Back round photo is the giant right field wall at McCormick Field, home of the Asheville Tourists. The photo is courtesy of thesportstraveleronline.com
For starters I would like to congratulate both teams for making it this far.
How they got here:
Both teams won the 2nd half crown and are currently red hot. . Lakewood (Phillies) swept Hagerstown (Nationals) to get the final. Rome (Braves) took 2 out of 3 from Charleston (Yankees) They’re both built on strong pitching and timely hitting.
A look at the Lakewood starters
Game 1 starter Franklyn Kilome has some the best stuff I saw all year. A power fastball and knee buckling curve makes a nice 1-2 punch. He hasn’t been scored on in his last 2 outings but hasn’t pitched in 8 days. Hard to hit.
Gm 2 Seranthony Dominguez has been hot since his promotion from the NY/Penn league in early July. If you throw out the 1st game he’s allowed 8 ER in his 9 Sally starts and none in his last 4 (21 innings).
Gm 3 Alberto Tirado has been dominant in his last 10 starts (49 innings) he’s got 78 strikeouts. Just 11 ER in his last 10 starts as well.
Gm 4 If necessary: Harold Arauz has been on fire too he’s allowed just 3 ER in his last 4 starts (25 Inn) with 15 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 21.
Gm 5 TBA
Extra starter Jose Taveras has been good all year but he’s on fire lately too allowing just 5 ER in his last 6 starts totaling 39 Inn, allowing 23 hits and 11 walks, while striking out 40. And he really shut down Hagerstown in the playoffs.
The only starter I saw from this group is Franklyn Kilome, but the whole staff is hot which isn’t too surprising. They finished 20 over in the 2nd half for a reason.
The Braves have not yet announced the SP rotation for the best of 5 finale but I reached out to two of my favorite Twitter follows: Garrett (on Twitter @BravesMILB) and Jeff (on Twitter @ProspectBraves). They believe it will stack up like this. Again this is unofficial. Give these guys a follow they’re good dudes and they know there stuff.
Gm 1 Mike Soroka- One of the top arms I saw all season. A nice combination of stuff and current command. He really hammers inside on right handers with fastball and curve combo. Good changeup too. I’m a little surprised he hasn’t hit a wall yet he’s logged some innings for an 18 year old.
Gm 2 Touki Toussaint- Touki flashes some of the best stuff you’ll see anywhere in the minors. Throwing the fastball for strikes is key, with 2 strikes that curve can be devastating. The change ups that I saw are little more than a change up pace pitch.
Gm 3 Kolby Allard- Another of the best arms I saw all season Allard has a nice fastball, curve combination. The change is good as well as is the command. Very advanced for a HS arm.
Gm 4 if necessary Max Fried- Fried works off of his fastball and likes to pound in on righties. It’s an above average pitch that he locates well. His 11-5 curve is plus and is a swing and miss generator. The change lags behind the other 2 and is more of a change of pace pitch.
The caveat is that I saw Fried early and he’s still working his way beck from TJ. It’s possible I didn’t see him at his best. I was hoping to get a 2nd look late but missed him.
Gm 5 in necessary Mike Soroka
This is the best staff I’ve seen at the Low-A level and they’re all pitching well now.
Some of the top hitters to watch out for:
LF) Cornelius Randolph- Selected 10th overall in the 2015 draft. I love the swing and the bat to ball skills.
CF) Mark Laird has been a spark plug for Lakewood since he arrived from the NY/Penn. In his 31 games he has a .445 OBP hitting in the top spot of the Blueclaws lineup.
RF) Jose Pujols- The Sally home run king, he hit 24 bombs this year. The long and lanky right hander does have some holes in his swing however. Not the best guy to make a mistake to.
CF) Ronald Acuna- One of the best hitters I saw all year. I love the combination of hit, plus speed and power potential.
3B) Austin Riley- I got a couple of looks early on and he was consistently late on low-90’s fastballs. But about halfway through the year he unlocked some bat speed and he as a different hitter. A strong kid with big time raw power.
RF) Ray Patrick Didder- The swing is a tad long but excellent bat speed, gap power currently. Very fast and a + glove in the OF.
It’s been a fun year in the Sally and we’ve got 2 great squads representing the league. Runs could be a premium here.
