In Chattanooga, Top-100 prospects Yasiel Puig and Zach Lee debuted against a Huntsville (Brewers) team with few prospects of note. On paper, both excelled with Puig reaching base in three of four plate appearances and Lee surrendering just one earned run across four innings of work. There’s a reason scouts don’t write reports from box scores though. While each impressed, both prospects still have work to do before the Dodgers come calling.
Videos after the jump.
As a former football standout, my expectation was for Lee to be a physical pitcher. Instead, he presented as the polar opposite. Command and feel for a four-pitch arsenal will be Lee’s trademark. This is doable considering his above average athleticism and smooth, repeatable pitching mechanics.
Lee worked to locate an 89-91 mph fastball. The pitch featured sink, and a slight pause in his delivery may add deception. He maintained his velocity from the stretch which is important to note when scouting a player. Lee touched 92 once, but it was up in the zone and flattened out considerably. In this outing, it profiled as an average pitch with little upward mobility.
His best breaking pitch was an 83-84 mph slider with inconsistent movement. At times, it featured late, sharp 11/4 break keeping opposing hitters off-balance. His slider infrequently lost its snap and presented as “slurvy” and hittable. For now, it’s an average to above pitch with room for more.
Lee flashed a 76 mph curveball giving him three distinct velocity ranges. The big, slow breaker lacked bite, but featured 12/6 break. It’s a fringe average pitch at present due to Lee’s wrist wrap tipping the pitch out of his hand.
At 84-86 mph, His changeup was hard given his fastball velocity. Lee slowed his delivery a touch too. Pitch movement mirrored Lee’s fastball which is promising, giving him another average-ish pitch rounding out a solid, but unspectacular arsenal.
From this look, Lee will be a big league pitcher for a number of years, but it will be as a 200 inning workhorse, not front line starter.
My first impression of Yasiel Puig was he’s the “next generation” Yoenis Cespedes. Puig is bigger, faster, stronger and younger than the Athletics slugger. However he profiles with the same glaring weakness Cespedes did when scouting him in Arizona — Breaking ball recognition.
Throughout the game, Puig flailed wildly at sliders which led to an early strikeout, as well as a two-strike count in his second plate appearance. Eventually, he gave up on the pitch and sat “dead red” fastball.
The opposing pitcher, Jimmy Nelson, flashed a plus slider, but poor command forced the right-hander to throw more fastballs than he should have.
On a mid-90’s heater, Puig ripped a two-strike single past the shortstop. One unique aspect of this play was the ball would have been a 6-3 put out off of lesser bats. However, Puig hit the pitch with such authority, the shortstop wasn’t able to react to the ball before it was already in the outfield grass. It was an awesome display of strength.
In his next at bat, Puig fisted a broken bat single to center field off of another heater. Once again, what would have been a routine out off the bat of most hitters was a hit for the Cuban prospect. Other than Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper, I’ve never scouted a stronger human being on a minor league baseball field.
Puig received heaps of Twitter praise for a walk in his final plate appearance, but the Huntsville reliever’s only strike came on a 3-0 count with Chattanooga down by four runs. Nobody swings in that situation. The other four pitches missed the strike zone by so much, Puig was able to utilize the “little league fake bunt bat wiggle” trick with success.
On the bases, Puig displayed above average speed scoring from first on a double. Puig also stole a base in which his speed made up for a poor jump.
Defensively, Puig was relatively untested, although he did field a double in right-center field only to miss the cut off entirely. The throw was a rainbow which landed near the grass cut out behind shortstop, allowing runners to advance an extra base.
After posting a .517/.500/.828 line in spring training, it’s easy to forget he accumulated 58 plate appearances without a walk. If promoted to Los Angeles today, Puig would do well his first time through the league. Then, continued success would rest on his ability to adjust to breaking pitches like Cespedes did. For me, Puig is a future star, but not without bumps in the road.