Feature Photo: Cole Irvin, LHP, Phillies
(with Oregon Ducks in 2016)
I was able to make my way to Lakeland, Florida to the High A Florida State League All-Star Game, held June 17 at Joker Marchant Stadium (home of the Lakeland Flying Tigers), to kick off a brief tour of the FSL for 2080 Baseball last week. As for the game itself, it was won by the North Division, 5-2, mostly thanks to the game’s MVP Gavin LaValley (see below) and his pair of two-run home runs.
While All-Star games have their own sense of excitement and pageantry for minor league fans, they also offer scouts to get brief looks at prospects who are otherwise fanned out across the league, and who I may not get a chance to get a regular viewing of during the season except for their appearance here. So this week, as opposed to filing full reports on players from the game, I decided to write up my notes on six players who stood out to me after spending time watching BP sessions and/or game action.
I’ll be back next week with additional reports from regular-season action in the FSL that picked up right after the All-Star game.
2080 Prospect Spotlights
High A Florida State League All-Star Game
June 17, 2017
Cole Irvin, LHP, Phillies (High A Clearwater, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/180 lbs. B/T: L/L Age (As of April 1, 2017): 23y, 3m
Irvin was the surprise player of the game in my looks, throwing a solid inning of relief for the North Division and giving up a single hit. The 2016 fifth-round pick of the Phillies out of Oregon, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound lefty has a strong, durable frame and a semi-power arm with a loose, live, and quick arm action. Coming from a 3/4’s slot with a shallow wrap and some arm stab in the back, his fastball sat 93-to-95 mph, and it was a pitch that he could locate to both sides of the plate with run and tailing action and plus movement and command. His slider is presently average, but projectable, showing tilt and depth in this outing but used sparingly. His changeup is a plus offering with late fading action though he’ll need to develop some consistent velo separation with the pitch as it was sitting 86-to-88 mph, and looked to be overthrown.
He’s thrown just 112 innings as a pro so far, and it was a short look, but he’s being developed as a starter and his double-plus control numbers (1.8 BB/9 2016 at Short-Season A Williamsport, and 1.9 BB/9 through 67 innings this year) and his ability to keep the ball on the ground (1.54 GO:AO ratio this year) tell me he’ll keep developing as such, giving him the ingredients for a floor of a number four starter.
Gerson Moreno, RHP, Tigers (High A Lakeland, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/175 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (As of April 1, 2017): 21y, 6m
Signed by the Tigers out of the Dominican Republic at 16 years old in 2012, Gerson is a pure reliever profile with the mentality to match, and he threw two-thirds of an inning in the FSL All-Star Game. His fastball is near-elite graded, sitting 97-to-99 mph and the ball really jumps out of his hand and gets late tailing life from a 3/4’s slot and stretch-only delivery. He can get some chase on the pitch out of the zone with plus movement, though his in-zone movement lightens up to average when he needs to hit his spot. He also has a fringy slider sitting 83-to-85 mph that looked guided in this view, and he needs to develop the confidence to let it arm go with the pitch for it to become a more effective alternative to the fastball. He can look erratic, to the point of effective wildness, and his well-below-average control numbers indicate a consistent issue with finding the zone, though he is improving this year (3.22 BB/9 rate over 22 1.3 innings (down from 5.0 BB/9 in 2016 across Class and High A). While he’ll need to keep the control numbers in check, and improve the slider to at least average, live arms like this don’t exactly grow on trees, and if he can keep it together, he profiles as a nice sixth- or seventh-inning bullpen piece. The Tigers moved him to the Erie SeaWolves for his first taste of Double-A action after this game.
Jake Brentz, LHP, Pirates (High A Bradenton, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/200 lbs. B/T: L/L Age (As of April 1, 2017): 22y, 6m
Brentz is a power armed- lefty who profiles best as a reliever at the major league level, though he’s got some development work to do with his slider and control to get there. He threw an inning of relief in the All-Star Game, striking out two and walking one in the process.
