A Wednesday Scouting Notebook – 3/31/2021

Prospect writers Kevin Goldstein and Eric Longenhagen will sometimes have enough player notes to compile a scouting post. This is one of those dispatches, a collection of thoughts after another weekend of college baseball and week of spring training. Remember, prospect rankings can be found on The Board.

Kevin’s Notes

Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio): 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K

Bachman has cross-checkers around the country Googling where the hell Oxford, Ohio is (it’s in the southwest part of the state; fly into Cincinnati and it’s about an hour drive north from there). He’s been getting into triple digits most weekends and touched 101 on Saturday against a sub-par Northern Illinois squad; his outing featured nine up, nine down, and nine strikeouts on 41 pitches. Bachman is being treated with kid gloves as a starter due to some early-season shoulder soreness, but most teams see him as a pure reliever due to an awkward, unathletic delivery. At 6-foot-1 and somewhere in the neighborhood of 235 pounds, he’s built like a linebacker, and he seems to throw like one as well. The scary thing about him is that his 96-100 mph fastball might not even be his best pitch. Of the 41 offerings on Saturday, he threw 24 sliders, and it’s a 70-grade pitch that features massive velocity and equally impressive break; in the end, it generated eight of his nine whiffs. Despite the concerns about his delivery and ultimate role, this is some of the best pure stuff in the draft and Bachman is starting to generate some mid-first-round buzz.

Jacob Campbell, C, Illinois: 4-for-7, 2B, HR, BB, K

I was talking to a front office person the other day when he suddenly stated, “Catching around the league is so awful.” It’s baseball’s most difficult position, and takes a physical toll that greatly limits backstops’ ability to perform at the plate. There are 30 everyday catching jobs, but there aren’t 30 everyday catchers. That forces teams to move catchers up on their draft boards, and Campbell could end up a beneficiary of that strategy. A 36th-round pick by the Cubs in 2018 out of a Wisconsin high school, he hit just .197 in his first two years at Illinois, but scouts remained optimistic because of his athleticism and power, though there was concern about the latter following offseason hamate surgery. He’s come out strong so far this spring, going 12-for-27 with three bombs, and he’s suddenly being talking about in the third round, give or take 30 picks. Campbell moves well behind the plate and has a plus arm, and while there’s some swing-and-miss in his game, he has a solid approach to go with sneaky pop. Catching around the league is awful and players like Campbell are in a good position to take advantage of that come July.

Sean Hunley, RHR, Tennessee: 3 G, 4.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K

Hunley had quite the weekend as the Vols swept a suddenly struggling LSU squad to move to 21-4. He served as the final pitcher in every game, winning two and notching a save. He’s arguably been the team’s most valuable pitcher this year, appearing in 12 of 25 games (he currently ranks third in IP with 28) while allowing just 16 hits and four walks, and striking out 32. He’s a senior and has little-to-no draft buzz, and frankly, it’s a bit of a mystery to some as to how he’s getting it done. His fastball averages 90 mph and his best bolt this year has been 92. Surely he must have some kind of killer secondary pitch, right? Guess again, as he’s been over 90% fastball on the season and threw nothing but heaters in his first two games of the weekend. Hunley employs a low three-quarters delivery and gets the kind of run on the pitch you’d expect from the arm slot, but his command is outstanding. He throws a lot of strikes with the pitch, but nothing is down the middle, and he seems to be able to hit any of the four corners on demand. If he keeps performing in college baseball’s best conference, some team will take a flyer on him as a late-round pick or NDFA, and it will be fun to see just how far up the pro ladder his unique style will work.

Justyn-Henry Malloy, 3B, Georgia Tech: 7-for-13, 2 2B, 2 HR, SB

Scouts liked Malloy as a raw but toolsy third baseman out of a New Jersey high school in 2018, but a strong commitment to Vanderbilt prevented him from getting much play. Two years of struggles with the Commodores resulted in just 39 at-bats, but a transfer to Georgia Tech and a hot start has him flying up draft boars, as after 20 games with the Yellow Jackets, including a big weekend against Duke, Malloy is hitting .338/.447/.597 with more walks (15) than strikeouts (11). Malloy impresses when he gets off the bus. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, he looks like a power hitting third baseman, and he’s starting to play like one as well. His approach has always impressed, and he’s finally hitting and showing plenty of raw power. Malloy moves well at the hot corner and has a solid arm, but his hands can get a bit hard at times, leading to errors on seemingly simple plays. Barely on the boards entering the spring, Malloy is finally showing the promise from three years ago, and is suddenly getting some early consideration as a late Day Two selection.

