended with a walk and single. All in all, he didn’t get hit extremely hard until the last few batters of the night, but his nibbling was so excruciating to watch that I’m not sure he’ll last in the Friday starter role for Stetson this season if he continues with such a lack of confidence. His replacement, Robbie Powell, was a fringy arm that doesn’t look draftable, and he was equally slow to the plate, and the inning ended up with 4 more Georgia runs, for a grand total of 11 in the game through five innings.
Grimm had been throwing in foul territory on the right field line during the Stetson pitching change, and I could tell it would probably be his last inning. In actuality, he didn’t finish off the inning. He got the leadoff hitter to strike out swing to start the sixth, but catcher Christian Glisson failed to keep it in front of him for the wild pitch, as the 81 mph curveball bounded into the Georgia dugout on the first base side. Grimm was popping fastballs in the 92-94 range in the inning, and he was speeding up his arm to do so, knowing that it would be his last inning. He allowed a weak single to left field after the wild pitch, but then induced a double play to May at third base, who stepped on the bag and threw to first to complete the play. That ended up being Grimm’s last pitch, and he was relieved by 2010 draft prospect Justin Earls, a potential LOOGY arm in the top ten rounds. He finished off the inning with 87-88 mph fastballs, and the lead stayed at 11-0. Grimm’s final line consisted of 5.2 innings of shutout ball, allowing two hits and four walks, striking out seven. A solid, if shaky, outing that brought up questions about his command. I’ll get to see him a few more times this year, and he’ll need to answer those questions to be a true first-round arm.
Here’s a quick rundown on the rest of the game, which featured bench players entering on both sides:
-Earls was bringing 84-88 mph fastballs and 73-75 mph curveballs that were both fringe-average in nature. He looks like a decent LOOGY candidate to me, as he handled lefties well with his deception. There’s not much more in there, though.
-Davidson connected to start Georgia’s part of the 6th inning, hitting an absolute monster home run to right center field, easily going 400+ feet. If he can do that more consistently, he’s a first day draft prospect again next year after not signing with the Astros as a third-round pick in 2008.
-Zach Taylor came off the bench to hit in the 6th, showing borderline plus speed from the left-handed batter’s box, clocking in at 4.16 seconds to first base.
-May features a very mature approach at the plate at times, and he has a very simple load in his swing. He’s very calm with his hands, and he projects to be a solid pro hitter, though he’s more of a second-day prospect for the 2011 draft.
-Zach Cone didn’t impress me too much on the time, as he proved very susceptible to soft stuff low and away. He struck out again in the 6th. I have a good bit of film on him, and I’ll let you decide what you see.
I’ll get up video for tomorrow, and I’ll also be covering what I see from Northside High School (GA) prospect Kevin Jordan tomorrow starting at noon. Hope you enjoyed the second Friday of college action.
With today’s game between Georgia Tech and Missouri State, I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular. Georgia Tech’s starter, Jed Bradley, is a 2011 arm, and I was simply just trying to get a feel for what he has to offer. On the other side, Missouri State’s starter, Pat Doyle, is a 2010 prospect, and one that I felt was a mid-round arm coming in. I had already seen much of what the lineups had to offer, so I was simply going to refine what I had and to work with the things I already noticed. I’m just going to devote paragraphs to each of the players I focused on today.
The usual number of scouts was there today, and it was obvious that they were there to see what Bradley had to offer. They had all moved across the aisle, to where they could see Bradley’s motion a little better. Bradley started off very well, and he never really slowed down from there. At 6’4’’, Bradley attacks hitters with an above-average fastball that comes at hitters on a good downhill plane. Bradley sat in the 90-91 range most of the day, and he touched 93, which is good velocity from a left-handed starter. When he subtracts a little velocity, he gets good arm side run, and he used that on more than one occasion to bring back a pitch on the outside corner to lefties. He features a pair of breaking balls, a curveball which flashes plus and has tight break, and a slider that is much less of a quality pitch. He threw a few breaking balls that were slurvy, and I think they were poorly-thrown curveballs, but their break wasn’t as sharp and had more sideways movement than his normal curveballs. His command of his fastball was sharp most of the day, and most of the damage against him came due to nibbling or the lack of command of his secondary pitches. The only real minus I saw on Bradley was that he lands on a fairly stiff front leg, and that might be a cause for concern. He’ll get a chance to pitch out of the weekend rotation for the whole year, though, if he pitches like he did today, so we’ll be able to see how he holds up over the course of an entire season. His final line included 12 strikeouts in 6 shutout innings, walking only 1 and allowing 4 hits. Most of his strikeouts were with fastballs, and he was very aggressive with his fastball today, a good sign for a young pitcher against metal bats. I think Bradley’s a definite first day prospect for the 2011 draft if what I saw today is the norm for him over the next two seasons.
