I have two more columns prior to taking a brief hiatus before the Arizona Fall League begins in October. I will return then with my regular column providing scouting reports and analysis of my first-hand observation of prospects from every major league organization.
The minor league season concludes at the end of this month. Playoffs will keep some players from advancing to their parent club, as winning a minor league championship is important to both the individuals that worked so hard in the season and the organization itself.
This report is the first of two that looks at interesting prospect players about whom I have not written complete scouting profiles - or if I have, they were written up some time ago.
Some of these players have had major league time or are currently in the big leagues. However, they are still in development and are not finished products in most cases. Those players with at least a cup of coffee in the major leagues are designated with a #.
HENRY URRUTIA - OF - Baltimore Orioles (age 26)#
Urrutia had a bit more than a cup of coffee with the Orioles. He played 21 games with the Orioles, 12 of those as the designated hitter, one in left field, and the rest as a pinch-hitter. He hit .269 with one triple, the rest singles, and drove in two runs while carrying a 0:9 BB:K in 52 plate appearances.
Urrutia is from Cuba. At 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, physically, Urrutia reminds me of Daryl Strawberry physically at the plate.
The Orioles did not use him in the outfield because they were not confident of his defense. He will need time to prove to the brass that his game is complete.
I scouted Urrutia and came away feeling he has a solid line drive bat with good extension, but little power at this point. He doesn't get loft through the ball as his hands drag a bit in his swing. He has a lot of length in those arms and hands to get through the ball. I'd like to see him start his trigger quicker and not let the pitch travel as far.
I'd also like to see more plate discipline. He will have to show some patience or he won't see quality pitches. A player that is up at the plate hacking will soon find himself hacking at outside pitches.
A left-handed hitter, Urrutia is strictly a pull hitter at this early point of his professional career in the United States. Interestingly, he throws with his right hand.
What is in store? Buck Showalter sung his praises one day and then sent him back to Triple-A the next. He will likely be back in September. He has much more development to do getting some upper-cut in his swing, learning the strike zone and playing defense. I can see him in the mix for a major league role next season, but that might be solely as a designated hitter. He has a strong arm and can play the outfield from a tools standpoint. He needs experience tracking flyballs and running routes, and he isn't fast.
He is worth watching in September and in spring training for your draft next spring. I grade him a tad below an everyday player - probably at a Grade 45 - major league roster utility.
ANTHONY RANAUDO - RHP - Boston Red Sox (age 23)
Ranaudo is a huge presence on the mound at 6-foot-7, 231 pounds. He has the ability to pitch, but concerns remain about elbow issues he's had in his development. Whenever you hear or read about Ranaudo, don't forget the elbow. They always come back to haunt.
In addition to the elbow, he's also had a groin issue that shut him down for some time. So, bottom line, I have some injury concerns. This year he has reverted to the form that got him selected as a supplemental first-round choice by the Red Sox out of LSU in 2009.
Given his lofty draft status and the money he was paid, the Red Sox will give him every opportunity to succeed.
This year, he has thrown 126.1 innings, which is a good sign he's headed in the right direction.
He throws a mid-90s fastball, a curve and a changeup that are all quality pitches. He maximizes his height with each of those pitches, moving downhill towards the hitter.
He made the Futures Game staff based upon his fine performance at Double-A Portland where he threw 109 innings and gave up only 80 hits. He walked 40, however, and that's been his problem. He doesn't consistently repeat his delivery and he can get wild quickly. His walks have been reduced at Triple-A Pawtucket where he has thrown 16 innings in three starts.
Ranaudo is not a huge strikeout pitcher, but he'll get his share of them.
What's in store? The Red Sox have some fine pitching prospects in the pipeline with Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa and Ranaudo. He might get a look in spring training.
I grade him as an average major leaguer at a Grade 50 - roster back end of the rotation starter.
Erik Johnson - RHP - Chicago White Sox
The fact Erik Johnson is ranked highly in the White Sox system is really not significant. The system is woefully weak of major league quality prospects. However, Johnson really shines as a prospect and is probably their most advanced and best pitching option remaining for them in the minor leagues. It is significant, however, that the team selected to promote Andre Rienzo ahead of Johnson. I'm still trying to figure that out.
I scouted Johnson extensively last spring. He was given an opportunity to wow the brass and possibly earn a promotion to the parent club. That didn't happen. He has spent the year at Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Combined, he has thrown 122 innings and has an ERA of 2.04 and a fantastic WHIP of 0.967 over the two levels.
