Jimmy Nelson

The Brewers called up Jimmy Nelson, maybe for good, to start on Saturday.  The 6’5″, 245-pound 25-year-old has 5 major league games under his belt, including two starts.

Nelson has a pretty standard upright delivery, like a Jamey Wright.  Nelson had trouble with command in college and early on in his pro career, but has really improved over the last couple of seasons.  We’ll see if the improvement holds up.  If so, he’ll be at least a reliable #3.  If not, he may take Wright’s career path.

With a plus fastball with sink and a plus slider, he keeps the ball in the park and misses plenty of bats.  Command, and whether the improvement holds, is the only question mark, in terms of whether he’ll be a good starter or eventually settle in as a reliever in the big leagues.

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Cubs, Red Sox July 9th Call-Ups

Arismendy Alcantara, SS/2B, Chicago Cubs, Age: 22

Alcantara reminds me of Shane Victorino at the plate.  He’s actually an inch taller than Victorino but is listed about 20 lbs. lighter.  Like Victorino, he’s not a huge power guy but he packs enough punch in his small frame to help his team in a lot of ways.  He’s a plus runner and he plays up the middle.  He’ll probably settle in as their second baseman.

Christian Vazquez, C, Boston Red Sox, Age: 23

Vazquez is only 5’9″ but he’s a powerful 195 lbs.  He looks a lot like Kevin Mench at the plate.  He’s flashed a little bit of pop but is known for his arm.  His hitting approach is solid, as he’s walked 204 times and struck out 361 times, a good ratio for a guy with some power potential, especially a catcher with some defensive tools.  Blake Swihart has gotten the attention among Red Sox catching prospects, as he is regarded as the best catching prospect in the game.  But Vazquez could be a solid backup or, if he shows he can hit enough to be a regular, could bring back plenty of value in a trade once Swihart is ready.

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Mookie Betts

The Red Sox think so highly of Betts, they called the minor league second baseman up to play outfield.  Betts has the athleticism and the bat to provide value whether he settles in to second base, center field or right field, long term.

Betts waves his bat like Brandon Phillips.  He could end up with a Brandon Phillips type offensive profile, with a good combination of power and speed.  But Betts controls the strike zone better than Phillips.

Betts walked 164 times and struck out 120 times in 276 minor league games and 1,206 minor league plate appearances.  Betts, at 5’9″ and 155 lbs., is smaller than the 6’0″, 200 lb. Phillips, but Betts has shown some power potential.  He his 36 doubles, 4 triples and 15 homeruns in 127 games last season.  In Double-A and Triple-A this season, before his call-up, he hit 21 doubles, 4 triples and 8 homeruns in 77 games.

Betts is also more athletic than Phillips, who was plenty athletic in his younger days and is still a good all-around player.  Phillips played some shortstop at the big league level.  Betts has played a little shortstop in the minors, mostly second base and the Red Sox called up him to fill a void in their outfield.

At 21 Betts is in the big leagues quicker than most thought at positions no one thought he’d be playing.  He’s not likely to be a star on the defensive side, except maybe at second base, but he’s the type player you don’t worry about the positional profile.  He’s going to hit enough and has good enough athleticism to provide value no matter where he plays.  The Red Sox have a gem.

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2014 Draft: First 15 Picks

Here are my comps and comments for the first 15 picks on the draft.  My source of information was MLB.com’s Draft Central page.  Especially helpful was their videos.  Obviously with amateur players it’s dangerous to take comps too seriously but at the same time, hopefully it can tell us about the future potential of these players.

1. Houston Astros: LHP Brady Aiken, 6’4″, 200 lbs., Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego

Aiken and Mike Minor are the same height and Minor is listed 20 lbs. heavier.  Aiken could obviously grow a little in height and especially in weight and strength.  But he’s probably going to be about the same size as Minor and his delivery is very similar, very clean, easy and smooth.  He looks relatively low risk, if there is a such thing as a low-risk, high-school arm.

2. Miami Marlins: RHP Tyler Kolek, 6’5″, 250 lbs., Shepherd HS (TX)

Kolek is much bigger than Troy Percival, who is listed at 6’3″, 200 lbs. on Baseball-Reference, but they have similar body types and similar deliveries.  Kolek in fact is one of the biggest high school pitchers touted this highly in recent memory.  Kolek keeps his hands at his belt buckle early and brings them up as he kicks his leg.  Kolek’s delivery is not quite as frantic as Percival’s.  It’s much more under control, so he might be more likely to repeat his delivery and become a starter.  But a lot will depend on how his command and control develop.  Whatever his future role, you have to like a 6’5″, 250 lb. power pitcher out of Texas.

