Feature Photo: Brad Wieck, LHP, Padres
Righties Justin Anderson (Angels), Barrett Astin (Reds), Rayan Gonzalez (Rockies), and Greg Harris (Rays) highlight this week’s Prospect Video Library update, along with some high-profile bats in Ryan O’Hearn (1B, Royals) and Connor Joe (3B, Pirates).
Also, in case you missed it, we have had a busy week! Dave DeFreitas and Nick J. Faleris are cranking through organizational reviews of all 30 teams this offseason, beginning with the Twins, Reds, and Padres – all published last week; Lisa Winston has analysis of the 2017 MLB Rule 5 Draft; Melissa Lockard profiles Athletics right-hander Dylan Covey, and we launch our new Podcast, Defensive Indifference, with two new episodes.
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Justin Anderson, RHP, Angels (Scottsdale Scorpions, Arizona Fall League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 220 B/T: L/R Age: 24y, 2m
While Anderson’s first taste of the fall league was uninspiring from a production standpoint – 6.75 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, and eight strikeouts and five walks in five relief appearances – the 24-year-old showed glimpses of promising stuff in the desert. The Houston native regularly touched 97 mph with his double-plus fastball in his scouted appearance with Scottsdale, blending in an above-average high-80s slider that produced a handful of empty swings alongside a late-fading 84-to-86 mph changeup that regularly caught hitters out front. Anderson’s command will require refinement for long-term success, but he has the look of a future back-end starter with quality velocity and two solid-average secondary offerings.
Ryan O’Hearn, 1B, Royals (Surprise Saguaros, Arizona Fall League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 200 B/T: L/L Age: 23y, 4m
One of the preeminent power-hitting bats in the minor leagues – 62 home runs, .213 ISO across 325 pro contests – O’Hearn spent much of October atop the AFL offensive leaderboards, and concluded his stay with a .291/.384/.372 slash in 23 games. While his plus raw power wasn’t necessarily on full display (one home run; four doubles), O’Hearn showed consistent hard contact with a smooth, leveraged swing. O’Hearn was susceptible to some swing and miss (26% K-rate in Arizona, similar to his overall to his pro numbers) and he’ll expand the zone below the knees from time to time, but he generally displayed good patience at the plate, and an ability to work the count for his pitch, resulting in a 13% walk rate in Arizona.
Kean Wong, 2B, Rays (Peoria Javelinas, Arizona Fall League)
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 190 B/T: L/R Age: 21y, 7m
Brother of Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, Kean’s AFL debut transpired about as well as the Rays could have hoped, as the 21-year-old mustered a .313/.389/.363 slash line with four stolen bases and a handsome 9:11 walk-to-strikeout rate in 22 games. Wong’s offensive tools aren’t particularly loud, owning fringy raw power limited to his pull-side, and below-average straight-line speed (4.43 HP-to-1B), but his flat barrel plane is conducive to quality contact (14.7% career K-rate) and gap power. Wong saw time at third base for the first time as a pro at Double-A Montgomery, but his limited power profile and average defensive range and reactions are likely best suited for second base long term.
Brad Wieck, LHP, Padres (Peoria Javelinas, Arizona Fall League)
Ht/Wt: 6’9” / 255 B/T: L/L Age: 25y, 1m
One of the most productive relievers at any level of pro ball in 2016 – 1.17 ERA, 13.6 SO/9, zero home runs in 61 1/3 innings between High A and Double-A – Wieck took a step backward against advanced AFL bats, owning a 6.57 ERA and 1.86 WHIP along with 19 strikeouts and 11 walks across 12 1/3 innings. Tall and strong on the mound, Wieck creates deception via his cross-fired delivery to the plate, which often throws his balance out of whack, making it difficult to spot his fringe-average 90-to-92 mph fastball near the mitt. The 25-year-old will mix in a high-70s slider and 82-to-83 mph changeup to keep hitters honest, though both did not show anything more than average movement, nor bat-missing ability, in the scouted appearance.
Barrett Astin, RHP, Reds (Peoria Javelinas, Arizona Fall League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 200 B/T: R/R Age: 25y, 1m
Shortly after concluding his best campaign as a pro – 2.26 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.4 SO/9 IP in 103.1 IP at Double-A Pensacola – Astin turned around and produced merely average production with Peoria’s bullpen (3.21 ERA, eight strikeouts, seven walks in 14 IP). The Arkansas product’s final appearance of the fall league was not particularly sharp (1 1/3 IP, 3 ER) and his stuff was not overwhelming, working 91-to-93 mph with heavy sinking action to his fastball and mixing in an average high-80s cutter as his primary secondary offering. Astin’s solid strikeout totals, ability to induce grounders (2.42 GO:AO), and good control (2.2 BB/9) in 2016 give reason to believe he could hold a back-end starter profile, with the fallback of a long-relief role.
