Pro-Side Spotlights: Short-Season Standouts

Feature Spotlights

Travis Swaggerty, OF, Pirates  (Class A Short-Season West Virginia, New York-Penn League)
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/180 lbs.       B/T: L/L              Age (as of July 1, 2018): 20y, 10m

The Pirates selected Swaggerty with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft.  His pro career is off to a strong start, slashing .292/.370/.494 across 22 games.  I saw the 20-year-old in a series vs. Hudson Valley in July.

Swaggerty has a short, but strong and compact build.  Listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, he does not have much room for physical projection.  The young outfielder hits from a low, athletic position which helps engage his lower half into his swing.  He can produce above-average pull-side power due to his solid foundation and quick swing.  Swaggerty also has the ability take an outside pitch to the opposite field due to a balanced approach at the plate.  The 20-year old has plus speed, which he uses to steal bases and track down fly balls in center field.  In addition to showing good range in the outfield, Swaggerty also possesses an above-average arm.

Thanks to his combination of speed and pull-side power, he projects to be a 20-20 hitter in the big leagues.  Swaggerty’s strong plate discipline coupled with the growing trend of clubs putting a home run threat at the top of the lineup make him a perfect leadoff hitter in today’s game. The #42 prospect on 2080’s recent Midseason Top 125 Prospects, Swaggerty’s ceiling could be as high as an FV 60 prospect—an above-average big leaguer with the chance to make an all-star team in peak seasons. –Matt Linder


Shane Baz, RHP, Pirates  (Rookie Bristol, Appalachian League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/190 lbs.       B/T: R/R              Age (as of July 1, 2018): 19y, 0m

NOTE: Baz was announced as the PTBNL in the Chris Archer deal and officially traded to Tampa on August 14th.

The Pirates have developed Baz slowly since taking him 12th overall in the 2017 Draft. I saw him in Extended Spring Training before he moved up to the Appy League once Short-Season ball got underway. Baz has the ingredients of a high-ceiling prospect, and we ranked him the #86 prospect in baseball in 2080’s Midseason Top 125 Prospect List.

At 19 years old, Baz throws four pitches with the fastball leading the way. It has the makings of a plus-to-double-plus offering, sitting 93-to-94 mph (T96), and there’s potential for a couple extra ticks on the velo given his age and lean body. The slider also projects as plus, coming in from 82-to-85 mph, and manipulating to a more firm 86-to-88 mph version with a cutter-like dart. The changeup shows potential, as well, coming in with fastball arm speed but flat and lacking in movement at present in the 86-to-88 mph range.  With increased usage it should reach at least average given his athleticism and feel. The issue at present is his consistency. In my looks in extended spring training, I often saw a pitcher that would fatigue early and struggle to control his breaking stuff. The effort in his delivery, with a violent finish and slight head whack, are the main culprits of his control issues, but with his athleticism and added strength in his lower half he should be able to make the necessary adjustments to improve his repeatability going forward.

A pitcher with the stuff that Baz possesses can move quickly through the minor leagues, but with just 64 pro innings under his belt he needs added reps to develop more consistently repeatable mechanics deeper into outings. His control profile should improve as he adds strength and improves his stamina and durability. He’s got time to develop at a fresh 19 years old—the end result could be a future number three starter for the Bucs. –Steve Givarz


Luis Gil, RHP, Yankees (Rookie Pulaski, Appalachian League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/175 lbs.       B/T: R/R              Age (as of July 1, 2018): 20, 0m

The Yankees DFA’d outfielder Jake Cave (RF, Twins) in March, trading him for a little-known 19-year-old righty named Luis Gil, though the way he has thrown in extended spring training, Gil won’t be a nameless minor leaguer for much longer. Standing 6-foot-3 and 176 pounds, he has an ideal pitching frame with plenty of projection left across broad shoulders with lean, wiry features. He generates effortless mid-to-high-90’s velocity, sitting in the 94-to-97 mph range and touching 99 mph on occasion. The fastball has sink that makes it tough to square up and his free-and-easy delivery gives it late hop and ride through the zone. His power curveball comes in at 81-to-83 mph, showing plus sharpness and two-plane depth at its best. He doesn’t show the hammer every time and is inconsistent executing the breaking ball, though that’s fairly common with pitchers his age. He does have a third pitch in a 88-to-89 mph changeup, but it is in the early developmental stages and is not presently the same caliber of pitch as the fastball or curveball. Gil has a feel to throw the pitch at fastball arm speed, but it’s too firm and speeds up bats at this point.

