Feature Photo: Brent Honeywell, RHP, Rays
Alexis Collins, Dave DeFreitas, Nick J. Faleris, and Spencer Hansen report in this week with six prospects who stood out at the fields, including Chase De Jong, (Mariners) – who also made his major league debut! – as well as right-handers Brent Honeywell (Rays), Parker French (Rockies), and Jeff Hoffman (Rockies), and shortstop Christian Arroyo and first baseman Chris Shaw from the Giants.
Ed. Note: For the remainder of the 2017 season you’ll be able to access our full season of prospect spotlights by bookmarking our 2017 Prospect Spotlight Table. 2080’s 2017 Prospect Video Library has also been launched – Mark Shreve
2080 PROSPECT SPOTLIGHTS
Zack Collins, C, White Sox (High A Winston-Salem, Carolina League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/220 B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1 2017): 22y, 2m
The White Sox provided Collins, a 2016 MLB Draft first-rounder, a 2017 launch party with an assignment to High A Winston-Salem, with the idea that his stay in the Carolina League would likely be brief, eyeing a promotion and significant time in Double-A to close out the season. Thus far, the University of Miami product has struggled to get his bat going, striking out in 16 of his 55 plate appearances and slashing just .205/.345/.364 over that span.
To Collins’ credit, he is demonstrating an advanced approach at the plate, tracking pitches well, and showing a discerning eye for balls and strikes. The hard contact has been limited in game action, however, and his hitchy load and lengthy path to contact continue to cloud his offensive projection. At present, without significant adjustments, contact and strikeout rates – particularly as he climbs the ladder and faces more advanced arms — loom large as pitfalls that could prevent him from reaching his upside as an everyday big league bat. The raw strength and BP power is still there, but it all means little if Collins isn’t able to flex that pop come 7:00 pm.
Behind the plate, Collins still shows a clunky lower half. He’s heavy footed and struggles through his transfer on throws to second as well as routine side-to-side actions in the dirt. If a move from behind the plate becomes a serious consideration, even more pressure falls on the bat carrying the profile. While the opening to the 2017 season has not been kind to Collins’ profile, it’s still just a 50-plus at-bat sample size, and hopefully he can begin tighten up his path to contact and build some offensive momentum in the coming weeks. – Nick J. Faleris
A fifth-round pick by Colorado in the 2015 Draft, French began last season with the Class A Asheville Tourists before being quickly promoted to the High A Modesto Nuts after four starts, and he stuck with Modesto the remainder of the season. He started 28 games and led the minor leagues with 177 2/3 innings pitched and finishing with a 2.63 ERA, 1.024 WHIP and 122/29 SO/BB rate (4.21 K:BB ratio). He also averaged 6.19 strikeouts-per-nine innings, and showed nearly double-plus control (1.5 BB/9) split between the two levels.
With temperatures an unseasonably-warm middle 60’s in Richmond on April 9, French turned in a strong seven-inning performance, giving up one run on four hits, and retiring the first 12 hitters he faced. He’s got a solid starter’s frame, with an athletic build and sloped shoulders. Toeing the third-base side of the rubber, his unusual windup begins with his shoulders square to home but with his body facing down the third-base line, and his leg kick brings his knee behind the rubber as he gathers. He keeps his hands high and has a full arm circle, which creates a long arm action that generates average arm speed through his 3/4’s arm slot. The delivery repeats well despite the long actions, and he finishes balanced and in a ready position.
French had his plus command on display, utilizing a fringe-average fastball that sat 90-to-92 mph (T93) and he commanded the pitch well to all quadrants. The pitch has arm-side run staying inside on right-handers. He mixed in his 3/4’s-depth slider around the 85 mph range that showed effective late vertical bite, using it several times for putaway. My looks at his changeup were limited in this viewing, but based on his arm action there is reason to believe it’s an average pitch for him and a viable third offering. He had a well-above-average 2.01 GO/AO ratio last year, and when his pitches are hittable they are mostly to the pull side. In general, hitters looked to have a hard time generating loft, and they struggled to make hard contact.
