February 4, 2013 at 10:24 am by Ethan Purser under Prospects
As Spring Training approaches, we will be releasing ten write-ups per week from our Top 40 prospects. Today, we begin with a pitcher who popped onto our radar late last season.
40. Patrick Scoggin: RHP | R/R | 6’4”, 230 lbs. | Age: 21 | Signed, 2012
Performance: After a mediocre junior season at Virginia Tech, Scoggin went undrafted in June’s Rule 4 draft. He began his summer pitching in the Coastal Plain League, a prestigious collegiate summer league, and was signed by the Braves in July. The big righty made the most of his professional debut out of the bullpen, surrendering zero earned runs on seven hits while posting a 16:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14.1 innings across the Gulf Coast League, the Appalachian League, and the South Atlantic League.
Tools: Scoggin brings a blistering mid-90s fastball and developing power slider to the table. Primarily a starter at Virginia Tech, his fastball sat a bit lower and he incorporated more secondaries, but the potential of the fastball-slider combination in the bullpen may entice the decision-makers to scrap the other stuff in order to expedite his development. He’s a big dude, which, along with quirky mechanics, leads to repeatability issues. The delivery in itself is not terrible—he gets his hips moving quickly toward the plate and achieves some separation between his halves thanks to an upper-body dip over the rubber—but his high arm slot causes some head jerk, which can negatively affect command/control. He also tends to fly open with his front shoulder and exhibits some recoil upon delivering a pitch. All in all, mechanics for a reliever are usually not a big deal, and some (read: I) would argue that violence for a power reliever is somewhat necessary (see: Kimbrel, Craig). If a kid is definitely not a starter long-term and can a) throw a baseball 95+ MPH, b) somewhat reasonably control said fastball, and c) flash a plus slider, it’s probably best to leave the mechanics alone and just let him loose in the bullpen to figure everything out.
Future: Scoggin only pitched one inning above rookie-ball in his debut, so one can assume, barring an impressive showing in the spring, that he will start the year in Rome’s bullpen and look to move up the ladder from there. Keep a close eye on this kid in 2013, as he could be a fast-riser in the reliever ranks within the system.
39. David Peterson: RHP | R/R | 6’5”, 205 lbs. | Age: 23 | 8th round, 2012
Performance: Peterson, a 2012 senior sign out of College of Charleston, performed nicely in his debut in Low-A Rome, posting a 1.93/2.84 FIP with a 23:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 28 innings pitched. Like fellow 2012 draftee Nathan Hyatt, Peterson stepped in at the back-end of Rome’s bullpen down the stretch, finishing 15 of the 20 games in which he appeared.
Tools: The tall, lanky Peterson throws two pitches with good current utility and future potential: a low- to mid-90s fastball with an abundance of sink and run along with a low-80s curveball that features plenty of depth. The fastball does a great job of inducing ground balls, and the curveball’s late break within the zone can elicit swings and misses from both left-handed and right-handed hitters. His mechanics are fairly straightforward, if unimpressive; his arm action is fairly short with no glaring inefficiencies, but after he releases the ball from a three-quarters arm slot, he does not get extended well out front. His front leg is very stiff upon landing, which limits his ability to finish pitches and cuts off valuable length over his front side. As a starter in college prior to his senior season, the need for durability in the rotation as opposed to short bursts out of the bullpen more than likely necessitated the mechanical profile that deemphasizes intent in favor of a calm, easy motion. Due to this, if he can incorporate a little more intent in his delivery, one could hope for a little more hop on his fastball in terms of perceived and actual velocity.
Future: Peterson will play next season as a 23-year-old, so he will not be young for his level at High-A Lynchburg. One can easily see him as a good middle reliever down the road, but he could find himself in a higher-leverage role in the bullpen depending upon how his repertoire develops.
38. Chasen Shreve: LHP | L/L | 6’3”, 180 lbs. | Age: 22 | 11th round, 2010
Performance: Shreve saw across-the-board success in 2012 between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi, posting a 2.66 ERA/3.48 FIP with a 57:33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64.1 innings pitched. Upon being promoted to Mississippi in July, his performance suffered, most notably in the walks department. Of note, his aggregate walk rate increased fairly substantially over his walk rate from 2011, although much of the bump in free passes occurred after being promoted to Double-A. He had just turned 22 years old upon his promotion to the Southern League, however, so he shouldn’t be dinged too much for his lack of dominance at the end of the season. He was sent back to Lynchburg at the end of August.