 3. Chicago White Sox: LHP Carlos Rodon, 6’2″, 234 lbs., NC State

Rodon reminds me of a bigger, stronger Randy Wolf.  Wolf is listed at 6’0″, 205 lbs. on Baseball-Reference.  Rodon, like Wolf, is not all that tall for a future pro athlete, but Rodon is a little taller and is thicker than Wolf, which bodes well for his future.  Rodon has the tree-trunk legs you like to see in a power pitcher.

4. Chicago Cubs: C Kyle Schwarber, 6’0″, 235 lbs., Indiana

His set-up at the plate looks like Nick “The Stick” Johnson’s.  Obviously the Cubs want him to offer Nick Johnson’s offensive peak at catcher, and he certainly has that type of offensive potential.  If he can’t catch, he might end up in the outfield.  If he reaches his potential with the bat, he’ll provide value somewhere.

5. Minnesota Twins: SS Nick Gordon,  6’2″, 175 lbs., Olympia HS (FL)

To take it way back, Gordon looks a lot like Otis Nixon at the plate.  Both are extremely thin, although obviously Gordon will probably put on weight and add strength.  Gordon has the high leg kick and is a slappy hitter.  That has worked for him in high school but he’ll need to add strength against major league pitching and defenses, and there’s no reason to think he can’t.  Nick, unlike his brother Dee, has a good change to stick at shortstop.

6. Seattle Mariners: C/OF Alex Jackson, 6’2″, 215 lbs., Ranch Bernardo HS (CA)

Jackson has a Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter thing going with his leg kick where he takes his foot back before it goes forward and before he plants it.  If Jackson develops as planned, he’ll be an offense-first player.  He could remain a catcher or might move to a corner-outfield spot.  His arm is fine but there are questions about other aspects of his defense and where he’ll play.  With questions about his defense and position, but his offensive upside, he could become a Ryan Doumit type player.  Whoever drafts him will obviously be hoping for more upside.

7. Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Aaron Nola, 6’2″, 200 lbs., LSU

I see a little bit of Pedro Martinez in Nola, although Nola is much bigger.  Not that Nola is huge for a pro pitcher but he’s not small and certainly not diminutive like Pedro.  He has a three-quarters arm slot and, at first glance, appears to throw across his body.  But you watch his front foot and he strides perfectly and efficiently toward the plate on every pitch.  Don’t expect him to be in the minors very long.

8. Colorado Rockies: LHP Kyle Freeland, 6’4″, 185 lbs., Evansville 

Freeland’s delivery, particularly his finish and follow-through, remind me of Jonny Venters’.  He seems to pull back after his release and not finish all the way through to the plate.  But there is no denying his stuff and his ability to throw strikes.

9. Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Jeff Hoffman, 6’4″, 185 lbs., East Carolina

Hoffman’s build and delivery compare to Chris Carpenter.  At 185 lbs., he doesn’t weigh as much as the Carpenter we remember, but we would expect him to get bigger and bulk up some as he ages and with possibly more strength training at the pro level.  The way he sort of tucks his front food under his body just before he strides towards the plate is also Carpenter-esque.  Like Carpenter, he features a big-breaking curveball.  Although he just had Tommy John surgery, the Jays have to like the foundation they are working with with Hoffman.

10. New York Mets: OF Michael Conforto, 6’1″, 215 lbs., Oregon State

If and when Conforto reaches the big leagues, he’ll probably end up a Brandon Moss type player.  Like Moss, he’s not all that tall but he’s strong and, although he’s athletic enough, he’s not going to blow anyone away with speed or athleticism.  He’s going to take his walks and hit for power but he’s also going to strikeout.  His approach and his power are what will carry him.  All his other tools are merely good enough.

11. Toronto Blue Jays: C Max Pentecost, 6’1″, 190 lbs., Kennesaw State (GA)

The obvious comp is fellow Georgian Buster Posey.  Both are very athletic, college-drafted catchers.  Pentecost, like Posey, is not going to overwhelm on defense but he’s athletic enough to be as asset.  The upside is Posey-level.  Even if he falls short, the Blue Jays will have a heck of a catcher.