Pat Doyle wasn’t nearly as effective as Bradley, though he got his fair share of swings and misses. Early on, he was effective changing speeds off of his high-80s to low-90s fastball, and he sat right at 90 for the majority of his outing. The minus to that was that it was a straighter pitch than any I saw all weekend, and once hitters picked up on the arm angle the second time around the lineup, they started giving it a ride. Doyle’s changeup showed a little promise, and it’s probably a future 45 to 50 pitch, below-average to average. That’s in opposition to a pair of breaking pitches in a slider and curve, which were both well below-average today. The curve shows less promise than the slider, and I think it should be scrapped altogether. However, the slider will only be an occasionally effective pitch at the next level, and he’ll live and die by his fastball location mixed with his changeup. However, his fastball command wasn’t great, and that was responsible for the three home runs he gave up today, His overall command was not good, and he really showed fringy organizational relief arm stuff on the whole. The thing I really noticed with Doyle was a little mix of bad makeup on the mound. He had numerous communication issues with his catcher, and he also got frustrated with the umpire on more than one occasion, and that’s with an umpire that had a generous pitcher’s zone. Those things concern me just a bit, especially from a senior. All in all, I came away with the impression that Doyle’s an arm that’s probably an early 20s-round pick, and he’ll always struggle without good fastball command.
Georgia Tech featured the only two relief arms I had much interest in for the day. Buck Farmer, the Braves’ 46th-round pick in 2009, pitched the 7th inning, and his college debut was successful despite shaky command, which I attributed to jitters. He flashed a curveball that had good shape, and it’s a possible above-average pitch. He got good late life on his fastball, as well as some deceptiveness, and it plays up from its low-90s velocity. He also threw a slider that looked decent, but I only saw it briefly, and I can’t judge much from it. The interesting part about Farmer was a good pickoff move that almost got a runner off first twice. He should be a starter by the time his days at Tech are over. After Andrew Robinson pitched the 8th with rather fringy stuff and command, Kevin Jacob entered to close out the series sweep. He looked tired compared to Friday, and he’ll need to work on that for the rest of the season if he wants teams to believe he can have the kind of arm a closer needs to have. His fastball was a low-90s pitch on the day, and his slider had little shape or break today, and he was hit pretty hard, as his command was also shaky. He had trouble putting hitters away, and he was lucky to escape without any runs coming across.
Looking briefly at a few hitters, I came away a little underwhelmed for the series as a whole. Georgia Tech put up good offensive numbers on Saturday and Sunday, but at the expense of pitchers with command problems or fringy stuff. Jeff Rowland has convinced me he has true plus speed, and his range in center is above-average, but his bat is definitely more of a bench or organizational bat. He showed a major vulnerability to the soft stuff in the lower part of the zone, over the middle to the inside part of the plate. Most of his swings and misses were against such pitches. The unfortunate thing that occurred today was a cowardly play by Missouri State first baseman Tyler Ryun, who after fielding a ball right on the first base line about 10 feet from first base, stood in the base path, and as Rowland approached him running down the line, Ryun promptly turned sideways and ducked, then practically picked Rowland up and dropped him over his back, while Rowland was running almost full speed. It almost looked like a movie where a football player is picked up by a safety and dropped behind him. Rowland and Ryun almost got mixed up in a fight at that point, and there was a lot of tension for the rest of the game. Needless to say, Ryun was not a fan favorite, and he was lucky he didn’t get a fastball in the mouth at the plate. It was probably the dumbest move I have ever seen in person.
Chase Burnette continued to impress me today, and while I still think he’s a fourth or fifth outfield at best, he showed some of the little things that make him stand out. After getting upset by an umpire’s call while hitting, instead of simply letting it get to him, Burnette showed a solid two-strike approach, and ended up muscling an outside pitch the opposite way for a home run to left field. On a team filled with pull hitters from the left side, that approach impressed me, especially the pop that way, though it was aided by the metal bat. I’d give Burnette’s power a 45 grade for now, but I like what he’s doing with his fringy tools. He could work himself into an early-teens pick, maybe higher with continued success this year.