Tools: The lean, lanky lefty (five times fast, and go!) possesses a few weapons that make him a potential asset out of the bullpen. His tailing fastball sits in the high-80s, touching the low-90s, with excellent arm-side run. His changeup is an effective offering versus right-handed hitters, eliciting weak contact when located low in the zone. The slider keeps left-handed hitters honest and profiles as more of a true slider in terms of the lack of depth present, which is consistent with Shreve’s low arm slot. The aforementioned arm slot helps to keep him deceptive versus left-handed hitters, hiding the ball well throughout his motion and releasing at a point that is almost behind the back of a lefty.
Future: After his success in High-A in 2012, Shreve should begin the year in middle relief for Mississippi. His floor is a LOOGY (lefty-handed specialist); his ceiling is a solid middle reliever who can get both righties and lefties out due to the utilization of his changeup and slider, respectively.
37. Ernesto Mejia: 1B | R/R | 6’5”, 245 lbs. | Age: 27 | UDFA, 2005
Performance: Mejia crushed International League pitching in 2012, posting averages of .296/.347/.502 with 57 extra-base hits, including 24 home runs, in 559 plate appearances. While his .849 OPS was 18 percent higher than the International League average, Mejia’s walk and strikeout numbers were much less palatable, posting rates that were both below league average. He was up to his same old tricks in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason, posting averages of .298/.340/.551 while co-leading the circuit in home runs (16) and leading the league in strikeouts (64) in 245 at-bats.
Tools: Mejia is a one-trick pony, but it’s one heck of a trick. He has massive pull power that could produce awe-inspiring shots at the highest level. One problem: he swings and misses fairly frequently. His swing is highly leveraged and features a fast leg-kick trigger and an explosive firing of the hips upon footplant. He has active hands (good), but the amount of length in his swing coupled with the natural uppercut in his swing plane leads to plenty of whiffs on velocity on/above the hands and on soft stuff darting low and away. He’s a mistake hitter who will hopefully crush enough extra-base hits to make up for the amount of outs he makes via the strikeout. Mejia is a first base-only type and his large frame does not lend itself to deftness around the bases.
Future: Mejia was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, though the recent acquisition of Chris Johnson likely keeps him off of the 25-man roster to begin the season. If he’s relegated to Triple-A, look for more of the same—strikeouts and homers—from the slugger.
36. Blake Brown: OF | R/R | 6’0”, 185 lbs. | Age: 21 | 5th round, 2012
Performance: After hitting .271/.383/.453 with six home runs and a 30:64 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 192 at-bats as a junior at the University of Missouri (.260/.374/.438 park/schedule adjusted), Brown hit .201/.313/.313 with four home runs and posted a 25:72 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 210 plate appearances for Danville. He added 10 stolen bases in 14 attempts.
Tools: On a pure tools level, Brown is legitimately exciting, flashing four potentially average to plus tools. He’s a plus runner (I’ve had him at 3.8 seconds to first on a jailbreak) with good instincts in the outfield and a solid-average arm. His carrying tool is his potential to hit for plus power. Brown possesses a very quick bat and a strong, capable lower half, creating impressive leverage and torque in his swing. Brown has tinkered with his lower-half actions in the past. At times, he has utilized a narrow base with a high leg-kick trigger; other times, his setup has been much wider, employing a small stride with a toe-tap trigger. The latter limits Brown’s head movement and theoretically allows a hitter to recognize spin much earlier out of the hand of a pitcher. This also allows a hitter—again, theoretically—to create better leverage by allowing their front leg to become planted much earlier in the sequence, an axis upon which the hips may fire open and create torque between the halves. When this is achieved correctly, this leads to—you guessed it—lightning-fast bat speed and monster raw power. Brown’s swing is quite long—his loading phase is deep and his barrel becomes wrapped behind his helmet in a way in which exploitation against major league caliber fastballs on the hands is probable. He is going to strike out in bunches, as evidenced by a strikeout rate that was 61 percent worse than the Appalachian League average. The trade-off to the huge swing-and-miss problem, however, is legitimate power potential to all fields.
