Feature Photo: Sam Travis, 1B, Red Sox
We’re heavy on prospect spotlights this week with our Notes From the East coverage! Chaz Fiorino, C.J. Wittmann, and Mark Shreve take a look around the International, Eastern, and Carolina Leagues and offer their insights on eight players based on their recent live views. Enjoy!
Eastern League Prospect Profile
Jordan Montgomery, LHP, Yankees (Double-A Trenton)
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/225 lbs. B/T: L/L Age: 23 yrs, 4 m
A 2014 fourth-round pick of the Yankees out of South Carolina, where he played for three seasons and threw a durable 253.2 IP, Montgomery is a big man, every bit his 6’6” listed height and with long levers to work with. The 23-year-old left-hander has made regular progress through the Yankees’ system, and while he is 3-0 in his first four starts at the Double-A level this year, his early season performance has been up-and-down. Sandwiched between two starts where he gave up seven earned runs over 10 IP, he’s thrown two solid outings of six-inning, shutout ball. This viewing was one of them, where he scattered four singles and a double, walked one, and struck out five over six innings in a 6-1 win over the Akron RubberDucks in Trenton on April 23rd.
Montgomery has a well-balanced delivery for his size, showing moderate effort and a long, easy arm action that shows the ball on the back side of his delivery. His fastball generally lacked movement, but it did show occasional arm-side run, sitting the 90-to-92 mph range. But when coming from his 6’6” frame, the fastball is effectively coming down from the clouds with extreme downhill plane, and it plays up for that reason by changing the eye level of hitters. The same was true of the cut variety of his fastball, which was sitting in the 88-to-90 mph range showed late dart down and in to RHH from that same extreme plane. He had command of both versions, and overall, the fastball graded as an above-average pitch.
His changeup was his primary secondary offering, sitting 81-to-83 mph, and it was an above-average offering as well, thrown with the consistent arm action and the same release point as that of his fastball, and showing late sinking, or parachuting, life that led to three front-foot swinging strikeouts in the first two innings. His third pitch was a curveball that sat 77-to-79 mph and it was thrown in any count, but it was lacking control in this viewing and was not an effective pitch, though it did flash some depth. With runners on, he was showing consistently above-average 1.19-1.22 second release times, keeping the running game under control (he’s given up just a single stolen base so far this year over 22 innings and 24 hits allowed).
Montgomery has been pitching to contact at an increasing rate, as opposing hitters are hitting .286 this year in his limited Double-A innings. His Ks-per-9 IP have dropped with each move from Class A Charleston (11.3), to High A Tampa (7.6), and now Double-A Trenton (5.7), and his WHIP has risen with each promotion as well (1.10, 1.17, 1.45), so he’ll benefit from some additional seasoning at Trenton for now, building innings, working on sequencing his pitches, and hopefully working on his curveball to round out his arsenal. We should expect to see more consistent results as the season progresses, and with continued development of the curveball in particular, the overall profile could lead to Montgomery becoming the back-end of the rotation starter that the Yankees likely projected him as when they picked him in 2014. – Mark Shreve
Prospect Spotlights – International League
Marco Hernandez, INF, Red Sox (Triple-A Pawtucket)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/200 lbs. B/T: L/R Age: 23 yrs, 8m
Hernandez was optioned back to Pawtucket on May 2nd – his second up-down trip of the season between the PawSox and BoSox – following a Sunday night game against the Yankees. Hernandez hasn’t missed a beat in his first three games back, going 6-for-13 to bump up his slash line to .355/.412/.452 through his first 62 ABs in 2016 with the PawSox. Hernandez is primarily a left-handed hitting second basemen who already has the ability to play shortstop and third base, and he’s now beginning to get reps in left field with Pawtucket as well.
At the plate, Hernandez has a quick, line drive-oriented swing from the left side with great barrel control and bat-to-ball skills. He has the ability to use all fields, and on the bases he’s average to above-average runner, able to get from HP-to-1B with 4.1 second run times on occasion. He is a solid base runner with good instincts, and though can steal a base here and there, he is not a burner, and doesn’t project to be a major threat to steal.
Defensively, Hernandez profiles best at second base, where he is an average defender at best with an average arm. However, he makes for an interesting major league-ready utility option who can fill in at short, third, second, and soon in left field as well, which only adds to his flexibility and value to both the Red Sox and to his value in the trade market as the season moves forward. – Chaz Fiorino
Sam Travis, 1B, Red Sox (Triple-A Pawtucket)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/205 lbs. B/T: R/R Age: 22 yrs, 8m
Travis is slashing .283/.333/.404 with six doubles, two home runs and 25 strikeouts, and eight walks through his first 99 ABs with Pawtucket. The right-handed hitting first basemen’s carrying tool is the overall hit tool, and it grades as future above-average tool as a result of Travis’ ability to consistently square balls up and impact the baseball with hard hit line drives to all fields. That’s mostly thanks to his above-average bat speed and quick hands through the zone. Travis’ swing is more geared towards line drives and doubles into the gaps in terms of overall power. However, as he matures and continues to develop, some of that power should turn into over-the-fence power, given his ability to hit the baseball as hard, and as consistently, as just about anyone in the minor leagues.
