|EVALUATING THE PROSPECTS 2016
I’d say there are some surprises in the rankings here, but if you’ve been following the Giants’ player development successes the last few years, everything’s a surprise. They have found a niche that they have doubled down on in recent years of acquiring guys who are baseball players first and toolsy showcase darlings second, if at all. It’s hard to argue with anything they’ve done for a while now, as they continue to be a consistent winner despite changing expectations every season.
This system is really exciting for how many of the under-the-radar players I think can actually end up being solid major leaguers. Having Christian Arroyo as your top prospect isn’t exciting, but it becomes all the more gratifying if and when he becomes a major contributor to the parent club in a couple years. The same goes with a lot of the lesser-known pitchers who don’t have big velocity, yet are mowing right through the minor leagues on the way to a shot at cracking the Giants’ rotation. For evaluation’s sake, I really am intrigued by their collection of guys, both because of the collective thought that obviously went into its formation, and because I do genuinely like a good number of their chances going forward.
Here’s the primer for the series and my scouting thoughts in general. The grades I put on players heavily weight the functionality of each tool in game situations, rather than just pure tool grades. Here is a table to understand the position player grades:
|Grade||Tool Is Called||Batting Average||HR||ISO||Baserunning Runs||Fielding Runs|
As well as one to understand what the overall grades approximate:
|Grade||Hitter||Starting Pitcher||Relief Pitcher||WAR|
|80||Top 1-2||#1 Starter||—-||7|
|55||Above Avg||#3/4||Mid Closer||2.5|
|50||Avg Regular||#4||Low CL/High SU||2|
|40||Bench||Swing/Spot SP||Middle RP||1|
|35||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||Emergency Call-Up||0|
One other difference in the way I communicate scouting grades to you is the presence of three numbers on each tool instead of just two. The first number is the current grade. The second number is the likely future grade; or, if you prefer percentiles, call this the 50th percentile projection. The third number is the ceiling grade, or 90th percentile projection, to help demonstrate the volatility and raw potential of a tool. I feel this gives readers a better sense of the possible outcomes a player could achieve, and more information to understand my thoughts on the likelihood of reaching those levels. If you prefer the traditional methodologies of other publications, I would suggest averaging the latter two grades together to get a semi-optimistic view of where a player projects.
In the biographical information, level refers to where they finished the year, unless they were sent down for injury rehab or other extraneous reasons. Ages are listed as of April 1, 2016. You can also find each player’s previous rank from Kiley’s list last year. Below, Dave Cameron shares his thoughts on the general state of the organization. Returning for his popular cameo, Carson Cistulli picks his favorite fringe prospect toward the end of the list.
1. Christian Arroyo, INF
Current Level/Age: High-A/20.8, 6’1/180, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 25th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of Florida HS by SF for $1.8665 million bonus
Previous Rank: 4
Arroyo has a ballplayer’s skill set. He doesn’t have any plus tools based on raw physical qualities, instead relying on his technique and more subtle athleticism to be a positive impact on offense and defense.
He knows how to handle the bat, with a nice high line drive swing path and moderate strength behind it. He only makes around average contact, which he makes up for by swinging more often. It ensures he will have enough opportunities in an at bat to square the ball up, but it also means his walk rates aren’t going to impress anyone. As a result, he’s likely to carry his high average into the big leagues, but his hit tool will play slightly lower because of his walk rate staying below-average. Not low, mind you, but lower than a ~.300 hitter might normally grade out.
Arroyo surely doesn’t have the range expected out of regular shortstops, or the exceptional arm speed to make up for it. He does, however, have very soft hands and excellent footwork that make him reasonable if unspectacular option at shortstop. Most likely he fits best at second base, though he has the arm and quick reactions for third base as well.
For a guy without a big tool set, Arroyo still has the potential for five average or better grades. His swing plane and moderate strength give him the potential for average power, even if it’s more doubles-driven. With fringe-average speed, he doesn’t steal a ton of bases, but is smart enough that he should be close to average as a baserunner. All together, he’s one of the least flashy prospects in the game to also have All-Star potential.
Hit: 45+/60/65 Power: 35/45/50 Run: 45/45/50 Field: 50/50+/55 Throw: 55/55/55
Video courtesy of Baseball America
2. Sam Coonrod, RHP
Current Level/Age: Single-A/23.5, 6’2/190, R/R
Acquired: Drafted 148th overall (5th round) in 2014 out of Southern Illinois U Carbondale by SF for $330,000 bonus
Previous Rank: Unranked
Coonrod has a really unique stride style and timing that looks awful to hit against. His lead leg just rides the ground with his foot partially opened toward the plate. Then all of a sudden, his foot goes down and the rest of his delivery happens with unexpected speed. The body control to be able to stride open and keep his hips from leaking open is truly impressive. It allows him to have some deception without sacrificing good sequencing and support for his arm.
