Welcome, once again, to the Jason Parks Scouting Extravaganza. This second info-packed weekly installment of "El Magico's" unparalleled Rangers scouting observations weighs in at over 3,500 words (not including this lightweight foreword), but good luck resisting the temptation to read every last one of them. Among the prospects featured this week: Jorge Alfaro, Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas, Martin Perez, Robbie Erlin, Wilfredo Boscan, Michael Main, Neil Ramirez and so many, many more.
Once again, a few quick things worth mentioning before we embark upon another trip into Professor Parks scouting heaven: first, remember that you can receive his latest prospect updates from Surprise, Arizona by following Baseball Time in Arlington on Facebook; second, many of his game notes from the last four days were included here, but many others weren't, and you can check them all out right here; and third, the Professor will yet again be answering the questions that you submit in the comments section below (via e-mail, after which I'll also post the answers below). Enjoy.
● Jorge Alfaro: In case you couldn't already tell, I kinda dig watching this kid play. Alfaro struggled some today, which is always a good thing at this stage of development. The ability to recognize breaking balls and adjust accordingly is a skill most 16-year-olds do not possess, so I'm not going to hold today's struggles in that arena against Alfaro. He quietly responded to the off-speed setbacks by spraying hard hit line drives to all fields, including a few shots to the fence in right field. Alfaro punishes fastballs, showing good weight distribution during a quiet load and excellent extension at the point of attack.
Alfaro is really showing me something so far this spring and I'm tempted to call him a legit top ten player in the system right now. Yes, I just said that. Alfaro is raw behind the plate and his batting practice prowess, while quite impressive, isn't without flaws (not to mention real games aren't played at practice field speed). But I can't think of a player I'm more excited about at the present and I'm tempted to call Alfaro the most promising 16-year-old Ive seen on a baseball field. Yes, I just said that as well. (3/16)
● Alison Perez (batting practice): Physically strong hitter with good bat speed and mechanics; keeps hands on good position allowing for consistent contact. Flashes some power and has loft to swing. (3/16)
● Jorge Alfaro (batting practice): Continues to show now power, driving another ball off the 400-foot fence in straight-away center. The 16-year-old struggled some with contact, but when he squared up, the ball was usually crushed on a line up the middle of the field. His balance at the plate is impressive, allowing him to use his lower half to generate bat speed. I can't wait to see this kid in game action. (3/18)
● Ben Henry vs. Jurickson Profar (batting practice): Profar made good contact against Henry's fastball, but didn't elevate the ball with much authority. Henry's curveball fooled Profar several times, resulting in weak contact or awkward lunges.
Profar struggled against off-speed stuff today, especially when hitting from the right side. It's not surprising, given his age and current fastball timing. He's a quick study, so I don't think he will ever wear the label of a hitter that can only hit fastballs. When hitting right-handed, Profar tends to tuck his hands a bit and will inside-out the ball to the opposite field. His swing isn't as fluid and he lacks the same pop.
Profar is one of the few young hitters I have seen that will be uber-selective during coach-thrown batting practice. He simply won't swing the bat unless it's a pitch he thinks he can work with. The early hints of an advanced approach are starting to show up. The majority of cage hitters will swing regardless of the location, just to put the bat to the ball. Profar takes batting practice like a player trying to get a hit with the game on the line, as if he simply doesn't have a pitch to waste. (3/16)
● Clark Murphy (batting practice): Continues to drop his back half during the loading phase, resulting in a slight uppercut to bat plane (good), but prevents consistent contact (bad). Was crushing grooved fastballs to pull-side, but that's not really a unique quality in a hitter. That said, it's definitely something to build on and Murphy shows a little more pop each BP. (3/16)
[Addendum, 3/21 High-A Game: Muscled fastball on outer half to opposite field for double. Murphy continues to drop hands on load phase, which creates lift to bat plane, but limits fluidity and makes him susceptible to balls on the inner half.]
● Edwin Garcia (batting practice): Loopy swing with inconsistent hard contact. Garcia shows decent power when he barrels the ball, but doesn't use mature physicality to his advantage. (3/16)
● Leury Garcia (batting practice): Improved as the session continued, eventually showing some line-drive ability and hard contact. Leury started the day by making weak contact, chopping several balls into the dirt that barely escaped the infield. His bat control is very impressive, stemming from good hitting mechanics and his fast-twitch athleticism.Garcia just lacks elite physicality and strength, and often has to watch the balls he firmly squares up float helplessly down in the shallow part of the outfield. (3/16)
● Luis Sardinas: Showed surprising pop in batting practice, using all fields and squaring up on the majority of pitches. His thin, wiry frame doesn't currently hold much raw strength, limiting his power output. But the ability to square up is there, and when the body fills out and the strength improves, these hard-hit line drives over the infield will turn into hard-hit line drives into the gaps.
