Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.
Zach Borenstein, OF, Los Angeles Angels (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 23 Top-15: 15th Top-100: N/A
Line: 58 AB, .241/.333/.448, 2 HR, 8 BB, 20 K
Coming off of a strong offensive season in the California League, Borenstein’s performance in 2014 will help determine if he’s a true prospect or a suspect.
Injuries to big league first-stringers Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun have significantly diminished the Los Angeles Angels outfield depth. Borenstein, whom I ranked as the 15th-best prospect in the system prior to the ’14 season, is doing his best to get noticed as a future depth piece — and possibly more. The 23-year-old outfielder hit for the cycle on April 20 at the Double-A level.
Borenstein is coming off of a statistically-impressive (and somewhat misleading) 2013 season as he was hitting in the California League, which is known for padding hitters’ stats. In this contest, he was aggressively attacking the fastball as soon as it was thrown in the strike zone. He showed a willingness to use the whole field despite an exaggerated open stance and took a fastball (the second pitch of the at-bat) the other way for a single in the first inning.
In his second at-bat, the left-handed hitter pulled his hands in and lined the ball over the first base bag and down into the right-field corner for a triple. He pulled the ball again in his fourth at-bat for a home run. In his final at-bat of the game, the young outfielder completed the cycle with a double to the centre field warning track against a left-handed reliever and on a 2-2 count.
Borenstein’s 2014 season will be an interesting one to watch because I’m not exactly sold on what type of hitter he’s going to become. He has above-average raw power and a strong frame. However, he showed a strong understanding of hitting on April 20 by utilizing the whole field, not trying to do too much and taking the pitch where it was thrown. He swung under more control and kept a more level swing plane than he had reportedly shown in the past — but that approach doesn’t tend to generate much over-the-fence pop.
Mark Sappington, RHP, Los Angeles Angels (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 23 Top-15: 5th Top-100: N/A
Line: 17.1 IP, 22 H, 13 R, 19/13 K/BB, 6.75 ERA, 4.44 FIP
Coming into the 2014 season, Sappington was ranked as the second-best pitcher in the Angels system and best hurler with experience above Rookie ball. With thin pitching depth in the upper levels of the system, the Angels need a strong season from the right hander.
A former fifth round pick out of a small Missouri college in 2012, Sappington needed just one full season to reach the Double-A level but he made only five starts there in 2013. As a result, he returned to Arkansas this season but had a slow start to the year. He ended up having his best game of the year on April 20.
Sappington is tall and lanky, listed at 6-6, 210 pounds, and he has a bit of a funky knee bend to his delivery that no doubt makes it somewhat difficult for him to throw strikes on a consistent basis. And, if we look at his historical numbers, we can see that the hurler has in fact struggled with his control. In his only full season of ball — last year — he walked 82 batters in 156.1 innings.
The right-hander’s height gives him a natural advantage because he has to the potential to create a strong downward plane. However, Sappington struggled to keep his shoulder closed through the first three innings of this contest so many of his pitches remained up in the zone.
He throws a four-pitch mix that includes his fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. The curve’s success is hampered by an altered (higher) arm slot that and slower arm speed that he also impacts his changeup. Both the fastball and slider come out of a slightly lower 3/4 slot with a quicker arm action.
Sappington’s changeup is reportedly his best non-fastball offering on most nights but it was inconsistent on April 20. In fact, none of his offerings were better than fringe-average in the early going. His fastball showed OK velocity in the 92-93 mph range but the lack of command would of made it a fringe-average offering even if he was throwing 95+ mph.
However, by the fourth inning he was showing improved control and command. His even through a couple of above-average curveballs and got a swinging strike three on the pitch in the fourth inning. He received a strikeout looking in the fifth inning on an off speed offering.
Prior to the year, I ranked Sappington as the fifth best prospect in a weak Angels system. Based on this showing, he looked like a future No. 4, innings-eating starter but more consistency with his control and command could push up to a No. 3.
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