Hey guys, welcome to the 2018 Sally team preview series. I’m excited to get these going again. This is my 3rd year of doing the previews, they make for a great off season project and I learn a ton from them.
Today I’ll be looking at the 2018 Asheville Tourists, the Single A full season affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. The Tourists are my home team as McCormick field is just 1 mile from the house. I spend a lot of time there in the Summer as you might expect and they’re consistently among the most talented teams in the league.
For those not familiar with the series: I scour the rookie levels of each organization and speculate on who might be coming to the Sally in 2018 and whenever possible I try to include a scouting report. New for this year, I’ll also be interviewing some of my favorite prospectors to find out who they’re most excited about coming out of rookie ball. Both the high end players and some sleepers to watch for. I’m looking forward to collaborating with some talented people. Some that I know fairly well and others that I’m just a fan of there work.
Big thanks to Bobby DeMuro (on Twitter @BobbyDeMuro) for jumping on to talk about the 2017 “Grand Junction Rockies”. I’ve known Bobby for a few years, since he was a member of the “Purple Row” team (SB Nation site dedicated to “Colorado Rockies” coverage) since then Bobby has created a terrific website titled “Baseball Census” (baseballcensus.com) it’s already one of my favorite sites on the net with tons of live look scouting reports and video. As well as some top notch interviews, like this one Here “Mariners” Outfield prospect Braden Bishop describes the swing changes he made last off season and then demonstrates them.
To a baseball nerd like me this is pretty fascinating and great work by Braden describing the changes. It’s easy to see how the new swing will generate more torque and back spin.
So check out baseballcensus.com for a lot more content like this as well as 100’s of scouting reports and prospect videos. It’s an honor to have Bobby here.
At Notes from the Sally, it’s all about live look scouting. Once I see the 2018 Asheville Tourists, you can expect write ups on many of the players listed. I’ll see them a dozen or more times beginning in Mid April.
1st up, lets meet the notables
RHP) Riley Pint- Age 20, listed 6’4″ 195 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted 4th overall in the 2016 draft out of High School in Overland Park, KS (Kansas City Metro)
Pint spent all of 2016 with Asheville and showed the explosive fastball that made him the 4th overall pick in last years draft. As well as flashing a plus slider, a solid curve and change. He’s on the raw side and command/control are going to be a work in progress. Still super young, I could see him back with the Tourists for at least a 1/2 season, so he can continue to work on repeating the delivery and arm slot. As well as tightening up secondaries.
3B) Ryan Vilade- Turns 19 in February, listed 6’2″ 194 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft (pick #48) out of high school in Stillwater, OK.
RHP) Tommy Doyle- Age 21, listed 6’6″ 235 lbs, bats and throws right. He was selected in the 2nd competitive balance round of the 2017 draft (pick #70) out of the Univ of Virginia.
Rob Ozga of “The baseball draft report” liked what he saw from Doyle and wondered why he wasn’t considered one of top college pitchers. You can read his thoughts here as part of his Virginia draft preview:
RHP) Pearson McMahan- Age 21, listed 6’2″ 190 lbs, bats left and throws right. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft out of St John’s River State College (North Eastern FL).
Not finding a lot on McMahan but Eric Longenhagen wrote this as part of a piece titled “Day 2 draft standouts, National League”: “Heater up to 95 and average slider”. Click the link for the rest of the piece, including his thoughts on 6th round pick Chad Spanberger. Day 2 Draft Standouts, National League
LHP) Nick Kennedy- Age 21, listed 5’11” 205 lbs, bats right and throws left. Kennedy was drafted in the 5th round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Texas.
These next 3 arms were all highly thought of draftees, that have all struggled to some degree since turning pro. Just a few more examples that prospect development isn’t linear. We may see all of these young pitchers in Asheville, though some or all could skip. Too soon to know:
RHP) Robert Tyler- Age 22, listed 6’4″ 226 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted 38th overall in the 2016 draft out of the Univ of Georgia.
I was hoping to see Tyler this past season in Asheville but he only threw 7 innings in 2017 and all were with Boise.