My prediction It’s hard to go against a team so hot but I’ll take Rome in 4.
Rome is the most talented team in the Sally this year IMO and that pitching will be very difficult to beat. And with Acuna back in the fold the offense will do enough damage to scrape by.
Coming up on Notes I’ll continue to go around the diamond with detailed looks at each position.
Plus a lot of top prospect lists on the horizon, separated by skill (top 5 power hitting OF in the Sally) and by positions (top 5 2B). Cheers.
Hey guys, this is the start of a new series I’ll be going around the diamond talking about the the state of each position, who I was excited to see at the start of the season. Who I wasn’t expecting to come back, but did. And who stood out in 2016. Today I get things rolling with the catchers position.
Coming into the year the Catching position didn’t have a ton of big names I was looking forward to seeing but there were some:
Topping the list was Yankee prospect Luis Torrens, he missed all of 2015 with a torn labrum. He put himself on the map in 2014 with a strong showing defensively and solid offensive skills. Unfortunately he missed the 1st 90 games this year as he continued to recover from the shoulder injury and rehabbed for 12 games in the NY/Penn league. I didn’t get a chance to see him but my friend Audie who works for the Riverdogs got a lot of looks:
“Torrens coming off of his injury has been optimistic in his return. His bat hasn’t quite come back to him just yet (hitting just .174 in 31 games), but he seems to show proof of improvements with his approach. Behind the plate he’s thrown out 18 of 44 runners, a 41% throw out rate. His arm is strong, but accuracy sometimes evades him trying to rush a throw.”
He finished strong and got the average up to .230 and every report I read said he’s a very good receiver. I think there’s a decent chance he’s back in Charleston the Spring at least for a little while.
Red Sox prospect Austin Rei was considered a steal when he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft out of U of Washington.. He had a strong defensive reputation and most evaluators thought he would hit. He struggled mightily post draft both with the bat and with the glove but I was wondering what a full off season would do for him. I got a few looks at Rei and he’s got decent pop but the swing is long and the bat speed is fringy. Twice I saw him take a fastball down the middle for strike three, he was obviously looking off speed. Which is a sign of a guess hitter. Defensively he’s an average receiver with a strong arm. He may find a career as a backup.
I suspected the Orioles would send one of Alex Murphy or Jonah Heim back to the Sally as they both missed time last year due to injury. It turned out to be Murphy and he has a reputation of a decent receiver with a good arm but often inaccurate throws. I got 2 looks but 1 behind the dish the other game he played 1B. I thought he looked good as a receiver and his arm wasn’t tested in my look. Offensively he showed above average pop but a long swing and contact issues are holding back the hit.
Braves 2015 2nd round pick Lucas Herbert, was Koby Allard’s catcher in high school he’s known for being a good receiver and also his leadership qualities. I got three looks at Herbert but only one at catcher (twice he was DH). He’s got a fast bat and turned on some quality fastballs. He does struggle with soft away though. Defensively, again it was just one look but: he’s athletic, looked very good receiving the ball and had a strong arm and quick release.
Seby Zavala of the White Sox showed some significant pop in Arizona post draft. I got a couple of looks at Seby, he handles the bat well and showed some pretty good defensive chops. Guest writer Dan Victor wrote about was impressed with Seby and I agree with him, he can play. Scouting Seby Zavala, C, Kannapolis
Jakson Reetz A 2014 3rd rd draft pick by the Nats, At the time of draft Reetz was known for having a polished bat and potential for average or above power and raw defensively. I got a couple of looks at Reetz. He’s got some bat speed but the swing has some length to it. Needs work with pitch recognition. Defensively Reetz is a good receiver with a strong arm and average release.
Ali Sanchez of the Mets, Sanchez signed as a 16 year old out of Venezuela, now 19 he’s heralded as a good receiver he’s athletic and handles the running game well. He can also hit. (He spent the whole year in the NY Penn League). So he’ll be on my players to watch list next year.
