Because most of my writing for FanGraphs is based on my KATOH projection system, you might regard me as the exact opposite of a scout. My work is often presented against the backdrop of traditional scouting lists in an effort to identify players who may by underrated by the scouting consensus. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to see more prospects in person in order to put faces and bodies to the stat lines I spend so much time analyzing.
Specifically, I’ve attended a number of high-school and college games this spring in an effort to see as many draft-eligible prospect as possible, including a few who are likely to be selected in the first two rounds tonight. My looks have been defined by one constraint, however — namely, my general reluctance to leave the five boroughs of New York.
What follows is specific sort of document, then, based on a combination of in-person looks, statistical performance, and geography. It is, in short, the pref list of someone who refused to stray far from New York City while compiling it. The mediocre scouting video is my own. KATOH numbers are included for college players and represent projected WAR over first six major-league seasons.
1. MJ Melendez, C, Westminster Christian HS
Westminster Christian isn’t located in New York, at all, but rather the Miami area. The school’s baseball team visited Brooklyn’s Grand Street Campus in April, though, so they’re eligible for this list.
Melendez is the catcher for Westminster Christian. He’s a joy to watch behind the plate, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a catcher move the way he does. He sets a low target with his Tony Pena-esque stance and has the arm strength and athleticism to throw to second from his knees — a maneuver that made Benito Santiago an elite defensive catcher back in the day. He also showed quick hands at the plate. High-school catchers are always a gamble, but Melendez oozes athleticism, so perhaps he’s a gamble worth taking.
2. Quentin Holmes, OF, Monsignor McClancy HS
Whenever I see prospects in person, I look up their uniform numbers beforehand since I don’t trust myself to pick them out of the crowd. That wasn’t necessary in Holmes’ case, as it was immediately obvious he was “the guy.” Maybe that says more about NYC high schoolers than it does about Holmes, but you could tell he was a premium athlete just by the way he looked and moved. Holmes didn’t do anything notable in-game other than run really fast, but it’s easy to see why scouts love him. He’s a cold-weather kid with a great, projectable body and double-plus speed. He just has a lot of developing left to do, but it’s easy to envision that development happening.
3. Zac Lowther, LHP, Xavier
KATOH Forecast: 1.8 WAR
I was very excited to see Lowther after KATOH pegged him as the top pitcher on the Cape last year, but he didn’t look great when I saw him. The big-bodied lefty sat 88-91 with deception and movement and fired off a few good, high-70s curveballs. His curve was inconsistent, however, and his command just wasn’t there at all. He allowed 5 earned runs over 4.1 innings with four walks and no strikeouts. This was apparently one of the rare bad starts for Lowther, as he finished up with a 2.92 ERA and 123 strikeouts across 15 starts. KATOH’s naturally a fan, as his body of work is impressive. The two minor knocks against him statistically are his walk rate and the non-elite competition of the Big East Conference. I’m smart enough not to write him off just because I happened to see him at his worst, but it’s hard to reconcile his stat line with the outing I saw.
4. James Karinchak, RHP, Bryant
KATOH Forecast: 0.4 WAR
Karinchak missed time with an elbow injury early in the year, and I caught him starting against Wagner in one of his first games back. He looked great. His fastball was 90-92 mph, and he complemented it with a high-70s curveball and a changeup he used exclusively versus lefties. He also sprinkled in a few high-80s cutters. His command was good up until his last inning of work. He struck out 11, walked none, and allowed just one hit in seven shutout innings. Karinchak was a strikeout machine all spring, amassing 86 in just 56.2 innings. There’s a lot to like about Karinchak, although there’s some effort in his delivery, and his strong performance came in the NEC, which doesn’t produce big leaguers with much regularity.
5. Deon Stafford, C, St. Joseph’s
KATOH Forecast: 0.3
Stafford served as St. Joseph’s DH when I saw him, as he was dealing with a hand injury. His hand was clearly bothering him during BP, which probably explains why he didn’t make as much explosive contact as I was expecting. Still, given his physique, it’s easy to see how Stafford hit 26 homers between this year and last. One scout commented that he looked more like a wrestler than a baseball player. Stafford clearly has power, but I’m not sure how much he’ll hit. He beasted on the Cape last year, but did so with an awful lot of strikeouts. Even this spring, he struck out more than 14% of the time against relatively weak A-10 competition, which is higher than you’d like to see.
