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Behind the Backstop: AFL Scouting Reports

Tory Hernandez

Tory Hernandez

Tory's experience in the baseball industry includes a four-year stint as the Manager of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where his responsibilities were comprised of contract negotiation, advance scouting, and the development and implementation of the organization's statistical research methods and use of analytics. Most recently, Tory served as the Director of Pro Scouting & Recruiting for Boras Corporation.

This week's installment of "Behind the Backstop" takes us deep into the world of scouting. Instead of the typical article-style of reading reports on players, I've shared actual scouting reports on players I've seen over the last couple of years. In sticking with last week's theme of hidden gems in the Fall League, these reports identify players who are emerging prospects. While you may have heard of some, if not all of them, they are players who are not necessarily your "top prospects." One caveat to that is my report on Alex Meyer. As is the norm in the Arizona Fall League, you won't find many power, quality starting pitching prospects so I thought it would be fun to write up my report on Meyer for your viewing pleasure. All of these players should be helping fantasy teams in the next two years, if not by next summer, and while I don't love all of them, some scouts I've spoken to have gut feels that they will be quality big leaguers. I have taken that into consideration in my reports.

There are a lot of grades on these reports so please reference the "key" below to guide you in understanding what the grades mean. I look forward to everyone's feedback!

GRADING SCALE/TOOLS

The grades are in reference to the typical 20-80 scouting scale that most every scouts utilizes. On this scale, 50 is average and 80 is high (elite). The HIT/FUT HIT stands for a position player's ability to hit at the big league level. For instance, an 80 is a hitter who competes for batting titles annually (Miguel Cabrera). A 50 is someone that can hit close to the .255 range. As for the PWR/FUT PWR scale, this allows us to see how much power a player will have. With power numbers coming down over the last few seasons, we've had to adjust these numbers. Average, or 50 used to be in the 15-19 home run range, but it's probably safer to say that average power is closer to 12-15 now. We use 'FUT' to indicate future projection. This is necessary to identify players who have future projection to reach a loftier number that they haven't displayed yet. Grades are all about projection and most of the time we can look at numbers and analyze sabermetrically what they mean but without projection, we can't fully tell the story of what a player's abilities are.

Below is a good barometer that will lend a bit more understanding into the category each grade falls into. Also, check out the fastball velocity scale below. Often times we hear a pitcher ranges from 92-95 mph and touches 97. The scale below is utilized to represent the one number a pitcher is most comfortable pitching at. While being able to touch 97 is great and ranging from 92-95 is helpful in understanding a pitcher's ability, that one number is of greater importance. Sometimes, a pitcher can pitch up to 95 but eight out 10 fastballs are 92-93. Furthermore, we want to know where a pitcher has his best command. If a pitcher ranges from 92-95 and touches 97, but his one number is 93, that tells us that he consistently throws strikes and commands the fastball in the zone at 93 mph. This means he has a plus, or above average fastball.

The 20-80 Scouting Scale

20: Very Poor
30: Well-Below Average
40: Below Average
45: Tick Below Average (Average on some days)
50: Average
55: Solid-Average
60: Plus/Above Average
70: Plus-Plus/Well Above Average
80: Outstanding/Top-Tier

Fastball Velocity

20: < 86
30: 86-87
40: 88-89
45: 90
50: 91
55: 92
60: 93-94
70: 95-97
80: 98+

Zack Jones, RHRP, MIN (2014 Age: 23), 6-foot-1, 185 pounds
Drafted: Fourth Round in 2012 (signing bonus: $356,700)

FB Velo: 94-100 (96)
FB Movement: average
Breaking Ball: potential 80
Changeup: non-factor
Command: future average
Grade: C
OFP: 55
Future Role: quality setup man