I was surprised he came back:
Yermin Mercedes got into 64 games with Delmarva in 2015 and performed pretty well with the bat. The Orioles have depth at catcher in there system so that may have played a roll in his return. Mercedes destroyed SAL league pitching this year to the tune of .353/.411/.579 over 91 games before being promoted to Frederick. I got a couple of looks, he’s got a short quick stroke and the ball jumps off of his bat. I think he’ll hit for contact and average power. I only saw him catch one game and he didn’t look good he was having issues receiving the ball. Two wild pitches but close to three others. He made one throw to 2nd and it was below average. I’ve heard from others that he looked better in there looks. That’s the peril of one look but I remain somewhat skeptical about the defense.
Chase Vallot got into 80 games with Lexington in 2015 and hit.219/.331/.427 and that .208 ISO is the real deal. He’s a strong young man with a long swing but he generates good bat speed with lift. He does struggle with pitch recognition and strikes out a lot. The question is will the hit play high enough for him to get to his power in games. I got two looks last year and two this year. He an average receiver with an average arm. Needs to quicken the release.
Who stood out
Xavier Fernandez, Lexington (Royals) Fernandez had a good year splitting the job with Chase Vallot. In 92 games he hit .259/.320/.387. I didn’t get to see him so I called on a friend and colleague who sees a lot of Lexington Clinton Riddle for his thoughts. And Clinton was very generous with his time.
” Fernandez seems like that sort of prospect who doesn’t get a ton of press, but then ends up on a lot of watch lists. He’s got good pop, he’s aggressive at the plate but has a pretty good eye and will draw more than enough walks, and he’s pretty steady. He’s got a great arm and will gun down runners on a regular basis. His glove work and mobility behind the dish could use a little improvement, but he’s not going to hurt you back there either. As it stands at the moment, I see no reason that he won’t at least turn into a great backup at the higher levels. The arm would carry a lot of catchers, but his offense is icing on the cake. I can’t see how he wouldn’t eventually be a solid ML catcher.”
You can find Clinton’s writing and photography at John Sickels Minor League Ball. He also edits for the Scouting Tribune. He’s a good guy and he know’s his stuff. I wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to him again.
Chris Rabago, Asheville (Rockies). Asheville is my home park and I saw a lot of Rabago. He doesn’t wow you offensively, he handles the bat pretty well but no power to speak of. Where he shined though was defensively. He’s a very good receiver with a strong arm.
This wraps up the catchers position I’ll be back with a look at 1B next week.
Hey guys, I was in Greenville the other night to get a look at Braves CF Ronald Acuna. I was also lucky enough to see Touki Toussaint. take the mound for Rome. This was my 2nd look at Touki. I saw him last Summer in Asheville soon after the Braves acquired him from the Diamondbacks. He was all over the place that day but the potential was obvious. I know statistically at least he’s turned the corner this season and has been a lot more consistent. So getting this 2nd look a year later is a nice before and after.
Touki recently turned 20, he’s listed 6’3″ 185 lbs, he bats and throws right. Touki was drafted by the Diamondbacks 16th overall in the 2014 draft out of high school in Corral Springs, Fl (Fort Lauderdale metro). I believe I heard at the time of the draft he was either the 1st ever player of Haitian decent to play professional baseball or the 1st ever drafted. I poked around the net a little bit this morning trying to find it but if anybody could clear that up for me that would be good, thanks.
I thought on the field that Touki looked 6’3″ 195 lbs and he appeared to be in excellent shape. There is a good amount of projection left.
Touki stands on the 3rd base side of the rubber, he utilizes a 3/4 release point. There is some effort in the delivery, but he repeats it well. He utilizes a high leg kick and it does create some deception. He’s a good athlete who works fast and has excellent arm speed.
In this 1st video we see Touki’s 1st start as a Brave courtesy of Chris Blessing (On Twitter @C_Blessing) and his release is kind of all over the place.
The 2nd video (also from Chris Blessing) is from April of this year, I wish it were more recent but he’s noticeably more consistent with his release point. When I saw him last July he was missing a lot side to side and often by feet. He still has a ways to go but he’s much more consistently around the plate now. The most obvious adjustment from one video to the other is he switched to the 3rd base side of the rubber. We only see him pitching from the stretch in the 1st video because there was a runner on 1st at the start of it.
The fastball sat 91-95, touched 96 a few times, and 97 once in the 5th inning. Early on he was mostly 91-93, and touching the higher bands,by the 3rd inning he was 93-95. With arm side run, the lower the velocity the higher the movement. Even in the lower bands, very few batters were able to square the pitch and drive it to their pull side. 60 current, potential double plus.