He has taken the ball for every start of his career to-date (knock on wood!) and never missed time on the DL. The ingredients here for a solid innings-eating number four starter if he can continue to throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground (and in the park) as his early career has proven that he can do this far. If he continues to get similar results against the tough bats of the Eastern League, he could be on a path to the majors sooner than some might expect – perhaps as as early as late 2018. – Alexis Collins
Chris Shaw, 1B/LF, Giants (Double-A Richmond, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 235 B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1, 2017): 23y, 6m
A first-round pick of the Giants (#31 overall) in the 2015 MLB Draft, Shaw started 2016 with the High A San Jose Giants, playing in 72 games and slashing .285/.357/.544 slash line with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs before being promoted to the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels on June 30, where his numbers dipped a bit over the last 60 games of his season, falling to a .246/.309/.414 slash line with five home runs and 30 RBIs while playing first base over his last 60 games at the level.
At 6-foot-4, Shaw has an athletic build and square shoulders, which allow him to generate plus power in his swing, and he is notably confident in the box. During his load he lifts his bat off his shoulder and his hands stay even with his shoulders, and then they raise slightly before dropping into his slot. He takes a short, balanced stride with quick hip rotation, and combined with his quick hands and strength, it generate a powerful swing with a slight uppercut finish. His quick wrists allow him to keep his hands back until the ball is deep in the zone, which has translated into some improvement in pitch recognition, and power to all fields.
During this season’s opening series, he hit one home run while making consistent hard contact, though he did chase a few pitches out of the zone. For his abbreviated 2017 season, he’s now slashing .333/.414/.608, and doing well to work deep into counts and wait for pitches he wants to hit.
While the bat is his carrying tool, his speed is well-below average. So much so, in fact, that he has never attempted a stolen base as a pro, and he’s a borderline baseclogger when he does get on.
The confidence on display at the plate does not translate to defense, where his footwork is well-below average – at times struggling to find the bag with his feet, and making the routine plays look more difficult due to the lack of situational awareness around the bag. In my views, I saw him trip over first base while trying to set up for throws, and also set up on the wrong side of the bag to receive throws.
Run and defensive deficiencies aside, Shaw has the raw athleticism to still be successful at the major league level thanks to his bat. He’ll need to clearly show improvement at first base to hold down a regular spot on a 25-man roster as a major league regular, and he can still reach a ceiling as an average, everyday first baseman if he can work out the defensive kinks, but right now, a more realistic role seems to be that of a part-time utility player in the National League, or as a DH/1B for an American League club. – Alexis Collins
It took but two Double-A starts for Honeywell – the top arm in the Rays’ system – to signal he was ready for a promotion, following a 10-start taste of the Southern League to close out 2016. In Honeywell’s 13 innings of work for Montgomery to start the season the righty struck out 20 batters while allowing just three runs on four hits and four walks. He has excelled this season at working his fastball effectively to the outer half against lefty bats, and then relying on both his screwball and changeup as his put-away offering. Against righties he has worked to bust his plus heater in on the hands while leaning on his changeup and curveball as change-of-pace offerings to disrupt timing, elevating the fastball as a chase pitch ahead in the count.
Honeywell made his Triple-A debut on Thursday night with mixed results, beginning with Max Moroff (SS, Indianapolis) ambushing a 2-2 fastball for a homer to kick off the bottom of the first after Honeywell struggled to put the young shortstop away with back-to-back screwballs. Honeywell’s in-zone command fluctuated last night, and his execution was not as crisp as he showed in his two Double-A starts, but damage was limited to Moroff’s lead-off home run and a two-run dinger by Jason Rogers (1B, Indianapolis) three innings later. Honeywell lasted six innings and struck out one over the course of the start, allowing three runs on six hits and one walk.
Given the limited heft to the heater and reliance on a screwball and changeup that float through the white when Honeywell misses his release, fly ball rates continue to be a concern, and they’ll remain a focus, particularly as the righty tackles advanced International League bats moving forward this season. – Nick J. Faleris
Christian Arroyo, SS, Giants (Triple-A Sacramento, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/180 B/T: R/R Age: (as of April 1st 2017): 21y, 11m
Arroyo has trailed behind some other top prospects around MiLB because he doesn’t have the loud tool set that some others possess. What Arroyo does have, though, is a potent bat, plus bat speed, and an advanced approach at the plate. His hands work exceptionally well, and he has excellent bat control that allows him to manipulate the barrel throughout the strike zone. Arroyo has an ease of operation, but what really sets him apart is that extra-gear quickness in his actions.