Future: Brown will likely move up to Low-A Rome in 2013. He has the classic toolsy RF profile and has already displayed some of the necessary skills to go along with the tools (his walk rate was much higher than league average, for example). If he can learn to make contact at a higher rate and be more aggressive within the strike zone, look out. As for now, he projects to be a toolsy three-true-outcomes player.
35. Chris Jones: LHP | L/L | 6’2”, 200 lbs. | Age: 24 | 15th round, 2007; Acquired in exchange for Derek Lowe
Performance: Jones performed well in his first full season in the organization, posting a 3.90 ERA/2.38 FIP with a 61:19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 60 innings pitched for Double-A Mississippi. He does most of his damage against lefties, as they mustered a measly .532 OPS against the former Indians farmhand. Jones was selected to play in the Arizona Fall League this offseason. You can read about his performance here.
Tools: For Jones, it’s all about deception. He throws across his body from a three-quarters arm slot, making his release point extremely hard for left-handed hitters to pick up. His fastball is nothing special in terms of velocity, sitting in the upper-80s and occasionally touching the low-90s, but it plays up against lefties due to the aforementioned deception in his delivery along with his ability to locate the pitch on either side of the plate with ease. His upper-70s curveball is slurvy, but can be effective when located low and to the glove side against lefties. He runs into trouble when the breaking ball stays in the middle of the plate, as the pitch does not have the amount of sharp break to accommodate mistakes. He will also occasionally flash a changeup, but it profiles as merely a show-me pitch at this point.
Future: Jones will likely move to Triple-A Gwinnett this season and continue to wreak havoc against left-handed hitters. One does not have to look hard to see that Jones could slot into a bullpen role at the highest level someday in the near future, profiling as a situational lefty.
34. Johan Camargo: IF | R/R | 6’0”, 160 lbs. | Age: 19 | IFA, 2010
Performance: Camargo smoked the competition in the Dominican Summer League, posting averages of .343/.433/.455 with two home runs, 14 doubles, and a 25:27 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 241 plate appearances. His .888 OPS was good enough for 14th in the league, firmly placing him 33 percent above league average in this category. He spent time at both third base and shortstop, committing 21 errors in 226 chances between the positions (Note: I wouldn’t read too much into this, as there are a multitude of conditions that lead to high error totals in the DSL.) He also added six stolen bases in nine attempts.
Tools: A speedy middle infielder, Camargo can, to put it bluntly, hit. He is a smaller-framed kid who could permanently move to a corner or stick up the middle, depending upon how his body develops. Though his stolen base totals were not extremely high, he has some wheels and will look to add more stolen bases as he makes his stateside debut. He possesses good present gap power and should develop more legitimate pop as his body matures.
Future: Camargo will make his debut in the states in 2013, more than likely beginning the season in the GCL. While it’s hard not to be excited about his production, Camargo was at the lowest level of professional baseball in 2012. This obviously should not be taken as a slight against him, but he is incredibly far away. With that said, he could be a riser in 2013.
33. Nathan Hyatt: RHP | R/R | 5’10”, 195 lbs. | Age: 22 | 13th round, 2012
Performance: After being drafted out of Appalachian State last June, Hyatt was dominant between Danville and Rome, posting a 1.46 ERA with a 37:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 24.2 innings pitched. During this span, he allowed only two extra-base hits. Hyatt immediately stepped into the back-end of the bullpen for both teams, finishing 16 of the 18 games in which he pitched between the two clubs.
Tools: Hyatt features two pitches that profile as plus to plus-plus down the road: a fastball that sits in the mid-90s with excellent arm-side run and a tight slider with nasty two-plane break. The fastball is a legitimate bat-breaker when located on the hands of righties and gets plenty of swing-throughs in the upper and lower quadrants of the zone. His slider is almost unhittable for righties and lefties alike, as the tight spin and late break cause many uncomfortable swings. His command in the zone can get a bit loose at times, but this is something that should get ironed out as he climbs the ladder, as there are no major mechanical red flags present within his delivery. He’s a small dude (Kris Medlen’s the natural body comp), but he gets to the plate quickly and possesses a lightning quick arm, two factors that allow him to pump his fastball in short stints. He drives hard off of his back leg, but thanks to a high three-quarters arm slot, he maintains plenty of plane on his pitches.