Missouri State’s best 2010 bat is Aaron Conway, and I got plenty of chances to see him up against good pitching this weekend. He has a small frame, and while he can track a few balls down in center, he’s not average or above in pretty much any of his tools. He gets by more on experience than tools, and the results are mixed. After seeing him play for three games, he looks like a pick in the range of the rounds in the 20s, and he’s an organizational outfielder on most teams. The last time I checked, however, he’s signed to play on the Cape next summer, so a team might pick him with the intention of following him over the summer to see how he does with wood bats.
That’s about all I have for tonight. I’d like to see the Georgia Tech hitters a few more times before really passing judgment on them, so take the observations I’ve made this weekend with a grain of salt. It was still opening weekend for everybody on the field, so I expect adjustments along the way.
Since I took you through most of the pregame routine for scouts yesterday, I’m going to jump right into the game action today.
Today’s matchup between Georgia Tech and Missouri State at Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta featured another intriguing pitching matchup between a pair of 2010 draft-eligible arms. Brandon Cumpton, a 6’2’’ right-hander took the hill for Georgia Tech, and he was opposed by lefty Mike Kickham, a draft-eligible sophomore that transferred into Missouri State from Crowder Junior College in Missouri. Both were expected to put on a good show, but it was Georgia Tech and Cumpton that prevailed in the end.
Cumpton took the mound in the first, and he immediately showed why he’s getting draft interest. Using a free and easy delivery, Cumpton started pumping in what were mostly high-80s to low-90s fastballs. His fastballs were straight, with very little movement or late life, but he showed good command of the pitch, as he lived on the corners all afternoon. He flashed his first curveball in the first inning, too, and it showed relatively good shape and profiles as a future average pitch. It was a mid-70s offering that complemented the fastball well, especially with his good command of the fastball. He had a solid first inning, and it was over without Missouri State scoring a run.
Mike Kickham took the mound, and I immediately thought of Arthur Rhodes. Kickham doesn’t necessarily bring the ball down low out of his glove like Rhodes does in the back end, but the motion and delivery are practically the same. He came out throwing fairly hard for a lefty, in the upper-80s, touching 91, and it had average life. However, he simply couldn’t command it. He wasn’t only missing his spots, he was missing badly all over the place. If you gave his actual control a below-average grade, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you. It could have been a case of the jitters, pitching against a top ten team on the road in his first Division I college start, but it was just painful to watch. He did manage to flash an average slider, which is his best offspeed pitch, and it’s a high-70s to low-80s pitch with good shape, though he also struggles to command it, and he’s also inconsistent with his release point of the pitch. The curveball he showed in the first inning was a low-70s pitch that was below-average to well below-average, and I don’t think it’s a usable pitch at the next level unless he can command it on the corners, which he can’t at this moment. Tony Plagman turned around a Kickham slider that was hung out over the plate and in the upper half of the strike zone, hitting a 375 foot shot to right field for his first homer of the day. I had just written that Plagman dropped his hands in his swing, making him vulnerable to high hard stuff when Kickham hung the softer pitch out over the plate. That just made me shake my head, as it was almost like Missouri State had no game plan for Plagman, who homered yesterday, too. A bad baserunning decision by Matt Skole got Kickham out of the inning, as Derek Dietrich lined a shot to the second baseman, who caught it and had plenty of time to throw back to first to double off Skole. I’m starting to figure out why Skole isn’t seen as the first-rounder that he has the potential to be.
Cumpton took the mound in the second, and he started settling into the fastball range where he sat for most of his outing, which was 91-92. He was commanding the outside corner well, but I started getting worried that he wasn’t throwing any pitches inside, and he was also reluctant to use his curveball. However, his fastball was routinely catching the black, and when he was missing, he was missing down, so he was keeping things manageable with just a single pitch. His command came back to bite him, though, as hitters started simply sticking their metal bats out and poking balls over the infield the other way, and Missouri State got across a run in the inning. That won’t work with wood bats in the future, and Cumpton’s command should come in handy. He did shake off a few curveball calls by the catcher, but all in all, he was having a fairly good first outing.