Sardinas is another player that continues to impress. He might struggle with the bat for a few years, and his stats might cause the numbers crowd to jump ship, but Sardinas is a player that should develop some offensive juice, keeping him clear of the "all defense, no bat" label that players of his ilk are often saddled with. (3/18)
● Santiago Hill: Really showing me something with the glove. Chorino is flashing legit shortstop tools wherever they place him on the diamond (3B, SS, 2B) with a strong arm, a first quick step, and sound fielding fundamentals. His work in the cage has been solid as well, showing the ability to drive the ball and make consistent contact. He's a player to keep an eye on. (3/18)
● Christian Villanueva: Solid all-around player with defensive chops at third and good offensive projection at the plate. The strong right-handed hitter has good contact ability and enough strength to drive the ball into the gaps. Villanueva is another player I'm looking forward to watching in live game action. (3/18)
● Luis Sardinas made an incredible play at shortstop, ranging to his left to snag a ball in the hole and then throwing off-balance to nail the runner at first base. His throwing mechanics are a little sloppy, but his arm is very strong and his first-step quickness and instincts are exceptional. (3/18, Low-A game)
● Tommy Mendonca: Poor pitch recognition and sloppy hitting mechanics on all off-speed pitches; path to ball is long and deliberate. Lunging strikeout; badly, badly fooled by breaking balls. (3/19, Double-A game)
[Addendum: Mendonca's second and third at-bats: Again, fooled badly on off-speed stuff, resulting in a breakdown in swing mechanics and timing. Strikeout No. 2. ... Once again fooled on off-speed pitches leading to poor swing, a breakdown in hitting mechanics, and weak contact. Hit slow grounder to first base.]
● Christian Villanueva: Good balance at the plate, allowing him to stay back on breaking balls. Fell behind in count early, but shortened swing and maintained good mechanics. Showed Kinsler-esque bat quickness by taking an inside breaking ball down the third base line for a double (advanced to third base on throw). (3/20, Low-A game)
● Guillermo Pimentel (batting practice): Showing more gap-to-gap power with decent contact. His swing is still very arm heavy and his strike zone seems to expand every time I see him hit. (3/16)
● Ruben Sierra (batting practice): Very fluid swing with a classic knee-high leg kick and flat bat plane. Sierra is able to generate bat speed from his strong core and he makes good contact and shows some power. His recoil actually looks like another Sierra that Rangers fans might remember. This kid has a little something. (3/16)
● Cristian Santana (batting practice): Today, Santana featured an all-upper body swing that was still able to generate power to all fields. If he ever decided to consistently incorporate his lower half into his swing, Santana would have more balance at the plate, which would only enhance his power and allow him to stay back on the off-speed pitches that chew him up. I'm not ready to officially write him off, mostly because of his extreme power potential, but I will say that Santana needs to take a few very big steps forward in 2010 to remain a player of interest. (3/16)
[Addendum, 3/21 High-A game: Took outside fastball to right field fence for double. All upper-body swing, but good extension and strength almost enough to hit the ball out of the yard. Tremendous raw power.]
● Teodoro Martinez (batting practice): Good contact ability and surprising pop given his size. Cafesito uses all fields and works within the framework of the pitch. Not sure of his physical projection, even when you consider his genetics; he just doesn't look like a guy who is going to end up physically imposing.
● Martin Perez: Pretty good fastball command, but overthrew a bit. Excellent fade to change-up, which is continuing down the road to a 65-grade pitch. The curveball looked good, but wasn't CRAZY good like it can be. Mechanics are very clean and he was able to command all three pitches. (3/15)
● Edwin Escobar: Slight hitch in delivery and arm drag; throws from a [three-quarters angle]. Escobar's fastball has some natural sink, but the command isn't there yet. Busted out some 60" curveballs, but was able to spot a few of them. The pitch has legit potential, featuring a late, tight break. His change-up has some run, but he was telegraphing it. (3/15)
● Time to hype Robbie Erlin: Soild fastball command with natural run. Curveball is a money pitch with excellent late break. Change-up was okay, but I didn't see him throw very many. He runs into a problem when he misses his spots, because he tends to miss up in the zone. Even though Erlin uses his height well (6' 0"), when he misses up, the pitch is very flat-plane and visible.
Jason Cole made the astute observation that "Erlin just looks like a professional pitcher." That's the best way to describe Erlin at this point. His arsenal is solid and he takes care of business. Nothing too fancy or flashy (although his curveball is a potential plus pitch), Erlin just takes the ball and hits his spots. (3/15)
● Remember when Geuris Grullon showed promise earlier this spring during bullpens? Hold onto those memories.
