(Mostly) East Valley Instructional League Notes

Periodically, I’ll be posting notes from in-person observations at Fall Instructional League and Arizona Fall League play. Each are essentially the scouting calendar’s dessert course, both in their timing and sometimes dubious value. I take bad fall looks with a large grain of salt as players are sometimes fatigued, disinterested, put in difficult situations purposefully so that they’ll fail, or some combination of these or other bits of important context. With that in mind here are links to past notes followed by this edition’s.

9/20 (TEX, SD)
9/21-9/23 (CHA, MIL, SD, TEX)
9/24-9/25 (CHA, CIN, LAN, TEX)
9/27-10/2 (ARI, LAA, OAK, SF)

Instructional League plays is more or less complete. What follows represents my looks from the schedule’s last couple weeks. As the short season progressed, I made an effort to see teams whose minor-league complexes are located in the Phoenix Metro Area’s eastern reaches. Chronological drafts of this post were confusing, as many of these teams play against one another due to ease of travel. As such, notes in this edition are organized by team instead of date.

Colorado 2B Shael Mendoza had a monster summer in the Pioneer League, slashing .362/.412/.519 while swiping 25 bases in 55 games. While Mendoza has strong hands and wrists that lead to loud contact when he squares a ball up, he has some issues that dilute the quality and amount of contact he makes. He’s often out on his front foot early or excessively and his bat isn’t in the hitting zone for very long. He’s also a fringe athlete without great actions at second base. I do think there’s some physical ability with which to work, evident in Mendoza’s power on contact, but I think there’s significant risk that his 2017 on-paper performance was a bit of a mirage.

Colorado has other young, promising prospects from Latin America, though. C/1B Hidekel Gonzalez has natural, pull-side loft in his swing and a promising combination of bat control and wrist strength that allows him to drive the ball even when he isn’t pulling it. He’s also a solid receiver with good field awareness, but I never saw his arm tested. SS Cristopher Navarro will have to add strength to make MLB-quality contact, but he’s just 18, has some room on his 6-foot frame, and already has some feel to hit. He’s also a promising young defender with enough range for short and a comfortably plus arm. You can see him unleash a rocket in the video below.

I’ve seen Will Gaddis, Colorado’s third rounder out of Furman, twice this fall and been impressed by his ability to locate his fastball in each look. I think he has a chance to develop plus-plus command, though his stuff — he sat 88-91 with a fringe breaking ball and below-average changeup in each appearance I saw — leaves something to be desired.

Giants RHP Gregory Santos, who was acquired from Boston in the Eduardo Nunez deal, turned 18 in August. He was 92-95 for me this fall with an effective, low-80s slider that features short but tight vertical movement. It could be a plus pitch at peak. Scouts are unsure if he’s a long-term starter but are smitten with the stuff.

Oakland RHP Brett Graves, who missed much of 2017 with injury, was sitting 90-94 and touching 96 with his fastball. He has a fringey, mid-80s slider with sweeping tilt and an above average changeup. I also thought I saw a cutter at 92. He projects as a reliever but has big league quality stuff. Graves is Rule 5 eligible but this instructional league performance came in front of multiple Oakland executives and I’d expect Graves to be added to the 40-man.

RHP Dakota Chalmers continues to have tantalizing secondary stuff but his fastball velocity is down a bit and he still has 30 control. Chalmers was sitting 91-92 and touched 94 in my look and had very little idea where it was going, but his curveball and changeup both flash plus. He stepped away from baseball mid-year due to personal reasons and is in the midst of a change to his arm slot, so he’s understandably rusty. His stuff remains tantalizing.

Other notable A’s prospects include the fascinating Wandisson Charles, a behemoth righty who sits 96-98 with an average, mid-80s slider, and 17-year-old RHP Teodoro Ortega, who was missing bats with an 87 mph fastball. Ortega is loose and fluid, has a quick arm, and was generating 2300 rpm on his otherwise pedestrian fastball. His curveball is slow and loopy but has promising shape, and Ortega has precocious changeup feel. He lacks great physical projection but is an interesting, young sleeper.

Two Dodgers righties, Mitchell White and Imani Abdullah, sat 90-92 during their east-valley trip to play Oakland. White’s velocity is down from the 94-97 he showed during spring training. Abdullah’s delivery lacks consistency, as it has during much of his time as a pro, despite its relative ease.

Milwaukee held an intrasquad game for a collection of significant staff members — including David Stearns and Craig Counsell — that featured many of their minor-league pitchers. RHPs Phil Bickford and Caden Lemons struggled. Bickford, a former Futures Game participant who was acquired from San Francisco in 2016, sat 89-91 with poor command. Lemons sat 86-90 and touched 91 with similar command issues.

LHP Karlos Morales was impressive, showing east/west command of a 89-90 fastball with natural cut, as well as an above-average curveball and fringey changeup. He was a 25th round pick out of South Hills HS (CA).

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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