The range on Johnson's fastball is 89-95 mph. That's a huge gap that allows him to change speeds and eye levels of hitters. He also throws an outstanding slider in the high-80s. That's the pitch I like best and the one that should bring him to the parent club to stay. His curve and changeup are still in development, and perhaps Rienzo lapped him because he's essentially a two-pitch pitcher at this point.
When I saw Johnson there were some rough spots to his delivery. He's a big guy at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds. There was a great deal of movement in his mechanics.
What's in store? I've seen the stuff miss bats. I think if he cleans up his delivery and has refined his curve and changeup beyond what I observed, he'll have success.
I see Johnson as a fourth or fifth starter with the ability to have a very good ERA and WHIP and with some nice numbers in the strikeout category. He may scuffle for wins as his pitch count may elevate.
For me, Erik Johnson is a major league quality pitcher at Grade 50 - roster rotation starter.
DORSSYS PAULINO - SS - Cleveland Indians (age 18)
Not unlike Francisco Lindor who I have written about extensively, Paulino is flying through the Indians' minor league system. For starters, he hit .355 in the Arizona League last summer. He was almost unstoppable at the plate. That's where I first saw him play.
Not only did he hit for average, he had six home runs and drove in 30 runs in 188 plate appearances. He put himself on the map.
He has played at two classifications this season. He began at Low-A Mahoning Valley where he hit .271 with a homer and eight RBI, but then was promoted to Low-A Lake County in the Midwest League. He is hitting .245 with five homers and 40 RBI in 460 plate appearances.
What's in store? All this means he's likely to start the season back at A-ball and then move on to Double-A at age 19 or soon after he turns 20.
He has made a ton of errors at shortstop this season and I have a real concern the club is rushing him. And I don't know why, especially with Lindor in the mix.
Paulino has above major league quality tools and I project him to be of All-Star caliber, a major league above average player at Grade 60 when his development is complete and following two years of major league service.
DREW VERHAGEN - RHP - Detroit Tigers (age 22)
VerHagen is an interesting starting pitcher. He is still young, but he's making strides in the Tigers' organization. Pitching this year at High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie, VerHagen has improved with command, control and pitch sequencing.
He has given up fewer hits than innings pitched and isn't walking many hitters per nine. He has the type of stuff that can miss bats.
VerHagen is a big, strong power pitcher at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds. He is the prototype of the 2013 starting pitcher profile most clubs have issued to their scouts. Big. Strong. Power Arm. VerHagen throws his fastball in the high-90s, touching 97 mph with ease.
The problem? I've seen is a lack of sharpness and crispness on his secondary pitches. He throws a mediocre curveball and changeup.
What's in store? VerHagen has to refine the rotation and spin on his secondary pitches. I saw him throw almost all fastballs in the game I watched. Until he refines those pitches, he will not be able to face major league hitters.
I grade VerHagen as an eventual reliever with a fastball that can dominate for a short amount of time. He's made for a late -nning role. I'm surprised he's still starting for Detroit.
I project VerHagen to be a tad below Major League average as a roster player with a mid-bullpen role. For me, he's a Grade 45 at the completion of his development.
CHIA-JEN LO - RHRP - Houston Astros (age 27)#
Lo is a pitcher I saw in the Arizona Fall League in 2009. He was dominant and I was very high on him at the time.
He missed most of 2010 with - you guessed it-elbow issues. So there's the warning. Beware the elbow.
This guy can pitch. I liked him then and I like him now. He's currently pitching out of the Astros bullpen as part of their "bullpen by committee" along with Josh Fields.
Lo can bring his fastball up to 96 mph. That's not bad for a guy that had elbow issues and didn't have surgery. He also throws a curveball that has some effect on changing the balance and eye levels of hitters.
What's in store? I think he'll be a closer candidate in 2014. He has excellent swing-and-miss stuff and he walks very few hitters.
I view Lo as a tad above major league quality bullpen pitchers. I think he's an end of the game guy with a Grade of 55.
Yordano Ventura - RHP - Royals (age 22)
When prospect pitchers are discussed, I don't hear enough about Yordano Ventura. Royals fans know him. I'm not sure many other people do. This guy is a flame-thrower.
I know he's thrown 100 mph in a game. I watched it. He usually throws his fastball at 93-98. He also throws a good 79-83 slider and 82-85 changeup. So, imagine seeing 100 on one pitch and then a darting changeup at 82. Knee buckling.