He’s aggressive early in counts, although not to his detriment: he swings at pitches he knows he can handle, and is not afraid to jump on the first pitch over the plate if he knows he can handle it. He also has a keen eye at the plate with an overall advanced approach, and he’s shown the ability to both recognize and handle advanced spin and off-speed stuff.
Defensively, Travis appears to be an average first baseman, and he continues to work on his throwing accuracy and footwork around the bag. He is very athletic and moves well from side to side, though, and should have no problem turning himself into a solid defensive first basemen. – Chaz Fiorino
Prospect Spotlights – Eastern League
Dustin Fowler, CF, Yankees (Double-A Trenton)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/195 lbs. B/T: L/L Age: 21 yrs, 4m
A plus athlete in center field, Fowler is a very intriguing prospect. He features plus reads and reactions off the bat, and he takes precise routes to balls in both gaps. He tracks the ball well, and has showed the ability to get a certain spot and relocate the ball to make a tough play look routine. A plus glove in center field is a solid starting point for prospect, but that is not the only quality tool Fowler brings to the table.
Being routinely in the 4.15-to-4.20 run times from HP-to-1B, Fowler is a plus runner, and he collects his body well to throw despite having just a fringe-average arm. At the plate, Fowler has a squared setup with high hands. He showed innate feel for contact with a short, compact hitting stroke and linear swing path. Fowler has above-average bat speed generated from his strong, quick wrists, and he’s shown keen pitch recognition skills and the ability to track spin deep into the hitting zone before firing the barrel and squaring it. He has a high knowledge of the strike zone and showed the ability to use all fields when hitting. There is some debate that Fowler is aggressive enough early in counts but he’s shown a quality two-strike approach, making it seem he is comfortable hitting in all counts.
Although he could add some more muscle to his frame, there is some strength there and he showed the ability to muscle balls to the gaps despite not having a swing oriented for it. Overall, Fowler features both plus run and a plus glove in center field with a potentially average hit tool. He has the defensive versatility to move around the outfield, and despite his fringe-average arm and below-average power, Fowler has a ceiling of a Role 50; major league regular in center field. – C.J. Wittmann
Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/220 lbs. B/T: L/L Age: 21 yrs, 1m
The Blue Jays have a depleted farm system overall, due to graduations and trades, but Rowdy Tellez is an exciting prospect to watch from within the organization. Tellez is a big-bodied first baseman with plus raw power and the ability to hit enough for it to play in game. There are plenty of flaws in Tellez’s game: most notably he is a well below-average runner, with a bad arm and stiff actions at first base making him a potential 40-grade glove there. But at first base, he is going to have to hit anyway, and that is obviously his strength.
Despite only hitting .165 in his first 24 games for the Fisher Cats, Tellez has walked as many times as he’s struck out and that’s not a coincidence. Tellez has a patient approach at the plate, and he tracks pitches deep into the hitting zone. He has quality pitch-recognition skills and showed the ability to track quality breaking balls. He has easy, loose hands from the left side, and he creates separation from the point when he fires his hips to when his hands get going.
He has plus bat speed and unique barrel control through the zone, giving him the ability to square velocity and spin in all quadrants. There is lift in his swing and with his bat speed being generated from his strong wrists and size, Tellez’s raw power is easy plus grade. He makes consistent hard contact in game. Right now, Tellez is having some hard luck, making hard contact but with most of them turning into outs.
Overall, Tellez is going to have to hit to provide value due to his limited skills elsewhere, but he has the tools to do so. If Tellez can reach his ceiling at the plate of an above-average hit tool and above average in-game power, then the rest of his game won’t matter much, and he’ll reach his ceiling of a major league regular. – C.J. Wittmann
Prospect Spotlights – Carolina League
Pedro Fernandez, RHP, Royals (High A Wilmington)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/175 lbs. B/T: R/R Age: 21 yrs, 11m
A week after being named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week, Fernandez had a bit of a rough start versus a weak Frederick Keys’ lineup on May 2nd. Despite a mediocre stat line (4.1 IP, 6H, 5ER, 3BB, 0 K), Fernandez showed the ingredients for a back-end of the rotation starter ceiling.
Fernandez is small in stature but has some muscle and strength to his frame. He has a compact delivery that features a solid tempo, consistent leg drive and deception in his overall delivery that allows his average stuff to jump on hitters. Due to his size, his delivery takes moderate effort to repeat. His longer arm action, below-average present command, and stiffness throughout his core at foot strike, bring some concerns on whether Fernandez would be able to handle a starter’s workload.
