Another Scouting Notes 10-Pack (3/16/2021)

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.

Eric’s Notes

Marcos Castanon, 2B, UC Santa Barbara: 4-for-12, 2B, HR, 5 BB, 5 K

Entering the year, Castanon had played in more games during a dour freshman season (42 games, .214/.278/.321) than he had in two good ones (.308/.357/.488, 38 games) interrupted by a hamstring injury and the pandemic. He’s out of the gate really hot in 2020 (.358/.500/.642) and now has eight home runs in his last 30 games. Castanon doesn’t have huge raw power but he does good pull-side pop for a second baseman and can barrel velocity. He’ll make some slick plays at second, some of which help enable a lack of bend and flexibility, and overall he’s an average second baseman with a below-average arm. Though his swing doesn’t have playability all over the zone (he’s vulnerable up and in), I think the performance and near average hit/power combo put him in the early Day Two mix.

Cade Doughty, 3B, LSU (2022 eligible): 5-for-14, 4 HR, 3 BB, 3 K

Doughty was the star of a roller coaster three-game set against UT-San Antonio, during which he hit several dramatic home runs, and he already has six on the year. Doughty indeed has plus pull power and is getting to it in games when he get extended and clubs pitch on the outer half. He appears to track pitches well and has squared up a mix of fastballs and breaking balls. Let’s see how he fares in conference play. Doughty likes to swing, and SEC pitching has the best chance to expose what have been some early struggles against fastballs in on his hands.

Tanner Bibee, RHP, Cal State Fullerton: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 2 SO

The latest in a long line of strike-throwing righties at Cal State Fullerton, Bibee had a very strong freshman season split between the bullpen and rotation but his stuff never really took a step forward during his sophomore and junior years. He came out of the 2020 gate sitting 88-90. Between the shutdown and the draft he was throwing harder than that (in shorts, indoors) and he’s held that velo increase. When I saw Bibee on Friday against Arizona State and he was mostly 89-92, up to 94, with an average slider, below-average curveball (it has depth but is really slow), and 30-grade changeup. Bibee’s command of his slider is plus but it still only got a couple swings and misses (he threw a ton of fastballs), and his slow curveball operates in the zone for looking strikes. On stuff, he looked like a late Day Two arm to me but that’s with his strike-throwing track record in mind, rather than my look on this day.

Zach Pop, RHP, Miami Marlins: 1 IP, 2 K

Pop, one of Miami’s Rule 5 picks, is coming off a 2019 Tommy John and 2020 rehab. Though his delivery is still violent, his velocity has returned to pre-surgery levels and he’s been 94-96 in his two big league spring training outings so far. An interesting development here is that Pop’s best secondary pitch now seems to be his changeup, which got two right-on-right swings and misses Monday.

Franklin Pérez, RHP, Detroit Tigers: .2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 R, 2 K

At this point, just pitching in any kind of game is a victory for Pérez, whose career has been derailed by constant injury. Once arguably the centerpiece of the Justin Verlander deal, Pérez was 85-88 in his first spring outing, then 87-90 in his second. His secondary stuff still has pretty good action on it once in a while, though Pérez’s feel for locating anything is understandably very rusty right now. This is very much a “wait and see” situation at this point.

Kevin’s Notes

Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Mississippi: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 14 K

Hoglund is well known to scouts. One of the better prep arms in the 2018 draft, the Pirates failed to sign the Florida high school product after selecting him with the 36th overall pick, leaving him Oxford (Mississippi, not the fancy UK school) bound. He was in the midst of a breakout campaign last year, and has built on that so far this spring, including Friday’s dominant outing against a weak Louisiana-Monroe opponent when he needed just six innings to accumulate the highest single-game strikeout mark in over a decade. With 42 strikeouts over 23.2 innings in his first four starts, Hoglund leads NCAA starters in strikeout percentage, and much of that is coming off one of the better sliders in the draft, which finished off 11 of his 14 strikeouts on Friday. It’s a mid-80s power pitch with plenty off movement, but he also tends to use it as a chase pitch and will need to adjust as a pro to convert it into a more in-zone weapon. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds with an easily delivery, Hoglund checks a lot of scouting boxes and while the fastball is not overwhelming, at 93-95 mph it’s more than enough. Hogland bet on himself three years ago, and chances are looking good that he’ll end up improving his draft stock come July.

