Feature Photo: Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins
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Our new 2019 pro-side video, scouting report, and spotlight libraries are now live! Check out the links below–and you can always refer to our 2018 libraries for even more player info:
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Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins (Ft. Myers Miracle)
The #1 overall pick in 2017 from the SoCal prep ranks, Lewis proved far too advanced for the Midwest League in 2018—no small feat for a teenager in his first full year of pro ball. He’s had a rougher go since moving up to High-A around the middle of last season, though he just turned 20-years-old and is still very young for the level. Lewis’ immense physical gifts still jump off the page in game action, something that was clear across my four-game look.
Lewis’ 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame has more strength and size than most players with his speed. There’s still room to get stronger, though this body type can stay at a center-diamond position even with physical gains. That strength shows up in BP, where Lewis generates impressive raw power for a shortstop because of an extremely loose, whippy swing. Though he hasn’t fully unlocked it in game action—it’s also worth noting the FSL has huge parks and suppresses almost every player’s home run totals—he projects for at least average game power with plenty of doubles. He has struck out at a career-high clip so far in 2019, though he’s facing advanced pitching consistently for the first time in his pro career and definitely shows the long-term tools to hit. Lewis expanded the zone and swung through breaking stuff in my viewing, often struggling to shorten up when behind in counts. His batspeed and natural hand-eye coordination are so good, some of the current over-aggression stems from being used to barrel everything as opposed to any uncorrectable long-term flaw. You’re projecting on improved selectivity and a more patient overall approach, though with those changes made, Lewis can develop into an above-average hit/on-base producer.
Some scouts felt he would have to move from SS to CF when Lewis came out of high school. There’s a non-zero chance that switch still happens, though I came away feeling he should get more time to develop as an infielder. He can get hard-handed at times, staying upright and fielding balls off to the side. Like his offensive development, lots of Lewis’ present lack of fundamentals can be chalked up to being talented enough that he hasn’t, to date, had to do things correctly in order to get desired results. Lewis has a plus arm with effortless carry, finishing numerous plays from the deep hole throughout the series.
Patience, not panic, is the best way to characterize Lewis as a prospect right now. He still shows the same unique five-tool potential and excellent intangibles that made him a top-of-the-draft talent. One of the best prospects in baseball—ranking #4 overall on our Pre-Season Top 125—Lewis’ upside as a franchise player and long-term building block in Minnesota remains unchanged.
Tarik Skubal, LHP, Detroit Tigers (Lakeland Flying Tigers)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 215 lbs. B/T: L / L Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 4m
Skubal’s physical frame and left-handed velocity were attracting attention as a college underclassman, but he was hurt his junior year at the University of Seattle. He threw bullpens leading up to the draft in 2017, but ultimately opted to head back to school after sliding to the Diamondbacks in the 29th round. He showed the same stuff as a redshirt junior but struggled with control, lasting until the Tigers took him with their ninth-round pick. Skubal made a few appearances last summer after signing with Detroit, but the bulk of his pro experience has come in this year in the Florida State League. He has put himself on the prospect radar with a strong performance, named to the league all-star team after showing gains in control and pitchability that have opened the door for a potential long-term rotation role.
A muscular, athletic 6-foot-3, Skubal looks the part of a power arm and has the fastball to match. His semi-windup is deceptive but a bit robotic, with a funky overall operation reminiscent of Mariners lefty James Paxton. He throws up a high, closed front side with a plunged arm-circle, offsetting timing but struggling to stay in-sync. This causes inconsistent command and overall placement within the zone, though he has the stuff to be effective without pinpoint location—especially in A-Ball.
Skubal runs his fastball to 97-98 mph early in starts, settling in the 93-to-94 mph range with lively finish through the zone. His best off-speed is a low-80s curveball, flashing sharp bite and solid two-plane finish at best. It gets slurvy at times, blending into a 84-to-86 mph slider that he’ll flash as a show-me second look. Skubal’s 80-to-84 mph change is definitely a work in progress, but the glimpses of effective movement hint it could finish a solid third pitch with more development.
