Scouting Notes From Spring Training: Hak-Ju Lee and the Prospects
Continuing my analysis on my observation from my trip to spring training, we talk about the prospects that I saw during the three games I attended. Some notes are longer, others shorter, but I made some interesting insights and I hope you enjoy.
Hak-Ju Lee stands tall in his stance and looks comfortable. He has an outstanding knowledge of the strike zone and can spray line drives all over the field, but in order to hit for more power, he’ll have to understand better which pitches he can drive. On the opposite edge of the spectrum, Lee is an excellent bunter with absolutely blazing speed. He laid down a perfect bunt versus the Orioles and beat it out thanks to a dive. Defensively, Lee is superlatively smooth and makes difficult plays look easy. There was a bullet to his left that he gloved, and then he spun and fired like it was nothing. Lee has outstanding ability, and he could be a special player in a couple of years.
Brandon Guyer is a prospect I still really like thanks to his power-speed combination, but he’s been execrable thus far this spring and after seeing him in person, I finally figured out why. Guyer has a lot of moving parts in his stance and right now, maybe due to rust, he’s mistiming his step and being off-balance when pitchers come at him. Hopefully he can figure out that soon and get back on track. He also is just missing beating out the balls he is putting into play thanks to his nice speed.
Wilking Rodriguez posted just a 4.66 ERA at Low-A Bowling Green in 2011, but his FIP was much better at 3.72 and he’s a somewhat interesting pitching prospect. I saw Rodriguez range from 89-92 MPH with his fastball with nice late movement away from right-handed batters that makes it evident why he struck out 8.6 batters per 9 innings this past season. Rodriguez had more control at 89-90 then at higher velocities, but he was only showed flashes of dominance with his fastball when he was able to locate his fastball at 91-92. Rodriguez’s second pitch was a big mid-70’s curveball that showed some nice depth and was night and day compared to his fastball. Rodriguez’s curveball was a huge change of pace, but the fact that it’s so different from his fastball could hurt him at higher levels. But with his nice pitches that I saw, he could project well as a reliever, especially if the move comes with an uptick in velocity. Rodriguez has swing-and-miss stuff and we’ll have to see how he fares as he progresses through the minors.
Ryan Reid didn’t pitch very well at Triple-A in 2011, posting a 4.55 ERA, but his FIP was much better at 3.62 and he could be an interesting relief prospect. Reid’s fastball ranges from 88-92 with excellent late bite, although it’s more of a groundball pitch than a strikeout pitch. The pitch he uses to get his strikeouts is his changeup, which stays at 82-83 range with nice run away from righties and nice late sink. He tops off his arsenal with a little mid-80’s slider that he uses to force weak contact. Reid is nothing special, but he’s a relatively safe bet to be at least a decent middle reliever and he’s a player we’ll see in St. Petersburg at some point this year.
Kyeong Kang is a prospect I’ve liked a lot more than other people for a while. He has a compact line drive swing with some power and he hustles.
John Shelby has nice strength and hustles out plays, but his swing gets long and he lacks discipline at the plate. If he can ever be more selective at the plate, he could be a solid player someday.
Simply put, Marquis Fleming is not your average fireballing reliever. Fleming works primarily with an 87-89 four-seam fastball, but he survives because it has nasty movement. I saw it feature nice sink along with excellent late run, and although it will never be a great pitch because of its lack of velocity, it’s plenty effective. His changeup is all the way down in the 75-77 MPH range, mirroring his sinker’s movement but with even better sink. We also have some data on Fleming from the Arizona Fall League, so let’s solidify this point with a nice graph.
(For help understanding the concept of Pitch F/X and specifically how to understand this type of graph, please see here.)
Fleming’s pitches, which we see also include an occasional slider and four-seam fastball, have such remarkable movement that his control and command suffers, but no one can square up his pitches consistently and if he can get his control right, he could be an effective big league middle reliever. Fleming is an unorthodox type of player because of his lack of fastball velocity, but we know the Rays love players who get the most out of what they have, and Fleming does just that despite his lack of velocity. He will head to Triple-A Durham in 2012, and we’ll see him in the big leagues by the end of the year. It will be interesting to see how he does once he arrives.
We’ll continue tonight with the first of a couple scouting posts on major leaguers.