As I wrote yesterday when I took a look at the Blue Jays prospects, I took in the Northwest League championship finals between the Vancouver Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays) and Boise Hawks (Cubs). You can read the report on the Jays prospects here.
The Boise Hawks are an exciting team with numerous A-, B- and C-level prospects worth knowing. I’ll be writing about a few of these prospects in more depth when I roll out the FanGraphs Top 15 prospects lists in November but this post will give you a brief, first-person snapshot on some of the players.
Albert Almora, CF: Known for being a very good defensive player as an amateur, the lanky Almora showed easy skills in center field and made a nice over-the-shoulder catch. It was made all the more impressive considering the fact he had a nasty collision with the outfield wall in the previous game, was helped off the field and was not expected to play again. At the plate, Almora – the Cubs 2012 first round pick – showed an open stance. His bat was very flat, almost parallel to the ground when the pitcher was delivering the ball and I’d like to see the young hitter start his bat in a better position, allowing him to attack the ball.
Gioskar Amaya, 2B: Currently on the fringe of making the Top 15 list for the Cubs, Amaya surprised me with some opposite field pop. I didn’t see him run the bases that much but his speed looked average, or a touch above. In the field, he turned a nice, quick around-the-horn double play, nabbing two speedy runners, including D.J. Davis (an 80 grade runner) at first base.
Stephen Bruno, IF/OF: A 2012 seventh rounder out of the University of Virginia, Bruno stands just 5’9” but has some pop in his bat and reminds me a bit of a young Aaron Hill. Drafted as a second baseman, he’s played multiple positions for Boise including second, third, shortstop and all three outfield spots. The right-handed batter took Taylor Cole deep and off the right-center field wall for an opposite field double in his first at-bat of the game. He definitely showed a pronounced upper cut to his swing in all of his at-bats. I could see Bruno making the majors as a utility player, in the Ryan Roberts mold, if he can tone down the upper cut and become a little more selective.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B: I entered the game with some high expectations of Candelario based on what I’ve heard. I definitely came away disappointed – both in his defense and offensive approach. He looked kind of sloppy on defense, showing unimpressive foot work. He looked really bad on a high bouncer that he didn’t get in front of and tried to one-hand the ball on the glove side but missed. At the plate, Candelario had two hits but did not put good wood on the ball in either at-bat. Quieting his very busy hands at the plate could perhaps help him make better contact.
Marco Hernandez, SS: Another fringe Top 15 guy, Hernandez looked solid at the plate with a quiet, balanced swing. He doesn’t generate much pop but he has decent size and some tweaks to his swing could probably help him tap into more. Defensively, he showed good range to both his left and right. I did not see enough of his arm to make a comment on its potential but I’ve heard it’s above-average. He also showed good speed on the base paths.
Trey Martin, OF: Martin qualifies as the “pop-up prospect” of the series. I didn’t know too much about him before watching him play and definitely came away impressed. He’s not a Top 15 prospect but I’ll be watching him closely in 2013. Selected in the 13th round of the 2011 draft out of a Georgia high school, Martin was given an above-slot $250,000 contract to sign based on projection. In this game, Martin showed very good range and speed in left field, and likely has the skills necessary to play center field – although he’s not going to bump Albert Almora. Martin also showed good speed on the base paths. I was a fan of his balanced, well-spread-out stance at the plate but his hands were very busy while awaiting the pitch and need to be quieted down. He didn’t have great on-base numbers during the season but showed good patience during this game.
Juan Paniagua, RHP: Paniagua is one of the best arms in the system and I was lucky enough to see him pitch – even though it was for just two batters. The right-hander showed a strong fastball – which can hit 95-96 mph – and a tight slider. He uses his legs very well in his delivery and utilizes a three-quarter arm slot. Paniagua, 22, isn’t overly physical and doesn’t look like he’s pumping the ball in there but the heater explodes on the hitter. He struck out both batters that he faced.
Tayler Scott, RHP: A native of South Africa, Scott moved to Arizona and played three years of high school ball there before being drafted by the Cubs in 2011. He was given a $280,000 contract as a fifth-round pick because of his raw athletic ability and projectability. He’s tall and lanky and it causes some distraction for the hitter in his delivery because he has a lot of moving parts. His fastball can touch 91-93 mph but he still has a lot of room to add weight to his frame. Scott, 20, has an OK fastball, although he struggled to command it throughout the game. He fought his arm slot and was pitching up in the zone far too much for someone with average stuff. He looked much better from the stretch and also showcased an outstanding pickoff move for a right-handed pitcher – nabbing two runners in the first two innings. Scott’s control is much better than his command, which explains his strong walk numbers but low K-rates during the regular season. His secondary stuff is below average and he didn’t finish off the delivery with his curveball. He did throw a nice breaking ball from time to time and a little more experience could help it earn a future 50 grade. Scott definitely has room (and time) to grow and improve as a pitcher but I’d have trouble projecting more than a future middle reliever role at this point.
Dan Vogelbach, 1B/DH: Conditioning has always been an issue for Vogelbach and the 19 year old looks more like a beer league hitter than a professional baseball player. He has future 70 power, though, and absolutely crushed a fat, over-the-middle-of-the-plate fastball for a 400-plus foot home run to deep center field. He doesn’t have to hit the ball squarely to crush it. In the fourth, the left-handed hitter showed why he’s hit for a decent average by taking the ball where it was pitched and going the other way for a single to left field against a left-handed pitcher.