Daily Prospect Notes: 8/18/21

These are notes on prospects from Brendan Gawlowski. Read previous installments of the Daily Prospect Notes here.

Luis Frías, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Level & Affiliate: Triple-A Reno Age: 23 Org Rank: 12 FV: 45
Recent News: Promoted to Triple-A Reno

Tall, thick around the middle, and with a few elements in his delivery that bear a passing resemblance to Jose Valverde’s, a body comp to Papa Grande is only natural here. Like his fellow countryman, Frías uses a split and comfortably reaches the mid-90s with his heater. The stuff comparisons end there though, as the 23-year-old has a deeper arsenal, one that suggests a future in the rotation remains a possibility.

It starts with the fastball. Frías sits in the mid-90s, can touch 98, and gets about 2300 rpm on the ball. His release point isn’t quite straight over the top, but he’s a Diamondback, so no surprise that it’s fairly close to that. Despite some sink, the pitch has played well at the top of the zone this season, and it pairs nicely with a short 12-6 hook that he can both throw for strikes and entice hitters to chase. He’s sometimes guilty of overthrowing it, but when it’s closer to the bottom of its velo band, it has real bite. He also has a split change that should work effectively against both righties and lefties, and he’ll also sporadically back-foot lefties with a slider/cutter, though in my viewings he hasn’t used it too often. Here’s the fastball and curve in action:

Everything plays up because Frías throws strikes. His walk rate is under three for the first time in his career, perhaps thanks in part to a tamer delivery that doesn’t send him spinning off the mound and toward the first base dugout.

There is a home run issue we should cover: Frías has allowed 16 of them, and in only 78 innings. He’s never had a gopher problem before, and I’m tempted to blame the numbers on a brutal home ballpark. Regardless, don’t scout the overall numbers too much here: Frías throws strikes, has legit stuff, and if the Diamondbacks were overly worried about the homers, they probably wouldn’t have promoted him to Triple-A earlier this week. As a late convert to pitching — Arizona signed him as a third baseman — the strides he’s taken since turning pro are remarkable, and may even be a sign that more growth is ahead.

Cooper Criswell, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Level & Affiliate: Triple-A Salt Lake Age: 26 Org Rank: NA

Criswell didn’t make our Angels list but he’s pitched well in the high minors this year, thanks largely to a rebuilt slider that he seems to have fine-tuned during the pandemic. The right-hander ripped through the Double-A South, notching a 10.88 K/9 rate while only walking eight hitters in 70.1 innings. He also posted a 33% CSW% as a Trash Panda and has actually bested that figure in his first three Triple-A starts.

Criswell’s primary weapon is a frisbee-shaped slider that features about 17 inches of horizontal break. For context, only 10-15 big league hurlers get that kind of movement on the ball. I wish I could show a good video of it — the MiLB.TV streams he’s pitched on this season have all been pretty bad and don’t do it justice — but if you think of what Alec Mills’ slider looks like, you’ll get a pretty good idea. It’s been very effective for him this season, and will need to be going forward, because the rest of the arsenal is pretty bland. He commands his sinker well, and likes to run it back onto the gloveside corner to steal strike one, but the pitch sits in the high-80s, and his change and curve are just okay. There’s a chance he parlays the slider and good command into something like Mills’ career, but even if he’s just an up-and-down arm, that’s a nice developmental win for Criswell and the Angels PD staff.

Hunter Greene, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Level & Affiliate: Triple-A Louisville Age: 22 Org Rank: 2 Overall Rank: 38 FV: 50
Line: 2.2 IP, 4 R, 4 SO, 3 HR, 1 BB

Any time a top prospect misses a start with an arm issue, it raises eyebrows. When that same pitcher gives up three jacks and only lasts 2.2 innings in his next outing, it’s only natural to get concerned.

Fortunately, the explanation here is pretty benign. Greene, who was scratched from his last start due to discomfort in his AC joint, got ejected in the third inning last night. One pitch after surrendering his third homer of the game — a bomb to left by Orlando Arcia — the annoyed right-hander came inside on Johan Camargo, ultimately throwing a triple-digit heater right behind Camargo’s butt. Camargo and the Gwinnett dugout took exception, and off Greene went for the night.

A Reds source indicated to me that Greene’s arm is fine. The three homers reflect a different kind of concern — he’s too fastball reliant at the moment, and isn’t getting his changeup involved much at all — but that’s the kind of thing a pitcher can iron out in time. While Greene hasn’t dominated Triple-A, he’s still just 160 innings into his pro career, and he’s one of the very best pitching prospects in the game.

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