Daily Prospect Notes: 6/8/21

These are notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here. Today’s notes feature thoughts on three college hitters who played in the NCAA Regionals, as well as three pitching prospects currently in the big leagues.

Reed Trimble, CF, Southern Miss
Draft Class: 2021  Age: 21
Regional Line: 14-for-25, 4 HR

Notes
When I named Trimble one of Conference USA’s top prospects in a tournament preview post from a couple weeks ago, I made a mistake with respect to his draft eligibility. He’s indeed a (COVID) freshman, but his 21st birthday was Sunday, so he’s a draft-eligible freshman. Trimble hit .345/.414/.638 this year, and the Southern Miss schedule was no cakewalk even though they’re a mid-major. It included 12 games against eventual regional host and top-16 team Louisiana Tech, as well as games against Mississippi State, Alabama, Florida State and Ole Miss, and four against South Alabama, who made a deep regional run.

Trimble does have an expansive approach and is apt to chase, but he is ultra toolsy for a smaller-framed prospect. A switch-hitter, he is an explosive rotator from both sides of the plate. He has pull-side power as a righty hitter but will take you deep to any field from the left side. Both of his swings have natural loft, but they’re not all that long because Trimble is so compact. He’s also a plus runner with gap-to-gap range in center field and an above-average arm (he can get a little carried away trying to throw guys out), so there’s room for him to profile even if the approach hurts his offensive production. Also remember Trimble missed most of his true freshman season because of the pandemic. I’m less apt to think/hope that hitters can develop ball/strike recognition over time, but some of the players whose key career years overlap with the pandemic have had so few reps that perhaps there are some exceptions to this floating around. Plus, these kinds of players’ plate discipline rate stats are less reliable than usual because they’ve generated smaller career samples due to the lost year. On tools and performance, Trimble belongs in the early Day Two mix.

Aaron Zavala, RF/3B?, University of Oregon
Draft Class: 2021  Age: 20.9
Regional Line: 6-for-18, 2 HR, 2 2B

Notes
Zavala’s profile reads like West Coast Michael Busch. He’s a premium performance lefty stick with some past experience at a more favorable defensive position than he’s playing now. Zavala spent all of 2021 in right field but played third base during the shortened 2020. While definitely well-below average there (several of those games were against Grand Canyon), Zavala was able to make easy plays and it’s worth a try in pro ball to see if he can improve enough to stick. His bat is the carrying attribute, though. Zavala is very physical, he has above-average bat control, and a great idea of the strike zone and in which parts of it he’s capable of doing damage. He walked 50 times and struck out just 31 in 2020 while slashing .392/.525/.628 in the Pac-12. Zavala can turn on mistakes up, and while he doesn’t always cover the outer third, he typically does a good job laying off pitches that are out there, and if they catch enough of the plate he can drive them the other way with power. He also has an advanced two-strike approach. I think that once clubs start to have meetings and the results of draft models become known, Zavala will rise as high as the back of round one. Big conference lefty sticks with hit/power/approach troikas aren’t exactly common, and Zavala is barely going to be 21 on draft day. All it’s going to take is a team thinking that Zavala can actually play third base for him to go that early.

Nathan Church, RF, UC Irvine
Draft Class: 2021  Age: 20.9
Regional Line: 13-for-26, 3 HR, 6 2B, 2 BB, 0 K

Notes
Another sleeper West Coast bat, Church fits more toward the middle of Day Two due to middling power. He’s another younger college bat who only turns 21 on Day Two of this year’s draft. Church slashed .362/.419/.566 this year and, as with Trimble, the Anteaters played a quality non-conference schedule (four Pac-12 teams) that helps Church’s output carry more weight. He’s a gap-to-gap hitter who rarely misses mistakes that catch a lot of the zone, though he is vulnerable on the outer edge and at the knees. A lack of raw power likely caps his ceiling and will make it tough for Church to be an everyday player, but I think he has a chance to be a corner platoon bat based on the strength of his feel to hit.

