Feature Photo: Timmy Robinson, OF, Yankees
(Pictured w/ USC in 2015)
Alec Dopp has been hopping around the Short-Season A New York-Penn League for 2080 Baseball, and checks in with some recent looks at Staten Island Yankees prospects Timmy Robinson (OF), Nick Green (RHP), and Dom Thompson-Williams (OF), as well as Willliamsport Phillies left-hander Bailey Falter.
After the Phillies stockpiled infield bats early in the 2015 draft, Falter became Philadelphia’s first pitcher drafted, getting him in the fifth round. The Phillies signed him to a $420,000 bonus, roughly $50,000 above slot value, and got the ball rolling in his pro debut in late June. The California prep southpaw lived up to the lofty expectations in his first abbreviated campaign, posting a 3.45 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 8.33 K:BB ratio across 28.2 innings in the rookie Gulf Coast League. Fast forward to 2016, and Falter has impressed in his first go-around in the Short-Season A NY-Penn League, mustering a 9.0 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 3.46 ERA across eight starts.
There is a lot to like about Falter’s physical build and refined mechanical attributes. Falter has a wiry and projectable 6-foot-4 frame, with room to pack on muscle to his lower half and torso. He is athletic, balanced and loose in his delivery, and he repeated his 3/4s arm slot well in my viewing. Falter works downhill well and creates nice extension out front, employing minimal head whack at release and landing with a clean and soft foot strike. Falter’s combination of athleticism and downhill plane allows for above-average control and command for his age, which shows up in his low walk rate in the pros. He showed some comfort locating inside to righties and lefties, and when he missed his spot, he primarily missed low in the zone and in the dirt. This allowed him to limit hard contact at the letters and to regularly induce ground ball contact.
Falter showed average fastball velocity in his start against State College, working 88-to-91 mph (T93). His fastball features some natural arm-side movement and works best thrown down in the zone, though it flattened out when elevated. His velocity declined a tick from the stretch, and also later in the start, so adding some muscle should bring about improved endurance and durability down the road. He relies heavily on his curveball, siting 75-to-77 mph in this start, and it was his go-to pitch, featuring 11-to-5 shape and occasionally flashing true 12-to-6 break. The pitch showcased sharp, downward break and was consistently difficult for hitters to identify at release. His changeup is raw, and presently lacks the ideal velocity separation from the heater, varying anywhere from 83-to-86 mph, with a two seam-looking action with fade away from right-handers rather than a pure changeup. The fading action was , but subtracting a few ticks off the changeup will help it play up even more.
Falter has a projectable, athletic build and clean mechanics from the left side and shows the ability to work ahead in the count and pound the zone with frequency. Adding a few ticks to the fastball will help as he matures physically. Like most prep hurlers, the key to sticking in the rotation will be developing the changeup for the long haul, though as most would attest, it is generally easier to develop feel for a changeup than the curve, which works in his favor. If everything comes together, Falter could have a potential mid-rotation profile, albeit with higher risk given his age, and his ability to build his innings count and fill out physically as he works his way through the Phillies’ farm system.
A productive senior campaign (.282/.368/.486, eight home runs, nine stolen bases in 56 games) playing in USC’s outfield netted Robinson a 21st-round selection from the Yankees this past June, and the 22-year-old’s first tour of pro ball has opened some eyes. The former California prep bat has posted a top-five ISO (.219) among active NYPL hitters and has supplemented it with some speed (6 SB). Robinson features a thick, stocky frame and muscular lower half and looked more physically developed than most players at the level. Employing a slight uppercut in his swing path, he generates natural loft and carry with backspin after contact, and in BP Robinson displayed some pop to his pull side and to left-center field, peppering the wall with hard line drives.
Robinson’s strongest asset is his raw power and hard contact, with both raw and in-game considered average right now, and his profile would project more as a 10 home run, 25 doubles-per-year guy overall. His swing begins with a slightly open stance, knees bent, weight on his back side and hands positioned neck-height. He initiates his load by bringing his weight back further on his right leg and employs two subtle toe touches before he plants his left heel. Robinson created good stretch in his hands and didn’t cast the barrel out in his swing. In fact, both of his hits in-game were against fastballs in on his hands, where he kept his hands inside the ball for hard liners to left center. This showed he has an ability to adjust his hands, shorten up in his swing path and to keep the barrel in the impact zone for an extended time in his motion.
Though his plate discipline metrics aren’t particularly impressive at this point (0.36 BB/K and roughly league-average 11.0% unintentional walk rate), Robinson showed some selectivity at the plate in the contest, laying off of a handful of sliders and chase pitches in the dirt. There was some noticeable head movement in the swing on a few occasions, however, which, in conjunction with having all of his weight on the back side in his load, paints some doubt as to whether he will be able to adjust to off-speed pitches enough to make consistent contact in the future. Robinson will likely be tested against advanced secondary pitches once he reaches full-season ball.
Robinson flashed average overall speed on the bases, though he made the most of it by getting out of the box quickly and looking to take an extra base after contact. He hustled for a double in his first hit of the game, turning the corner aggressively. Robinson’s stocky, muscular build isn’t necessarily ideal for stealing bases, but he should steal 10-plus bases annually and his speed when underway, paired with his power profile and his above-average arm strength, should play fine in a corner-outfield spot down the road.