Zack Raabe, 2B, University of Minnesota: 8-for-12, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 5 BB

On initial look, Raabe isn’t going to excite scouts. He’s 5-foot-10, hits right-handed, and a lack of twitch limits him to the left side of the infield. Overriding all of that is the fact that the kid can just flat out rake. It’s a pandemic-influenced small sample, but Raabe led the NCAA in hits last year with 31 in 17 games and an overall batting line of .463/.526/.612. He entered this year seen as a fourth-to-sixth round pick based solely on the hit tool, but he’s moving up into a potential top 200 selection as he’s not only continued to hit, but also added a bit of pop to his game. Eight of his 12 hits this year have gone for extra bases, and after seven games for the Gophers he has a 2.058 OPS and has struck out just once while showing a keen batting eye. Scouts love the makeup in terms of confidence, and while he’s limited to the right side of the infield, his fundamentals there are sound. Plus hit tools can override a lot of negatives, and Raabe is starting to prove he can do just that.

Landon Sims, RHR, Mississippi State: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K

The numbers this season are overwhelming, as in five appearances out of the Bulldogs’ pen, Sims has recorded 30 strikeouts in 11.2 innings. That’s 30 of 35 outs coming via the whiff and a ridiculous 67% strikeout rate overall. Sims’ stuff if not at the overwhelming level his statistics suggest, but it’s plenty good. A stocky 220 pounds on a six-foot-two frame generates plenty of power, and it’s an arm heavy delivery with more than a bit of effort to it. His fastball sits 94-96 mph with plenty of rising action, and he shows an ability to locate it outside to right-handed hitters while also showing the ability to elevate with a purpose and find himself consistently on top of bats. Further baffling hitters is a mid-80s slider than grades out as plus, but there are several 70-grade versions on display each outing and he knows how to manipulate the pitch and lessen some of the strong break to land it in the zone. The track record for college relief aces isn’t a great one, but Sims should find himself coming off the board early on Day Two when he’s eligible in 2022.

Spencer Torkelson, 3B/1B: Detroit Tigers: 1-for-4, 2 Ks

On Saturday afternoon, Spencer Torkelson finally got a hit this spring, smacking a hard line drive to left off a Michael Ynoa in the eighth inning of the Tigers’ tilt against the Phillies. It’s been a March to forget for the top overall pick in the 2020 draft, as he entered Monday’s action 1-for-17 with 10 strikeouts. Should you panic? Of course not. This is a special bat having a rough spot while adjusting to both professional baseball at the highest level and a position change from first base to the hot corner, where he’s made some nice plays. Spring struggles happen. Matt Carpenter, José Abreu and Kyle Schwarber are all in the midsts of brutal showings so far this spring, and it’s still safe to bet that they’ll have seasons well within range of their expectations and projections. Torkleson will be the same. He’s not ready for the big leagues, but he’ll go to the minors and should be expected to produce runs immediately. This is too good a player with too good a performance track record and scouting reports to worry about his first 20 or so plate appearances in a big league camp setting.

Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals: 1-for-3, HR, BB, K

Sunday was Witt’s only official game over the weekend, but he kept the hype training running with his third home run of the spring, a laser shot off of a fastball from Dodgers lefty Julio Urías that got far too much of the inside part of the plate. When you have teammates tweeting about you, it’s clear that an impression is being made, but it’s also fair to pump the breaks a bit here. Witt is a phenomenal talent with the upside of an impact-level everyday shortstop. He’s filling into his athletic frame, and he’s an employing a much simpler, more mechanically sound swing than that of his high school days. The initial inward move that included a toe tap is gone; he just plants and drives now. He’s also only 20 years old and his pro resume begins and ends with 37 games of complex ball. Get excited. Hell, get very excited about Witt, but don’t put too much into his chances of making a big contribution at the big league level in 2021.





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sadtrombone
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Member
sadtrombone

I looooooove Gunnar Hogland. Good spin! Throws strikes! Velocity isn’t attractive enough that we’d expect a lot of teams in the Top 10 to be interested but high enough that I can’t imagine he falls out of the first round. I suppose he could go as high as #12 to the Mariners but I see no way he gets through all of the Brewers (15), Cardinals (18), and Blue Jays (19). Those teams are going to be all over a big-school arm with big performance and very good metrics.

FrodoBeck
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FrodoBeck

Article does have the wrong Mississippi school listed though, he’s not at State. But I agree, his stuff is nasty.

hailstate
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hailstate

Us State alums are used to such mixups. Probably a typo on this site. But I’m not sure ESPN recognizes Ole Miss and MSU are two different schools.

Kevin Goldstein
Editor
Member

At least I got the town right!

Kevin Goldstein
Editor
Member

This is fixed.

sadtrombone
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Member
sadtrombone

It seems like there have been a lot of top pitchers coming out of both MS and MS State lately. I remember when I first saw Gunnar Hogland I thought “first Ethan Small, now Gunnar Hogland, where do they find these guys” before realizing a month later it was different schools. IIRC a good chunk of the rotation at MS this year are guys who have a decent shot at cracking the sandwich round, and Hogland probably won’t even get there.