Kickham wasn’t commanding his fastball nearly his well, and he was paying dearly for it compared to Cumpton. He’s going to give up his fair share of home runs at the next level, as his lack of precise command leaves him prone to hanging curveballs, sliders, and fastballs right over the plate. I started concentrating on Kickham’s motion, knowing that he might not be in long if he continued his outing in the way he started it. There’s a little bit of effort in his delivery, and he might be destined for relief in the long run, which would allow him to dump the curveball, which continued to be a well below-average pitch, looking more like a soft slider with less break. He slows his arm down noticeably when he’s delivery the curve, and more experienced hitters will take him to lunch since the curve itself isn’t a plus pitch. He also delivered his first game changeup, which was another below-average pitch, and I don’t hold out a lot of hope for it. He held runners well throughout, with an above-average time to the plate, but he had major trouble getting hitters out. Jeff Rowland stood out to me at that point, as he showed a good two-strike approach, as well as above-average speed on the basepaths. Later in the game, I got a better view of Rowland’s real skills at the plate, and it was apparent that he isn’t as much of a prospect as some believe he should be because he has slider bat speed. He couldn’t catch up to high-80s heat, and he’ll struggle at the next level, making him a nine-hole hitter at best, though he’s fairly adept at getting the bat on the ball with two strikes.
Cumpton continued his use of fastballs in the third inning after Georgia Tech had taken a 5-1 lead after two innings. After allowing runners on, I quickly noticed a major tell for Cumpton’s curveball in the stretch. His whole windup slows down, from start to finish. He was right around average for holding runners, and the only time Missouri State ran was on hit-and-runs, but the curveball delivery was extremely slow, and it would tip off a pro hitter every time. It just seemed that he was uncomfortable with the curve out of the stretch, and he started going to his fastball exclusively, getting out of the inning after allowing just a run. The secondary thing I noticed in the third was Cole Leonida’s slowness at getting down blocking balls in the dirt. He basically only put his glove between his legs one time, only dropping his knees to the ground after the ball had hit the mitt. That would be unacceptable at the next level, and combined with his occasional dropping of his arm angle on throws, he hasn’t shown me enough to be an adequate Major League starting catcher defensively.
Kickham was allowed to return for the third inning, down 5-2 heading in. Unfortunately, Kickham left another pitch right over the middle, a fastball that Tony Plagman crushed over the right field wall again. Plagman’s legitimately dangerous when he can extend his hands up and away, but I still can see how pro pitchers will pick him apart. Kickham got out of the inning allowing only the one run, getting Chase Burnette to chase a slider way out of the strike zone away. That ended up being Kickham’s last batter, and his debut performance, which featured 86-91 mph fastballs, went pretty badly.
Cumpton’s fourth inning featured an encouraging willingness to come back inside with his fastball. It was starting to fade a little bit in terms of velocity, but it was still in the 89-90 range, hitting 91 enough to keep hitters honest. It was a fairly quick inning devoid of curveballs, and I was really wondering what Cumpton had to offer as a starter at the next level. He only went one more inning, flashing some of his best and worst fastballs of the day, and he was hit pretty hard, though his weakening command was still able to limit it to hard-hit groundballs instead of liners or flyballs. All in all, the best success against Cumpton came from hitters that drove the ball the other way, such as shortstop Travis McComack, a 2010 draft prospect that is, in all reality, an organizational soldier at best.
Since the rest of the game featured Missouri State’s pitching unraveling, and the blowout ended with a 20-3 Georgia Tech win, I’ll just post a few notes here on the things I noticed:
-Chase Burnette strikes me as someone that would make a decent fourth or fifth outfielder for a Major League team or two. He showed a good approach at the plate, a willingness to take the ball with authority the other way, as well as solid-average speed and range in right field. He had a good day, including a home run on a hard line drive over the right field wall.
-Cole Leonida lets balls get really deep on him when he’s hitting. He then turns them around with average bat speed, the usual result being line drives and fly balls from center to right field, a true catcher’s opposite field approach. It won’t result in much, if any, power at the next level with wood bats, but if he improves his approach and fielding, he might be a backup catcher in the big leagues.
-Missouri State freshman Pierce Johnson, the Tampa Bay Rays’ unsigned 2009 15th-round pick, debuted today and had mixed results. He flashed a solid-average fastball without much movement, but his best pitch was a pretty curveball that flashed a true 60, or plus, grade. Not every curve showed that kind of tight spin and late action, but a few caught my eye. He also threw a slider that might get a future average grade with development over the next two years. He doesn’t have a prototypical starter’s body, but he might develop into a solid late first-day draft option for 2012.
