Long day of scouting, as my day began by thinking the instructs game was at the Diamondbacks complex. Had I known it was at the Cubs beforehand, I never would have gone, as the Cubs complex is one of the worst places to watch and evaluate a game. After that, due to the game being 3 hours, had to travel immediately to Goodyear for the PG Evoshield, which was a success for what I wanted to see.
Below is the report on the instructs game, as the tourney report (with video!) will not be posted until the conclusion of the tourney.
OF Jorge Soler (Cubs) - I saw Soler in the AZL for 1 game before he got bumped up and I was concerned with what I saw. There was a hand hitch within his swing (presumably to hit for more power) that really slowed his bat through the zone. I remember coming away disappointed. Today however, he showed me everything and more. The hitch was gone and his plus to plus-plus bat speed was evident on each swing. He still has a ways to go with pitch recognition, but I saw a simple swing that will hit for avg and power to go with a body with a ton of projection on it. Impressive player who projects as an All-Star RF.
OF Albert Almora (Cubs) - I saw Almora for one game in the AZL as well and he didn't stand out much at the plate (when you are logging a game in BATS, it is incredibly difficult to focus on hitters). Being able to watch Almora the hitter today, I came away impressed. He showed above avg bat speed in a simple swing that consisted of a leg kick. Normally, I abhor leg kicks because it is incredibly difficult to keep your weight back. Almora's leg kick is different though, as it is purely a timing mechanism and doesn't involve his weight coming forward, as he gently lifts it up and gently places it back down. In addition to the bat, Almora is a true 7 defensive CF who has Gold Glove potential. For me, Almora is a .280, 10-15 HR and plus plus defender. Those have just a little value in the majors...
1B Dan Vogelbach (Cubs) - Saw Vogelbach more then the avg Cub in the AZL and came away impressed with the bat and the body. Vogelbach will never win a beauty contest, but hearing all the horror stories about his frame had concerned me. While not in great shape, he isn't out of shape and carrying extra weight. He features a simple swing that gets long at times and plus power. He has above avg bat speed and can get in trouble when he over strides. Vogelbach will be interesting to watch, as I don't think the bat will play enough to account for below avg defense at 1B. Fits well as a potential bench bat or DH on an AL squad.
OF Shawon Dunston Jr. (Cubs) - Dunston was a guy I liked in the AZL, as he showed barrel control and plus speed. Getting to focus on him as a hitter though, there is a lot to be concerned about. He is the classic example of a leg kick I hate. His leg kick is a hanging leg kick that, when it comes down, can't help but bring your weight forward. This causes him to hit on his front side and, for a player without a lot of power, to struggle to hit balls the other way with authority. I want to monitor him to see how this affects him moving forward.
C Stryker Trahan (Diamondbacks) - He had just 1 AB on this day, but the bat speed continued to be there and the swing was cleaned up a bit from the AZL (still hits off of his front side) as he is very calm at the plate. The ball just makes a different sound off of his bat. Wish he was catching, as I would have liked to see if he made growth as a defender. Interesting bat that showed well in his 1 AB.
3B Jacob Lamb (Diamondbacks) - I was shocked Lamb signed. Shocked. He always had big tools at Washington, but struggled to put it together. If he had a big year this year, he would have been a top 2 round guys. Signing as a 6th rounder, he put up a big season in the Pioneer League. Looking at the swing, he has the prototypical middle of the order build w/ bat speed and leverage. It isn't hard to see him hitting 20 bombs a year. What gets him in trouble is there is length to his swing, which also creates a hole inside for power pitchers. Has a lot of tools, but coming up with an upside on him based off 2 AB's is too difficult.
RHR Dallas Beeler (Cubs) - The Cubs starter, it is rare for a AA guy to be pitching in instructs (I assume it is to just lengthen him out for the Arizona Fall League). He featured a FB at 89-92 w/ a little run, a short early breaking SL at 81-83 and a splitter at 84-85 w/ ok dive. He may have been throwing a CH as well, but didn't show one in the game that I saw. There isn't a lot to work with, as it is hard to call a 23 year old projectable and just need to accept that is what his body will be. Came from a H 3/4 FWU. Think he is just an org guy.
RHR Jose Paniagua (Cubs) - The 1.5 million dollar bonus baby for the Cubs this year, he appears to be making his pro debut in instructs. Raw stuff wise, he is very impressive, working 92-95 w/ an inconsistent slurve at 81-85 and a developing CH at 78. He isn't like your typical Dominican sign, as he is 22 years old after going through an age check. His FB has a little extra oomph and his SL flashed avg w/ gd spin, but really struggled to repeat the depth and it was flat w/ minimal break at times. Mdm, athletic build w/ projection remaining, he came from a H 3/4 NWU. Think he can move fast as a reliever and will be interesting to watch his development in the States.
Other Cubs pitchers I saw were Starling Peralta (put up good numbers as a 21 year old repeating Low A, working with a FB at 93-95 and 2 developing secondary, still just a pure thrower whose stuff plays down due to a lack of deception) and Jose Arias (looks the part, but was 88-90 w/ a gd mdm downer CB, just an org guy for me).
LHR Will Locante (Diamondbacks) - The best Dbacks pitcher I saw on this day, Locante worked 91-93 w/ a FB that bored in on LHH. He also had a late breaking sweeping SL at 79-81 that was short and a CH at 82 that didn't do much. The 11th rounder from this year generates a lot of deception, throwing across his body from a low 3/4 slot. He should be a solid 2nd lefty in a big league pen based on the FB alone and the development of a SL will determine just how important his role will be.
Other Dbacks pitchers I saw were Michael Blake (has had a lot of strikeouts at 2 rookie ball stops, but that is based on a current avg CB at 70-73 that is a big breaker. FB was 88-91 and didn't generate much deception), Luis Hernandez (88-91, up to 92 w/ a slurve at 76-77), Silvino Bracho (making his States debut in instructs after putting up video games #'s in DSL (.32 ERA, 28 IP, 30 K), worked with a FB at 91-93 and an early breaking SL at 81-82 with a CH at 84. Close to mature 19 year old is likely org depth) and R.J. Hively (strong pro debut from Mississippi State, bulldog worked 90-91 w/ a CH at 78-83 and a SL at 84. Lacked consistent mvmt to all his pitches).
With attending the PG Tourney tomorrow from 9 AM until 6:30ish, I will not be attending an Instructs game. If I have time, I may do a different type of post in regards to the AZL.