6. Jesse Berardi, SS, St. John’s
KATOH Forecast: 0.1
I saw Berardi for a doubleheader in May when he faced off against both Zac Lowther and Garrett Schilling. Somewhat annoyingly, he mostly hit a bunch of opposite-field line drives in BP, rather than showing off his raw power. But as Eric pointed out, that’s a sign of good bat control. He made loud contact on multiple occasions, and I thought he showed a good approach at the plate, going 2 for 7 with two walks. I’m ranking him somewhat conservatively because KATOH doesn’t think much of him. Coming from a shortstop, any sign of offense is encouraging, but KATOH dings him for his height (5-foot-10), lack of power, and his non-elite conference.
7. Charlie Neuweiler, RHP, Monsignor McClancy HS
Neuweiler has benefited from being on the same team as Quentin Holmes, as it’s resulted in more scouts seeing him than would have otherwise. The cat was well out of the bag when I saw him in early May, as there were at least as many scouts there for Neuweiler as there were for Holmes. Neuweiler’s fastball was 88-91, but his curveball was his most impressive pitch. He threw it often, and opposing hitters didn’t stand a chance. Granted, he was facing high schoolers from Queens who’ve likely never seen a breaking pitch anywhere near that good. But high-school pitchers as far along as Neuweiler are rare in my neck of the woods.
8. Jamie Galazin, OF, St. John’s
KATOH Forecast: 0.3
Galazin didn’t impress when I saw him, going 1 for 6 in the doubleheader from the nine hole. He runs well and showed a discerning eye, but made mostly weak contact. Still, KATOH’s intrigued by his speed and his decent offensive numbers over the past two years. His 6-foot-3 frame is another point in his favor. Galazin’s played center this year, but he’s also played the infield in the past. He has speed and defensive value, so I think he could be something if he figures out how to leverage his frame for power.
9. Nick Storz (Hitter), 1B/OF, Poly Prep HS
Storz is known more for his pitching than his hitting, but I’m ranking Storz as a hitter since that’s how I saw him. He was unfortunately scratched the day I was supposed to see him pitch. Instead, he served as the designated hitter. He hit a few out during BP at MCU Park, the Mets’ short-season A-ball park, which has a park factor of 97 for righties. He hit a jaw-dropping bomb the first pitch he saw, which multiple scouts said was the longest homer they’d seen all year.
Unfortunately, Storz didn’t do much of anything the rest of the game. Storz looked like Giancarlo Stanton on a field full of high-school kids, which looked just as absurd as you’d think it would. It’s easy to see where the power comes from, but he has a long swing and showed some swing-and-miss against non-prospect high-school pitchers, which is obviously no bueno.
10. Rylan Bannon, 3B, Xavier
KATOH Forecast: 0.1
Although he’s undersized for a third baseman at 5-foot-10 and 165 punds, Bannon compensates with a powerful swing propelled by a huge leg kick that yielded 15 homers this year. He struck out in 17% of his plate appearances this year, which is more than KATOH would like to see from a Big East hitter. His high-effort swing seems to put him off-balance at times. But even so, his power-speed combo is somewhat intriguing.
Others in Approximate Order of Preference:
Dylan Cloonan, OF, Westminster Christian (Video)
Anthony Brocato, OF, St. John’s (Video)
Went 4 for 7 with two homers, a double, and a walk in the video.
John Valente, UT, St. John’s (Video)
Tyler Paige, 2B/SS, Westminster Christian (Video)
Max Pinto, OF, Westminster Christian (Video)
Will LaRue, OF, Xavier (Video)
Mickey Gasper, C, Bryant (Video)
Nick Angelini, OF, Bryant (Video)
Cole Fabio, 2B, Bryant (Video)
Matt Maul, SS, St. Joseph’s (Video)
Aidan McDermott, OF, St. John’s (Video)
Was hitting balls out in BP, so I started recording. He’s been terrible in limited playing time, but there is some raw power there.
Gui Gingras, 1B, St. John’s (Video)
Joe Gillenbeck, OF, Xavier (Video)
Kyle Cala, OF, Wagner (Video)