-The more I see Derek Dietrich play defense, the more I’m convinced he might not play a single pro game there. He has adequate range to his left as a result of his athleticism, but he showed well below-average range to his right today. Combined with his unusual release and average to above-average arm, I think he’s a third baseman, though he still needs to work on his hands, which are below-average.
-Matt Skole’s head tug is a big problem. I had known about it coming in, but after seeing him in batting practice, it’s easy to ignore the flaws. However, when a true freshman like Johnson can come in and treat you like Ryan Howard against curveballs, it’s not good. Johnson got Skole to strike out on a steady mix of curveballs low and in, the same treatment that Howard gets. I was impressed with Johnson’s command during that at-bat, though it wavered for the rest of his outing.
-Another notable true freshman, Luke Bard, debuted for Georgia Tech today. Bard was Boston’s 16th-round pick last June, and he easily had the liveliest fastball of the day, not in terms of velocity, but in terms of deceptiveness and explosive life. Without a radar gun, the average observer might have thought Bard was throwing in the low- to mid-90s, not the 89-91 he was really showing. It explodes onto the hitter with good late life, and it was hard to hit, though he also had big trouble commanding it, though he had obvious jitters. His curveball isn’t a very effective pitch, as it rates as a 45 or 50 future pitch at best. It doesn’t have much shape. All in all, though, he did just fine.
-Zach Brewster, a 2010 name to follow, made his 2010 debut, and his herky-jerky motion is a little deceptive. He won’t ever really command anything with that motion, but it’s deceptive for the hitter. His fastball is fringe-average, though it’s fine when he paints the corners. He has a ceiling as a LOOGY.
-Skole moved to catcher when the starters were being pulled late in the game by Georgia Tech, and that experiment is going to take a lot of work. He’s a minus receiver right now, and I didn’t have a chance to see him in action throwing. However, it’s an interesting idea, and Skole might actually be their starting catcher next year if Leonida is drafted and signed.
-My final note is on Missouri State reliever J.C. Casey, who I knew I wanted to see this weekend, as he’s on the cusp between organizational arm and real middle relief candidate for me. However, he didn’t really show me good stuff today, featuring a fringy fastball and slurvy curveball, and the best thing he has going for him is a fearlessness that worked today. He got football-turned-baseball player Roddy Jones to strike out on a high fastball, and he also jammed freshman Brandon Thomas on his fastball, too. Matt Skole placed a 400 foot monster just to the right of the right field foul pole, however, so Casey’s stuff doesn’t really play against more talented hitters.
I hope you’ve enjoyed another game report, and expect another on tomorrow’s matchup between Georgia Tech and Missouri State to finish out the series.
While it’s still fresh on my mind, let me share with you some of my thoughts about today’s game between Georgia Tech and Missouri State at Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta.
The day promised to be a great one, as potential top ten pick Deck McGuire faced off against potential 4th-7th round lefty Aaron Meade from Missouri State. I also anticipated that potential first-rounder Kevin Jacob, a reliever from Georgia Tech would also make an appearance because of it being Opening Day, and it turns out my assumption was correct. The lineups featured a few names of interest, particularly Georgia Tech shortstop Derek Dietrich, who comes in with a 2nd-4th round potential draft slot. Other names included Georgia Tech’s Tony Plagman, Jeff Rowland, Chase Burnette and Cole Leonida, all names that could go in the top ten rounds with good seasons. Missouri State’s top offensive name for the 2010 draft is Aaron Conway, who hit second and played center field for the Bears. With the weather reasonably warm in the low-50s, the day was a true scouting success.
I started the day early by checking in a couple hours before game time in order to catch batting practice for both teams. Georgia Tech’s SID, Mike Huff, provided me with excellent tickets in the third row up from home plate, and after setting my stuff down at my seat, I walked around and enjoyed the sights and sounds of another year of baseball. I could hear the pinging of metal bats a couple blocks away, and I was glad to be able to settle in and enjoy a long afternoon of competition. Missouri State’s batting practice came first, and it didn’t really turn me on to any particular player. They weren’t wearing numbers on the jackets they were warming up in, so I had to go by swing, position, and body type to be able to match those bodies to names later on. After doing so, probably the most impressive overall name in the Missouri State batting practice display was 2012 draft prospect Beau Stoker, who was the Bears’ starting third baseman and seven-hole hitter. Nothing necessarily stood out to me, but it was just the mechanics and strength that stood out compared to the other players on the team.