Ventura isn't the biggest pitcher on my list at 5-foot-11 and 180-pounds. But he's still young and he may even grow a bit more.
What's in store? Perhaps he's ready to take on the challenges of major league hitters. He's having success this season. He pitched at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and he's now at Triple-A Omaha. Combined, he's thrown 118 very high quality innings. He is striking out an average of nine hitters a game, but he's walking too many at four per game.
I see Ventura continuing to grow and develop. I think he's a mid-rotation starter and better than major league average starting pitcher quality. I project for him to be a Grade 60.
NICK MARONDE - LHRP - Los Angeles Angels (age 23)#
Maronde has the gift of being left-handed and able to throw a baseball with some velocity. He projects as a middle reliever, but could even exceed that expectation and become a late-inning guy.
He isn't overpowering, throwing high-80s to mid-90s fastballs. And he doesn't always have the best of command, but his arm is solid and sound. If he can improve his secondary pitches-especially his changeup, he might be able to become a rotation starter. His slider is more advanced than the changeup at this point.
What's in store? Maronde's command and improvement of his secondary pitches hold the keys to his role with the Angels. I like him best out of the bullpen. They may like his arm enough to stretch him out and make him a starter.
Based upon his potential, I project him as a major league average middle reliever and a Grade 50 pitcher.
Alex Meyer - RHP - Minnesota Twins - (age 23)
Meyer has outstanding potential. At 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, Meyer pitches downhill and is on top of the hitter before they get a chance to start their swing. The problem has been his command. He's been all over the place with his pitches, and that may be why Washington elected to move him to the Twins for outfielder Denard Span.
Meyer is suffering now from shoulder pain and that is a red flag. He's a hard thrower and doesn't always know where the ball is going. It's very possible he was hurt trying to throw too hard. He's currently on a rookie league rehabilitation assignment.
What's in store? The shoulder miseries have reduced my personal projection for Meyer. I think he will be a very solid starting pitcher, but I believe his innings will be impacted, reducing him to a back end of the rotation starter.
I project Alex Meyer to make an All-Star team or two before his career is over, but I don't think he will begin the clock until late 2014. Then he'll assume a role as a mid-rotation starter. I believe he will become a better than average major league starter, a Grade 55 pitcher. If he proves to be healthy, the grade would change to 60.
MARK MONTGOMERY - RHRP - New York Yankees - (age 22)
Montgomery is still another pitcher with shoulder miseries. Currently on the minor league DL, Montgomery has been having shoulder issues this season and that places a cloud on a once bright future.
Montgomery is known for a wicked slider. He can throw the pitch as either a wonderful setup pitch or an out pitch that induces swings and misses.
I've seen lots of Montgomery, and when he's healthy and on his game he is a stud in the bullpen, but he really doesn't have much beyond the slider to get his through many innings. His fastball is acceptable in the low 90s, but I didn't see much life or movement. It all comes back to the slider.
What's in store? If he can get beyond the shoulder issues, he's a middle reliever with some promise of holding the game in check.
Overall, I once saw him as more than a one-inning guy. The shoulder gives me great pause and it reduces his overall projection to a tad less than average major league arm and a grade of 45.
MICHAEL CHOICE - OF - Oakland Athletics (age 23)
I don't see any way Michael Choice misses a callup in September. He should be given a chance to be a major factor on the A's next season, and he has some real pop in his bat.
Choice is hitting .305 at Sacramento, the toughest hitter's park in the Pacific Coast League. He has 14 homers, 82 RBI and 24 doubles, and we don't hear much buzz around him.
As a strong power hitter, Choice really isn't that big. He's six feet tall and 215 pounds. But as a power hitter, he tends to strike out. He's done that 110 times this year, but he's also walked 61 times as well.
What's in store? Choice should be able to crack the A's lineup in the near future. They have some marginal outfield depth at the big league level, and a couple of their current players could be trade bait. I'm thinking Seth Smith and even Josh Reddick.
I think Choice is capable of hitting better than an average player, and I believe he projects to be a middle of the order hitter (or six-hole at worst) and a Grade 55.
STEFEN ROMERO - OF/INF - Seattle Mariners (age 24)
Romero is not a guy we hear much about whenever the Mariners prospects are mentioned, but he's a guy I like a great deal and I always have. I've seen him play a great deal.
Romero makes contact at the plate. He can drive the ball to the gaps or hit it directly over second base. Loudly. He is having his best offensive season, currently hitting .281 in 85 games at Triple-A Tacoma. He also has seven homers and 62 RBI.