Connor Joe, 3B, Pirates (Surprise Saguaros, Arizona Fall League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 205 B/T: R/R Age: 24y, 3m
Signed for under-slot value as a first-round competitive balance selection back in 2014, Joe slashed .277/.351/.392 with 5 home runs and 26 doubles with High A Bradenton in 2016 before chalking up a .718 OPS with the Saguaros this fall. The 24-year-old’s best asset is his above-average hit tool, which encompasses excellent pitch recognition and contact skills and his ability to cover all quadrants of the zone. His power profile may never be much more than gap-oriented, but Joe’s quality plate discipline (11 BB/11 K in Arizona; 0.81 BB/K as a pro), on-base skills (.358 OBP as a pro) and average speed (4.28 HP-to-1B) give him a handful of tools with which to contribute to a major league roster down the road.
Rayan Gonzalez, RHP, Rockies (Salt River Rafters, Arizona Fall League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 175 B/T: R/R Age: 26y, 1m
Among the older batch of arms on the fall league circuit – he turned 26 in October – Gonzalez also proved to be one of the most effective in the desert, harboring a 2.31 ERA and 0.77 WHIP to go with 12 strikeouts and two walks across 11.2 innings out of Salt River’s bullpen. The right-hander is no stranger to lofty whiff totals (10.2 SO/9 over 200-plus pro innings), though, wielding a 94-to-96 mph fastball with late cutting action and an above-average curveball that flashes hard downer action in the lower 80s to miss bats. Gonzalez’s late-moving stuff has made it difficult to throw strikes consistently (4.0 BB/9 rate for Double-A Hartford last year), but his combination of bat-missing ability and heavy ground-ball contact (2.48 GO:AO ratio as a pro) makes him an intriguing bullpen arm for Colorado to consider moving forward.
Eric Haase, C, Indians (Mesa Solar Sox, Arizona Fall League)
Ht/Wt: 5’10” / 180 B/T: R/R Age: 23y, 11m
A standout both at the plate and behind it in 2016 (12 home runs, .230 ISO, 43% caught-stealing rate in 63 Double-A contests), Haase made the most of his limited action as a taxi-squad member of Mesa’s roster, slashing .278/.316/.444 with three doubles in five games. Strong and thick below the waist, Haase flashes above-average raw power that works to all fields. His swing can get long, leading to a fair amount of swing-and-miss (31% strikeout rate in 2016; 28% as a pro), and his ability to handle quality offspeed and breaking offerings may be a hindrance to his production at the next level. Haase will have to prove he can withstand the rigors of a full season, as he has yet to put together a healthy season from behind the plate.
Brian O’Grady, OF, Reds (Peoria Javelinas, Arizona Fall League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 215 B/T: L/R Age: 24y, 6m
Cincinnati’s eighth-round pick from 2014, O’Grady’s first full season in the High A Florida State League yielded 9 home runs, 16 stolen bases and above-AFL-average marks in OBP (.363), ISO (.159) and OPS (.758) across 107 games. The 24-year-old’s AFL introduction wasn’t quite as productive (.211/.333/.237 in 11 contests), but he showed some skills in his abbreviated stay. O’Grady displays good knowledge of the strike zone and has consistently posted high walk rates as a pro (14.5% walk rate for his career), generating average contact (20.7% strikeout rate in 1144 career PAs). While he showed below-average speed in limited looks in the desert (4.40 HP-to-1B), he has been a heady basestealer thus far (48 SB/10 CS).
Greg Harris, RHP, Rays (Peoria Javelinas, Arizona Fall League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 170 B/T: R/R Age: 22y, 2m
After posting top-ten marks among qualified Florida State League arms in innings (147), ERA (3.12), WHIP (1.20) and SO/9 (8.2), Harris’ posted similarly impressive baseline numbers in Arizona (2.19 ERA) despite otherwise uneven peripherals (9 BB/8 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings). Lean and still somewhat projectable, Harris sat 92-to-94 mph with his four-seam fastball in one relief appearance for Peoria, mixing in an average 82-to-85 mph changeup that created good velocity separation from his fastball, but lacked the requisite depth and fade to miss bats. The 22-year-old showed well-below-average command in the live view, often missing up with his fastball, and his overall control still requires significant refinement, as his 3.7 BB/9 IP in 2016 reflects.