LHP) Ben Bowden- Age 23, listed 6’4″ 235 lbs, bats and throws left. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft out of Vanderbilt Univ.
Dave Defreites and Nick J Faleris of “2080 Ball” put out there 2017 organizational review of the Rockies back in February and had this say about Bowden.
“Quick Hit: A second-rounder in the 2016 MLB Draft, the former Vandy Commodore relies primarily on a low- to mid-90s fastball that he works well down in the zone and comes with solid downhill plane. His changeup has solid deception off the heater and comes with straight, late dive, while the breaking ball is a slurvy offering that should eventually tighten into an average slider. While Bowden has the build to shoulder a starter’s workload, batters have an easier time getting the ball in the air than one would expect given the solid plane off of which he works. That, combined with erratic control, could pose significant issues to turning over lineups at the upper levels, particularly without a dependable breaking ball to utilize against same-side bats.”
“The Rockies ran Bowden out as a reliever in 2016 but are expected to give him time in the rotation to start 2017. As a starter he profiles as a back-end arm, though his fastball and changeup could play well out of the pen – a role he thrived in as Vandy’s closer. He’ll likely hit High A this year in his first full season of pro ball.”
Nikorak is recovering from Tommy John surgery (April 2017) but we may see him at some point in the Summer of 2018.
Now here’s Bobby DeMuro talking about some Grand Junction Rockies that stood out.
Question 1) 3B) Ryan Vilade has gotten a lot of buzz post draft, what’s his carrying tool and do you like his chances to stick at 3B? Floor? Ceiling?
Bobby- “Funny you ask about third base – I’ve only ever seen him play shortstop. One of my writers and I each saw him early in the summer in different series starting at short, then I caught him again at the NWL/PIO All-Star Weekend playing shortstop there. By the time I finally got to a home series in GJ at the end of the year, he was injured, unfortunately. I don’t think there’s any question he can stick at third base considering I really liked him now at shortstop. He’s a good athlete with some range and a very strong arm, and I think third is ultimately a natural position for him. (Start playing around with the Rockies’ lineup in 2021 or so and maybe he could even move over to second base, or first, depending on how he hits and who else is around.)”
“As for carrying tool, I think he’s got a shot to hit for average. He’s remarkably patient at the plate and has a very good understanding of the strike zone. Pitch recognition is advanced for this level. Tends to get set out wide in his stance and will sacrifice some leverage/power doing it, but flip side of that is it gives him an opportunity to put the barrel on the ball and work gap to gap. Unsure yet if that would make him a better fit somewhere like second base, especially relative to the Rockies’ roster around him in a couple years, but I think he’s going to hit wherever he goes and he’s a better overall athlete in the field than I’d expected him to be.”
2) Pitchers: Tommy Doyle, Will Gaddis, Pearson McMahan and Nick Kennedy were all drafted in the 1st five rounds. Were you able to see any of them throw? Ceiling? Floor? Any potential impact starters or relievers in the group?
Bobby- “Unfortunately, I didn’t see Nick Kennedy or Pearson McMahan.”
“Tommy Doyle wasn’t impressive to me. Big body, big frame, but sloppy and unathletic with a delivery completely lacking explosiveness. I had him 88-90 and working up to 91 – but straight as hell, pairing it with a tight little slider (cutter?) without any depth and a pretty basic straight changeup. Some game management/emotional issues – gave up a long home run late in a home game that was completely out of reach, buzzed the tower on the next batter, drawing warnings for everybody, and then acted like he didn’t do anything on purpose. Unnecessary stuff, immature. Raw stuff and velo were unremarkable overall considering his frame, though there’s definitely enough body and leverage there to build something out of him. Maybe a reliever down the road, but admittedly I need to see him some more.”
