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.