Jackson Kowar, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Level & Affiliate: MLB  Age: 24   Org Rank: 8   FV: 45
Line: .2 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 R

Ryan Weathers, LHP, San Diego Padres
Level & Affiliate: MLB  Age: 21   Org Rank: 6   FV: 45+
Line: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 3 R, 4 K

Adbert Alzolay, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Level & Affiliate: MLB  Age: 26   Org Rank: 5   FV: 45+
Line: 3 IP, 5 H, 5 BB, 4 R, 4 K

Notes
This trio of high-profile pitchers remains outside the 50 FV tier (and therefore the Top 100 list) and I wanted to touch on why that’s the case for each of them. Butterflies likely contributed to his frustrating, truncated debut, but even though Kowar come out of the gates paving over Triple-A hitting (0.85 ERA in six starts, 41 K, 10 BB in 31.2 IP), I’m not inclined to alter my evaluation of him as a reliever. What we’ve learned as an industry about fastball shape during the last half decade should start to inform how we look at prospects, and Kowar’s fastball, though very hard, has a shape that isn’t optimal for missing bats. His heater is of the sinking/tailing variety rather than one with cut and carry. It’s in the mid-90s, yes, but it’s going to accidentally run into barrels because of the way it moves. The average swinging strike rate on a big league pitch is 11.5%. In 2019, Kowar’s fastball, while sitting 94-96 all year, generated a 10.5% swinging strike rate at High- and Double-A. Video analysis of his deliveries from 2019 and ’21 don’t show any sort of mechanical tweak that could have altered this. It’s possible the Royals did something to tweak Kowar’s hand position in a way that I can’t see with the naked eye, but I don’t think so.

As was the case with former Blue Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez, Kowar’s fastball shape makes it best for him to work toward the bottom of the strike zone with his heater, which in turn makes his upper-70s curveball easy to identify out of his hand. Kowar’s raw breaking ball quality has gotten better since college (which I mention on the Royals list) but the way to set up curveballs like his is with fastballs at the letters. He is not built to throw his fastballs there.

Kowar’s changeup is awesome — it’s one of the better-looking changeups in pro baseball — and it’s largely why I think he’s going to be an impact bullpen piece and an important part of a young, competitive Royals team. But consider what Chris Paddack has gone through. Stuff-wise, he is in a similar bucket (elite changeup, poor curveball) except his fastball has more bat-missing utility than Kowar’s because it does have carry at the top of the zone. And even for Paddack, lacking a viable third pitch has made it tough to perform consistently. I think all of this is much more relevant to consider when valuing Kowar than the results he’s generated in six Triple-A starts.

Let’s move on to Weathers. Weathers’ stock is complicated by his history of injury and fluctuating velocity, but he’s also in a two-pitch limbo (fastball, slider) that, when you consider it in concert with those health/velo issues and Weathers’ build and athleticism, also points to the bullpen. Weathers has special slider command, on-mound makeup, and superlative lefty velo when he’s humming, but his fastball shape also limits its effectiveness (6% swinging strikes in 2021). Weathers has made an effort to throw more changeups since retuning from extended rest in mid-May but it’s not a good pitch right now. He has feel for locating it to his arm side but it’s often nowhere close to the zone and has lateral action rather than some combination of sink and tail, like most effective changeups.

Finally, there’s Alzolay. Of the three, he’s the player who has changed the most during the last couple of seasons. He’s working with two distinct fastballs now, his slider usage has exploded, and he’s executing that slider pretty consistently and walking fewer batters than is typical for him. Alzolay is 26, he has less roster flexibility than other rookie pitchers because two of his option years have already been used, and he was injured intermittently from 2017-19. It’s a high-wire act of sorts, but Alzolay’s stuff and the Cubs sudden ability to make headway developing pitchers give him the best shot of outperforming my FV grade of the three discussed here.





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.

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Ericksonb32
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Ericksonb32

Awesome explanation on Alzolay, Weathers, and Kowar. Thanks, Eric.

Okra
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Okra

Yes, love the updates on the recently graduated rookies.

Unrelated, can anyone define sink, tail, cut and carry? I think generally understand the difference, but obviously there is a lot of nuance here.

theBlundertron3000
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theBlundertron3000

Basically late movement in the cardinal directions. Sink is fairly easy to guess, tail is arm side run, cut is the opposite, and carry is a bit of late “rise.”