“Gaddis is a good bit better. Throws with great downward plane and some cross-body deception, sits 89-93 with a cutter, change, and curve. Hides the ball very well. I think he’s probably a reliever long term with some high energy/max effort in his delivery and demeanor, but no reason he shouldn’t start for the next few years until he works his way into the bullpen in the upper minors. Strike thrower, great competitor. Perfect for Grand Junction environment – didn’t get discouraged with the ball carrying, competitive enough to pitch in an ugly high scoring game like it’s a pitcher’s duel. Demeanor and competitiveness seem like they’d work well for Colorado. College guy and pretty polished, so could do what Brandon Gold/Ty Culbreth did last year: half the year in Asheville, half the year in Lancaster.”
LF-RF) Daniel Jipping– Turns 22 in April, listed 6’2″ 232 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Central Michigan.
Bobby- There’s a Boise guy everyone needs to know about: Daniel Jipping. Drafted out of Central Michigan in June. Dude has *STUPID* raw power, built like a linebacker. Average or slightly below in every other aspect of his game, but legitimate 65/70 raw power in BP and I think he’s got a real shot for 60 game power as he grows. A college guy who’s fairly polished; may skip Asheville and head to Lancaster in a way similar to what the Rockies have done with other rookie power hitters recently (Collin Ferguson comes to mind), but if he ends up in Asheville, make sure you see him take BP as often as you can. He’ll put on a show, and he already has a bit of an idea how to transition that to execute in game situations. Long term, probably a one-trick pony with power who will play outfield corners on occasion as a platoon guy, and most often be the pinch hitting power threat off the bench. That’s a viable path to Denver, knowing the Rockies’ history and some of the guys who have held that role.
RF-LF) Casey Golden- Age 23, listen 6’2″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 20th round of the 2017 draft out of the UNC Wilmington
A lot of people are going to ask about Casey Golden here, considering the incredible numbers he put up in Grand Junction and the fact that he and Jipping are the same draft class. For my money, right now, I think Jipping is more likely to actualize raw power and he undoubtedly has far better overall athleticism and musculature to take advantage of. I’d roll with Jipping if I had to pick, though Golden is certainly one to keep in the back of your mind, too.
4) Are there a few International signees that caught your eye?
Bobby- Three in particular:
Shael Mendoza- Age 21, listed 6′ 165 lbs, bats left and throws right. He was signed as an 18 year old out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.
Mendoza is a *dude* up the middle. I know there’s no such thing as a second base prospect, but he’s got the size and footwork to play across the infield with enough arm strength to survive at shortstop. Inconsistent as you’d expect right now from a rookie level middle infielder, but he’s a great athlete with very good reactions and instincts. Surprisingly advanced at the plate with the ability to turn on the ball and hit with authority beyond just the slap-and-run game he shows early. I really, really like the way he plays and I think he’s got a shot to be a big league utility guy in a few years if it all pans out. Raw talent is there, execution is there, range, hands, arm, etc. are all there — just needs consistency to come with age/experience.
RHP) Jefry Valdez– Age 22, listed 6’1″ 165 lbs, bats and throws right. He too was signed as an 18 year old out of the Dominican.
“Valdez is a bad dude coming out of the bullpen. Had him sitting 90-95 with command feel for a very sharp slider. Scrawny and young, needs to grow into his body and build out some velo, but definite late inning potential there.”
C-1B) Javier Guevara- Age 20, listed 5’11” 165 lbs, bats and throws right. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2014
Finally, catcher Javier Guevara. I spent time in the NWL, PIO, AZL, and GCL in 2017 and across all four rookie leagues, I can say without question that Javier Guevara was the best baseball player I saw at the level. If you’ve ever seen Jose Trevino play in person, that’s the kind of guy you get in Javier Guevara behind the plate. (Hopefully you and your readers remember Trevino from Hickory in 2015). Exceptional competitiveness, great instincts behind the plate, great arm and feel for when to back pick and throw to bases (1.9-1.96 pop times), advanced receiver and pitch blocker, competitive leadership of the pitching staff. Mature kid, plays hard. All the intangible/intense traits you’d hope to have in a catcher. Bat’s not a black hole, either – don’t think he’ll ever be a significant offensive weapon but could turn himself into a 50/55 hitter with modest power. Total sleeper prospect that more people need to be on right now.