That being said, he has the athleticism to repeat the delivery, and with increased repetition and innings, his command could get to average. Throughout his start, Fernandez held his 90-to-93 mph sinking fastball velocity, even touched 94 in the early innings. His ability to attack right-handed hitters on the hands, and run the pitch back over to the inside corner to left-handed hitters ultimately makes the pitch potentially grade as above average.
Fernandez featured two secondary offerings that both sat in the low 80s and came from the same arm slot as his fastball. His changeup came out exactly like his fastball and had late fading action, consistently fooling both right-handed and left-handed hitters. His slider was a short, tight breaking pitch that he could work in and out of the zone to right-handed hitters, but he struggled to effectively throw it in the zone to lefties.
Overall, Fernandez showed flashes of an above-average fastball, average changeup and fringe-average slider with the ability to repeat his mechanics. If he continues to develop his command of all his pitches, there is a chance he could reach his back-end starter ceiling. – C.J. Wittmann
Alfredo Escalera, OF, Royals (High A Wilmington)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/186 lbs. B/T: R/R Age: 21 yrs, 2m
There are not many aesthetically pleasing hitters in Wilmington’s lineup, but Escalera happens to be one of them. Just 21 years old, Escalera features a broad, projectable frame that he could add some solid muscle and strength to. At the plate, he features a crouched stance with loose hands and above-average bat speed. He has a squared setup with a leg kick timing. He fires his hips and hands almost simultaneously, creating limited separation and limiting his barrel control, but his swing is short and compact through the hitting zone. He has shown an aggressive approach, but has some pitch recognition skills and feel for contact on pitches on the inner half. He struggles with velocity and with quality breaking pitches, but when he does make contact, Escalera has average gap-to-gap power. With some added strength, his raw power could ultimately reach average.
On defense, he has average reads and reactions, but he takes crisp routes to fly balls, giving him the ability to play all three outfields positions from a strictly positional standpoint. But his arm is below average, so right field is most likely out of the question. Maybe Escalera’s best tool is that he features athletic strides and plus (4.20-to-4.26) running times from HP-to-1B. With a limited hit-tool ceiling and below-average arm, it’s tough for Escalera to profile as a major league regular but with that being said, he still garners ceiling as Role 40; fourth or fifth outfielder. – C.J. Wittmann
Last year, Heim the center of attention in the O’s minor league system when he drew rave reviews from big league manager Buck Showalter before spring training. The organization, and pitchers especially, speak highly of Heim’s defensive skills behind the plate, and rightfully so. Heim is one of the better defensive catching prospects in all of the Carolina League, featuring a potential plus glove and plus arm combination.
Behind the plate, Heim is a big but quiet target. He has soft hands when receiving but a strong wrist, when pitch framing. His quick-twitch ability allows him to make subtle movements left or right and move pitches from small increments out of the zone to in inside the zone. He has plus lateral agility and has shown the ability to deaden and block balls in the dirt. Heim is a very intelligent game caller and always is on the same page as his pitcher. When throwing out runners, he routinely pops in the low 1.9s (major league average is 2.0) and his athletic ability allows him to get out of the crouch quickly and get to his phenomenally sound footwork. The one fault of Heim has been when pitchers are slow to the plate, he tends to rush his footwork and his accuracy on his throws can be hindered, but that’s an easy fix.
Heim is a tall, projectable body with long limbs, but his swing is short to the ball. He features loose, easy hands with above-average bat speed from both sides of the plate, and the slight lift in his swing and the ability to square pitches makes him an intriguing two-way prospect. In BP, he shows the ability to backspin the ball to both gaps. With good strength added to his frame, there is a chance Heim’s game power could eventually play to a 40 grade. His approach is presently aggressive, and he will expand the strike zone below the knees, but he has a natural feel for making hard contact and has shown the ability to turn on premium velocity. With Heim’s defensively ability, it is likely he could reach the majors as a defense first backup catcher but with some added strength and development in approach, there is a chance Heim could be a major league regular. – C.J. Wittmann
This Week at 2080 Baseball…
Dave Defreitas has a great feature on Shohei Ohtani, perhaps the best prospect ever to come out of Japan, and also files a scouting report on Ohtani; Mauricio Rubio and C.J.Wittmann are back at it with The Scale: Episode 1.13 – In and Out; and our partners at Perfect Game continue their series of amateur prospect profiles as part of their Perfect Game Draft Pack series. This week’s edition profiles RHP’s Bailey Clark, Zach Hess, and Cody Sedlock, LHP Matt Krook, and SS Cole Stobbe as we inch closer to the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft, to be held June 9th
News and Notes:
- Peyton Wesner at Hardball Scoop gives an overview of International League highlights and top performances for the month of April.