Future: Hyatt could be a quick mover in the system. There’s a chance that he could handle Double-A hitters right now without significant problems due to the efficacy of his offerings, but he more than likely needs to start the season in Lynchburg in order to iron out a few minor command issues. Either way, Hyatt has a bright future within the organization and could find himself in the back-end of the bullpen fairly soon.
32. Joe Leonard: 3B | R/R | 6’5”, 215 lbs. | Age: 24 | 3rd round, 2010
Performance: Leonard turned in another good-not-great campaign in 2012, posting averages of .263/.341/.392 with nine home runs and a 48:88 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 487 plate appearances for Double-A Mississippi. The big-bodied third baseman committed only 10 errors in 280 chances and added six stolen bases in eight attempts.
Tools: Leonard is a natural fielder, displaying solid athleticism, great hands, and major league quality instincts at third base. His arm is a true plus weapon and rates as his best tool. Already 24-years-old, Leonard is still looking for his power stroke, as his fairly level swing has not produced the amount of power that was once projected. His load is fairly deep, ending with his hands “hidden” behind his rear shoulder, a consequence of his rear elbow drawing back toward the third base dugout as his upper-body counter rotates. This type of loading action helps a hitter stay up the middle and to the opposite field, but a well-placed inside pitch can lead to lots of jam-shots due to the amount of loop maintained on the back side of the swing. One can easily see the potential for power in the swing and in his frame, however, and it’s a bit of a mystery as to why he has not fulfilled his initial pre-draft projections for more over-the-fence pop. Despite all of this, he does have an adept feel for contact for such a large human, striking out in only 18.1 percent of plate appearances in 2012, which was better than the Southern League average.
Future: Leonard will move up to Triple-A Gwinnett in 2013. He fits an interesting mold in the prospect world, in that he is a defensive asset at the hot corner but does not profile to have the bat to play the position on an everyday basis. Teams generally do not carry all-glove, no-bat corner guys, so Leonard will need to prove that he can hit for power in order to be taken into consideration at the highest level.
31. Connor Lien: OF | R/R | 6’3”, 205 lbs. | Age: 18 | 12th round, 2012
Performance: Of the raw high school hitters taken by the Braves in the 2012 draft, Lien put together the best performance upon signing, posting averages of .228/.352/.282 with six extra-base hits (four doubles, two triples) and a 19:49 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 180 plate appearances for the GCL Braves. The teammate of first-round picks Jesse Winker and Walker Weickel led the team with 15 stolen bases and was successful at an 83 percent clip. He spent time at all three outfield positions, committing only two errors in 88 chances.
Tools: Lien is an athletic outfielder who was given a bonus above the recommended amount in the 12th round to keep him away from the University of Central Florida. He’s a physical specimen with a body that resembles a Division-I wide receiver. He plays a little center field currently thanks to his plus speed, though he will likely be forced to a corner permanently as he climbs the ladder and adds bulk to his lean frame. He has plenty of arm strength from the outfield. An upright hitter with strong hands and wrists, Lien projects to add power as his massive frame continues to fill out, though his current swing mechanics are more conducive to middle-of-the-field line drives than over-the-fence power. There are lower-half inefficiencies present within his swing and he tends to muscle up in his upper body in an attempt to compensate for a lack of lower-body involvement. Once he learns to efficiently achieve separation, Lien should see an increase in the amount of authority with which he hits the ball with the added benefit of being able to adjust to offspeed pitches better. These issues are quite common in high school hitters, however, so there is no need for concern currently; the raw bat speed and solid knowledge of the strike zone are present and portend great things for both his future power output and future hitting ability.
Future: While right-right corner profiles are a tough category in which to be placed, Lien’s future remains very bright within the organization. The 18-year-old has plenty of time to make the necessary adjustments to the professional game. This is the type of kid one likes to see sign out high school, as his five-tool potential can be cultivated by professional coaching at an early age. Predicting where players below Low-A will be placed to begin the season is tough, as a multitude of factors behind the scenes play a role in their assignments. Due to this, Lien could begin the year back in the GCL or could impress enough in the spring to be placed in Danville out of the gate. I would place my money on the former, however, as there is certainly no need to rush the development of a kid who will play next season as a 19-year-old.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, The Baseball Cube, Minor League Central, and College Splits.