In Arizona, J.D. Sussman and I hit the back fields together to scout talent from the Mariners, Indians, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Rangers and Cubs. Each of us took notes, collected radar gun readings, worked angles and collected the best information we could.
Back from the warm weather, we decided to rank the 10 best prospects we scouted together to highlight differences in opinion and player preference. Scouting is an inexact science. Prospect followers tend to pit opinions of writers against each other, but of course there’s room for dissent and discussion even among friends and colleagues.
Here’s my top-10 of players I liked the most. J.D.’s list will follow in an hour.
1. Taijuan Walker (SP-SEA)
Topping out at 96 mph, Walker had the same electric arm I scouted twice in 2012. With added weight to his frame, the velocity was easier than last year. The curveball was a step down from what I’d seen previously and Walker didn’t pitch deep enough into the game to establish the changeup. Regardless, Walker was still the most electrifying talent scouted in Arizona.
2. Trevor Story (SS-COL)
One of my favorite prospects in 2012 is even better this spring. To address high strikeout totals, Story shortened his swing to consistently barrel the baseball. In person, he doesn’t appear to have lost any power in the process. Plus, the Rockies prospect still projects to stick at shortstop long term. For me, Story is one of the top-30 prospects in baseball.
3. Francisco Lindor (SS-CLE)
There’s little doubt Lindor is a future gold glove quality defender. Plus, I like the shortstop’s bat from both sides of the plate. Story/Lindor is a toss up, but I’ll take Story because of power potential and my level of comfort with him as a prospect. I suspect a week following Lindor might change my mind, but I won’t have the opportunity unless I travel to the Carolina League.
4, David Dahl, (CF-COL)
When scouting David Dahl, vintage Johnny Damon entered my conscience. His bat speed was impressive, as was an all-around skill set built for the top of the order. In the South Atlantic League, the teenager will visit Rome a number of times. I’ll be there working to build the defensive profile to ensure he’s a true center fielder and not a “tweener”.
5. Dorssys Paulino (SS-CLE)
With Story, Paulino was the best pure hitter scouted in Arizona. In batting practice and game action, the 18-year old peppered line drives to all fields including three hits in the Single-A game. At present, his glove and arm strength fit at shortstop. As Paulino fills out, a move to second or third base will be necessary – Especially with Lindor a level ahead of him.
6. Stryker Trahan (C-ARI)
Trahan had the loudest power of any teenaged prospect scouted in Arizona. Add a 1.99 pop time between innings and it becomes easy to dream about his being the heir apparent to Miguel Montero. However, Trahan’s stocky, muscular frame limits his mobility behind the plate making it difficult to project him at the position long term. My experience tells me a move to first base is in Trahan’s future, but he’s a better backstop than Jesus Montero was at the same age.
7. Arismendy Alcantara (SS-CHC)
Another prospect I’ll see more of in 2013, Alcantara has an intriguing mix of tools. If the shortstop develops as planned, then he’s a plus runner with gap power and the defensive chops to be an average or better shortstop. This ranking is aggressive considering my comfort level with prospects eight through 10, but Alcantara made a strong first impression. Like Dahl, he’s a player who’ll require multiple defensive looks to round out the profile.
8. Trevor Bauer (SP-CLE)
Bauer topping out at 92 mph was a far cry from the pitcher able to touch 97 at will last April. I had concerns about him working up in the zone at higher velocities previously, but 92 at the letters just won’t work. Regardless of how effective his off-speed pitches are, Bauer will need to throw the fastball. Major League hitters will key off of this and make him pay. If I only had this look to work from, Bauer would have been listed with the honorable mentions.
9. Brad Miller (SS-SEA)
Another “comfort guy”, I’ve now seen Miller on three separate occasions. After multiple looks, I’ve grown comfortable with the funky set up and actions at shortstop. Plus, a second look against the Netherlands was better than the one J.D. had. In the end, Miller has the range and arm to stick at shortstop and the offensive profile of a two-hole hitter. There’s no star quality here, but his level of grit is definitely DBacks worthy.
10. Matt Davidson (3B-ARI)
Speaking of the DBacks, Matt Davidson did his best Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde impersonation on the back fields at salt river. He flashes plus opposite field power in one plate appearance, followed by a flailing strikeout at fringe off-speed stuff to the outer half. If one believes Davidson is a passable defender at third base with the ability to run into mistakes, then he might rank a bit higher. I’m hedging my bets a bit by ranking him below the top middle infielders.