12. Milwaukee Brewers: LHP Kodi Medeiros, 6’2″, 180 lbs., Waiakea HS (HI)

Medeiros twists back in the middle of his windup, like a Ted Lilly, though he doesn’t bring his hands above his head like Lilly did.  Medeiros also seems to have a similar build, though he’s listed at 6’2″ to Lilly’s 6’0″.  Medeiros is a bit more of a power pitcher.  He doesn’t have a big curve.  He throws a fastball with good movement, a slider and a change-up.  The questions are can his delivery hold up and can he command his off-speed pitches well enough to remain a starting pitcher.

13. San Diego Padres: SS Trea Turner, 6’1″, 170 lbs., NC State

I couldn’t come up with a good comp for Trea Turner.  He seems to be a speedster with good contact ability and solid plate discipline but also with a little bit of pop.  He has good, quick hands and is very much a fast-twitch athlete, utilizing quickness over strength.  This might be lazy, because these are the only recent guys that seem to fit, but if things work out, he could be a Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins type.

14. San Francisco Giants: RHP Tyler Beede, 6’3′, 215 lbs., Vanderbilt

Beede is kind of a cross between Roy Oswalt and Kevin Appier, in terms of delivery.  But he’s bigger than Appier and of course much bigger than Oswalt.  He rocks back and takes a very efficient path to the plate, like Oswalt.  He really bends his back to get his momentum going forward, like Appier.  His delivery might be a little too out of control, as reports are he gets out of sorts sometimes.  But he has the stuff, the size and a good delivery to work with.

15. Los Angeles Angels: LHP Sean Newcomb, 6’5″, 240 lbs., University of Hartford

Like number 8 pick, Kyle Freeland, Newcomb also reminds me of Jonny Venters.  His delivery is not all that smooth, probably less smooth than Freeland.  He’s so big and his velocity so great that he could develop into a quality starter with just a little work on his delivery and secondary stuff.

 

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George Springer

The Houston Astros called up their highly-touted prospect, George Springer, last Wednesday.  Last year I comped him to Will Venable.  This still seems right.  He’s going to swing and miss but he’s also going to offer power and speed and play a good centerfield.  And, although he struck out 161 times last season, he also walked 83 times.

Springer’s probably a better centerfielder than Venable given Venable never displayed the speed Springer displayed in the minors.  Springer stole 45 bases last season in the minors.

Venable really put it all together in 2012-2013, hitting for more power than he had in the past while remaining a threat to do some things on the basepaths.  Springer could develop into a rich man’s Will Venable, if you will.  Springer’s speed will not only help him in the outfield but could help him maintain a high BABIP.  If he can combine that with his power, he’ll provide tremendous value offensively, even with the high-strikeout propensity.

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Players to Know for 2014

SS Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners

He is a fairly tall, athletic shortstop.  He’s good all-around on offense but his glove is the question mark.  He could be a Jed Lowrie type player, although Miller is bigger.  A move to secondbase isn’t out of the question, at some point, and he probably has the bat to provide value there.  He’s big and athletic enough to play pretty much anywhere.

1B Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

Abreu looks like former journeyman firstbaseman Eduardo Perez, but obviously projects to be a much better player.  Abreu is the typical, big right-handed hitting firstbaseman.  This will be Abreu’s age 27 season so expect him to be one of the most productive firstbasemen in the game.

OF Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels

Calhoun is Trot Nixon reincarnate.  Calhoun is slightly shorter and a bit heftier, but like Nixon, he isn’t some flashy, athletic type.  He just looks like a ballplayer.  Calhoun doesn’t quite have Nixon’s skills but he’s a solid corner-guy that will provide value as a second-division guy or a role player on a good team.

OF Abraham Almonte, Seattle Mariners

Almonte is built a lot like Kirby Puckett.  With his body type, you have to do a double-take when you see him in centerfield and displaying his impressive speed.  Almonte is a switch-hitter.  There’s no denying his solid tools and high-energy play but there is a lot of swing and miss.  The fact that he plays a good centerfield helps but I think his bat will keep him from being anything more than an adequate major league centerfielder.

2B/SS Dean Anna, New York Yankees

Anna looks like the type of utility infielder who isn’t great at anything but is very good at a lot of things.  He looks like a decent hitter with decent power that can play the middle infield.  And he bats left-handed, so he’ll have a platoon advantage most of the time.  He’s sort of a Kelly Johnson with better defensive ability and not quite as much pop.