Body: n/a
Durability: n/a
Arm Action/Delivery: n/a

Notes: I have not seen Jones personally, but he's very fun to write about because of the potential. Jones is a big time power arm drafted out of San Jose State in 2012 and the righty will light up radar guns, touching triple-digits with his fastball. It's fairly true and while it was a pretty vanilla pitch in college he has worked hard to get on top of it in the minor leagues. Hitters have a difficult time elevating the pitch and while it doesn't have plus movement or sink, when he creates angle it's a solid pitch because of the high velocity. Jones has very poor control right now and he hasn't demonstrated that he can command his fastball at this stage of his career, but when he is in the strike zone he's highly effective with it. He just needs to get the ball over the plate on a more consistent basis. Jones has the makings of a plus, hard slider that when used properly gets him a lot of strikeouts. He's strictly a two-pitch pitcher and that is all he will need once he refines his arsenal. Jones has to work on changing the eye level of hitters and being able to go upstairs occasionally and not constantly working up in the zone with his fastball. This will be key for him to have success with his ‘ole number one'. The power righty has had no significant injuries in his pro career. Command of his two pitches and quality angle with more strikes will make Jones a devastating relief ace and he has the tools to be a dynamic closer in the big leagues. He gets a bit outside himself and doesn't always repeat his delivery but he's a quality athlete and he should have a good chance to slow things down and if he can, he'll find the strike zone more often. The percentages say he'll top out as a quality setup man in the big leagues and until we see more consistency it's tough to anoint him a future ninth-inning man. Keep an eye on this one though as the package is exciting. He should be all set to go get his first taste of the upper minors next year. The Twins will probably take their time with Jones and have them on their radar for a 2015 debut.

Projected 2014 Team: Double-A New Britain (Eastern League)
ETA in Majors: 2015
40-Man Roster: No
Rule 5 Eligible: 2015

Michael Lorenzen, RHRP, CIN (2014 Age: 22), 6-foot-3, 180 pounds
Drafted: First Round in 2013 (38th overall) (signing bonus: $1,500,000)

FB Velo: 93-98 (96)
FB Movement: plus
Breaking Ball: above average
Changeup: n/a
Command: projected average
Grade: B
OFP: 60
Future Role: good closer

Body: tall, athletic and lean with room for tons of projection
Durability: no injury concerns; all kinds of questions about his durability, however, as we don't know how he'll adapt to being a full-time pitcher
Arm Action/Delivery: effortless, repeatable, simple delivery; perfectly on line with soft landing; works from the third-base side of the rubber; cuts himself off and pulls to the glove side on occasion; slight stab when he breaks his hands behind his right leg

Notes: I'm going on all projection here as are the Reds. There is a lot we don't know about Lorenzen at this stage of his career, but let's focus on what we do know. He was a two-way player at Cal State Fullerton and he began his pro career on the bump. There is word that the Reds will allow him to hit as well but we haven't seen him in the batter's box yet. Lorenzen has an easy fastball that's effortless at 93-98 mph with plus action and sink. Reiterating the fact that there are limited looks at him on the mound, my report is based on what we know after just 21 pro innings and limited looks as a college closer. His control has been very poor, which should not be surprising and he hasn't demonstrated much command or thrown quality strikes yet. He throws a curveball that proved somewhat effective but it's not a plus major league pitch right now and he'll need to develop it if he's going to have success in the bigs. It will probably be wise for him to develop a changeup or cutter, as left-handed hitters get pretty good looks at him. Lorenzen is extremely exciting as a prospect but one of the most high-risk guys you will find. The Reds love him and see him as a potential option for their pen as early as 2014 (Lorenzen could be a devastating weapon in August and September of next year in a drive to the pennant). There are no health issues and while switching back and forth between pitching and hitting could create a problem down the road, Lorenzen is a very good athlete and we shouldn't expect health issues going forward. If Michael is a short reliever his upside is that of a premium closer. The green right-hander should be back in the bullpen in Pensacola to begin the 2014 campaign and if he develops the ability to throw strikes and his curveball progresses, he'll be in the Queen City in no time. His pure stuff and raw projection is very exciting and his ceiling is that of an impact, shutdown closer.