Skubal checks the boxes of a potential late-bloomer, and as a southpaw with premium velocity, the bar is a little lower for how sharp his secondary and command need to be in order to stick as a starter. He’s a classic risk/reward wildcard, possessing the frame and tools of a power mid-rotation lefty if his command and off-speed can get more consistent. Even if they don’t, this type of stuff and deception can impact from the bullpen if he needs a fallback. Though he’s far from a sure thing given the lack of pro track record and injury history, Skubal’s breakout season has placed him among the more interesting arms in a talent-rich Florida Sate League crop this year.
Jordan Balazovic, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Ft. Myers Miracle)
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 175 lbs. B/T: R / R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 6m
Balazovic came on strong down the stretch as a high school senior, having impressed in his swing through Extended Spring Training with the Canadian National Team and popping onto the radar of crosscheckers at the right time. Just 17-years-old at the time of the 2016 draft, the Ontario native signed with the Twins in the fifth round for an above-slot $515K bonus. Balazovic is still only 20 despite this year being his fourth at the pro level, and he recently got called up to the Florida State League after a dominant start to the season repeating Low-A.
Balazovic limits walks well despite moving parts in his delivery, that funkiness only adding to his natural deception. His fastball has steadily ticked up each year, now topping out at 96-97 mph and sitting comfortably in the 93-to-95 mph range. His delivery has good natural extension, creating late ride that causes the heater to get on hitters quickly. Balazovic doesn’t display as much current command as he has control, but with plus velocity and a lively overall fastball, there’s less pressure to be pinpoint within the zone. The main off-speed is a slider at 80-to-84 mph, a solid to above-average future pitch with flashes of sharp two-plane action. His 87-to-89 mph changeup is too firm at present and needs refinement, though it shows glimpses of late dive that suggest he can develop an effective third speed with improved separation.
The tools are here for a future big league starter, and it’s enthusing Balazovic has both stayed healthy and consistently gotten better each of the last few years. Especially considering his background as a cold-weather prep arm, it’s reasonable to project up a bit more even from where his stuff is now. With continued development of his changeup and command, Balazovic could fit as a mid-rotation starter down the road.
William Contreras, C, Atlanta Braves (Florida Fire Frogs)
The younger brother of Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras, William signed with Atlanta for a small bonus in February of 2015. We were among the first to get a live look at Contreras during his breakout 2018 campaign in the South Atlantic League, a season after which he established himself as Atlanta’s top catching prospect. I saw the 21-year-old backstop for three games in the Florida State League right before he got promoted to Double-A Mississippi.
Contreras was listed at 6-foot and 180 pounds when I saw him last year, and while that’s still the height and weight that shows up on the roster, he has thickened considerably in the time since. He looked more athletic in 2018, and while the added bulk likely aids his durability behind the plate, both Contreras’ batspeed and overall actions have lost some twitch. Defensively, his arm still grades well ahead of the receiving and glovework, consistently in the 1.88-1.95 range on throws down to 2B. He will need to set quieter targets—especially on off-speed—and make progress blocking and framing to finish an average defensive catcher in the big leagues.
The chance for power at a premium position is what made Contreras such an interesting prospect, and that raw was still on display both in BP and game action. He crushes mistakes to the pullside with strong loft contact, though his stiffer swing struggled to barrel secondary and frequently chased breaking stuff outside the zone. He’s a dead pull hitter with a hooked path that doesn’t use the big part of the field often: nearly half of Contreras’ contact was to left field in the Florida State League, and that number has increased since moving up to Double-A. While I do think Contreras will always have some pop at an offense-scarce position, there’s a chance it plays closer to 45-grade at the highest level (12 to 15 home runs over a full season) if he winds up a low-average hitter that always struggles to adjust the barrel.
Contreras wasn’t necessarily lighting the Florida State League on fire at the time of his promotion, and he has struggled in his first few weeks at Double-A. He’s likely to stay with Mississippi through this season and potentially into 2020, as it will take time to make the requisite defensive improvements and shore up parts of his hitting ability. In the best-case scenario, everything comes together on both sides of the ball and Contreras unlocks his full ceiling as a bopping FV 50 everyday catcher. If the player I saw in the FSL is closer to who he will be at higher levels, a realistic outcome is a bat-first second option behind the plate.