C Josmil Pinto, Minnesota Twins

Pinto is built and moves a lot like Mike Napoli.  Napoli had more power as a minor leaguer but Pinto has been better in the hit department.  Pinto has a good arm but receiving has been a question mark.  Still, it looks like he’ll be good enough behind the plate to stick.

SP, Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

Ventura has that Pedro spin on his front (left) leg when he finishes his delivery but he comes over the top with the ball, almost like Tim Hudson.  Ventura has a big-time fastball, clocked at over 100 mph.  He also features a plus curve and a solid changeup.

SP Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners

Walker looks more like he should be playing outfield or perhaps wide receiver in the NFL.  He has a very athletic 6’4″, 230 lb. frame.  The size and athleticism reminds me of Chris Carpenter.  He has a curve, cutter and changeup to go along with a plus fastball.

SP Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays

Stroman is another guy who has a little Tim Hudson and Pedro Martinez in his actions.  He’s just 5’9″ and 185 lbs but he efficiently explodes to the plate. He’s a fastball-slider guy who will also throws a good changeup.

SP Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles

Gausman is the closest thing to Matt Harvey going right now.  He’s not quite as big as Harvey but he’s a couple of years younger and could easily add a little more muscle.  His fastball and changeup are his best pitches but his slider also impresses.

SP Erik Johnson, Chicago White Sox

Johnson is built like Joe Blanton.  He’s 6’3″ with a beefy frame but he’s not fat.  He has the kind of repertoire you want out of a right-handed starter: A fastball in the low-to-mid 90′s, a plus slider, a decent curve and a change-up that isn’t too shabby.

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Arizona Fall League Top Prospects

Byron Buxton, 19, CF, Minnesota Twins

I see a right-handed Carl Crawford in Buxton.  Crawford played most of his minor league games in centerfield but also got a lot of time at other outfield positions.  Buxton has played a vast majority of his games in center so far.  He’s also showed more power than Crawford.  By now you’ve probably heard of Buxton.  The fact that he looks like a more powerful, more centerfield-capable Carl Crawford confirms what kind of player he could become.  Obviously this should excite Twins’ fans.

Albert Almora, 19, OF, Chicago Cubs

Almora is only 19 and hasn’t played above A-ball, but he’s dominated.  He has a lean, athletic frame at 6’2″, 180 lbs.  He looks a lot like a right-handed Curtis Granderson.  While his slash line is impressive, he hasn’t hit a lot of homeruns or stolen a lot of bases so far in his young career.  But his tools and athleticism are obvious at his young age.

Jorge Soler, 21, OF, Chicago Cubs

Soler reminds me of Vladimir Guerrero with how quiet he is before he starts his swing.  It’s almost as if he doesn’t load, he just sets up ready to attack the pitch.  He’s big (6’4″, 215 lbs.) but athletic enough to play a good rightfield.

Alex Meyer, 23, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Meyer’s leg kick and quickness to the plate makes him an obvious Max Scherzer comp.  He kind of folds his leg so his foot is directly underneath his butt in his leg kick and then he explodes quickly to the plate.  Meyer however is 6’9″ to Scherzer’s 6’3″.  He relies on a mid-to-high 90′s fastball and a plus slider.  He’ll mix in a change-up rarely.

Addison Russell, 19, SS, Oakland Athletics

Russell’s lower half reminds me of Mike Aviles, the way he leans back on his back (right) leg and straightens out his front (left leg) to load up.  Defensively Russell has a tremendously quick first, crossover step, which would seem to give him excellent range.  For a defensive comp, I’ll go with Alcides Escobar.  They are around the same size and Russell’s range might match Escobar’s.

Austin Hedges, 21, C, San Diego Padres

Hedges looks like a catcher, his name sounds like a catcher’s and he’s built like a catcher.  His offense definitely hasn’t stood out in the low minors but he’s still very young and, if he reaches the majors, he’s going to make his living with the glove.  He has a quick feet and a quick release.  I see a lot of Brad Ausmus in Hedges.

Kris Bryant, 21, 3B, Chicago Cubs

Bryant’s size (a slender 6’5″, 215 lbs.) and ability to hit for power to rightfield, as a right-handed hitter, reminds me of Dale Murphy.  It seems as though he tries to shoot the ball to center or rightfield, and he has enough power to make it work.  This allows him to wait a little longer on the pitch before committing, and could make him a better hitter than his present hit tool would seem to indicate.  But there is no question about his power.

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