The 11-5 curve was sometimes 11-4:30 or 11-5:30. It was thrown most often in the high 70’s. It has nice shape and very sharp bite. He still has a hard time throwing the pitch for strikes. But it is a swing and miss generator and a weapon with 2 strikes. 70
Touki throws the change at 83-86. He does a nice job mimicking the arm speed of the fastball. He wasn’t finishing the pitch in my viewing leaving many above the belt on the inner 3rd. The pitch did feature some fade and sink but it’s clearly his 3rd pitch. 45
Sequencing: 80% fastballs 1st time through but went down from there. 60% by the 5th inning. Curves 10%, early 20% by the middle innings. Same for the change ups.
Command/Control: Early on he was pounding the zone with fastballs it was control over command but it was still nice to see. He wasn’t as consistent with location in innings 3-5. He mostly bounced the curve all night but he did land a few of them in the zone. He also took something off on a few of them and landed them in the zone.
Touki Toussaint is a lot of fun to watch, he works fast and has electric stuff. He was struggling to put away hitters the other night because they were laying off of the curve and spoiling the fastball. I don’t know that I saw his best change up yet. He’s come a long way since last July but there is more development still to come. I really hope he maxes out his range of outcomes. That would be fun to see. He has top of the rotation starter upside. He could still be a dynamic 8th or 9th inning guy as a fall back option. He’s in good hands in the Braves system. They know a thing or two about pitching.
Hey guys, I took a run down to Fluor Field in Greenville last night to see the Drive take on the Rome Braves. It was the Drive’s 2016 home finale (there final 4 games are on the road in West Virginia) and my last chance to see Rome CF, Ronald Acuna who was recently activated from a long DL stint. It was also an opportunity to get another look at Touki Toussaint. I’m glad I made it down.
Ronald Acuna, age 18, he’s listed 6′ 180 lbs, he bats and throws right. Acuna was signed by the Braves out of Venezuela in July of 2014 for $100,000.
I guessed on the field Acuna was 6’1″ 190″. He’s got some wiry strength to him and a projectable body. He could carry another 10-15 lbs of muscle but that could cost him a step.
At the dish Acuna has an upright semi open stance. He keeps his hands high and he remains pretty quiet pre pitch. He utilizes a moderate leg kick for timing. He’s got quick hands and a short fast linear swing. The ball really jumps off of his bat. It was just one look but as quick as he is to the ball he should have a high contact %. And with his bat speed and contact rates the hit could play as high as plus or perhaps even better.
Acuna has gap power right now but he’s strong and the ball really jumps off of his bat. I could see the game power approaching 45 or 10-14 HR’s in the next few years and 16-20 at peak. That’s with his current approach. If he starts putting more balls in the air those numbers could climb.
Acuna has plus speed, but needs to continue to hone his craft in terms of reading pitchers to max out the stolen base threat.
It was just one look and I didn’t get a very good read on the CF defense. Sorry, he had a quiet night out there.
Here we get several great looks at Acuna’s swing courtesy of Chris Blessing (Baseball HQ)(on Twitter @C_Blessing)
Overall: I love his offensive game. He’s going to hit and he’s got a nice power and speed combo. He reminded me in many ways of Victor Robles My 1st look at Victor Robles, CF, Hagerstown but not as fast and probably not as dynamic defensively. He’ll be a fun player to watch develop.
Up next is a Touki Toussaint scouting report, that’ll land either tomorrow or Sunday. Cheers
Hey guys, I’ll be taking a run down to Greenville tonight to see the Drive take on the Rome Braves. I thought I saw my final game of the year on July 31st in Greenville also vs Rome because 2 days later I had hip surgery. But one month into recovery and feeling pretty good even if I’m not fully walking under my own power yet. The truth is I was relaxing and waiting for Spring until I heard that the Braves might activate CF Ronald Acuna before instructs. A thumb injury has had him sidelined since early May. Acuna was pretty high on my list of players to see coming into the year an his fast start pushed him to the top. Assuming he plays tonight I will have a 1st impression write up on the site by tomorrow.