Projected 2014 Team: Double-A Pensacola (Southern League)
ETA in Majors: 2015
40-Man Roster: No
Rule 5 Eligible: 2016

Adalberto Mejia, LHSP, SF (2014 Age: 21), 6-foot-3, 195 pounds
Drafted: Signed as an International free agent (signing bonus: $350,000)

FB Velo: 89-93 (91)
FB Movement: below average
Breaking Ball: tick above average
Changeup: above average
Command: above average
Grade: C
OFP: 59
Future Role: No. 3 starter

Body: thicker body; bigger backside and mid-section but not sloppy; strong looking; broad shoulders and big chested
Durability: hasn't pitched a full season in the rotation; not a prototypical pitcher's body but he's powerful looking; lat strain in 2013 but came back healthy
Arm Action/Delivery: doesn't always line himself up with home plate in his stride; he doesn't always open up on time as he comes from the second base side of the mound when he breaks his hands; good arm slot and fluidity; gets outside himself and tries to hump up with the fastball; when he contains he has a nice, smooth delivery

Notes: Mejia had a strong showing in the California League this year as a 20-year old. His fastball sits at 91 mph and ranges from 89-93 and while he gets good angle at times, it's mostly straight. Occasionally, Mejia tries to do too much and gets outside of himself, interrupting his mechanics, but when he stays within himself, he demonstrates a solid, effortless delivery with a loose arm. As he matures, he is finding more consistency with his command and his fastball should play at least average. The Dominican lefty has posted a low 1.77 BB/9, making me a believer that he is going to continue to improve. His slider showed as solid average this summer in San Jose and at times disappears at the plate. It can be a true swing-and-miss pitch and at least average to a tick above major league quality. His changeup is a plus pitch with great life and turnover, fading hard away from right-handers. Mejia has been mostly injury-free in his career but missed some time early this year with a lat strain. He came back strong and proved healthy in the final two months. Mejia is still young and we need to see him post a full season in the rotation before we can be sure he'll be a quality starting pitcher. His fastball is more than playable and when joined with his breaking ball and plus changeup, he has the makings to be a rotation stalwart. His upside could be a No. 2 starter, but until we see a bit more domination and experience, he fits nicely in the 'C' group as a probable No. 3. Expect the Giants to continue to push him and he'll probably begin the year in the rotation at Double-A with an eye on a big league callup sometime in 2015.

Projected 2014 Team: Double-A Richmond (Eastern League)
ETA in Majors: late summer 2015
40-Man Roster: No
Rule 5 Eligible: 2015

Alex Meyer (2014 Age: 24), 6-foot-9, 220 pounds
Drafted: First Round, 2011 (signing bonus: $2,000,000)

FB Velo: 92-99 (95)
FB Movement: plus
Breaking Ball: well above average
Changeup: average
Command: tick above average
Grade: B
OFP: 61
Future Role: No. 2 Starter

Body: very tall, lean build; high waisted, lots of room to add muscle
Durability: lost time to the DL this year due to a shoulder strain; biggest question mark will be if he can pitch every fifth day for six months
Arm Action/Delivery: 3/4's; very quick, whippy, long arm action; needs to try and stay tall in his delivery; works from first-base side of the rubber; very long stride gets him on top of hitters at time of release

Notes: Meyer has dominating stuff. He is the kind of arm that packs ballparks, and has people looking over scouts' shoulders at the radar gun readings. His fastball has tremendous action and hitters beat it into the ground for a ton of easy groundball outs. He's touched 99 mph in the past but mostly unleashes power, two-seam sinkers in the mid-90's. For a pitcher with Meyers' arsenal, his control, while not plus, is perfectly average and when coupled with his propensity for the strikeout, plays to above average command. Meyer has a wipeout slider and when he locates and throws strikes - which he has proven he can do - he is just about unhittable. The changeup is a still a work in progress but he should develop it into an average pitch. With the power sinker/slider combo the changeup might not be needed on most nights. Durability is his biggest question right now. He has never thrown more than 120 innings in a professional season. Meyer hit the DL earlier this season on July 2nd with a shoulder strain. He proved to be healthy late this summer and will try to grab some lost innings in the AFL. At this point, the power righty needs to prove he can get through a full season. He needs another 20-30 innings this winter to set him up for about 150 in 2014. Meyer is listed as a No. 3 starter until he can prove that he'll handle a 200-inning workload in the big leagues. He has the pure upside of a frontline No. 2-type, however. Meyer is the exact kind of pitcher that has been missing from some really quality Twins' playoff clubs in the past. That is to say, a power-arm to front a rotation in the October dance. One scout I spoke to conjured up the name Kevin Brown when asked to compare him. Expect Meyer to start the year back in New Britain with a promotion to Rochester shortly after. Or, Meyer could just go straight to the big leagues in April.

