Like my piece from two weeks ago, this one contains notes from the desert backfields of Extended Spring Training. Of note today: the professional debut of Brady Aiken. Appearances by Tim Lincecum, Huston Street and Dakota Chalmers serve your main side dish.
Brady Aiken, LHP, Cleveland Indians
Current Level: Extended Spring Training, Age: 19.3, Height/Weight: 6’4/225
Drafted: First round of 2015, 17th overall, signed for $2.5 mil
You should all know Aiken’s backstory by now (drafted by Houston, unsigned, Tommy John surgery, drafted by Cleveland), so let’s cut right to the chase and talk about the stuff. Aiken was 89-92 mph, with just decent arm acceleration and a bit of effort, though less of both than he had in high school. The fastball was quite straight and the kids at the White Sox’ Extended camp slapped it around. Aiken’s curveball has retained its impressive pre-surgery shape and depth. It bent in between 76 and 80 mph and a few of them were above average. The changeup (Aiken threw two, one at 85 and one at 86) was firm and below average, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect much more from a pitch so dependent on feel and release at this point in his rehab. Aiken will likely spend some time here in Arizona for Rookie-level ball before he heads to an affiliate, if he does at all. There’s no reason to draw conclusions based on how he looked, especially with so many opportunities for evaluation ahead, so keep in mind that this is just a snapshot of where things are at right now.
As you can see from the video, Aiken has become rather large. He’s listed at 205 pounds, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s pushing 230 right now. Whether that’s good or bad or anything at all is hard to say. Aiken was a workout warrior in high school (crossfit, box jumps, etc.) so it’s possible this is new found beef was added intentionally. It’s just one more thing to monitor throughout the summer. Aiken’s delivery in high school had, in my opinion, better pacing and balance and was generally more athletic and had less recoil than what he showed on Saturday.
Dakota Chalmers, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Current Level: Extended Spring Training, Age: 19.2, Height/Weight: 6’3/175
Drafted: Third round of 2015, 97th overall, signed for $1.2 mil
Chalmers was impressive in the AZL last year, showing a better changeup than pre-draft reports indicated and enough strike-throwing ability that the industry thought he had a decent chance at starting despite his size and the violence in his delivery. On Tuesday, Chalmers’ stuff was intact and he was spotting 94 and 95 mph fastballs on the corners for the first few hitters before he began to struggle to repeat his delivery. He had issues with strike-throwing thereafter.
There’s mid-rotation stuff here, with a 91-95 mph fastball featuring inconsistent arm-side run and the same biting curveball that made Chalmers a top-100 talent in last year’s draft. The curve generally sits in the low 80s with moderate depth and Chalmers can throw it for strikes as well as bury it for swings and misses. The mid-80s changeup, currently fringe-average but flashing above, has some pretty hefty projection because of Chalmers’ arm acceleration and athleticism. I think it has a chance to be his best pitch at maturity.
There are several traits that point toward the bullpen here. Chalmers is slightly built and has considerable effort to his delivery. It’s justifiable to worry about how his body will hold up under a full season’s workload as a starter. The control/command are both well below average right now, and while I think Chalmers is athletic enough to sure up some of the mechanical inconsistencies driving his wildness, it might not compensate for the physical concerns.
Wandisson Charles, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Originally signed out of the Dominican, the 19-year-old Charles is already sitting at 91-95, touching 96 and flashing an above-average slider in the upper-80s, as high as 89. He’s raw, much more a thrower than pitcher, with a 30-grade change and very little feel for spinning that slider consistently. A’s personnel charting Charles’ outing had trouble identifying his pitches both on sight and via Trackman because of how oddly and inconsistently he releases his pitches. Listed at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Charles is one of those teenage leviathans who has almost no physical projection, so what you see is probably what you’re going to get as far as velocity is concerned. The rest of the package is so unkempt that it would take a developmental miracle for Charles to profile as anything more than a reliever but with a plus fastball already in tow, all Charles needs to do is tighten up his slider and command to realize that outcome. That sounds much easier than it will probably be.
Athletics Ephemera: Switch-hitting infielder Eric Marinez signed for less than $100L back in 2012 and is now 20 but still toiling away in Extended because of inconsistency on both sides of the ball. He has a 70-grade arm and flashy infield defensive actions but his body is rapidly maturing and he’s already outgrown SS. While Marinez struggles to track pitches — especially breaking balls — from the right side, he shows some intriguing hitter’s traits from the left side with solid bat speed and some natural loft. He’s worth monitoring. Outfielder Luis Barrera, who inked a $450,000 back in 2012, has a visually pleasing all-fields swing and keeps the barrel in the hitting zone for a long time but lacks corner-worthy power projection. Panamanian catcher Jorge Gordon, 18, has excellent movement skills, ball-blocking ability and produces average pop times. The bat is Angel Food Cake-light right now and at 5-foot-10 and about 180 pounds, Gordon isn’t exactly projectable.
