2080 Baseball pro-side evaluators have been in the field since March getting up-close and in-person looks at the game’s top prospects. Below is a summary of all of our notes and video covering the participants in this year’s California League All-Star Game. We hope you enjoy! –Adam McInturff
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Jahmai Jones | 2B | Angels (High A Inland Empire, California League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/215 B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1, 2018): 20y, 7m
Jones has been a known prospect in prospect circles since long before his senior year at The Wesleyan School (Norcross, GA). A fixture on the amateur showcase circuit, the Angels lured him away from a UNC commitment with a $1.1 million bonus in 2015’s second round. Despite explosive athleticism, his arm and reads in center field are fringy. He was an infielder in high school who moved to the outfield in professional baseball, but he’s trying his hand at second base this season.
I saw Jones’ first game back from a quick DL stint that sidelined him from April 14-20. He wasn’t pushed defensively in this look, though his feet worked well around the bag. His 45-grade arm is better suited at second, and while he’s still understandably raw at the position, he has the makeup and athleticism to become a playable glove at the keystone. The bat is the calling card, and the ceiling is that of an offensive contributor who can play center-diamond positions–even if he isn’t a true shortstop. Jones worked the count and showed a feel for the zone, paired with an advanced feel to hit. A hustle player who gets the most out of his plus speed as a result, he dug a 4.15 run time to first while showing 50-grade raw power to boot.
It was only a single-game look, but I came away impressed with the frame and combination of hit and power tools, all while offering above-average value on the bases. Settling in at a position–potentially second base–could help Jones’ bat come along even more as he finds a consistent routine moving up the ladder. He will play the majority of this season at just 20 years old; his ceiling as an offensive-minded regular at the keystone is among the highest in an improving Angels system. -John Eshleman
Adrian Morejon | LHP | Padres (High A Lake Elsinore, California League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/175 B/T: L/L Age (as of April 1, 2018): 19y, 1m
The Padres spent over $80 million in the 2016-17 international signing class, a move resulting in the deepest stable of talent in MLB below Double-A. The club’s largest investment was $22 million on the Cuban teenage lefty Morejon, now throwing in the High A Carolina League at 19 years old.
Morejon relied heavily on his fastball, a 93-to-95 mph four-seamer with hard tailing life. He hides the ball via some shoulder tilt, causing his fastball to get on hitters quickly. His in-zone command was spotty; when Morejon hit spots, I saw a future 70-grade pitch with continued development. He mixes a two-seam variant at 89-to-92 mph with late run that gets the ball off the barrel. Morejon’s best secondary is a 1-to-7 shaped curveball at 77-to-80 mph that he already shows ability to locate in the zone to both sides of the plate. He lost feel for the breaking ball at times, but it isn’t hard to see a future plus pitch in the curve. His third pitch is a 81-to-84 mph change-up that projects to above-average. Morejon uses three pitches confidently for a teenager, with enthusing feel to get velocity separation on his changeup and delivery it with fastball armspeed.
A recurrent theme in this assessment of Morejon’s repertoire is projected development. It’s not physical, although there’s a little more in there. Instead, his quiet, smooth delivery with clean arm action projects well for health and workload. It’s an athletic delivery that Morejon repeats, allowing foreseeable development in the command and control department. His present pitchability and mound presence are mature well beyond his years. Add it all up and you have a top prospect who projects to be a mainstay in any rotation. The ceiling is that of a #2 or #3 starter at the big league level. -John Eshleman
Chris Paddack | RHP | Padres (High A Lake Elsinore, California League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1, 2018): 22y, 2m
Originally an 8th-round pick of the Marlins in 2015 out of Cedar Park H.S. (TX), Paddack went on to make his $400,000 bonus look like a bargain before undergoing Tommy John surgery late in 2016. Acquired by the Padres for Fernando Rodney midway through the 2016 season, Paddack created buzz throughout the industry during his 2016 pro debut at Class A Greensboro, and he’s pitched to a sparkling 1.54 ERA as a professional, though he’s only thrown around 90 innings in the last three seasons combined.
Paddack looks the part of a big league starter, and his 6’4’’ and 195-pound frame projects to resemble a build similar to Gerrit Cole (RHP, Astros) as he finishes filling out. He repeats his controlled semi-windup delivery well, and it’s low-maintenance in its operation overall. You can nitpick at the moderate inverted-W strain and minor recoil in his arm action, but overall, his build and delivery make him a good bet to remain a starter. When he was still in the Marlins’ system in 2016, his fastball peaked at 96 at Greensboro. This March, Paddack worked 90-to-92 with a free-and-easy arm action, though the late acceleration and hop on the fastball hints that he’s building back to the velocity he showed before his TJ surgery. His best fastballs had downhill tilt with some late arm-side run, and it isn’t difficult to project at least average fastball command. Paddack’s changeup is his best secondary offering; he has tremendous feel for pitching both in and out of the zone with it, and he throws with armspeed replicating the fastball look in the 80-to-82 mph range. That velo separation absolutely cuts down righties and lefties alike, and he got numerous swings and misses over the offering throughout his two innings of work. His curveball continues to be a developmental point of emphasis.
There’s certainly risk in a pitcher with his injury history, but the ingredients are here for a reliable number four starter at the big league level. If Paddack’s curveball improves a grade or two, the ceiling could be higher than that. How he bounces back from missing a year-plus with injury will be a storyline to follow for Padres prospect watchers. -Adam McInturff
Feature Reports (Including Video)
- Evan White, 1B, Mariners (High A Modesto) –John Eshleman
- Connor Wong, C, Dodgers (High A Rancho Cucamonga) –John Eshleman
- Gavin Lux, 2B, Dodgers (High A Rancho Cucamonga) –John Eshleman
- Parker Dunshee, RHP, Athletics (High A Stockton) –John Eshleman
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