RHP) Jeffri Ocando- Age 18, listed 6’1″ 180 lbs, bats and throws right. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2015.
One more guy I like a little bit is Jeffri Ocando, a right-handed starter. Struggles to repeat his delivery, a lot of moving parts but good feel for his full repertoire and got a shot to start games in Asheville next summer.
5) Is there a sleeper or two not previously mentioned, maybe a player with one loud tool, plus or better raw power or speed?
Bobby- RHP Derrik Watson. Low-round pick in 2017 who barely pitched at Murray State University before being drafted. He’s extremely, extremely raw, but he’s got incredible natural arm strength that you can’t teach: had him working 91-94 and touching 96 this summer with serious arm-side life to his fastball. Everything needs work — secondaries, command, mechanics, holding runners, filling out his body, etc., etc. — but there just aren’t many kids with natural velo like that, and if everything else evens out, he’s got a shot to be an upper-90s late inning guy in a couple years.
2B) Bret Boswell- Age 23, listed 6’1″ 180 lbs, bats left and throws right. He was drafted in the 8th round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Texas. (Potential starting 2B for Lancaster)
2B) Jose Rodriguez- Turns 22 in February, listed 5’10” 160 lbs, bats left and throws right. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2012.
SS) Ryan Vilade
If Vilade plays mostly 3B one of McLaughlin or Trejo will likely get significant run. But it sounds like he is performing very well at SS, so there’s no reason to move him. Best to let the player play the more premium position defensively Even if his long term home might not be there.
SS) Matt McLaughlin- Turns 22 in February, listed 6’1″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 12th round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Kansas.
SS) Alan Trejo- Age 21, listed 6’2″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 16th round of the 2017 draft out of San Diego State Univ.
One or both of these guys could also factor in at 3B, Rodriguez has zero appearances at SS in his career. So he’s probably not a great fit for the back up Middle Infield spot.
Either SS-2B) Carlos Herrera of SS-3B-2B, or Taylor Snider could return. Undrafted free agent shortstops LJ Hatch and Kennard McDowell could make an appearance as well.
CF) Manuel Melendez- Turns 21 in January, 5’10” 170 lbs, bats and throws left. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2013.
Melendez is a toolsy outfielder with an aggressive approach and a fast bat. Potential to be an above average hitter with plus speed. And the power could get to average though with current swing plane the HR’s likely won’t exceed 10-12.
CF-LF-RF) Cole Anderson- Turns 21 in February, listed 5’11” 190 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 10th round of the 2015 draft out of the Higfh School in Fort Collins, CO. Anderson got into 18 games with Asheville in 2017.
LF) Daniel Jipping
RF) Casey Golden
RF) Ramon Marcelino- Age 20, listed 6’1″ 175 lbs, bats left and throws right. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013. I’m looking forward to seeing Marcelino and his .339 ISO. But with just one year of state side rookie ball under his belt he may be held back in extended and head for Boise.
Here we get a look at his swing, courtesy of MILB.
Impressive, the ball really jumps off of his barrel. He’s going to enjoy the short porch in RF at McCormick
OF is a bit up in the air: It’ll be interesting to see if Marcelino makes the jump. Do we see Jipping in LF, or does he head for Lancaster. Same with Golden in RF. If Melendez heads for Lancaster, Cole Anderson should get a lot of run in CF.
Also in the mix in the outfield: Ben Johnson (LF, CF, RF), Aubry McCarty (LF-RF), Stephen Linkous (CF, LF), Brett Stevens (LF, CF, RF), Tyler Bates.
I enjoyed my deep dive into the Rox system and thanks again to Bobby DeMuro for contributing. He did a ton of heavy lifting here. Lots of names to explore. This team could potentially be strong up the middle with Catcher Javier Guevara behind the plate and the middle infield combo of 2B) Shael Mendoza and SS) Ryan Vilade. Really hoping Ramon Marcelino makes the jump. The pitching is very deep but not super exciting, although I still love Riley Pint. This feels like a middle of the road team in terms of talent. Although with 11 previews still to come hard to say for sure.
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