Featured Photo: Jeremiah Estrada, RHP, Cubs
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John Eshleman recently spent time at the Arizona complexes taking in extended spring training and came away with notes on some interesting low-minors talent. Below are a collection of spotlights pulled from our library highlighting four of these players.
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Jeremiah Estrada, RHP, Cubs (Extended Spring Training)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/185 B/T: B/R Age (as of April 1, 2018): 19y, 5m
Estrada was the Cubs’ sixth-rounder in the 2017 Draft, paying him second round money to forego his UCLA commitment. He appeared briefly in the Rookie-Level Arizona League last summer, and I got a look at him this May after he began the season in Extended Spring Training.
Estrada isn’t tall, but he’s well-built and has solid strength in both his upper and lower halves. His best pitch is a tailing 92-to-93 mph fastball. When the delivery is synced, he gets solid plane from his ¾ slot, extending well through the pitch. In order to throw more consistent strikes, Estrada needs to iron out some aspects of his mechanics: pronounced inverted-W strain causes the arm to clear late, and he consistently sailed the fastball up and armside in my viewing. A mid-70s curveball projects as his best secondary pitch, showing 11-5 tilt and flashes of late action. A lesser-used changeup at 81-to-84 mph is the third; there’s less ability to keep it around the plate than the curve, though the best of Estrada’s changeups showed separation and fade.
Despite difficulties repeating the delivery, the overall operation is low-effort and Estrada generates velocity easily. I think he’s athletic enough to project on the command slightly, but there’s enough present noise to clean up, the command isn’t likely to finish better than fringe-average even with improvements. There might not be a carry tool for a starting rotation role; Estrada’s most impactful contribution seems more likely to be that of a two-pitch pen piece. His fastball could jump a few ticks, allowing the curve to play closer to above-average off the increased velocity.
Brailyn Marquez, LHP, Cubs (Extended Spring Training)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/185 B/T: L/L Age (as of April 1, 2018): 19y, 2m
The lanky southpaw signed with the Cubs for $600K as a 16-year-old in 2015. He made his stateside debut last summer in the Rookie-Level Arizona League, striking out more than a batter per inning while keeping his free passes in check. He’s likely to head to Short-Season Eugene later this summer.
Marquez worked 90-to-92 mph with his fastball, touching 93 at best and showing above-average tailing action. He commanded the heater better to the armside, and altogether, the ingredients are here for an average fastball with playable in-zone location at maturity. His go-to secondary is a hard curveball in the 80-to-83 mph range; it flashes late, sharp bite at best, though its velocity and three-quarters tilt might wind up morphing into more of a slider at the end of the day. His changeup lags behind the other two pitches, overthrown at 86-to-87 mph without much movement. Both off-speed pitches are far away from being usable before two strikes, as Marquez is only able to expand the zone with his curve and change.
With no feel for a third pitch, my realistic projection is an eventual shift to the bullpen. In that role, he has a good shot in set-up, where he projects to hold his delivery better in shorter stints and get chases on the breaker. At only 19 with projection left, there’s still time for Marquez to work from the rotation in hopes he finds feel for a change up, but the pen is more likely.
Trent Deveaux, OF, Angels (Extended Spring Training)
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/177 B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1, 2018): 17y, 11m
Signed for $1.2 million in 2017 out of the Bahamas, Deveaux headlined a robust 2017 international class for the Angels, along with fellow outfielders D’Shawn Knowles, Raider Uceta, and Jose Reyes. Deveaux just turned 18, and he is currently getting reps in extended spring training where he has stood out among the highest upside prospects in Arizona, a potential five-tool MLB big leaguer.
Still growing into his body and adding physicality, Deveaux is a plus athlete whose speed and defense alone set him up for an MLB future. He’s a double-plus runner, and that speed is best on display ranging to either outfield gap. I saw him in CF and RF, and the routes and reactions project to a future 60-grade glove in center with an above-average arm. Offensively, Deveaux’s feel to hit, ability to find the barrel, and willingness to go the other way are positives and quite advanced for his age. He doesn’t expand, and although he struggled with good spin, he also barreled soft stuff up in the zone. With plus batspeed and a solid approach, Deveaux projects to get to average MLB game power, tapping into most of the raw he already has.
With the caveat that prospects this age have incredibly high variance in terms of their future big league roles, I’m bullish on Deveaux’s ability to become a prime piece in an Angels farm system that’s rapidly improving. His speed and center-diamond defensive profile give a high floor, but the chance for 60 hit and (at least) average power on top of the auxillary tools makes him a top prospect follow coming out of my time scouting Extended Spring Training on Phoenix backfields.
Gregory Santos, RHP, Giants (Extended Spring Training)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1, 2018): 18y, 7m
The Giants acquired Santos (along with other prospects) in last summer’s Eduardo Nunez trade with the Red Sox. Boston had signed Santos two years prior out of the Dominican Republic, inking the righty to a 275K bonus as a 16-year-old. What was then an athletic, projectable 6’2’’ and 190-pound frame has filled out notably, now looking closer to (roughly) 6’4’’ and 225 pounds.
He has impressive arm-strength, sitting 94-to-96 mph in my May look. The fastball featured consistent angle and got on hitters quickly, and while his arm works well, Santos’ balance and mechanics haven’t caught up to his body after this recent growth spurt. He doesn’t repeat his delivery well and often falls off-line, showing limited present control or command. A sharp slider flashes swing-and-miss depth at 82-to-83 mph. Santos’ third pitch is a change that’s overthrown in the 84-to-86 mph range with little feel. He’s athletic enough to make strides with his command and delivery, and at only 18-years-old, there is time for adjustments to take hold.
San Francisco is wise to keep working Santos in the rotation, hoping that his control/command and third pitch take a step forward. There are big league ingredients abound, and the max ceiling is high in the rotation if you squint hard enough to project significantly across the board. More realistically, this type of profile often winds up in a bullpen role, a leverage-type reliever with two above-average pitches.