Feature Photo: Javier Guerra, SS, Padres
2080 contributors Dave DeFreitas and Chaz Fiorino highlight this week’s spotlights, as they take a look at the future of the Pirates’ rotation and the Padres’ infield. Plus, some news and notes from around the minors.
Triple-A Prospect Spotlights
I got my first live look of Glasnow during his May 27th start at Pawtucket. The first thing to stand out with Glasnow is the 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame. Also, the fact that he’s just 22 years old, and pitching at the top of the Pirates’ rotation for the Indianapolis Indians. He’s filled out with long limbs, yet displays athleticism with his delivery and a clean arm action. The fastball comfortably sat at 93-to-95 mph (T96) mph through six innings. The fastball was pretty straight, but it gets on hitters quick, not only because of the velocity, but also because of his extension and long release out front.
The command/control profile was fringe-average, and the fastball didn’t miss many bats. The curveball was a legitimate weapon at 78-to-80 mph with tight, consistent, 12-to-6 downer action, coming in at the same plane as the fastball and dropping off the table. Just as impressive was his ability to consistently control and bury the curveball down and out of the zone when needed. Glasnow picked up 10 swings-and-misses (13 total) with his curveball alone this outing. The changeup was a well below-average offering at 88-to-91 mph; it was used sparingly, flat and essentially a BP fastball. Another point of concern was Glasnow’s slow release times to the plate from the stretch, ranging 1.43-1.64 seconds before finally utilizing a slide step in the later innings and getting down to the 1.26-1.27 range.
Based on this one look, I don’t see Glasnow as a future top of the rotation guy given his lack of a third pitch, fringy command and control profile, and his hittable fastball. A middle to back-end of the rotation projection seems more likely, or worst case scenario of a move to the bullpen. Assuming he can maintain the level of control and consistency he showed this outing, the curveball was good enough to make me think that he may even be able to get away with the below-average changeup. Given Glasnow’s age, body, clean delivery, and Pittsburgh’s recent history with developing pitchers, I’ll take the gamble on him staying in the rotation, and improving the changeup enough to allow him to stick as a consistent #3 mid-rotation starter. However, a future move to the bullpen would not be the most shocking development down the road. – Chaz Fiorino
I got my first live look of Taillon during his May 29th start at Pawtucket. Much like Glasnow, the first thing that stood out to me was the desirable frame, listed at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. Despite being listed at 15-pounds heavier than Glasnow, I thought Taillon looked a lot more lean than Glasnow. Taillon’s fastball sat 94-to-96 mph with some arm-side run when down, and was able to get it in on right-handed hitters, shattering two bats in the process. Despite the velocity and movement early, Taillon was only able to generate one swing-and-miss with the fastball over six innings pitched.
The command and control are far ahead of Glasnow presently. The present average curveball was 80-to-81 mph, and I put a future 60 grade on the pitch. It has a true 12-to-6 break and he shows the ability to also back-door it to left-handed hitters. The pitch lacked consistent shape, but flashed plus on occasion. The changeup was 85-to-89 mph and was below average, and often left up in the zone as he struggled with his release point. Taillon is quick to the plate from the stretch, ranging from 1.15-1.28 seconds, which enables him to manage the running game. Much like Glasnow, I don’t see Taillon as a future top of the rotation guy based on this outing. Rather, he’s more likely a solid mid-rotation starter as a result of his inconsistent breaking ball, and the below-average changeup I saw in this viewing. This is not a knock on Taillon by any means; a solid #4 starting pitcher is a rare find, and a golden nugget sitting in any organization. – Chaz Fiorino
Single A Prospect Spotlights
It’s easy to see why Guerra was one of the key pieces coming back to San Diego when they dealt Craig Kimbrel to Boston last November. Guerra has double-plus defensive tools that have him projecting as an elite defender at the shortstop position. He has an extreme smoothness to his actions and incredible body control to go with a plus arm and lightning quick first step. His bat, however, is not nearly as advanced, and it will take some time before it catches up to the defense. The ingredients are there however – he has a very simple set-up with little pre-pitch movement, and has a level, line-drive stroke with above-average hand speed. That said, he has had some swing-and-miss throughout his short professional career, with a 112:30 K:BB ratio in 2015 and striking out 23% of the time so far in 2016 (64:15). He appears to be comfortable hitting down in the count, but tends to get passive with his at-bats to a fault at times, not jumping on some mistakes in the zone that he should handle. Some of that I attribute to his low motor, and how easy he makes everything look. Ultimately though, he will need to be more aggressive in the zone, and that should come as he matures and develops his approach.
As is sometimes the case with young players that are plus athletes, Guerra can sometimes get a little too lackadaisical, and lose focus on routine plays that cause some unforced errors (he has 12 errors already through 46 games), and see him give away some ABs. He has never really struggled before, and when you factor that in with this being his first organizational shift and it can be a lot to handle for a young player. While I cannot speak to what that type of pressure feels like, I imagine it can be significant (see Erick Mejia, SS, High A Rancho Cucamonga for a similar scenario).