Chris Gittens, 1B, NYY: 0-for-4, 2 BB, 3 K

Chris Gittens had my favorite moment of the weekend, when he clobbered a ball about 500 feet, albeit foul. There are tons of big power, big strikeout rate types in the minors, but what stands out about Gittens is his exit velocity, which is just not plus-plus, but elite, as in Stanton/Judge, approaching 120 mph off the bat territory. He’s also 27 years old, has yet to play above Double-A, and has a career strikeout rate approaching 30%. In a perfect world, he becomes a Chris Carter-esque slugging first baseman with 30-40 home runs, a ton of whiffs and a batting average in the low .200s, but the most likely endgame is a Quad-A journeyman slugger who makes the highlight reels once in a while thanks to his light tower power. Nobody is saying he’s great, but he’s also really fun to watch.

Eric’s Notes

Daulton Jefferies, RHP, Oakland Athletics Spring Training: 18 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 BB, 24 K

Jefferies has had a myriad of injury issues and has augmented his repertoire a couple of times in the minors, but when totally healthy he has a rock solid, average starter look even though he only has one really good pitch (his changeup). Altogether he has five offerings. Jefferies’ fastball has been in the 92-94 range this spring, and he mixes in four- and two-seamers (more twos in my look). He also has a cutter, a two-planed slurve-type thing around 79 mph, which is really effective when it’s located in a chase-able spot, and that power, upper-80s cambio. Everything works because Jefferies is a fantastic on-mound athlete with plus command. He’s poised to seize a rotation spot this year.

Kyle Isbel, OF, Kansas City Royals Spring Training: .333/.420/.548, 42 AB, 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 BB, 14 K

Isbel made the Royals’ Opening Day roster even though he didn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster until the upcoming offseason. He’s a well-rounded player without a plus tool who’s a better roster fit with Michael A. Taylor and Ryan McBroom than other lefty bats on the Royals’ 40-man, like Nick Heath and Jarrod Dyson. Isbel is not a traditional burner but has viable center field instincts, and while he doesn’t have prototypical corner outfield power, he does have above-average feel for contact, gap-to-gap pop, and will hit 18-ish pull-side jacks. For now he’ll be a fitting platoon partner for both Taylor and McBroom, representing a defensive upgrade for one and a left-on-right situational upgrade for both, and he makes sense to start in center when the opposing starter is a righty and Brad Keller or Brady Singer go for the Royals. Video of Isbel facing Jefferies is below. They square off at the 3:00 mark; you can see Jefferies pitch grips and releases at 4:07.

Caden Grice, 1B/LHSP, Clemson Tigers (2023 Draft): 8-for-14, 3 2B, 3B, 2 BB, 6 K

Those who like following Shohei Ohtani’s two-way exploits should consider watching Clemson and Vanderbilt, as each school has an underclass two-way guy mostly playing first base right now. Grice and Spencer Jones were well-known high school prospects who matriculated to school to play both ways. Grice, a true freshman who is draft eligible in 2023, has thrown just three (bad) innings this season but has hit .343/.450/.701 so far, albeit while striking out in a third of his plate appearances. He had a huge weekend against Boston College and drove in seven runs on Friday. Jones, a COVID freshman eligible in 2022, had Tommy John last summer and is on the hit-only Ohtani rehab program. He began the year as Vandy’s first baseman but struggled on both offense and defense, and has barely played of late. Both Grice and Jones are huge-framed, athletic two-way prospects with strikeout red flags, and basically no on-mound experience yet in college.

Tre Morgan, 1B, LSU Tigers (2023 Draft): 6-for-14, HR, 2B, 4 K

If you’ve ever wondered what it would have looked like had Eric Hosmer gone to college, you’re going to want to turn on an LSU game and watch Morgan, who is already arguably the best defensive first baseman in Division-I ball as a true freshman. And because he’s playing with college infielders who are more mistake-prone than pros, he gets to show off his out-saving footwork, hands, and flexibility very often. Also like Hosmer, Morgan’s swing is really long and impacts his offensive output, though when he gets a hold of one, it sure is pretty and emphatic.

Austin Knight, 3B, UNC Charlotte 49ers: 9-for-16, 5 2B, 3 BB, 6 K

Like Malloy in KG’s notes, Knight transferred from a powerhouse program (Tennessee) to a smaller one, has immediately gotten playing time and is raking. Knight currently leads Division-I in doubles, with 15, and he’s on a 10-game hitting streak. While Knight does have good-looking bat-to-ball ability, he’s not as explosive or physical as an obvious pro prospect, and he’s struggled a little bit at third base. Plus, aside from a set against East Carolina, Charlotte’s schedule has been pretty weak. Knight is in the “wait-and-see” bucket rather than a guy who is clearly a pop-up prospect at this point.

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1 year ago

Weird little note about Daulton Jefferies: he doesn’t grip seams with his fingertips when pitching. All his stuff is (technically, at least) “no seam”.

Cave Dameron
1 year ago
Reply to  ccctl

Technically that’s not how the terms “two seam” and “four seam” are used, they refer to the orientation of the seams as they rotate, not how the ball is gripped.