His arm action is solid, and his ability to repeat his delivery bodes well for improving on his fringy command. The combination of deception, low- to mid-90s velocity and pretty good life on his fastball make it a plus offering in the making. His slider has a similar future grade with hard, downward break and a very similar release to his fastball. He hasn’t shown a big platoon split in his first two years despite lacking much of a third pitch in his changeup.
Coonrod’s mix of having solid stuff, projectable command, and being difficult to read make him a better starting pitcher prospect than he gets credit for. Even if his changeup never reaches an average grade, I like his chances of becoming a mid-rotation starter, in the mold of other two-pitch starters (i.e. Colby Lewis). If upper minors hitters are able to get in rhythm with his delivery more consistently, his fastball and slider are strong enough to jump into a high-leverage role out of the bullpen.
Fastball: 55/60/65 Slider: 55/60/60+ Changeup: 40/40+/45 Command: 45/50/55
3. Lucius Fox, SS
Current Level/Age: NA/18.7, 6’1/175, B/R
Acquired: Signed in 2015 out of Bahamas by SF for $6 million bonus
Previous Rank: NA
Fox is an exciting, young athlete with a quick bat, fantastic speed and a solid arm. Though he didn’t play in a game last year after signing in July, he has already made a strong impression on the Giants’ staff, with positive reviews of his makeup abound. The only area where he projects to be below-average is power, because of a ground ball swing path from both sides of the plate. While he’s more coordinated on the right side of the plate, he shows more potential for developing a line drive, gap power swing on the left.
Despite near-elite running speed, Fox fielding ground balls can be underwhelming to watch at times. Though scouts agree he has the tools to play shortstop in the long run, many also think those tools won’t play very well at short because of how immature the technical side of his defense is. It looks like he focuses on catching the ball and making sure he finishes step one before getting ready to throw. The best infielders get their feet going into the throw before the catch, and it’s a prerequisite for playing the most active position in the infield.
The Giants believe he won’t have any problem sticking at short, and I’m inclined to agree with them even though his present skill work is below the threshold for the position. He has very soft, quick hands. And more directly related to the footwork issue, when he’s challenged by a tough hop or going to get a ball further away from him, he shows glimpses of being able to turn tough plays into easy ones.
Either way, he should be at least an average infield defender, with an average or better hit tool and the speed to be a threat on both sides of the ball. Even at that relatively modest level of production, he’s an average big league infielder. His tools offer a ton more upside as well.
Hit: 30/50/55 Power: 25/40/45 Run: 60/65/70 Field: 45/50-55/60 Throw: 55/55/55
4. Andrew Suarez, LHP
Current Level/Age: High-A/23.6, 6’2/210, L/L
Acquired: Drafted 61st overall (2nd round) in 2015 by SF for $1.1 million bonus
Previous Rank: NA
Suarez is just a professional pitcher. His stuff is never going to be overpowering to hitters, but he is the type of guy who can keep them constantly off-balance while continually expanding the strike zone with pitches just a little further out of the zone each time. He has some stiffness in his arm action that I hope doesn’t degrade his arm or his feel in general, but right now he projects as a back-end to mid-rotation starter in the making. Four average or better pitches backed up by above-average command? That works.
Fastball: 50/50/55 Curveball: 50/50/55 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 45/45/50 Command: 55/55/60
Beede works less in the upper range of his velocity nowadays, but what he lost in miles per hour he gained in ground ball rate. His secondary pitches consist of an average-ish breaking ball and an above-average changeup, so not exactly the strikeout-type stuff you might have expected him to develop out of college. He still struggles with his command and control, and I haven’t seen enough feel or consistency in his delivery to expect that to improve dramatically. I think the combination of potential elite ground ball rates and a marginal improvement to his command get him into fourth starter territory, with perhaps a little more upside from there.
Fastball: 55/55/55+ Curveball: 45/45+/50 Changeup: 50/55/60 Command: 40/45/45
Bickford is a difficult projection to nail down. First, the positives: a big fastball that can reach the upper-90s, more physical projection left and above-average present control. The negatives? Inconsistent secondary offerings, tons of effort in his arm and a lack of compensation from his body and command issues that will be exposed against better hitters. What a couple years of professional development does to the interplay between these factors, who knows?
