Weekly Prospect Spotlights: C.J. Chatham and Recent Red Sox Reports

Featured Photo: Tristen Lutz (OF, Brewers)

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Each week, Jared Wyllys digs into his notebook and shares some info on a prospect of his choice, then passes along some select entries from our 2018 Prospect Spotlight Library and 2018 Pro Scouting Report Library. This week, we get a closer look at 2017 first rounder Tristen Lutz (OF, Brewers (Class A Wisconsin)), who is concerning himself more with approach and process than production in his first year of full season ball.

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Prospect Focus: C.J. Chatham, SS, Red Sox (High A Salem, Carolina League)

It took just 75 at-bats for Red Sox prospect C.J. Chatham to earn a promotion this year. After batting .307 in the Class A South Atlantic League during the first month of this season, Chatham got the call to head to Boston’s affiliate in the High A Carolina League just over a week ago.

Since his 0-for-3 debut against the Winston-Salem Dash on May 8, Chatham has hit .300 for the Salem Red Sox, including a three-hit day last Friday (including two doubles). The 2016 second-rounder credits his early success with his ability to be adaptable.

“It’s knowing I need to make changes a lot,” Chatham told 2080 Baseball as he reflected on what it’s taken for him to be successful.

These adjustments have included adapting to the improved pitching as he has moved up in Boston’s farm system and adjusting his mindset to being a designated hitter for much of 2018 after severe hamstring issues kept him off the field for much of 2017. Prior to 2018, Chatham logged most of his time at shortstop.

For the former, Chatham says, he has picked up on the fact that often the biggest difference from Short-Season A to Class A to High A is the number of good starters a team has, with teams in the High A Carolina League, according to Chatham, having three or four good starters. Hitters will commonly note that pitchers miss their spots less frequently as they move from the lower rungs of the system to the higher, but despite this Chatham said he doesn’t mire himself in video or advance reports as he prepares.

“You read the report on what they like to do, and to me it’s more like don’t change anything, do the same thing, because my thing is like if I’m not hitting, I know what I’m doing, it’s never really what the pitcher is doing,” Chatham said. “It’s minimizing, when you see something going wrong, it’s not what am I doing. You make adjustments every pitch.”

His instincts at the plate have worked well so far, and while he has been adjusting to better pitching, Chatham has also been learning a new role on the team as a designated hitter. He said that at first he would keep his batting gloves and bat with him all the time to try and stay locked in, but after a short time, that changed.

“What I think has worked more is putting the batting gloves and helmet on the other side of the dugout. Going away from the hitting side of it and talking about other stuff with guys, and then when I’m in the hole or up fourth, then alright, we lock it in,” Chatham said.

Essentially, Chatham says, he is recreating the mindset of being on defense, even while he is sitting in the dugout between at-bats. Chatham has been used as a DH this season after injuries restricted him to only seven games in 2017, but he expects to be back on defense by Saturday.

Sometimes the difference between the player who advances and the one who doesn’t is his mindset. Even through injury and a new role, Chatham has demonstrated that he can adjust accordingly. –Jared Wyllys


Weekly Featured Spotlights

Tanner Houck | RHP | Red Sox (High A Salem, Carolina League)
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/210            B/T: R/R           Age (as of April 1, 2018): 21y, 9m

Boston’s first-rounder last year, Houck started his first full pro season with High A Salem. He has flashed the dominant strikeout ability that has long made him a prospect, while also showing that his control has a ways to go if he is to remain a starting pitcher down the road.

The moving parts in Houck’s unconventional delivery make it tough for him to throw strikes, but he also has a ton of deception. Hitters don’t see the ball until very late, as his closed landing and slingy 3/4’s slot are only aided by the extension his 6-foot-5 frame adds to his pitches. The fastball sits at 93-to-94  mphthroughout starts, touching 95-to-96 mph even as his pitch count rises. It’s a heavy ball with natural running life from his low release point, though he relies on his velocity to overpower hitters without much in-zone command.

Houck sprays the zone with minimal ability to pitch to spots; he has walked three or more hitters in five of his first seven starts, a total of 22 free passes through his first 30 innings. His slider is a real separator, flashing nasty wipeout action at best and overwhelming A-Ball hitters when he’s up in the count. Thrown in the 82-to-86 mph range, it has hybrid tilt that’s somewhere between a curve and true slider. When he can keep his hand on top of the ball, it’s a hammer pitch that looks like a future 60-grade offering. A high-80s changeup is his third pitch and is behind the fastball/slider combo. He often yanks it across his body because of the crossfire action in his delivery, getting unintentional cut action on a straight changeup that lacks separation from the fastball.

Houck will get every chance to start, though something will really have to click in the control and pitch-efficiency department for him to reach his ceiling in the rotation. I loved his competitive fire and edge on the mound and felt it was well suited for the bullpen. The unconventional delivery and power two-pitch mix make him a candidate to close if he takes to the spotlight of the 9th inning. –Adam McInturff


Marino Campana | OF | Red Sox (Class A Greenville, South Atlantic League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/180            B/T: R/R           Age (as of April 1, 2018): 20y, 4m

Boston signed Campana for $100K on the first day of the July 2nd period in 2014. Physicality, raw power, and a strong outfield arm were the calling cards then, and while those tools still intrigue, there hasn’t been much polish added since he turned pro. Now 20-years-old, Campana hits in the middle of Greenville’s lineup, playing right field for the Low-A club.

A muscular and athletic 6-foot-4, the right-handed hitter shows serious power potential in BP. His raw already grades as a 60, and when you consider his age and remaining physical projection, it isn’t unreasonable to project double-plus raw power down the road. The question is how much power he gets to in games, as his approach and contact ability are still close to the bottom of the 20-80 scale. Campana has a wild, lashing swing that doesn’t take a consistent path to the baseball. Pitch recognition is an issue, as shows little concept of adjusting the barrel to soft stuff or shortening up to keep an at-bat alive.

In my three-game viewing, he consistently buckled against (even marginal) right-handed breaking stuff, leaking open his front hip and drifting away from pitches to the outer-half. Defensively, Campana has prototypical right field tools—he’s a large, athletic frame who covers ground with long strides and shows a 60-grade throwing arm. I was impressed with the throws I saw from him across the series and an infield/outfield, all of them showing velocity and firm, low carry.

Campana has loud raw tools that show up in a workout setting, but he’s too raw at the plate for me to put a regular ceiling grade on him. This is the type of profile that can flame out around the middle of the minor league ladder. If he does figure something out at the plate, a realistic ceiling could be that of Junior Lake: a physical, athletic 5th outfielder with speed and power who never finds enough consistency for more than a few cups of coffee. –Adam McInturff


Weekly Featured Reports