I swear I’ve posted almost all of my instructs reports. From Phillies camp, I’ve got two of the top three picks from the most recent draft, both multi-sport athletes as the Phillies are notorious for drafting.
Mitch Gueller was the 54th overall pick (sandwich round) in June from a Washington state high school that signed for slot, nearly $950,000. Gueller was a high school quarterback and also played basketball, so his solid-average speed and athleticism stood out, along with his 6’3, 215 pound frame and fastball that peaked at 95 mph. Unfortunately, it appeared Gueller was fatigued the two times I saw him in instructs as his velo was down and he had more command issues and trouble repeating his delivery than he should.
The first time I saw him, he was facing Gerrit Cole (report) and while Cole was busy hitting 101 mph, Gueller was a more workmanlike 87-89 mph. He spotted his fastball well early, wasn’t afraid to come inside and he kept the ball down. Gueller was throwing a four-seamer that didn’t move much and as he lost his release point, tried throwing a cutter, sinker and slider, all of which weren’t working. The second time I saw Gueller he was much more crisp, sitting 89-90 mph and showing a usable cutter and slider. Gueller’s slider was 81-83 mph and showed average potential and 12-to-6 tilt with late, short bite. His changeup was a solid pitch, also showing average potential in both outing at 79-82 mph with more sink than fade but good deception and arm speed.
Gueller shows the elements of a solid starter with three average pitches even when fatigued and an extremely simple, repeatable delivery that gets the job done but doesn’t really show a lot of his athleticism. He has good tempo and breaks his hands late with a clean arm action that is completely hidden behind his torso to create some deception. Gueller has a medium stride, good balance and posture, doesn’t take an angle to the plate and has good plane from a high three-quarters slot. His arm and front side work well enough and he normally gets over his land leg, but when his command wavers, he’ll get lazier and throw against a stiffened leg.
There wasn’t much to excite me from this look, but I’ll guess the stuff will be crisper in the spring and I’ll see more potential in Gueller. On the other hand, second round pick (77th overall) Dylan Cozens is a 6’6, 225 pound monster from a Phoenix-area high school that was a little easier to get excited about from this look. Cozens was a football recruit to Arizona and he signed for slot, just under $660,000. He isn’t just a raw athlete, as Cozens also led the state in homers as a senior. Some area scouts questioned his makeup but the Phillies insist he’s been nothing but a model citizen since signing.
Cozens wasn’t a consensus 2nd round prospect by scouts, but showed me some flashes of being more than big stiff lefty power bat as some teams had evaluated him. There is some stiffness to what Cozens does and he’s a 40 runner at best right now, likely slowing down as he continues to fill out. He has a solid-average arm and fine hands and instincts that can play in right field but his range is limited and he likely ends up as a first baseman down the road. All that said, the calling card here is the power, which is above average raw to his pull side and to center, created with long limbs, leverage and raw strength. The Phillies scouting staff seems to agree with me.
The calling card is the power, but the questions are on the bat. If you’ve read me before I’m always skeptical of big guys being able to hit for average because you have to be such a good athlete to corral long arms and legs into the compact swing that’s needed to consistently hit big league pitching. Cozens is aware of this and unlike many young sluggers, he isn’t selling out for power in his swing. His hands get deep but not as far as they could, his hands are setup much lower than most power hitters and his finish is also lower. He also appears to be trying to make contact rather than trying to put a hole in the right field fence.
Against Matt Smoral (report), Cozens shortened up and stung a hard ground ball up the middle. In another at bat, Cozens was challenged inside with two strikes and he stayed inside the ball, hitting a liner into right field when protecting the whole plate. I also saw a few at bats where Cozens was fooled on the pitch and was still able to make contact, helped in part by his more contact-oriented bat path.
One problem is that Cozens appeared to be leaning back, stiffening his legs, getting upright and guessing incorrectly a few too many times. That’s enough evidence to think Cozens may be a guess hitter, meaning he has trouble identifying pitches so he’ll either look great or terrible depending on how good his guess is. Doing that with a contact-oriented bat path takes out the terrible possibility but also neuters your power. I did see Cozens pull a belt high fastball out to right field, so it’s not a matter of changing things whole sale, but making a more consistent, repeatable approach.
The bottom line for me on Cozens is two-fold: some teams mis-evaluated this guy, as he isn’t just a one-dimensional stiff slugger but he is also backed into a corner profile-wise as an 18 year old limited to first base long-term. Another thing to keep in mind is that he’s young for his draft class and will still be 18 when the minor league season starts. It will be interesting to see how Cozens’ swing and approach work in full-season ball, as the upside is an everyday, middle-of-the-order masher and 2013 will tell us a lot about his chances of hitting that projection.