Just mentioning his fastball velocity really sells it short. He throws with deceptive timing that makes the ball seem to come out of nowhere, and looks much faster than it is even when sitting in the low-90s. His ball has great life after it leaves his hand, sometimes showing nice run and sink, and others more whiff-inducing rise. It’s the main reason the low minors shouldn’t be much of an issue for him, though the rest of his kit needs to improve to make an impact in the majors.
His delivery development is the linchpin, in my opinion. He has really good momentum toward the plate, but it quickly gets erratic because of subpar rotational sequencing and inadequate front leg stability to consistently produce and transfer force. To make up for it, Bickford’s arm really muscles up, going through big changes of direction and ending with a lot of momentum and poor deceleration into his follow through. Leaving aside the injury concern, his command and secondary stuff isn’t good enough to get by against major league hitters yet.
On the flip side, he does still have some room to put on muscle, especially in his lower half. Strengthening his back leg may help him have a more stable base to drive his hips from, and a stronger landing leg would help accept more force and turn it into velocity that his arm wouldn’t have to make up for. That of course would allow for more fine adjustments to his command and movement, since his arm wouldn’t be doing so much of the heavy lifting.
Getting him to a place where he can sustain his higher end stuff will require a concerted effort between Bickford and the strength and pitching coaches in the Giants’ organization. Now obviously every pitcher would benefit from functional strength building. Why Bickford could see greater gains than most is because of how tough his fastball is on hitters and the prospect of his ability to throw strikes turning into legit command.
The overall grades here reflect the massive range of outcomes. Most likely, he keeps doing what he has been for years and ends up slightly better than a back-end starter or a solid setup man. But he also has a chance of being in the top half of a big league rotation if he can make some improvements, ones that are more clearly laid out in front of him than for most pitching prospects. Already with a terrific start in Rookie ball as an appetizer, Bickford’s progress should be fascinating to watch play out.
Fastball: 55/60/70 Slider: 40/50/60 Changeup: 40/45/55 Command: 40/45/55+
Shaw fits the mold of a lot of power hitters that pass through college programs. Despite having obvious raw power, the culture surrounding college sluggers still revolves around chopping at the ball, either to put the ball on the ground or, through maybe even worse logic, hit the ball in the air. What makes Shaw interesting is the different swing he took into his Cape Cod League season the summer before his draft year. Some of his batting practice swings are in the linked video, where he shows much better balance, owing to a hand path that works with his strong lower half, rather than the choppy path that pulled him forward over his front foot in many of his college swings.
Regardless of the direction Shaw is swinging, there is a ton of looseness in his hands and surprising whip for someone with his size and strength. He doesn’t use brute force to drive the ball, and instead pairs an efficient swing with his large frame backing it up, making for a more reliable source of power and the chance to be a good overall hitter as well.
He struck out in a hair over 20% of his plate appearances in the Northwest League after signing, but he doesn’t look like a guy who’s going to have contact issues. With his swing and around average expected contact ability, I think he’s at least a 55 bat with a plus grade entirely possible. If he can continue swinging on a line drive/fly ball plane, he has the ingredients for a 70 power ceiling. The 60 likely grade is accounting for the fact that I don’t know if his slight plane changes have been intentional or accidental, and so whether they will be permanent or sporadic.
As a first baseman only with limited baserunning utility, he’s going to have to hit to be an asset. I want to see what he looks like in the box out of the gate this year before bumping him into the 50+ group. However, if he shows the Cape Cod swing and not the college swing, I’ll be much more sold on his chances of approximating the 60 hit/70 power ceiling I envision for him. If not, he’s still a fringe-regular because of his bat, but obviously the Giants would prefer the higher upside he has.
Hit: 45/55/60 Power: 50/60/70 Run: 30/30/30 Field: 35/40/40 Throw: 50/50+/55
Cole may end up outhitting these grades if he can get his balance under control, though it seems to come from a deep-rooted tendency to let his hips slide around underneath the rest of his body. He has great hands at the plate and a solid middle-of-the-field approach, though he doesn’t quite have the power to turn his best drives into homers. His doubles power should continue to be very respectable, so it’s likely best left alone.
