These are notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.
If you’ve watched Padres righty Chris Paddack at all this spring, you’ve probably seen how he gets after hitters with his fastball at angles and in locations where they struggle to do anything with it, even in the strike zone. Though Rodriguez’s delivery doesn’t look anything like Paddack’s, the same concept applies, and Rodriguez is able to compete for swings and misses in the strike zone in a notable way. Lots of pitchers’ fastballs perform better than you’d expect given their velocity, but Rodriguez also throws hard. His changeup is good, and while I’ve taken umbrage with his breaking ball quality during in-person looks, he does have strong raw spin and his arm slot helps his breaker play up. I think there are a lot of strong components here and consider Rodriguez a dark horse top 100 candidate for next year.
Colorado’s affiliates typically play in hitter-friendly environments (which makes sense, as it prepares everyone for Coors) so take their stat lines with a grain of salt. With that in mind, I liked Vavra this spring. He’s a little undersized but is twitchy, and has an athletic swing that maxes out what his little body is able to do without causing him to lose control and take wild hacks. Ideally, a college hitter like this, even a cold weather one (Minnesota), would hit his way to Hi-A by the end of the year.
Mize has been dominant in his first two starts, allowing just six runners while striking out 15 in 11 innings. His fastball has mostly been in the 93-94 area so far this year. A potentially significant pitch development was chronicled in March by OG prospect writer, Jim Callis. Mize is working on a slurve, which gives him a breaking ball with more vertical shape than he was using in college. His cutter/slider combo was formidable at Auburn, but finding more downward action with a slurve gives hitters a more significantly different type of movement to deal with. Mize could end up with three plus secondaries that all interact well with each other and with his two fastballs.
We hoped Logan Gilbert’s velocity would rebound after he often sat in the upper-80s last spring and, so far, it has. He’s been 93-95 in each of his first two starts and was up to 97 at times this spring. How long does he need to hold this kind of velo for us to move him into our top 100? Probably about a month, just to be sure it’s not just a well-rested mirage.
Erceg is one of the more prominent early-adopters of some of Driveline Baseball’s hitting philosophies, which has made him a bit of a visual focal point for reasons other than just talent evaluation. He’s a pretty extreme fly ball hitter who will show power to all fields, but he hasn’t performed on paper. In my opinion, it’s a selectivity issue more than a mechanical one. He’s got a 70 arm, and is athletic enough that the Brewers let him play shortstop during his first instructional league. He’ll probably see some time at first this year and seems athletically viable in the outfield corners. On the one hand, low OBP corner profiles are scary. On the other, lefty power bats who play several positions are valuable.
These are pretty self-explanatory.
Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
81 pitches, 59 strikes, fastball was mostly 88-90, touched 92.
Gio Gonzalez, LHP, New York Yankees
89 pitches, 56 strikes, sat 88-91, struck out 10 in six innings.
Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Atlanta Braves
61 pitches, 43 strikes, sat 92-95, which is at the bottom of his 2018 big league range, struck out five in 3.2 innings.
Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Gave up four hits in one inning, sat 87-91, touched 92.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.