Both Kiley and I will be posting in-person scouting reports on draft prospects we see throughout the spring. Well, summer and fall, too. Here is my first dispatch from Arizona.
Grand Canyon RHP Jake Wong was on the periphery of our preseason top 30, as scouts pegged him as a second- or third-round prospect entering the year. He dominated top-10-ranked TCU on Friday night, allowing two hits and two walks over six inning, striking out nine.
Wong was 94-96 in the first inning before settling into the 92-94 range, touching 95 here and there throughout the rest of his start. The fastball missed bats up above, and within, the strike zone and induced weak ground-ball contact when located down. It’s a plus fastball and easily Wong’s best pitch.
His secondaries were pretty generic. He has an upper-70s curveball that has some depth to it when located beneath the strike zone, but it lacks bite and he babies it into the zone when he wants to throw it for a strike. His changeup ranged from 84 to 89 mph. He has feel for locating it in competitive locales, and it occasionally has bat-missing movement, but it isn’t consistent right now.
Wong hides the ball well, and even an average changeup would play well with his fastball. It’s fair to project it there, and probably somewhat conservative, but the breaking ball just isn’t there right now. I’ll get several more looks at Wong throughout the spring, and scouts have seen average breaking balls from Wong in the past, but even with a dominant outing against a highly ranked foe in front of lots of heat, his stock hasn’t moved just yet.
Because spring training has begun and all the Arizona facilities are concentrated around Phoenix, lots of executives have the opportunity to see these early-season games without opportunity cost. It’s not as significant to “scout the scouts” at this time of year as it is closer to the draft. Notably, though, Dodgers president Andrew Friedman, manager Dave Roberts, Rockies GM Jeff Bridich, and Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer were all in attendance for Wong’s start.
Leviathan 1B Luken Baker of TCU drew scouts (and me) away from other area games before they had ended so they could drive to Grand Canyon to see him take batting practice. He hit a few balls far enough that I put a 70 on his raw power, but in general, he didn’t have a good BP and was visibly frustrated afterward. Baker was hit in the face by a ground ball late on Friday night and, within minutes, was left with a nasty shiner that matched his royal purple jersey. He missed Saturday’s game. On Sunday, he homered, muscling out a pitch on the inner half. It was an impressive feat of strength, as Baker didn’t get fully extended, but it’s a bit of a red flag that Baker was jammed by a freshman who was sitting 87-88. He was late on good velocity several times on Friday night against Wong.
Baker is remarkably athletic for his size (he’s listed at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds), but he’s a below-average athlete compared to his peers and not especially nimble or skilled on defense. He has an above-average arm but doesn’t run well enough to hide in an outfield corner. He’s a bat-only prospect, and I left this weekend with some questions about how much he’s going to hit. It’s early, lots of hitters don’t have their timing yet, and if Baker hits all spring he’ll be an early pick, but this was just an okay first look.
In opposition of Wong was TCU RHP Jared Janczak. After a rocky first inning, Janczak settled in and carved up GCU hitters with heavy use of an average slider in the 78-80 range, of which he has masterful control. His fastball sat 88-90, touched 92. He fits in the seventh- to 10th-round range and projects as back-end rotation depth.
On Sunday, TCU sent RHP Sean Wymer to the mound. He sat mostly 90-91 and touched 93 with a fringe curveball, above-average changeup, and average command. He knows how to pitch. Wymer flipped the curveball in for strikes and worked up and down with his fastball and changeup in sequence. His lack of velocity and a plus pitch limit his ceiling, but he has a shot to be a No. 4/5 starter. He looks like a fourth- through sixth-round prospect — maybe third to fifth if the fastball ticks up a bit during the year.
Perhaps the best 2017 draft eligible Horned Frog is closer Durbin Feltman. He was up to 97 on Sunday, sitting 93-95 over two innings of work. He flashed a plus slider, but it was consistently a 55, tilting in in the 82-85 range. Feltman is small and has a mechanically efficient, max-effort delivery, but he lives in and around the zone. Pure relief prospects like this typically go rounds three to five.
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.