Playing second base and the outfield is a good fit for Cole. His average arm plays up to an above-average tool in the outfield because of his ability to get rid of the ball quickly, and his quick feet and decent hands play up in the infield, though he’s still a fringe-average defender overall. Cole’s bat gives him a chance at an everyday job, though he could easily settle into a utility or split role to give a roster some versatility.
Hit: 45/50/55 Power: 40/50/55 Run: 40/40/40 Field: 45/45/50 Throw: 50/50/55
Osich has a fun selection of pitches with which to work, starting with a straight mid-90s fastball that isn’t even close to his best offering. It really only serves to get hitters off his two best pitches, a hard, downward-breaking cutter and a changeup with split movement. He’ll start the 2016 season in the Giants’ bullpen and may eventually settle into the late-innings mix with closer potential.
Fastball: 50/50/55 Cutter: 55/55/55 Changeup: 55/60/65 Command: 40/40/45
10. Jordan Johnson, RHP, Double-A
Another year removed from his college Tommy John surgery, another improved, dominant year. Hurling a mid-90s fastball and two potential average to above-average secondary pitches, the truly exceptional part of his early showing has been the control. In 62 innings through High-A over the past season and a half, he has walked only 13 batters. It still feels like he’s coming out of nowhere, but this year a lot more eyes will be on him. If he can continue to develop his offspeed options, he has mid-rotation upside.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Curveball: 40/45/45+ Changeup: 45/50/55 Command: 45/50/50
Blackburn is ready for his big league trial, offering a collection of average pitches thrown with excellent control. He isn’t going to strike many guys out, but hitters have a tough time getting an easy pitch to drive off of him when he lives on the edges of the zone. He has potential as a fourth starter if every pitch he has plays to its fullest potential, but he also has the floor of an efficient fifth starter. Limited walks and generating weak contact will be his playbook, and he shouldn’t have a problem carrying his excellent ground ball rate into the next level.
Fastball: 50/50/50 Curveball: 50/50/55 Slider: 45/45/50 Changeup: 45/45/50 Command: 55/55/60
Parker’s three-homer game last year was one of the highlights of September baseball. His power has always been a known quantity, and he can also contribute on the bases and with his defense. It’s the contact rate that has been lacking enough to keep him in the minor leagues since he was drafted in 2010, despite being taken in the second round.
Strikeouts will be plentiful in his game, but he has enough other positives going for him to be an excellent part-time outfielder, with a chance at being an average regular if his walk rate can stay high. He may only hit .240-.250, but if his on-base rate can stay around .300, he’s worth something close to an everyday role. There are some rumblings about immaturity issues that one source voiced to me, but at this point, he’s earned a shot, so we’ll see what he’s all about in short order.
Hit: 40/40+/45 Power: 50/55/55+ Run: 55/55/55 Field: 50/50/50 Throw: 45/45/45
Johnson’s fastball made short work of most minor league hitters he faced since signing in 2013. He needs one of his offspeed pitches to scale up if he’s going to stick in the rotation, because even a fantastic fastball will get touched up if there’s no threat of something else coming around. His feel isn’t very good for either his slider or changeup, though the change has the best chance of being that necessary second pitch. I like him more out of the bullpen, where his present command is plenty and he can throw his fastball at the high end of its velocity on a regular basis.
Fastball: 55/60/65 Slider: 40/45/45 Changeup: 40/45/50 Command: 45/45/50
Fastball command will be the difference between a future as a lefty reliever or a mid-rotation starter for Mejia. It works in the low- to mid-90s with good run, but he has trouble consistently keeping it out of harm’s way. His offspeed pitches, on the other hand, he has no problem commanding. His slider isn’t sharp, but he spots it fairly well, and his changeup has plus potential. He throws it with exceptional arm speed, and he regularly locates it on the edges of the zone. It may be enough to carry him into a rotation spot, but for now he’s earned another shot at Triple-A, and we’ll see where he goes from there.
Fastball: 45/45+/50 Slider: 45/50/50 Changeup: 55/55/60 Command: 45/45+/50
Marshall is a tremendous athlete on the mound with a mature frame that can still add some strength over the next couple years. He has a potential plus changeup and an average or above-average curveball, but his fastball is relatively straight without elite velocity. I’d also like to see him get some looseness in his arm just after release, but we can see how he looks after he spends a year or two in the organization.