Acquired at the trade deadline to complete a deal with Seattle for right-handed reliever Arquimedes Caminero last year, Brentz has a short arm action and a 3/4’s arm slot. His herky-jerky delivery can be deceptive, but it’s also the cause of some trouble repeating, which is the root of his erratic control as a pro ( 7.1 and 4.8 BB/9 rates in his two prior years and 81 2/3 combined innings). His double-plus fastball was sitting 95-to-97 mph in this look, mostly at 95 mph, and he can work it to both sides of the plate with boring action to righties and effective tailing movement to lefties. He gets hard tilt with his slider at 82-to-85 mph and will benefit from staying on top of the pitch and commanding it with more consistently.
His advancement will be mostly based on his ability to reign in the control numbers – though with the delivery may prevent him from getting to an average grade – but he is trending the right way this year with a 3.1 BB/9 rate over his 26 innings with Bradenton. In this look, the major leaguer that came to mind as a comparison was Mike Dunn (LHRP, Rockies).
Gavin LaValley, 1B/3B, Reds (High A Daytona, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/225 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (As of April 1, 2017): 22y, 3m
Taken in the fourth-round out of Carl Albert HS (Midwest City, OK), LaValley had the DH role for the All-Star game, where he earned MVP honors after knocking a pair of two-run home runs in his three at-bats.
LaValley plays either corner of the infield but spends the majority of his time at first base, and he has the body type and athleticism that looks more conducive to play first base long term. Reports from the scouting section were that he has worked hard over the last season to lose weight. He brings plenty of bat speed in his long swing to get extended with strength, loft, and leverage to his swing. He can barrel up balls and makes good, consistent hard contact, and for the season he’s got 15 home runs and 14 doubles to show for it, while slashing .288/.332/.538 to-date. Looks to be a very good mistake hitter from what I saw, and projects to be an average hitter with above average in-game power, which is a nice combination to have for an athletic first baseman.
Shed Long, 2B, Reds (High A Daytona, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 5’9”/185 lbs. B/T: L/R Age (As of April 1, 2017): 21y, 6m
A 12th-round selection by the Reds in 2013, Long has a strong, compact frame with an athletic body. He went 2-for-2 in the game, using the entire field with good bat control, and he showed the ability to keep the barrel on plane and in the strike zone. In both at-bats he worked the count into his favor and showed solid plate discipline, which also plays out in his season stats as he’s put up .363, .371, and .380 OBP numbers over his last three full seasons. He has strength, loft, and leverage to his swing and shows above-average power potential while also hitting for average (.283 in 173 PAs, and.293 in 548 PA’s in past two seasons, up to .312 this year in 279 PA’s). His arm grades as average, and while the arm action is quick he’ll need to improve when throwing from angles, which is not an unexpected developmental point given that he is a converted catcher (since 2015) who is still getting up to speed on the nuances of playing second base, but he projects easily to an average glove and range with the athleticism to handle his new position. Long reminded me of a left-handed version of Devon Travis (2B, Blue Jays).
Randy Arozarena, RF, Cardinals (High A Palm Beach, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/170 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (As of April 1, 2017): 22y, 1m
Although Arozanera didn’t record a hit in the game, he showed a quick, live bat with a loose swing and the ability to barrel-up balls with solid bat control on a swing path that stays in the zone for an extended period. He participated in the short-lived home run derby (cancelled after first round due to rain) and in those swings, he showed a flatter path more oriented for line drives than loft, and he’s hitting the gaps plenty this season, with 24 extra-base hits along with his eight home runs. In right field, he shows an average arm and fielding actions, with good reads and reactions, and his speed plays up in the outfield, where his athletic strides give him plus running ability once underway.
There’s still some projection in the body, and over the course of time he should gain more strength and leverage to his swing that could develop into average power at maturity, but it may not reach the power production typical of a Role 50, regular right fielder in the big leagues. A Role 45, second-division regular profile is more realistic.