Alejandro Kirk, C, Dunedin Blue Jays (Dunedin Blue Jays)
Kirk signed from Mexico in 2016 just before his 18th birthday. A hand injury cost him almost all of the 2017 season, but he broke out last summer in the Appy League to the tune of a .319/.418/.447 slash line. After a very strong start to the year in full-season ball this season, Toronto moved the 20-year-old aggressively to the Florida State League. I saw him for three games with Dunedin, where Kirk has been holding his own in the pitcher-friendly circuit since his May promotion.
Listed at 5-foot-9 and 220 pounds, he’s significantly heavier than that and will need to get in better shape before reaching the big leagues. Kirk has tools on both sides of the ball but is hindered by his current physique, struggling to get low in the squat at catcher and keeping his hands inside at the plate. Natural feel to hit is his best attribute, with a mature sense of the zone and advanced contact skills. His bat isn’t the fastest, but it’s a loose stroke that keeps the barrel in the zone a long time and squares up an above-average rate of line drives. Despite his shorter stature, Kirk’s strength and quality of contact project for some game power if he can start to lift the ball more. Defensively, his hands receive fairly well at catcher, showing surprising blocking ability and lateral quickness given his hefty frame. Kirk throws well—drawing average to solid-average grades from scouts—so his ability to stick at the position will come down to simply getting in better shape and setting quieter targets.
Despite falling into the “bad body” category, it’s hard to write off Kirk as a prospect given his hitting ability and chance to stick at a premium position. The Blue Jays are high on his instincts and polish, things he has continued to show by consistently performing against older competition throughout the low minors. The ingredients are here to develop into a low-end regular or solid role player/spot-starter if Kirk gets his body in check and keeps developing defensively. His bat at catcher is interesting, though he’ll lose significant value if he moves off the position and down the defensive spectrum to 1B.
FEATURED SCOUTING REPORTS
Trevor Larnach, OF, Minnesota Twins (Ft. Myers Miracle)
Physical corner outfielder with advanced hit/on-base ability and developing power; could be an above-average regular as line drive, all-fields approach shifts towards more fly ball lift.
Jhoan Duran, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Ft. Myers Miracle)
Emerging as a top prospect as pitchability and control align with huge raw stuff; upper-90s fastball and plus off-speed give ceiling of power mid-rotation starter or impact ‘pen arm.
Blayne Enlow, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Ft. Myers Miracle)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 170 lbs. B/T: R / R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 0m
Video | Scouting Report
Classic projection righty, ingredients of #4 SP with continued development across the board and improved third pitch.
Logan Warmoth, INF, Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin Blue Jays)
Floor over ceiling prospect, lacks a true plus tool and fits best defensively at 2B; ceiling of role player that moves between infield positions.
*Editor’s Note: Warmoth has since been promoted to Double-A New Hampshire*
Ryan Jeffers, C, Minnesota Twins (Ft. Myers Miracle)
Chance to hit for power and stick behind the plate makes him a prospect; upside of bat-first backstop or solid spot-starting option in the big leagues.
Lewin Diaz, 1B, Minnesota Twins (Ft. Myers Miracle)
Special power potential gives upside of low-end regular at 1B; aggressive approach and struggles versus lefties will need to improve to avoid platoon status.
*Editor’s Note: Diaz has since been promoted to Double-A Pensacola*
Chavez Young, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin Blue Jays)
Plus athlete with strong defensive tools and reason to project on switch-hitting offensive profile; likely finishes as an extra outfielder, chance to be more if the bat really comes on.
Edwar Colina, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Ft. Myers Miracle)
Undersized power arm that’s currently starting games but likely moves to the ‘pen long term; heavy upper-90s fastball and hard slider give ceiling of high-leverage reliever.
OTHERS OF NOTE
|Michael Helman||MIN||Ft. Myers||INF||Video||Report|
|Hector Lujan||MIN||Ft. Myers||RHP||Video||Report|
|Jose Miranda||MIN||Ft. Myers||INF||Video||Report|
|Johan Quezada||MIN||Ft. Myers||RHP||Video||Report|
|Aaron Whitefield||MIN||Ft. Myers||OF||Report|