Green, a seventh-round pick from the Junior College ranks back in 2014, was one of three prospects (along with Dillon Tate and Erik Swanson) sent to New York in the trade that shipped Carlos Beltran to the Rangers at the July 31 trade deadline. The 21-year-old featured some promising peripheral ability as a starter in the Short-Season A Northwest League earlier this season, harboring the league’s second-best K/9 rate (11.5) alongside a surplus of worm-killing contact (5.56 ground out-to-air out ratio) across seven starts. Any combination of whiffs and ground balls can be of value at the major league level – either as a starter or reliever – which piqued my interest in seeing him throw in-person.
Physically, Green has a lean, athletic frame with a build that has some room to fill out in both his upper and lower half. He worked from a high ¾’s arm slot and was able to effectively replicate his quick arm speed in my viewing. His delivery is compact and easily repeatable, with medium effort throughout his motion. He stays online toward plate with minimal falloff to first base, though there is some spine tilt. His windup begins with subtle side step to first base and a level leg lift, showing good balance over the rubber. Green hides the ball well on the backside and masks his pitches well with a consistent arm slot. Creates effective torque with lower body and hip rotation. He’s got average drive off the rubber and creates good extension out front, landing clean with moderate head whack at release. Green maintained clean and loose arm action in the start, though he showed a tendency to cut off his finish when throwing offspeed.
His start last Friday featured an above-average 91-to-94 mph fastball (T95) with heavy sinking action, and was effective when located down in the zone. He stayed around the plate consistently with it, though he employs more control than command of it at this point. Green blended in a 77-to-81 mph curveball as his go-to secondary offering, flashing above-average 11-to-5 shape with plus overall depth and hard, downer action. He used it when down in the count and back-footed it to lefties a handful of times. The pitch will require improved command, though Green shows good feel for the spin and it showcased consistent hard break. Green’s changeup sat in the 83-to-85 mph range and was used mostly vs. lefties. He replicates arm speed and release point when using it. Flashed more fade than drop and he tended to leave it up and arm-side. The changeup remains a work in progress, and he’ll need to use it more for hitters to respect it.
Considering everything, it is understandable why the Yankees showed an interest in acquiring Green in a trade package with Texas. With only moderate effort, he showed one of the better sitting fastball velocities I’ve seen in the NYPL this season with a curveball that flashes potential to be an above-average out pitch at the next level. He does a good job of staying around the plate right now, and the compactness and simplicity of his delivery should help him augment his command for the future. A lot will be determined with his third pitch. The changeup will need to be thrown with more conviction and frequency, especially against right-handed hitters, though he showed repeatable arm speed and subtracted velocity well in relation to the fastball, which are building blocks for its development and future usability. Ideally, Green hones his command, irons out his changeup and becomes an average back-end starter.
While three of New York’s first four picks in this summer’s draft were spent on either high school or JUCO talent, the Yankees proceeded to load up on college bats and arms with subsequent picks. At the forefront of the transition was Thompson-Williams, whom New York plucked in the fifth round after the 21-year-old enjoyed a versatile junior season at South Carolina (.321/.418/.517, 8 HR, 18 SB across 64 games). The organization gave him a $250,000 signing bonus and sent him to the NYPL shortly thereafter, where he currently owns a .243/.350/.316 slash with two home runs and 14 stolen bases in 41 contests.
Thompson-Williams’ most useful present tool is his speed, which projects to be an above-average asset for him at the next level. His 6-foot frame was slightly stockier than I had expected; he is naturally athletic and strong in his lower half, and still has some room to pack on muscle above the waist. Thompson developed a reputation for plate discipline in college ball (81 BB/89 K over three seasons), and the numbers suggest that has carried over to his first tour of pro ball (21 BB/31 K). That patience and the ability to work the count wasn’t consistently on display in the live look, however. He expanded the zone and generally looked uncomfortable against lefty Cole Irvin (Williamsport), flailing at sliders and changeups in the dirt on a handful of occasions, a few of which are viewable in the video package below. Thompson-Williams was able to draw a walk against right-handed reliever Blake Quinn (Williamsport), appearing more comfortable and patient at the plate.
Thompson-Williams’ skills with the bat are still raw and require mechanical refinement. He does have quick hands, a level bat path and a compact stroke. However, his approach at the plate is mostly slap-oriented with a lot of ground ball and short line-drive trajectories and average overall bat speed. His raw power is below average at present and projects to be the same at maturity, though he showed gap-power potential in BP, which could project to average if he fills out more. He’s got some pre-swing bat wrap, which tends to slow his hands in his load. This often leaves him susceptible to fastballs up in the strike zone, and right now that appears to be an exploitable spot for pitchers to target to get him out. He’ll need to incorporate his lower half more effectively to drive the ball, as there are are a lot of moving and inconsistent parts at present. His front foot tends to be slow in getting planted and he can get caught flat-footed when fooled. He also interchanges a single and double toe touch and varies the height of his leg kick pre-swing, which appears to mess up his ability to prepare for different offerings.
Considering everything, Thompson-Williams is still a ways away from being ready to handle advanced pitching at the higher pro levels. However, there are some tools to like here. He has plus speed and plus defensive range in center with an average arm, which could ultimately profile him best as a contact-first center fielder with an ability to contribute as a base-stealing threat for a big league roster down the road. How efficiently the power and contact skills develop will ultimately determine how quickly he advances through the Yankees’ system.