However, Stoker doesn’t hold a candle to Georgia Tech’s lineup. The first person that absolutely stood out to me on their team was 2011 draft prospect Matt Skole, the Yellow Jackets’ starting third baseman and fourth hitter. Skole has above-average to plus raw power from the left side, and if it weren’t for a head tug that pulls him off slower breaking balls, then he’d be a definite first-round candidate for the 2011 draft. However, the head tug is very real, and he’ll have to prove he can stay in against quality pitching, not striking out as much as he currently does. He has time to correct it, but it’s obvious that it’s already an ingrained habit. Dietrich also put on a solid batting practice display, and he simply has some sort of thunder in his bat. He can swing with average bat speed, and the backspin he gets on a ball is tremendous. He had a few balls carry out to right field (he’s a left-handed hitter) that looked like regular line drives off the bat. He just gets good carry. If he can lock into that consistently, he’s a good sixth hitter at the Major League level.
However, I think I got more out of watching warm-ups in the infield than batting practice when Georgia Tech took the field. As soon as I saw Dietrich taking ground balls, I understood why scouts want to move him to third. He’s what I like to call all elbows. You know those players on your high school team that had good athletic ability, but were so stiff in the field that fielding a ground ball had to be done with their elbows forming a right angle between the upper and lower parts of the arm? That’s Derek Dietrich. Even in warm-ups he’s the stiffest guy on the field. I don’t know if it’s possible at this point, but he just needs to loosen up. The guy taking ground balls behind him was a better fielder than he was, and he doesn’t make any of my follow lists for any draft year. Dietrich’s range is below par for a pro shortstop, and even though he made a few good plays in game action, he still looked uncomfortable. It could have been just me feeling uncomfortable watching him, because I don’t know who came up with the idea that he’s a shortstop. His hands aren’t great, and the range isn’t great, and he looks much more like an average third baseman to me, one that will make a fair share of errors, but will make the routine play most of the time, along with the occasional “Where did that come from?”
Let me take you through where I’m sitting at this point. When you scout, especially for batting practice, you don’t sit behind home plate. You sit up the third base line. This is to see the mechanics of the hitters, and also to get a good vantage point for viewing what the infielders are doing. I wouldn’t have been able to see Matt Skole’s head tug or Derek Dietrich’s infield actions behind home plate, what with the net, the batting cage, and the pure angles. These are the subtle things you pick up after spending time with scouts, so the next time you go to an amateur game, try this out.
This is when I started looking around to see some familiar faces in the scouting community. I figured there would be some pretty big names attending, but with all the other four-year colleges starting off today, too, I wasn’t sure exactly who this matchup would draw. The main entourage that stood out to me was that of the San Diego Padres. First, let me say that scouts tend to congregate in groups. That’s just how it is. Scouts are friends with scouts, and it’s easy to tell who gets along the best by who is sitting together. However, when there’s a group of scouts all wearing some sort of identification that links them to the same team, you need to look harder at that group and start identifying who they are. For the Padres, in addition to having Georgia area scout Shane Monahan (yes, the former Major Leaguer) present, I also immediately noticed the Padres’ Assistant General Manager Jason McLeod, formerly the Scouting Director for the Red Sox before joining former Boston colleague Jed Hoyer in San Diego when Hoyer became the Padres’ new General Manager. I’ve written at length about McLeod in the last few weeks, and I think of him as one of the best scouting minds in the industry. I find this particularly interesting, especially because I just posted my Padres Draft Preview on Tuesday. They pick number nine overall in the coming draft, and I think it’s quite easy to say now that they’re interested in McGuire at that pick.
Getting to the game itself, I positioned myself to get some readings from the scouts around me, and then settled in for nine innings of baseball. Deck McGuire got off to a quick start in the first, ringing up a pair of strikeouts and getting a normal ground ball in the first. He was sitting in the low-90s throughout the first, mainly 92s. His second strikeout, against the Bears’ Aaron Conway, was on a questionable call on a curveball in the low-70s that was essentially in the right-handed batter’s box. It was a pretty inning to start it off, and the 30 or so radar guns around me were fun to watch.