He played third base in college, moved to second for the Mariners and is now in the outfield. He can give his club so much versatility he may be seen as more valuable in a utility role, but I think he has enough to be an everyday player.
What's in store? I don't see how the Mariners can keep him on the farm for another year. His bat plays now. He's a good contact hitter and he knows how to see enough pitches to walk.
For me, Romero is an easy Grade 50 player. He has everyday ability.
ALEX COLOME - RHP - Tampa Bay Rays - (age 24)#
I think Colome has better overall stuff and promise than Jake Odorizzi and is almost equal in upside with Chris Archer. He just needs a sustained chance. I don't see it happening right away. Not with the Rays in a pennant race and their pitching going well.
Colome has had three starts and has pitched 16 major league innings. How'd he do? Try a 2.25 ERA and a 1.438 WHIP, and it's all because of the five walks per nine innings that he isn't pitching today in Tampa.
He can tend to lose his composure when he starts missing the plate a bit. That has to be straightened out - and it will, but the man can pitch.
He is a 93-95 mph fastball guy with consistent late life on the pitch. He also throws a very good slider that is a real swing-and-miss pitch. He does try to overpower hitters with the fastball, and that causes the lack of consistency with his command.
What's in store? I think Colome has to be considered for an everyday job in a rotation somewhere on this planet. He is a great trade chip for an everyday bat. I hope it happens for him.
I see him as a mid-rotation starter with above major league quality stuff. For me, he's a Grade 55.
ROUGNED ODOR - 2B/SS - Texas Rangers (age 19)
The emergence of Odor as a legitimate prospect gave the Rangers the ability to trade shortstop prospect Leury Garcia. Odor is another in the line of middle-infielders that the Rangers are piling up for their use or for trade bait.
Odor is playing this season at Double-A Frisco now. He began at High-A Myrtle Beach where he hit .303 with five homers and 58 RBI. He also stole 27 bases. Odor has had a tougher time at Frisco, hitting .270 with three homers and five RBI in his 78 plate appearances. He has only stolen one base.
Slightly built at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, Odor brings something different to the infield. He hits left-handed. That's not all that common.
The Rangers have used him both at second base and at shortstop.
It now appears that he is destined to be a second baseman exclusively with the presence of Elvis Andrus and the potential of Jurickson Profar moving to the outfield.
What's in store? I think we'll see some type of movement of Ian Kinsler. He either goes to the outfield or gets traded. Or he stays at second and keeps the organization from promoting their prospects. Or Profar goes to the outfield. Whatever the case, Profar is the central cog around which three careers revolve. Profar, Kinsler and now Odor. Andrus is set at shortstop. And if that isn't enough depth, they have a player named Luis Sardinas who is simply outstanding. He can play both second and short.
Clearly, Odor is not ready for prime time. Yet. I see his role the same as the one that was carved out for Garcia. He can be a very good utility infielder with the prospect of moving in full time as needed. Sardinas is better, but behind Odor in the development pipeline.
Both Odor and Sardinas are worth watching. I see Odor as having the capability of being an everyday player. However, given the team's depth in the middle infield, the future is unknown. I think Odor is a Grade 50 - he can play every day.
KEVIN PILLAR - OF - Toronto Blue Jays (age 24)#
Pillar has already been selected in fantasy leagues and is playing the outfield now for the Blue Jays. I don't know how successful he'll be.
Pillar played college ball at Cal State Dominguez Hills and was a fairly low-round draft choice (32nd) in 2011. He has made the big club in only parts of three minor league seasons. I was shocked when he was promoted prior to September. But frankly, whatever the Blue Jays have done recently shouldn't shock me.
At Triple-A Buffalo in the second half of this season, he hit .299 with four homers and 27 RBI. That was following a .313 batting average at Double-A New Hampshire in the Eastern League. He hit five homers and drove in 30 in that league.
I do like the fact Pillar is a disciplined hitter. He makes contact and can accept a base on balls. But he likes to get his well-proportioned six-foot, 200-pound frame behind pitches.
What's in store? I think Pillar will be highly challenged by major league pitching for a while. The breaking balls may get to him in his early days. However, he may challenge for a full-time outfield spot next season.
I'm not seeing an everyday role for him in his future, but I'm not the Blue Jays' brass. For me, Pillar is a fourth outfielder type because he can play all three positions. I place a Grade of 45 on his future - a tad below everyday Major League average, but still on a big league roster and contributing.
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