Fastball: 45/50/50 Curveball: 45/50/50 Changeup: 50/55/60 Command: 45/50/55
16. Michael Santos, RHP, Single-A
Santos is a very projectable young right-hander with the potential for mid-90s heat and three average or better secondary pitches. He hasn’t thrown many pitches, as the Giants have been sensitive to exposing him until he has enough functional strength to handle the long season. Multiple sources cite his clean, easy delivery as a sign of further velocity and command gains, though arm pain did keep him off the field for much of his 2015 try at the South Atlantic League.
Perhaps more impactfully, he draws wide praise for his coachability and mound demeanor, and has really bought into the Giants’ plan for him. The stuff gives him a good shot at ending up in the rotation, though for now it’s more likely a back-end role until his stuff/command ticks up and he proves capable of throwing a full season. It is also said he has exceptional feel for pitching compared to other pitchers his age.
Fastball: 50/55/60 Curveball: 40/45/50 Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 40/45-50/50+ Command: 40/45/50
Black signed way back in 2011 with the Giants, but didn’t pitch professionally until 2014 because of shoulder surgery. He also has a Tommy John surgery in his past from back in his high school days. Now, he throws 97-100 on a slow day with his heater, and mixes in a curveball that can be well below-average one pitch and an easy plus the next.
The problem, besides recurring smaller injuries keeping him off the field, is his anti-command, or whatever the opposite of command is. This combo leads to ridiculous numbers, like what he did in High-A last year — 51 strikeouts and 25 walks in 25 innings, while also allowing the hitters to occasionally participate by chipping in 13 hits. It’s the kind of stat line I could picture myself putting up throwing with my opposite hand and no one in the batter’s box. Absolutely ridiculous (-ly awesome!).
While reasonable expectations can’t have him be more than an extremely volatile middle reliever, it’s important to note that he literally hasn’t had one healthy start to a season until this year. No normal offseasons, no normal throwing progressions or facing hitters at the same time as everyone else. How he responds to that this year could mean he just gets a head start to striking out two guys an inning and walking a third in April instead of May or June. Or, if his command just made a tiny improvement, he’s in setup/closer territory because of the raw strength of his stuff. Put me down for tickets to watch him throw either way.
Fastball: 65/70/80 Curveball: 40/45/55 Command: 35/35+/40
Miller has the physical tools to handle shortstop, making up for average arm strength with instant transfers and quick feet. He has the soft hands needed for the position, but his technique is lacking in how he prepares to field balls and get his feet going prior to corralling the ball. His quickness shows up much more naturally on balls in the air, like on double play turns, than on ground balls for those reasons.
Luckily, the Giants are an organization known for teaching sound fundamentals and targeting players that don’t need amazing physical tools to be above-average defenders, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he works his way into being a viable option under their watch. If not, second base is a solid backup plan, and he has the footspeed to fit in the outfield if his defense really doesn’t come around.
Where he needs the most work is with his bat. He possesses one of the best bat speeds in his draft class from last June, but his below-average pitch recognition and contact quality were exposed in the Arizona League after he signed. He’s athletic enough that his bat speed should be enough to get him to at least a 45 hit tool, but it will require some tweaking of his timing and steep swing path.
Hit: 25/45/50 Power: 20/30/35 Run: 55/55/55 Field: 50/55/55+ Throw: 50/50+/55
Okert slings a stiff arm around his body after closing it off with his stride, and even has a little skip in his step as he comes toward the plate. Deception? Yes. Command? No. He’s basically a two-pitch reliever with his hard fastball and sweeping slider, with only his fastball looking like it could play above-average to plus. The slider has inconsistent shape and likely shakes out as an average offering, and a well below-average changeup is thrown in at the end. The fastball and delivery from Funky Town give him a safety net as a solid lefty specialist, but I don’t think there’s much more here without better feel.
Fastball: 55/55/60 Slider: 45/50/50 Changeup: 35/35/40 Command: 40/40/40
Garcia had a nice stint in Single-A Augusta to earn a promotion to High-A last season, showing off excellent power numbers and a serviceable average. He is going to be prone to strikeouts as he ascends the minor league ladder, and his swing path makes it tough to project a ton of power when he isn’t consistently getting pitches up in the zone. I still think the power will play at least average, with a chance at being an all-or-nothing plus tool. His hit tool gets a bump for being willing to take a walk, but it’s not quite enough to project at the same level.
His receiving and blocking are still works in progress, but both are expected to improve enough to get to around average. Right now he has a strong case as a future backup, though like many catchers with a power profile, he could play his way into a couple years of regular time behind the plate.