Aramis Ademan, SS, Chicago Cubs
Ademan signed in August of last year for $2 million. Diminutive but smooth, he’s creating quite a buzz among the small contingent of scouts assigned to Extended, mostly because of his glove. He’s athletic enough for short, his footwork is sound and he projects to have enough arm for the left side of the infield despite his size. Offensively, things are raw. Ademan lacks strength (he’s just 5-foot-10, 150) but shows some ability to move the bat head around the zone, especially toward pitches down and in. When he really opens up his hips and sells out for power, there’s more pop in there than you’d expect. I could see 40 raw power developing eventually, though the value is going to be in the glove and Ademan’s ability to put the ball in play. He’s so young and the Cubs are so loaded with Latin American infield talent at the lowest levels right now that Ademan might return to the Dominican this summer for DSL ball while others remain in Arizona for the AZL.
Cubs Ephemera: OF Robert Garcia (video) has above-average bat speed, average pull power and runs well enough to play above average defense in an outfield corner or be passable in center field. The swing path, especially from the left side, is very pull-heavy and Garcia struggles with timing because of a very aggressive stride that leaves him out in front of decent offspeed stuff. When he does connect, balls rocket into the gaps. His swing is much simpler but far less explosive from the right side. He’s already 22 and not yet at full-season ball but has enough physical talent to consider him a deep-sleeping fourth OF prospect. RHP Andri Rondon was locating 92-93 with a fringe-average slider in the upper-70s. He’s only 20 but physically mature and profiles in relief.
Gilbert Lara, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Current Level: Extended Spring Training, Age: 18.2, Height/Weight: 6’2/190
Signed: $3.1M in 2014, Dominican Republic
Lara got a $3.1 million bonus back in 2014 and has been up and down since arriving stateside for instructional league that fall. Scout opinions on his future defensive home have been as disparate as I’ve ever experienced. Some consider him a long-term shortstop while others think he’ll eventually end up at first base. The actions are of infield quality right now and Lara has 70 arm projection, but he’s such a big kid that it’s hard to see him playing anywhere more valuable than third base. He clearly has plus bat speed and when Lara connects the ball explodes, but he’s struggling to put together good at-bats right now. His swing is long in the back and his hands are a mess. Lara won’t turn 19 until October 30th, so there’s plenty of time for him to iron these things out and he’s so clearly talented that he’ll be given every opportunity to do so, but he’s squarely off the “meteoric rise” radar right now.
Diamondbacks Ephemera: Former fourth-round pick, OF Matt McPhearson (video), is still a tremendous athlete and a 70 runner but remains bereft of any discernible game power. He has yet to slug above .300 as a pro. A third-rounder from 2014, OF Matt Railey (video) was drafted so high because he had excellent hit tool projection. He still has quick hands and gets the bat head into the hitting zone quickly. He doesn’t track well, creates very little hand separation and I question the bat control. He’s already 21 and has only played 32 games of affiliated ball since signing.
Angels Ephemera: Tim Lincecum threw about 75 pitches on Saturday, sat 87-89 and was up to 91. The slider, which I thought was his best pitch during his showcase, was bad and often just hung in the zone waiting to be punished. His changeup was above average, in the low-80s with downward dive and some tail. Linecum went to the change when he needed swings and misses. The curveball was 73-75 and flashed average. He’s reportedly headed right to Triple-A Salt Lake and scheduled to make a big-league start June 12. Huston Street tossed a rehab inning immediately after Lincecum and was 83-84 with a 78-80 mph slider that I thought was average on the whole, though it flashed above when it bit late. His changeup down in the mid-70s. A scout in attendance noted that Street seemed hesitant to really rotate and generate power with his hips. It’s something to keep an eye on, especially considering that Street is returning from an oblique strain.
Dodgers Ephemera: LHP Francis Cespedes, about whom I talked here, was never officially signed by Texas as the Rangers could not verify his age. High profile July 2 signings Starling Heredia and Ronny Brito are reportedly headed back to the DSL for the summer instead of remaining stateside for Arizona League play.
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.