Tonight’s starting pitchers
Touki Toussaint gets the start for Rome and my only look at him came last season in Asheville soon after the Braves acquired him from the Diamondbacks. He had a very bumpy start that day lasting less than 2 innings allowing 8 ER. Touki’s got some of the best stuff in the entire minor leagues but he’s very raw and repeating his delivery has been an issue. Recent results however have looked much, much better. And I’m excited to get another look at him and there may be a new write up on him over the weekend. We’ll see.
On the mound for Greenviile is left hander Dedgar Jimenez
Some of the bats I’ll be watching
and for Greenville
Luis Alexander Basabe
It should be a fun game Greenville will be a good test for Touki they’ve got a lot of guys who can punish mistakes.
I’ll be live Tweeting throughout the game @AshevilleSoxFan. Cheers.
The other night in Kannapolis I was fortunate to be on hand as Alec Hansen made his Class A debut against the Columbia Fireflies. A little background research on Hansen will tell you he is a premier prospect who battled issues with command and control while pitching at Oklahoma and his draft stock fell when he was relegated to the bullpen during his junior year. Once thought of as a potential top five draft pick due to his overpowering raw stuff, Hansen fell to the White Sox who picked him as the 49th overall draft choice (second round).
Due to the control issues exhibited in college (96 walks in 145 innings) over three seasons; scouts saw Hansen as a project with a very high ceiling. After the draft he was assigned to the White Sox Arizona League affiliate where his electric repertoire earned him a line of (7 IP 1 H 4 BB 11 SO and a 0.00 ERA) in three starts. With Great Falls in the Pioneer League he continued to impose his will upon opposing hitters (36.2 IP 12 H 12 BB 59 SO and a 1.23 ERA) over seven starts. Last night the Alec Hansen assault on the SAL began, here were my first impressions.
Hansen was the first Intimidator on the field, he is very recognizable due to his height and massive wing span. He is listed as 6’7” 235, a build reminiscent of Pittsburgh Pirates uber-prospect Tyler Glasnow. For a very tall 21 year old he is built rather sturdily, not long, awkward, and gangly, but rather solid and athletic looking. He uses his long levers to deliver the ball from a high, three quarters arm slot. His windup begins with a very pronounced leg kick that brings his left knee high above his belt, and ends with a long stride toward the plate and a balanced finish. He blows up the radar gun with frequency without using a max effort delivery. During this start his velocity sat between 93-95 touching 97 when he reached back for a little extra.
The breaking pitches were on display last night. The best word I can use to describe the slider I saw was “devastating” quite possibly the best I have seen at any SAL game this season. He seemed to possess great confidence in the pitch and his command of it. The Columbia hitters were continuously befuddled by the slider as it was nearly untouchable. Hansen’s pitching line for the effort was (5 IP 5 H 2 BB 6 SO and 3 ER). The numbers don’t tell the true story though. One of the “hits” was a fly ball that the right fielder clearly lost in the lights, he was running in and the ball landed twenty feet behind him, the second baseman was also motioning that he had lost site of the ball as the two were converging. There were also two plays at home plate that may have prevented runs had the catcher been able to cleanly handle the throw. The Intimidators defense coupled with their base running miscues cost Hansen a win.
The control has always been the Achilles heel in Hansen’s game. On Friday night Hansen’s fastball was the pitch that he was having the hardest time controlling. I will suggest however, that he was not all over the place as one might expect. He wasn’t air mailing pitches to the back stop or burying the ball in the dirt, just missing his spots and catching too much of the plate when behind in the count. The Fireflies hitters did manage to make loud contact on multiple occasions, but I do not recall any hitter barreling up a pitch to their pull side throughout the night (I could be wrong).
Here we get several good looks at Hansen’s delivery and stuff courtesy of Fangraphs:
Overall, I was very impressed with Hansen. He’s got a power pitcher’s body, an explosive fastball and very advanced secondary pitches. It is no wonder why several scouts suggested that he had possibly the best pure stuff of any pitcher in the 2016 draft. The delivery and pitching motion don’t throw any red flags that would indicate impending health concerns, and his command must have made great strides with professional coaching. Last night I feel like I saw a future top of the rotation starter or at worst case scenario a power closer. White Sox fans will want to follow Hansen as he progresses and works his way toward the south side of Chicago, he is going to be a good one.