Hit: 30/40/45 Power: 40/50/55-60 Run: 30/30/30 Field: 40/45/50 Throw: 50/50/55
Blach has a bunch of fringe-average to average pitches and good command, giving him a possible role as an innings-eater/spot starter alternating with middle relief duties. He was bit by a radioactive homer bug in Triple-A last year, but if he continues to limit walks and keep hitters off balance, there’s enough there for a big league shot.
Fastball: 45/45/50 Curveball: 45/45/50 Slider: 45/45/45 Changeup: 50/50/55 Command: 50/50/50+
Inconsistent command due to his long, unmastered limbs and missed time due to regular injuries hint at a permanent move to the bullpen in the future, but a decent fastball-slider duo and improved approach after starting 2015 in the pen will keep him in the rotation for now.
Fastball: 50/55/55+ Slider: 45/50/55 Changeup: 40/40/45 Command: 40/45/45
What used to be tolerable mechanical quirks and youthful command have turned into a three times per minute surprise party of different deliveries and dreadful location. The amazing curveball has tightened up into a slider that would be a plus pitch if it was near the zone more often. He still throws gas, but his command was bad enough, even in a relief role, to question how much longer he’ll be pitching.
I can’t bring myself to take him off the list completely, but I willingly admit I’m ignoring how much of my reasoning is based on nostalgia and not the reality of his situation. Hopefully going into this year knowing he’s a full-time reliever will add some modicum of stability to his game.
Fastball: 45/50/55 Curveball: 40/40/45 Slider: 50/55/55 Changeup: 40/40/40 Command: 30/40/40
Two Giants prospects appeared among the Fringe Five during the 2015 season, Chase Johnson and Jordan Johnson, but Farnsworth has taken them for his own nefarious purposes. Snelten, meanwhile, seems to be a candidate for inclusion among the Fringe Five at some point in 2016.
Selected out of the University of Minnesota during the ninth round of the 2013 draft, Snelten features a compelling combination of physicality, arm speed, and performance. Listed at 6-foot-6, the 23-year-old sits in the low-90s — and very likely creates a higher “effective velocity” by means of his height and unorthodox delivery. The results have been favorable: in 120 innings last season between Class- and High-A, Snelten produced strikeout and walk rates of 24.8% and 6.7%, respectively. Given the complexity of his mechanics, Snelten would obviously benefit from some refinement, but the basic materials are there for success.
Here, for the benefit of probably someone, is an example of Snelten’s secondary stuff — a breaking ball, thrown at regular and also less regular speed, for a strikeout this past year.
Lower level hitters: After a rough-BABIP draft year at the University of Texas, SS CJ Hinojosa (VIDEO) went off in Low-A, hitting for average and power. The tools aren’t exceptional and the swing has some warts, so I’m waiting to see him this year before really weighing in. 3B Jose Vizcaino Jr (VIDEO) had an excellent first year in Low-A, going from signing out of the seventh round to hitting to the tune of an .808 OPS. The consensus is his tools are lacking overall, but I’ll be very interested to see more of him at the plate in 2016.
OF Johneshwy Fargas (VIDEO) had a nice year showing some gap power and speed in Single-A, but his lack of long-term power leaves him fighting for a bench spot at full development. OF Ronnie Jebavy (VIDEO) had a great debut in the Northwest League, hitting for respectable power while stealing a ton of bases and playing good defense. His power may be muted as he climbs without some swing alterations, though he does have above-average bat speed. His hit tool could also be limited by a hyper-aggressive approach.
Upper level pitchers: RHP Chris Stratton (VIDEO) has a slider that is at least an average pitch, but the rest of his arsenal and command are fringy. He should get a big league look sometime this season, but the upside is middle relief or a spot starter. RHP Ian Gardeck will miss all of 2016 with Tommy John recovery, and will hope to bring back a solid fastball-slider combo to the bullpen when he does. RHP Derek Law (VIDEO) has a strong fastball with two good breaking balls, but he needs to stay on the field and get past his elbow issues. LHP DJ Snelten (Cistulli’s Guy above) doesn’t use his body well in terms of rotational moves, but he has a good fastball with two usable offspeed pitches. He jumped into a starting role in 2015 with overall positive results.
Lower level pitchers: RHP Jake Smith (VIDEO) has cruised through low minors hitters with his fastball and slider out of the bullpen, but he’s been slowed down to force him to work on his command. He could be a seventh inning guy if it works out. LHP Grant Watson (VIDEO) was a less-regarded pitcher out of UCLA last June who had a great first taste in pro ball. He doesn’t have lights-out stuff, but he can pitch.