Feature Photo: Conner Greene, RHP, Blue Jays
It’s very exciting for me to be joining of the 2080 Baseball staff, and I’m looking forward to putting my 29 years of pro scouting experience to good use, writing up a variety of prospects from around minor league parks in the Eastern and Mid-Atlantic regions this season.
In Part One of this week’s column, I sat on the Double-A Eastern League’s New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR)/Binghamton Rumble Ponies (NYM) series from the Fisher Cats’ Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, N.H. Here are my looks at five of the ten prospects that I’ll be reporting on from the series. Look out for Part Two on Thursday!
2080 Prospect Spotlights
New Hampshire Fisher Cats/Binghamton Rumble Ponies Series
Double-A Eastern League
May 4-7, 2017
Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 220 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (As of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 7m
Reid-Foley is a projectable future number three starter getting his first taste of Double-A action this year with the Fisher Cats in the Eastern League. While there is number-three upside, his command and control need to improve substantially for him to reach that ceiling. In six starts thus far this season he’s walked a total of 14 in 15 innings pitched. While the 8.4 BB/9 is an untenable number for a player with such high potential, it is early in the season and a small sample size, and it could well be just rough back-to-back outings hitting his spots. His 2016 BB/9 was a fringy 3.0 BB/9 across 115 innings at the Class A and High A levels, all while posting an impressive 10.1 SO/9 rate in that season, so I would expect the control issue to balance out as the season progresses and he eats more innings.
Reid-Foley works from an abbreviated delivery that appears as being from the stretch, with a side-step delivery and compact arm action and above-average arm strength. His trouble repeating seems rooted in what’s appears be some limited athleticism in keeping the moving parts of his large frame working together through to an online finish. He had trouble working down in the strike zone and getting over his front side in this viewing.
He’s got limited touch and feel with his three-pitch mix, but the quality of the overall stuff is there to turn over advanced lineups with regularity. Reid-Foley pitches with a plus fastball that sits 93 mph but he can get dial it up to 95 mph on occasion, and the offering has run bore and tailing action to both sides of the plate with projectable plus in-zone movement to justify the plus grade. His slider sat 83-to-86 mph with inconsistent break, break but when he didn’t muscle the pitch, it showed above-average tilt and depth with occasional plus action. His curveball was a 3/4’s breaker sitting 79-to-80 mph, and it blended too much with the slider look, but it showed enough spin action and break to be an above-average offering as well.
Reid-Foley wasn’t great in this view, with the poor command and control standing out, but he has enough arm and raw stuff to project as a future number three starter with three above-average or better offerings, and a control profile that should ultimately settle in at average at maturity, but he still has a ways to go to develop the control through improved mechanics.
Francisco Rios, RHP, Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 180 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (As of April 1st, 2017): 22y, 0m
Rios had an anomaly of an outing in this May 7 viewing, as his normally plus-or better command/control profile (double-plus control numbers of 2.2 BB/9 over 120 2/3 innings in 2016) was noticeably absent. Unlike his past outings in 2017 which he enjoyed an above-average 2.54 BB/9 ratio, he issued 6 walks in this 4 1/3 inning start, allowing seven hits and eight earned runs in 12-4 pounding by Binghamton.
Rios has an abbreviated windup with a long arm action, and with a shallow wrap in the back. He works quickly, though he will overthrow at times, and the mechanics will get out of synch by getting over a stiff front leg. His fastball sat 90-to-92 (T93), and it was a fringe-average offering both in terms of velocity and movement, though he was able to dial in some arm-side run, as well as tailing action, to both sides of the plate. While he looks to be pitching to contact more this year, as his lower strikeout rate attests to (down to 5.2 SO/9 fro 6.5 SO/9 in 2016), the offering can flatten out on him when he’s overthrowing, and that leaves his mistakes up in the zone and subject to hard contact, as happened in this viewing.
Rios will need to work on manufacturing more consistent, quality movement on the fastball in-zone to be successful, because without it, he has trouble getting to his secondary pitches. His slider was fringe-average at best, sitting 85-to-88 mph with varied breaks and depths, from a longer slurvy version, to ones with a little more ¾’s depth, but the latter but were few and far between. He also showed a fringy curveball with late-breaking action, but it was an ineffective secondary that he could not throw for strikes in this start. There is enough spin on the breaking stuff to be more than useable, but the repertoire struggles when the command is off. He also threw a below-average changeup that is a work-in-progress for him, and it was another pitch that he was susceptible to overthrowing.
He’ll need to work down consistently in the strike zone with better command of his fastball to be effective, which while not seen often enough in this viewing, it is something that is showing some results, with his season’s GO:AO ratio improving to 1.39 (up from 0.85 across two Class A levels in 2016), so the improvement may be coming. With limited body projection, and the lack of projection on either his curveball or slider to get to average grades, however, he projects as a Role 35 up/down player, with the potential to spot-start, and with some utility as an emergency arm out of the bullpen for a second-division club.