This was another stellar guest post by my friend and colleague Dan Victor (on Twitter @slydanno70). He’s a good guy and he know’s his stuff. Give him a follow.
Hey guys I had an awesome interview with Audie Wise the Assistant Director of Media Relations & Broadcasting for the Charleston RiverDogs. He’s an intern but Audie is also an aspiring baseball scout. He and I have connected over Twitter the last 6 months he’s a good guy and he know’s his stuff. You can find Audie on Twitter @awise1010
Me, Hi Audie, I appreciate you taking the time to meet
Audie, Absolutely. Glad to have the opportunity.
M I was hoping to get to know you a little bit. How long how you been working for the Riverdogs?
A This is my first year, and it’s just an internship. I’ve been with the club since the beginning of March.
M Nice, Did you grow up a baseball fan? Yankee fan?
A Baseball is my life in every sense of the word and imagination. I grew up a Braves fan and still am despite the recent activities provided from the front office.
M Yeah not an easy team to root for right now.
A Luckily I’m so consumed with the RiverDogs I don’t have time to worry about the Braves haha
M Alright lets get down to it
M Catcher Luis Torrens was high on my radar coming into the year and I was sorry to see him miss time. How has he looked in his brief time back? How would you rate his receiving skills and throwing arm?
A Torrens coming off of his injury has been optimistic in his return. His bat hasn’t quite come back to him just yet (hitting just .174 in 31 games), but he seems to show proof of improvements with his approach. Behind the plate he’s thrown out 18 of 44 runners, a 41% throw out rate. His arm is strong, but accuracy sometimes evades him trying to rush a throw.
M Domingo Acevedo had a very strong 1st half in Charleston. What does he throw? Being 6’7″ tall does he have a hard time repeating his delivery and release point?
A Domingo had a good feel on the mound after his first couple of starts. He has started to become more of a pitcher rather than just a thrower. His fastball (95-99) is obviously dominant if he can locate. His slider (87-89) is effective if he can keep changing the eye level of the hitters, which is also helped from his change up (79-83). He spent a stint on the DL for a lower-body injury, but returned and looked sharp. Soon thereafter he got the call up to Tampa.
M Nice from afar he looks like an interesting young arm
A With more help from his managers and pitching coordinators, he can improve in some areas. He certainly has promise.
M You guys have had some relievers with some really strong statistical seasons in the pen this yr namely Andrew Schwaab and Nestor Cortez. Who should I be keeping an eye on back there?
A Both of these guys are really good. Nestor is a quality pitcher that hopefully has caught the eye of most. He’s a late-round guy; I call him the crafty lefty. He’s not that big, but he know how to pitch, and does so effectively. Cortes won’t power you away with a fastball, but can use his command and off speed to be deceptive. When facing right-handers, Cortes will throw from over the top to have more of a vertical look on the ball; versus righties, he will go from 3/4 to sidearm to get more run on the ball. He also knows how to add and subtract on his pitches with his location as well. Schwaab is a good closer to have. He’s a 3/4 sidearm thrower with good run on his two-seam and a nice slider. He has some control issues at times, but typically finds a way to get out of the jam. Right now he sits in second place in the SAL in saves (18) and fourth in games finished (27) even after being in Tampa for a month. Cortes was promoted to Tampa back on July 22nd and has done well for the High-A team.
M My final two questions are: Which position player blossomed the most as a prospect from April-Aug? And which pitcher blossomed the most between April and August? Thanks
M I really appreciate the detailed responses
A A position player is hard to pinpoint, but I would say Alex Palma. Palma is a built guy at 6’0″-200, but it seems like he’s bigger than that. He’s a really strong guy and does well to deceive people on his speed. He plays corner outfield and has good routes to the ball, track them down and has a 70 arm (on a 20-80 scale). He does well at the plate, but away and off speed can hinder him slightly. Christian Morris I believe has set himself apart from the pack. He is also a late-round guy. Coming from Indiana University and having Tommy John in high school, Morris has learned how to pitch to his strengths. Morris has a good lively fastball (89-92) with run. His slider has good late action on it and knows when to use that as his ‘out’ pitch.
M Thanks so much Audie I appreciate you taking the time to do this you obviously know your stuff.
A Thank you, Sir. Keep in touch. I appreciate all the hard work and dedication you have towards the game.