Aaron Meade took the mound in the bottom of the inning, but things didn’t turn out so well for him to start his 2010 season. Jeff Rowland stepped in as the leadoff hitter, and after Meade got ahead 0-2 on a pair of well-commanded upper-80s fastballs with good arm side run, he hung a low-70s curveball that Rowland promptly deposited beyond the right field wall. It was mistake hitting, so it was hard to grade Rowland’s power off of it, but it was a good job of taking advantage of a pitch to hit. Meade nibbled around the edges for the next few batters, but he took advantage of Matt Skole’s head tug with a curveball on the inside part of the plate to set him down on strikes, and he ended up getting out of the inning. He was in the upper-80s for the first inning, with his curve in the low- to mid-70s. I rated his curve as a potential 45 (below-average) Major League pitch then, though I didn’t want to grade it on just a few of them. He did noticeably change his arm action for the curve early on, though he flashed one or two with good deception.
In the second inning, McGuire returned to the hill for another good inning, and he started incorporating his slider and changeup. The slider sat in the low- to mid-80s during the outing, and it’s a usable pitch at the next level, probably getting a 50 grade, though I didn’t ask any of the scouts around me for their opinion, and they have much more experience than me. His changeup flashed good depth and fade, and though it was inconsistent, it rates as a fourth average or higher pitch that McGuire has in his arsenal. It was normally in the 83-84 range, and he got a swinging strikeout when Missouri State designated hitter Trevor Rogers was sitting on a fastball. The only gaffe of the inning involved a badly misread, but fairly hard hit line drive off the bat of Missouri State freshman left fielder Keenen Maddox, which Jeff Rowland either lost in the sun or just overran, allowing it to fall in front of him about 370 feet from home plate. Maddox ended up at second, but he never came around to score. McGuire’s curveball also got more comfortable in the second, as he flashed one absolutely nasty pitch at 74 mph.
Meade came out to match McGuire in the second, and he did so with good mixing of his fastball on the corners. He started sitting at his normal velocity for the game, 87, in the second, and he was moving it in and out of both corners, and Georgia Tech’s hitters didn’t do much with it. As I said before, it was getting good arm side run, and it was being nailed into the ground all day. I had a good chance to see Cole Leonida’s run tool on a ground ball that he tried to leg out, and I can firmly say that it’s well below-average, but it shouldn’t be an issue with Leonida’s positioning as a catcher. Meade threw his first changeup in the second, too, and the only reason I could tell it was a change was because it was slower and straighter than his fastball. It had no sort of depth or fade to it, and I quickly gave it a 35/40 grade after seeing it a few times. All in all, though, Meade had a productive second inning, and the game went to the third with Georgia Tech still up 1-0.
McGuire’s third inning allowed me to see a few things about him that the average fan doesn’t necessarily catch on to in one outing. To begin, he began settling down into his normal velocity range for the outing, which was in the 90-91 range. He had trouble commanding it at times, and he would occasionally fly open in his release, causing the ball to sail high and away to left-handed hitters. After allowing a hit, I also got to see McGuire do some fielding. On a bunt by Missouri State catcher Brett Marshall, McGuire got off the mound very quickly, and, following the advice of his catcher Leonida, he delivered a sound, steady throw to first, not rushing too much, and not overthrowing it, either. He showed good composure, and I was impressed that he didn’t try to do too much with the ball, which young pitchers tend to do with bunts. After throwing a 59 foot fastball, a wild pitch that allowed the runner to advance to third with only one out, McGuire also dug down and showed me his competitiveness, which is outstanding. Using mainly his fastball, he shook off Leonida to deliver two swinging strikeouts with 91 mph fastballs. I did notice a bit of a tell in McGuire’s curve, as he alters his delivery in the slightest way, but it didn’t do any damage in the inning, and he got off the mound with the lead intact.
Aaron Meade’s third inning was fairly uneventful, and he continued to work his fastball to both sides of the plate in the 87 mph range. His curve was firmed up a little bit, up to 75 mph, but it still didn’t look like it could develop into a Major League starter’s pitch. He delivered another shutout inning, and the game was through three innings very quickly.