As part of a 4-for-5 night that lifted his average to .479 early in the season, Arroyo rocketed a home run over the right field wall off of a 92 mph fastball at the knees on the outside corner. There have been some knocks on him regarding his power, however he hit 36 doubles at Double-A Richmond last season after hitting 28 doubles the year prior at High A San Jose. He’s not yet 22 years old, so there is likely some room to get stronger, and young players who have advanced feel for the barrel, and that can regularly drive the gaps tend to see more and more of those two baggers clear the walls as they mature.
He isn’t going to bump the reigning Gold Glover, Brandon Crawford, off of shortstop but there are there those that feel he would be ticketed for second or third base anyway. Make no mistake though — Arroyo has the tools to stick at shortstop and be an above-average defender there. He has great body control with soft hands and a 55-grade arm. It’s true that the foot speed is below average, but the agility is plus and that more than makes up for the run grade. He will catch whatever he can get to and will make the ever-important routine plays.
If Arroyo keeps raking, he will make it very hard for the Giants not to call him up early in the summer — especially if their offense continues to struggle. Ultimately, it would not be surprising to see Arroyo settle in and have a Michael Young (MLB 2000-2013, multiple teams) type of impact for the Giants going forward. – Dave DeFreitas
After a whirlwind spring, including a March 1 trade from the Dodgers, as well as making his major league debut in Houston on April 5 in which he surrendered a game-winning, three-run home run to RF George Springer, De Jong is settling in nicely in Triple-A Tacoma, with a 1.74 ERA and 10 strikeouts over 10 1/3 innings in two appearances.
De Jong displays above-average pitchability, with a big mound presence with a good feel for sequencing, and average command and plus control of his arsenal because of an easily repeatable delivery. These attributes will be paramount for him to reach his ceiling of a number four starter, as he doesn’t dazzle hitters with any single plus offering on the bump.
He operates with a fringy fastball in the 88-to-92 mph range, but he has plus command of the pitch and does a nice job of elevating it in the when he needs to. De Jong also showed an above-average curveball with 11-to-5 shape and downer action at 73-to-75 mph that he was able use early in the count, and use as an out pitch, and confidently toss it for first-pitch strikes. He also dialed it up into the 76-to-77 range at times, giving it a more slurvy look with tighter spin.
He seldom used the changeup, but the pitch sits 82-to-85 mph and is presently fringe-average, coming out of the fastball slot. It has the potential to develop into an average pitch with increased use, and because it comes out of the fastball slot with the arm action. De Jong showed some feel for the pitch, occasionally spotting it down in the zone, but it lacked any notable movement in this viewing.
At 26 years old and having already made his debut, the Mariners probably view De Jong as a close-to-finished product at this point. He could be a nice depth piece for the Mariners should they encounter injuries over the course of the long season. However, it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see him dealt if the M’s are buyers at the trade deadline, should they still be in the race for a wild card spot come late July. – Spencer Hansen
Regarded as one of the best pitching prospects in the Rockies’ system, Hoffman showed the makings of why he could be a future solid four starter, or better, despite the results not falling in his favor during this viewing. Hoffman lasted just four innings, surrendering six hits and two earned runs April 16 at Tacoma.
During this outing, Hoffman struggled with his normally-average command and control profile as he tried to work ahead with his secondary stuff, and ended up missing to the fat part of the plate with his fastball when he got behind, and having it flatten up in the zone – and hitters took advantage, barreling him up frequently. Despite his struggles, he stayed composed and found a way to get outs on a day he wasn’t at his best.
He uses his 6’5’’, high-waisted frame, a shortened stride, and a high-3/4’s arm slot to create some serious downward angle and create a heavy shape to his fastball, which sat 91-to-94 mph, slightly below his usual 92-to-95 mph.
Additionally, Hoffman displayed an above-average, sharp-breaking curveball with 11-to-5 shape at 76-to-77 mph that was effective as more of a get-me-over offering. He also used a slider at 80-to-82 mph that had two-plane movement as an outpitch. At times his curveball and slider would run together with similar shape and depth. That said, this outing was an anomaly, where he seemingly lost some feel for both of his breaking balls on the night.
Hoffman also mixed in an above-average changeup with good arm action and late late arm-side fade at 84-to-86 mph. There were two occasions during this outing he executed the pitch well, down and away, but hitters came away with gork-shot base hits anyway.
Overall, Hoffman has the velocity, stuff, and pitchability to be an innings-eating number four starter for the Rockies, and a chance to be more than that if he can improve the command of his secondary offerings. At this point, it would be surprising if we didn’t see Hoffman taking a turn in the Rockies’ rotation by the All-Star break. – Spencer Hansen