Grullon threw a total of 25 pitches, allowing three walks, two hits, and several runs. Oh yeah, he only threw three strikes the entire inning (two of them coming on the hits). He also hit the first hitter in the head. He sat 88-89 mph with one pitch cutting into the hitter and the very next pitch diving away. Grullon continues to showcase a fastball with outstanding movement. The problem is he (or the catcher) has no idea where it is going to go. (3/18, Low-A game)
● Paul Strong: Fastball sat 86-88 mph from fluid high [three-quarters angle]. Nibbled a bit, but showed a good feel for the strike zone. Curveball had big loopy break at 73-77 mph and Strong will throw it in any count against right- or left-handers. Missed some bats with his fastball and kept the ball on the ground. (3/20, Low-A game)
● Jonathan Rojas: Below-average fastball command. Pitch has good movement and decent velocity. Curveball is slurvy and inconsistent. Change-up looked good. Fast arm, but is more of a slinger than a pitcher at this point. (3/15)
● Kennil Gomez: Ridiculous arm speed produces velocity and movement. Fastball has late life, but inconsistent command keeps it from grading higher. Slurve is below average, but his change-up is very good, featuring yo-yo-like movement. He doesn't really command any pitch with consistency, but every pitch in his arsenal has movement. (3/15)
● Wilfredo Boscan: Curveball is still below average with early break and floating finish. Fastball command is above average and he is throwing it with more authority. Change-up is his best pitch, with excellent fading movement and deception. He commands the pitch very well. (3/15)
● Michael Main: Mechanics were a little off today, resulting in suspect fastball command and a slurvy curveball. His fastball had velocity and movement, though. Curveball would flash excellent late break and bite, but he struggled to stay on top of it most of the time, causing it to hang over the zone. I didn't see many change-ups. (3/15)
● Randol Rojas: Fast arm from a [three-quarters angle]. Good arm-side run on fastball; better than expected command. Curveball has two-plane break and a tight rotation. Very good looking pitch. He comes across his body some, but he throws strikes and his pitches move. I continue to be impressed with this kid. (3/15)
[Addendum, 3/21 High-A game: Fast arm with solid fastball command and zip. Curveball has legit plus potential, missing bats thanks to late movement and location. I like this pitcher quite a bit.]
● Ezequiel Rijo: Projectable size and quick arm. Rijo has a good FB with some movement, but his command wasn't sharp. His breaking ball found the dirt more than the mitt, but the break was pretty nasty. Rijo is interesting because of his size and the fastball potential, but his command needs time to come around. I didn't see him throw a change-up. I'll look for it next time. (3/15)
[Addendum: Rijo just hasn't put it all together yet. His fastball has sinking action, but I didn't have a gun on him, so I can't be sure of the velocity at this point. He has a very quick arm and the pitch shows promise, but his command wasn't sharp.]
● I was only able to catch about 10 pitches from Carlos Pimentel, but that was enough to see that he didn't have his best stuff. He struggled locating his fastball and his curveball wasn't tight. His change-up fooled the hitter twice, which isn't surprising considering his feel and execution of the pitch. (3/16)
● Matt Thompson looked sharp during live batting practice. With slightly altered mechanics, Thompson's fastball had more life that allowed him to miss bats. His curveball was good when I first saw it during the 2008 Fall Instructional League and it continues to improve. The pitch that has taken the biggest step forward is his change-up, giving him the arsenal to project as a solid No. 2-3 starter. (3/17)
● Kyle Ocampo struggled with his mechanics during live batting practice, clearly affecting his release point and causing a flat-plane fastball. His breaking ball had good movement, but his command of the pitch was off and his arm speed was noticeably slower. When he's on, Ocampo has nasty stuff that should play well out of the bullpen. (3/18)
● Wilmer Font started the [Low-A] game for the Rangers, but only recorded one out. Sitting 88-90 mph and touching 91 mph once, Font struggled with fastball command and only located a few breaking balls. When he did locate his stuff, he left it over the heart of the plate resulting in hard-hit balls. (3/18)
● Blake Beavan sat 87-90 mph, [topped out at 91 mph], flashing a good change-up. He didn't stay on top of his slider (77-81 mph), causing the pitch to float a bit. Beavan was throwing strikes, but not quality strikes, which made him hittable. The defense didn't help him out much, but Beavan did show a very good move to first, picking off a runner. (3/19, Double-A game)
● Wilfredo Boscan: Listed at 6' 2", 165 pounds, but now looks closer to 6' 3", 185 pounds. Sat 87-90 mph with fastball, with excellent movement and command. Busted out the best curveballs I've ever seen him throw, ranging 65-72 mph with two plane break. His change-up is always good. Boscan looked very impressive. (3/19, Double-A game)
● Andrew Doyle: He was very good. Fastball sat 87-89 mph with sharp command and some movement, and 82 mph slider is legit wipeout pitch, missing bats and showing excellent tilt. His entire arsenal looked good. (3/19, Double-A game)
● Nick McBride was effective, sitting 87-90 mph (topped out at 91 mph) with good arm-side run on his fastball. His command wasn't sharp, but he located the pitch better at 87-88 mph. He snapped off a few curveballs with big early break, but wasn't able to command the pitch. (3/20, Low-A game)
[Fourth-inning addendum (above report was from the first inning): McBride continued to be efficient, mixing an 87-88 mph fastbal from the high [three-quarters angle] with a slow curveball (65-69 mph). His arm speed on the curveball wasn't always quick and he wasn't able to locate the pitch. He lived in the zone more in his second inning of work, but escaped without damage. McBride isn't flashy, but his fastball has some movement and his curveball looks to have some promise.]
