Over the coming weeks, Eric Longenhagen will publish brief, informal notes from his looks at the prospects of the Arizona Fall League and, until mid-October, Fall Instructional League. Find previous editions here.
I was in Mesa for the afternoon Fall League game and was walking through the parking lot to the stadium when I saw Chicago RHP Dylan Cease warming up for the Cubs and Angels’ combined advanced-instructional-league team for their game against the Reds. I stayed for Cease’s first inning during which he sat 96-plus and touched 99 three times. His breaking ball was the best I’ve seen it, flashing plus once or twice while always having shape and depth, though its bite was inconsistent. He struck out the side, including T.J. Friedl and Phillip Ervin of Cincinnati.
In the afternoon game, Astros OF Ramon Laureano tripled and doubled in consecutive at-bats and ran a jailbreaky 4.03 down the line later in the game. I have yet to see him receive a real test defensively but it looks like he has the wheels for center field. Laureano has sneaky raw power because his wrists are very strong through contact and both of his extra-base hits were absolutely tagged.
Cleveland OF prospect Bradley Zimmer swung and missed a lot yesterday. It takes his bat quite a while to get into the hitting zone and his hitting actions look stiff and uncomfortable. The physical tools are clearly still there but I think there’s significant work to be done.
New York prospects highlighted the nightcap in Scottsdale, with the Yankees’ James Kaprielian stealing the show by pumping mid-90s fastballs past Salt River hitters. He worked in a slider in the 87-90 mph range and a changeup between 83 and 87, garnering swings and misses from all three pitches, and sometimes getting whiffs with different secondaries in the same at-bat. Kaprielian’s pitches all look the same out of his hand and break late. It’s more control than command right now, but he might have three plus pitches at maturity
I’m growing more confident in Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres‘ long-term chances to stay at shortstop. I do think he’s going to fill out more than your typical big-league shortstop ,but his arm strength and body control are so good that, even with below-average range, he could still be passable there. He made several strong, accurate throws from multiple platforms last night. He also homered the opposite way on a pitch he didn’t particularly square up.
I also saw Tim Tebow and the crowds he draws, which, aside from the parking conditions they create, have been generally harmless. Last night’s game in Scottsdale was an unusually crowded mid-week affair with most of the fans raucously cheering for Tebow in a setting that is usually quite bookish. It created a unique environment in which to watch baseball, that’s for sure. Tools-wise, Tebow takes big, fun, aggressive hacks and he has some bat speed and power but his hand-eye is lacking and his swing is very long in the back. Several times he swung through hittable 89-91 mph fastballs because he couldn’t get there in time to punish them. His routes in left are raw, he has a 40 arm and is an average runner underway but below average from home to first. He isn’t a prospect, but he’s been gracious with the media and patient with the fans and autograph lines. It was weird watching a baseball game in which fan excitement was most palpable during a semi-routine fly ball to left field and not when a Yankees shortstop prospect hit one 380 feet the opposite way.
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.
You gonna be writing a daily Tebow section? Niiice