He has a very slender, wiry frame, but has some muscle structure now and plenty of room to get stronger without sacrificing his athleticism. He hit 15 HRs and 23 doubles last season, so he does have some pop. His slugging is down a bit so far in 2016 (four HRs and eight doubles), but he doesn’t turn 21 years old until September, and he’s still learning how to make adjustments. He doesn’t project to be a huge home run threat, but 10-15 HRs in the big leagues is not a stretch, and should be able to find gaps on a consistent basis. Boston seems to have a knack for finding shortstops with elite defensive abilities like Jose Iglesias (now with Tigers), and Xander Bogaerts. Guerra has a ways to go before catching those two, but it is fun to dream. – Dave DeFreitas
Urias may be one of the more underrated prospects currently in Single A ball. Much has been made about the players that Padres GM A.J. Preller has moved in and out since taking over in 2014, but there has been little celebration surrounding the Mexican-born Urias. In his first season at the High A level, all he has done is hit at a .319 clip, with more walks than strikeouts (18:17), and a .389 OBP. He has a simple swing with a level plane, and he does a very good job keeping the barrel in the hitting zone. He doesn’t wow you with his bat speed, but he has feel for the barrel, and an approach that sees him using the big part of the field. He has an extreme ground ball rate, which shows me that he understands his game and takes what he is given, not trying to do too much. He looks very comfortable hitting with two strikes and even when fooled, he does a good job keeping his hands back. His small frame is underwhelming, as there is not a great deal of physical projection there; but he is only just 19 years old and will get stronger, so I see him having the ability to drive the gaps on a consistent basis in the future.
There is smoothness to his actions on the defensive side as well. He has not been tested beyond routine plays in my two looks to this point, but has shown quick transfers on double play turns with average arm strength. Like his double play partner Guerra, Urias has tremendous body control and agility; he comes in well on slow rollers and looks very comfortable throwing with accuracy from angles. He runs just OK (usually in the 4.28-4.37 second range), but doesn’t have great instincts as a base stealer, and he needs a couple steps to get to full speed. He stole eight bags in 2015, but was caught 13 times, and so far in 2016 he has six steals and has been caught 11 times. That said, he is much better underway and goes 1st-to-3rd quite well. Overall, the Padres have good reason to be excited about this kid. I think he projects to be an offensive second baseman that will be able to hit towards the top of the lineup and be a big on-base guy for them going forward. – Dave DeFreitas
VanMeter projects to be an offensive-oriented infielder that I think has enough athleticism to be able to move around the field in a super-utility role. He has a very easy stroke with a little bit of lift that helps him generate significant carry on his fly balls. Most of his power right now is to the pull side, and he does have a tendency to get around balls that are on the outer half. He is aggressive on fastballs in the zone, and I think as his approach matures a bit, he will have the power to drive the ball gap-to-gap. He hit three HRs with 24 doubles in 2014, up from zero HRs and seven doubles in 2013, which was his first pro season. He broke his fibula early in 2015 when he got taken out on a double play turn, but returned and logged 120 PAs with a 1:1 SO:BB ratio. He did not have a home run last year, but did finish with six doubles. Through 47 games in 2016, he has shown that the positive trend in his power numbers pre-injury were no fluke, throwing up an .871 OPS with six bombs and 12 doubles along with a roughly 2:1 SO:BB ratio.
He has some thickness to his frame, and while I don’t think he is “maxed out” and believe that he will get stronger, there is not a ton of physical projection there. You can see the athleticism in his actions and he runs far better than his frame initially lets on (4.19 seconds HP-to-1B). VanMeter has a slightly above-average arm with accuracy, but projects to be just a fringe-average defender on the corner. For some reason the speed he has on the bases does not translate in the field and he gets a bit deliberate, especially moving laterally. He came into pro ball as a shortstop/second-baseman, and 2016 is his first taste of the hot corner, so I attribute some of the stiffness he’s shown the past couple days to getting comfortable with the different angles. He has spent a few innings in the outfield as well, so it appears that San Diego has hopes of developing him into a guy that will play fringe-average to average defense at a couple different positions, and provide some extra base pop with the bat. – Dave DeFreitas
This Week at 2080 Baseball…
- Lisa Winston writes up nine more major league debuts from last week in her Les Debutantes weekly column.
- Mauricio Rubio and C.J. Wittmann are back with The Scale: Ep. 1.17: Mo Rivera, Jr. has About 700 Saves, Bud.
- Emily Waldon and Mauricio Rubio take a look at nine prospects off to strong starts in 2016 who may hit our next Top 125 Prospect Ranking List is they keep it up.
- Red Sox prospect Sam Travis (1B, Triple-A Pawtucket) is done for the year after tearing his ACL in Monday’s game, writes Jen McCaffrey of masslive.com.
- Pirates prospect Austin Meadows (OF, Double-A Altoona) hit his first home run of 2016 and has raised his average from .192 to .277 after going 14-for-28 in his last eight games. Alex Kraft of MiLB.com talks with Meadows and how the “process” is paying off.
- Red Sox prospect Wendell Rijo (2B, Double-A Portland) is the youngest player in the Eastern League and trying to catch up to the competition writes Kevin Thomas of the Portland Press Herald.
- Sam Dykstra of milb.com takes a look at some of the most interesting prospect statistics from the month of May in the Minors.
- Twins top prospect Byron Buxton (OF, Twins, MLB) was named International League Batter of the Week on Monday – and soon recalled by the Minnesota Twins a few innings into Monday’s win. The 22 year old looks ready to stick in the big leagues this time around, writes Tobias Motyka of 13wham.com, hitting .336 with six home runs, nine doubles, a pair of triples, 14 RBIs, and 26 runs scored.
- Phillies prospect Rhys Hoskins (1B, Double-A Reading) is looking to steadily advance through the minors, writes Gordie Jones of philly.com. Hoskins is a 23-year-old, former fifth-round pick of the Phillies in 2014.
- The Rockies’ Double-A affiliate Hartford Yard Goats have the top closer in the Eastern League in Berlin’s RHP Matt Carasiti, writes John Altavilla of The Hartford Courant. Carasiti has 15 saves with a 2.14 ERA, and has struck out 27 in 21 innings to date.
- Matt Huegel of SoxProspects.com profiles former Indy Leaguer Aaron Wilkerson (RHP, Red Sox, Triple-A Pawtucket), who continues to beat the odds.