Cary, NC - USA Baseball had an interesting idea for Friday. Instead of four games, they played four “Simulation BP” games starting at 10 AM. Essentially, the whole lineup would take turns coming to the plate in hypothetical situations with a BP pitcher throwing from behind an L-screen. They had to put the ball in play within two swings, and there was a full defensive alignment trying to make plays according to the situation.
I was skeptical of its scouting value coming in, but it was actually quite good. You were able to see every player’s swing and also to see defensive actions and tools in the field. The only thing you missed on was pitching and catching, since there were no steals and very little receiving to do.
I was able also to watch six of the eight teams take infield/outfield workouts. All eight ran the 60 yard-dashes in between and I will get the results tomorrow.
I was able to gain a much better feel for the position prospects during the Friday workouts even though they were non-competitive.
Chris McFarland (Lufkin HS, TX) is not only a plus-plus runner, but the 6’1”, 200 lb righthanded hitter showed he could hit the ball hard the other way when he focused. I’d been impressed with his bat-speed and line-drive power since the Perfect Game National last week, but he struggled against the outer-half fastballs during the games. During the workout, the USA Baseball staff asked all hitters to hit the other way and McFarland showed he was fully capable of doing it against outside pitches when he saw it coming.
McFarland’s two best positions for me are center field and second base. His arm is the only tool that is decidedly below-average and doesn’t project to plus. The more I see of him, the more he looks like a high draft in 2011; a plus athlete with exceptional speed and a chance to become a good big league bat is a prized commodity.
Not showing nearly as much bat control was Brandon Nimmo, the lefthanded hitting outfielder from Wyoming (Cheyenne East HS). A couple of scouts pointed out to me how he “over loads” his swing, rotating his hip backwards before starting his swing. They believe the best load is one with the hands curling back alone because Nimmo forces himself to swing around the ball.
Defensively, Nimmo showed an average present-day big league arm that projects to plus when he’s physically mature. There’s no question of his tools and his upside, though it became clear that his bat is not nearly as advanced. This is a great experience for him, to face exceptional pitching from around the country, and I suspect it will make him a much better hitter by the end of the summer.
Bubba Starling (Gardner-Edgerton HS, KS) showed a much stiffer swing too, upon closer inspection in the Simulation BP Games. Starling, who is Nebraska’s prized quarterback commitment, tends to “wrap” his bat, lower his “bat angle”, and get long with his swing. It’s not to say he can’t hit like that, even at the big league level one day, but it does make him longer against pitches inside his kitchen.
For some reason, Starling didn’t do the outfield throwing workout so I was unable to get a good look at his arm.
Outfielder Wallace Gonzalez (Glendora HS, CA) is very intriguing. He’s a jumbo-sized 6’5”, 245 lb righthanded hitter who has solid-average raw MLB power right now and the projection for much more. He’s also fairly athletic, with good body control despite his big body. Gonzalez ran the 60 yard-dash twice while I was on the back field, registering both times around 7.1.
Most hitters as tall as Gonzalez have long swings, but his isn’t too bad. The “big league” bat-speed isn’t there yet, but it’s going to come, and he makes adjustments okay. There’s upside with Gonzalez as a hitter, no doubt. Defensively, he has an average arm right now that I believe will become a plus tool down the road.
The state of Colorado looks to have one of the nation’s best power hitting prospects in C/1B Greg Bird. The 6’4”, 215 lb lefthanded hitter from Grandview HS has a compact stroke with natural lift. He’s shown me an advanced ability to hit the curveball though he was just a tad late on a 90 MPH fastball when he guessed wrong. There’s much room on his frame to add muscle and I think Bird has a chance to become a good major league hitter.
His bat is definitely his calling card, but he moves okay at first base and behind the plate. I can see him becoming solid-average as a first baseman, but his very long release will make it tough for him to play catcher at the highest levels in pro ball. The outfield is an option, Bird’s throws will probably carry at the longer distances.
Dillon Maples had a poor outing on the mound on Day One after thrilling scouts at the Perfect Game National just a few days before. But he’s having a good week as a position player, Maples has a legitimate shot as a third baseman. With his strong 6’2”, 197 lb build, Maples actually looks more like a hitter than he does a pitcher. He can swing the bat and hit hard line-drives, plus has the actions and arm to become a good defensive third sacker. I still think scouts are interested in him mostly as a pitcher, but his versatility and athleticism is a bonus and I believe he should be followed as an infielder as well.
I consider Daniel Mengden (Houston Westside HS, TX) another two-way prospect, though he’s yet to pitch in Cary. I watched him throw low-90s at the PG National. Though he’s crude as a pitcher, the sculpted 6’0” righty has definite upside because of how his arm works. But he’s even more advanced as a hitter and catcher. Mengden has an easy righthanded swing with good extension and free hands. He shows a lot of athleticism and soft hands behind the plate and projects as at least a solid-average thrower. He’s one of the five best catchers I’ve seen thus far in the class of 2011.
Another strong righthanded bat is Ruben Ybarra from Riverside Poly HS in California. The 6’0”, 210 lb Ybarra has a mature, broad build, and can hit the ball hard to all fields. Despite his thick body, Ybarra has looseness in his hands and the ability to make adjustments. Ybarra also showed an average arm in both the infield and outfield workouts, though his slow feet and lack of speed hurt his chances of becoming a big league outfielder. Behind the plate, his transfers are probably too long to make him an effective thrower. There’s no defined position and Ybarra lacks projection with his body, so he’ll end up getting less draft consideration than players who aren’t nearly as good present-day hitters.
I’m flying out of North Carolina tomorrow morning but hope to get one more game in before coming up with the final Top-10 Prospects list for the 2010 Tournament of Stars. Check back over the weekend for the wrap-up.