● Richard Alvarez sat 84-86 mph (topped out at 88 mph) with his fastball, showing good movement and a feel for control. He found the zone too often allowing some hard contact, but didn't allow hitters to lift ball. Change-up looked impressive (78-79 mph), showing good fade and run to the arm-side. Flashed a slow curveball with some rotation. Not a bad inning. (3/20, Low-A game)
● Johnny Gunter: Sat 88-89 mph with his fastball from a jerky overhand delivery. Inconsistent command of the FB, but the pitch did have some weight and run to it (almost looked like a cutter at times). His 75 mph curveball broke too early and didn't have a tight rotation, but the one thrown at 79 mph had excellent two-plane movement with late break. (3/20, Low-A game)
● Francisco Mendoza: Lots of movement in delivery and long arms the ball, but sits 90-91 mph (topped out at 93 mph) with arm-side movement. Fastball command was better today, hitting most of his spots and limiting hard contact. Flashed a few promising 75-79 mph curveballs with sweeping break, but one caught too much of the plate and was poked to the opposite field for a double. I was impressed with his change-up (82 mph) that had deception and movement; the pitch appeared to dive, rather than float. Good inning for Mendoza. Lots to like about this live arm. (3/20, Low-A game)
● Jose Monegro sat 87-89 mph with a pushed fastball from a low [three-quarters angle]. The pitch is very heavy with sinking action. Monegro tends to fall off to first base in follow-through, affecting command. Showed a 75 mph curveball with big break that he had some command of. Not a bad inning. His heavy fastball looks promising and hitters couldn't get good lift on it. (3/20, Low-A game)
● Jonathan Rojas: Sat 87-88 mph with fastball from noisy high [three-quarters] delivery. Inconsistent release points affected command. Showed three pitches, including two good breaking balls. His curveball, thrown at 75-77 mph, has late two-plane break with feel for command. His slider, thrown at 81 mph, has good tilt and different shape than curveball. Both breaking balls were effective. (3/20, Low-A game)
● Jake Brigham: The 22-year-old righty needed only seven pitches to retire the side in the first, including two strikeouts. Brigham sat 90-92 mph (topped out at 94 mph) with his fastball and showed off a curveball that might grade out as a plus-plus pitch. His command was very sharp and his pitch sequence kept the hitters off-balance. He looked like a pitcher that could, and perhaps should, start the 2010 season in the Double-A Frisco rotation. (3/21, High-A game)
[Third-inning addendum (above report was from the first inning): It took 13 pitches to retire the side in order, including a swinging strikeout. Fastball command continued to be sharp, as pitch once again sat in the low-90s and busted bats on back-to-back pitches to retire final hitter. Brigham pitches with an easy, fluid delivery that produces velocity and movement to fastball and curveball has a sharp, late break.]
● Neil Ramirez: Sat 91-92 mph with fastball (gun readings inconsistent) with good control and arm-side run. Curveball looked good with late break and good location. Struck out final hitter on swinging strike (belt high, inside fastball). (3/21, High-A game)
[Fourth-inning addendum (above report was from the third inning): Struggled with fastball command, allowing ball to see much of plate and resulting in hard-contact fly balls. Wasn't able to locate curveball as well in second inning of work and the way he pitched looked more deliberate. The following play allowed him to escape inning: With a runner on third base, Ramirez fielded a tapper back to the mound, throwing to third base to start the rundown. After one full rotation, Macumba tags runner near third base bag and then turns and fires an accurate rocket to second base to nail original batter trying to advance. It was a WOW play.]
● Ovispo De Los Santos: Easy fastball velocity and movement from low [three-quarters angle]. Delivery is very similar to Neftali Feliz, as it looks like he is simply playing catch, but fastball isn't quite as electric (although he can hit the upper-90s). Fastball command wasn't sharp, walking the first batter on four pitches and missing his spots on several other occasion. Flashed a very promising curveball with late two-plane movement. (3/21, High-A game)