Scouring the backfields during extended spring training is valuable and being able to get early looks at pitching prospects like Gil is exactly why. Since my looks at him in extended, Gil has dominated this summer for Pulaski in the Appalachian League. He has the potential for serious bat-missing stuff, and he checks the body/athleticism/mechanics boxes. Gil could fly up prospect lists next year with a strong showing in full-season ball. –Steve Givarz 


Michael Mercado, RHP, Rays (Class A Short-Season Hudson Valley, New York-Penn League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/160 lbs.       B/T: R/R              Age (as of July 1, 2018): 19, 2m

Mercado was drafted in the second round of the 2017 draft and received a large over-slot bonus (over $2M) to pry him away from his commitment to Stanford University.  I’ve seen the 19-year-old make three starts during my Penn League coverage this summer.

Mercado has the ideal frame for a pitcher.  Listed at 6-foot-4 and 160 pounds, there is clearly room to add muscle as he physically matures and follows a professional weight training program. He has lean and projectable frame, though he’s probably heavier than the listed weight.  He has an extremely smooth and easy delivery, which allows him repeat his motion and command all of his pitches.  Mercado’s fastball sits 91-to-93 mph and tops out at 94.  He controls the pitch to all four quadrants of the strike zone, especially elevating the heater with two strikes.  The 19-year-old’s best off-speed pitch is his curveball.  The offering sits 75-to-80 mph and exhibits good shape.  Mercado’s changeup is not far behind the breaking ball and is more advanced than most teenagers’.  The pitch ranges from 83-to-86 mph with good downward movement.  He shows a plan on the mound, working quickly and aggressively and attacking hitters.

There is a lot to like with the Rays’ young pitcher.  I expect his velocity to increase as he fills out his projectable frame and he already shows a good feel for two off-speed pitches.  I see Mercado as a middle of the rotation starter with the potential to be a number two if he can add a bit more bite to the curveball and horizontal movement to his changeup.  A high-ceiling prospect, all the ingredients are here for a potential FV 60 pitcher—albeit one with some risk to the profile. He’s a prospect that could jump onto the national radar with a strong showing in full-season ball to begin 2019. –Matt Linder


Francisco Morales, RHP, Phillies  (Class A Short-Season Williamsport, New York-Penn League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/185 lbs.       B/T: R/R              Age (as of July 1, 2018): 18y, 9m

Signed as part of the Phillies J2 IFA class out of Venezuela in 2016, Morales received $900,000, the most they gave a pitcher in that class. Morales has an intriguing blend of size, stuff, arm action, and projectability to consider him one of the top pitchers in their organization.

At 18 years old, Morales is larger than his listed weight—perhaps closer to 200 pounds presently—but he still has leanness throughout his frame and could add 10-to-15 pounds. Morales has a clean arm action with quality arm speed, though his release point can wander. His fastball has gradually improved, whereas last year it was 91-to-93 mph, it now sits 92-to-94 mph and it has the potential be a future plus-or-better offering. What gives Morales a higher ceiling than many other teenage arms is his feel for his 81-to-84 mph curveball, which is also a future plus offering. It shows hard action with plus depth that he can throw to both sides of the plate for a strike, or use it as his primary chase pitch. His changeup has improved, but he often gets on the side of it and drops his slot slightly, which can result in more of a BP fastball than a true changeup look. It’s a needed third  pitch, and it should develop with time given the clean arm action.

Morales is still a raw prospect, and he needs to add muscle on his frame to add some durability to withstand a pro workload. He has a high ceiling—potentially a mid-rotation type arm—and he’s likely to begin next season at Class A Lakewood to start making that case. –Steve Givarz


Feature Scouting Reports

  • Wander Franco, SS/2B, Rays (Rookie Princeton, Appalachian League) –John Eshleman
  • Nolan Gorman, 3B, Cardinals (Rookie Johnson City, Appalachian League) –John Eshleman
  • Roansy Contreras, RHP, Yankees (Class A Short-Season Staten Island, New York-Penn League) –Steve Givarz

Editor’s Note: Nolan Gorman and Roansy Contreras were moved up to Class A after these reports were written.