Conner Greene, RHP, Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/210 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (As of April 1st, 2017): 22y, 1m
Greene is a hands-down power-armed starter who has a floor of a solid number-three and a ceiling of a number-two starter in the big leagues if his control and command can come around as he matures. He’s on his second tour of the Eastern League this year after a mid-season bump to New Hampshire, where he finished the year with 12 starts, and 68 2/3 innings where he averaged 4.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9, and those numbers are largely unchanged this year though his first seven starts, at 4.6 and 7.0, respectively.
The 22-year-old Greene pitches from and abbreviated windup, with a shallow wrap on the back side, and with a quick arm and good extension out front. He gets good angle from his 6-foot-3 frame to generate downhill plane, and the ball really jumps out of his hand, causing some deception in the delivery as well. There are some flaws in the delivery that are cause for concern regarding the overall control/command profile, including some slight recoil in the delivery, and a plant foot hitch/spinout to the first-base side that can make it tough to repeat consistently, and seems at the root of the well-below-average walk rates he’s put up over his last 187 2/3 innings pitched from 2016-to-present.
He works his three-pitch mix aggressively in the strike zone, and his control was solid in my viewing May 6, where he walked two and struck out two, and allowed just four hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 Fisher Cat win over Binghamton. Greene features a two- and four-seam fastball that is an overall double-plus pitch, with his velocity consistently sitting 95-to-96 mph on his four-seamer and touching 99 mph on occasion. The two-seamer sat in the 93-to-94 mph range. The fastball has plus movement to-boot, with run and tail to both sides of the plate, and with heavy sink and late life. He showed solid in-zone command of the offering and kept it down in the zone to the point of getting 15 outs on ground balls just off of the fastball. His curveball is plus, with 11-to-5 break, and sitting 77-to-79 mph with good two-plane depth and bite. He seldom needed to get to his third offering, a plus changeup that sat 84-to-86 mph with late fading action and some tumble to the arm-side, and with excellent velocity separation from the fastball. The changeup was equally effective versus both RHH & LHH.
Overall, the profile is improving for the 22-year-old Greene, and he shows the feel for pitching as well as the athleticism to make the adjustments that will be necessary to get his command/control profile up to at least a fringe-average grade, if not average – it’s usually the last piece of the puzzle to come around on live power arms like his. He’s working deeper into his starts and he should be able to make the adjustments – repeating his delivery and staying online to the plate in particular – to keep moving through the system quickly. He projects comparably to Kevin Gausman (RHP, Orioles) at the major league level when it all comes together.
Tim Mayza, LHP, Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 220 lbs. B/T: L/L Age (As of April 1st, 2017): 25y, 4m
Mazya is improving, and his arrow is currently pointed up, with a future as a semi-power-pitcher’s profile that could play well in a realistic role of a middle reliever out of the bullpen. Throwing more quality strikeouts this year than in my past season’s viewings, and though a small sample size, his control has improved, with his 2017 BB/9 falling to an below-average 3.4-per-nine innings from a well-bellow average 4.2 BB/9 last year. He should settle in settle in with fringe-average control at maturity.
The fastball velocity will run up to double-plus territory at 95 mph, but he settles in more in the above-average to plus range (93-to-94 mph) on most occasions. He can get the fastball going with some run and tail, and with sink action to both sides of the plate with above-average movement. The command can be fringy at times, but it has a sense of effective wildness to it in its use. His slider is average, sitting 83-to-86 mph and its shows short, quick tilt and depth in one version, while he’s able to dial up a slurvy version to keep hitters off-balance, and throwing harder back-foot version into righties on occasion.
Mayza shows equal effectiveness versus both righties and lefties. He’s never going to be a command/control type of reliever, but he has in his possession enough stuff and pitchability to throw enough quality strikes – and use his effectively wild side to his advantage – to have a realistic role of a Role 40 major league middle reliever, capable of pitching the sixth and seventh innings perhaps as soon as this season, when roster’s expand in September.
P.J. Conlon, LHP, Mets (Double-A Binghamton, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/185 lbs. B/T: L/L Age (As of April 1st, 2017): 23y, 6m
Though limited in upside, Conlon’s best attribute is that he is a strike-throwing machine. He has continued to show double-plus control this season (1.3 BB/9), backing up his 2016 numbers of 1.5 BB/9 across two Class A levels in 2016. He works quickly from an abbreviated windup with a long arm action with arm stab in the back and a herky-jerky delivery that comes with some head whack that lends some deception.
His four-pitch mix, however, offers nothing in the form of a major league average offering. His fastball is well-below-average offering sitting just 86-to-89 mph, and it shows some arm-side run and tail with average overall movement. He’s also got an, at times, useable slider in the 77-to-78 mph range with slurvy action, but most are below-average pitches. His curveball is a below average, 12-to-6 big roller in the 71-to-72 mph range. He seldom used his changeup, sitting 75-to-77 mph, which was surprising since it was reportedly his best pitch. While he can control and command the entire arsenal effectively, and at present is striking out a batter-per-inning and sporting a 2.88 ERA across seven starts, it’s hard to project Conlon any further than his present profile, and the repertoire will be subject to significant damage at the higher levels if given the chance, because, velocity and movement issues aside, he simply is absent a legitimate out pitch. Conlon will most likely have a ceiling of a Role 30, Triple-A organizational arm.