Starting in the fourth inning, the scouts started to generally dissipate from behind home plate in order to get side views of McGuire’s mechanics. I’m not an expert in the field of pitching mechanics, but I can tell you the basics of how well McGuire handles the pieces of the windup. To begin, he separates his hands well below the best, showing the ball behind his back for an extended period of time. The ideal separation point is somewhere around the belly button, but McGuire’s is extremely low. He has a loose and easy arm from the 3/4 arm angle, and I don’t see any major mechanical issues in his arm action itself. He tucks his glove well, and he maintains his balance well through his motion. He doesn’t pull his body across too early, and he keeps his left shoulder in line just fine. I didn’t notice any form of recoil, and he finishes his motion with good deceleration. Notice that I was only really concentrating on it for a single inning, though, so don’t take my word for it. It was also in the fourth inning that I started noticing how slow McGuire is to the plate with a runner on base. I didn’t bring a stop watch with me, since I’ll plenty of chances to scout him later, but it was noticeably below-average. He continued to attack the strike zone with his fastball in the fourth, but he threw one beautiful changeup on the outside corner to a right-handed hitter, and it’s a pitch I could give a 55 grade to, possibly even a 60. It was a thing of beauty.
Meade started nibbling in the fourth inning. He was starting to noticeably wear down, and his fastballs were all in the 86-87 range. He walked Derek Dietrich in the inning, and I was generally impressed with how patient Dietrich was over the course of the game. He was waiting for specific pitches, and he was fine with taking walks, which was the big criticism of his game last year and over the summer. Meade got out of the inning unscathed, but it was obvious that he might be running out of gas sooner than McGuire.
McGuire started to show some signs of wear in the fifth inning, as his fastball slowed a tick, even to the naked eye. After allowing another runner on, I did get to see McGuire’s pickoff move, which was fairly good. He almost caught the runner leaning once, but alas, he couldn’t get the throw there in time. At that time, Missouri State thought they had found McGuire’s pattern for looking back the runner, and they tried to send the runner, Beau Stoker, as soon as McGuire checked him for the last time. Stoker got about half way to second before the yelling of the infield to step off spurred McGuire to action, and he delivered a strike to the second baseman, who then dropped it, picked it up, and threw it to Tony Plagman, who tagged Stoker for the out. McGuire had indeed developed a set pattern for looking back the runner, and he was saved by his catcher and infield. Inducing weak pop-ups, McGuire got out of the fifth, and the game was still 1-0.
Meade’s fifth inning was definitely not his best, yet he continued to get enough outs to get out of the inning. His fastball command started going, and his velocity started dipping down to 86. However, he reared back for his best fastball of the night, a 89 mph offering that he threw on a 3-2 count past Jeff Rowland, though the pitch was straight as an arrow. He followed that up with another strikeout, with an 86 mph moving fastball catching the black on the outside corner for a called strike three.
The last few innings of the game were less interesting, and I’ll contain them in this paragraph. McGuire continued to sail along, starting to sit in the 89-91 mph range, and he pitched well through 7 innings. He rang up his tenth and final strikeout on a pretty curveball at the knees, leaving behind a deflated Missouri State offense. Meade tried to match the effort, but after facing two batters in the sixth, and retiring none, he was pulled looking physically fatigued. Tony Plagman took a Meade fastball that was left over the middle of the plate out to right-center field, probably 400 feet away. It wasn’t necessarily a pretty swing, but he got the better part of the bat on the ball. Matt Skole followed that up with a roaring double to deep right-center, and Meade was pulled. True freshman Grant Gordon entered, and after walking Derek Dietrich, he promptly struck out Cole Leonida on three pitches, the last being a downer curveball with true 12-6 movement. Gordon also featured a slightly below-average fastball that he couldn’t command, as well as a promising changeup that could be useful against lefties in the future. His overall command was lacking, but it was his first college performance. Andrew Robinson got through an uneventful eighth inning, and things were set up for Kevin Jacob.
The Yellow Jackets had managed to push across two runs while Gordon was in the game, pushing their lead to 4-0 before Jacob entered in the ninth inning. Jacob proceeded to have a battle with Kevin Medrano, Missouri State’s second baseman a three-hole hitter. Fastball after fastball was fouled off, but Jacob eventually sat him down looking with an 82 mph slider, or so I classified it. Some were calling it a hard curve, while others were calling it a slider, and it had more slider movement than true downer curveball movement, so I call it a slider. Jacob struck out the final two batters, one with another slider, and the other to end the game with a fastball. He threw almost all 93s and 94s in the inning, along with the 82-84 mph slider.
That’s your game report for game number one of the season. Expect more of the same to come.