Projected 2014 Team: Double-A New Britain (Eastern League)
ETA in Majors: 2014
40-Man Roster: No
Rule 5 Eligible: 2014

Aaron Northcraft, RHSP, ATL (2014 Age: 24), 6-foot-4, 230 pounds
Drafted: 10th round in 2009 (signing bonus: $125,000)

FB Velo: 87-92 (90)
FB Movement: well above average
Breaking Ball: average
Changeup: average
Command: average
Grade: D
OFP: 54
Future Role: No. 4 starter

Body: square shoulders, strong build and good pitcher's frame; powerful, thick legs
Durability: durable pitcher's frame; no injury history and looks to be a solid innings eater
Arm Action/Delivery: low 3/4's, long windmill arm action; classic overhead delivery, repeatable; drop and drive; would like to see him get higher in his arm slot to create more angle

Notes: Northcraft is a southern California high schooler who has performed well during his climb through the Braves' minor league system. He adds and subtracts with his fastball, which ranges from 87-92 mph and he's touched a 94 on some guns in the past. He gets tremendous life out of his hand with pretty good sink. Sometimes, his ball flattens out by the time it reaches home plate but he gets great, late run to the arm side. Aaron's slider is about an average pitch when it bends late. It can occasionally get sweepy and break too early when he gets around it. His changeup is more of a soft sinker and isn't used very often. He'll throw it against lefties though to try and keep them off balance. Northcraft has performed well at each stop in the Braves' minor league system and assuming he begins the year in Triple-A, he is just a short 40-minute drive away from Atlanta. The California native doesn't do anything plus, but he has pretty solid stuff and looks durable. If he can create some separation on his changeup from his fastball and tighten his slider to have more consistent, late break, he has a chance to stick around as a good starting pitcher. At worst, he could be a good middle reliever out of the bullpen flashing a power sinker/slider combo. He was added to the 40-man roster last year and will be rotation depth for the Braves in 2014.

Projected 2014 Team: Triple-A Gwinnett (International League)
ETA in Majors: 2014
40-Man Roster: Yes
Rule 5 Eligible: n/a

Chad Rogers, RHSP, CIN (2014 Age: 24), 5-foot-11, 205 pounds
Drafted: 28th round in 2010 (signing bonus: $100,000)

FB Velo: 88-93 (91)
FB Movement: average-to-tick below
Breaking Ball: average
Changeup: solid average/future plus
Command: solid average/improving
Grade: D
OFP: 53
Future Role: No. 4 Starter

Body: short and square; physical; proportionate; athletic looking; no issues with body other than height
Durability: has demonstrated good health and durability; can be counted on for about 165-190 innings in 2014
Arm Action/Delivery: good direction to the plate with a nice, simple delivery; throws across his body every so slightly; hides ball very well; works on first-base side of the rubber; fields position well; shows good athleticism

Notes: Rogers has just average stuff with a fastball that sits in the 88-93 mph range, and while he's touched 94 in the past, he's most comfortable working at 91. Coming into 2013, Rogers had demonstrated solid life on his fastball but he was a bit more true and straight this year. His command is above average and he improved upon it this Summer. Overall, his fastball is average and while it won't excite you, it plays well when he works down in the zone. If he can rediscover the sink he had prior to 2013 and create groundballs in front of good defenses, his fastball has the chance to be a good pitch. Rogers has plus control and has a career 2.67 BB/9. His breaking ball is a slider that features more cut than true, two-plane tilt or depth. Rogers is most effective when pumping strikes to get ahead and trying to get in and out of at-bats within three pitches. He has punched out 7.3 batters per nine innings in his career and the slider is there to get strikeouts against weaker hitters. His changeup showed drastic improvement in 2013 although coming into the season it was just an average pitch. This year his third pitch flashed well above average and acted as an equalizer against lefties, holding them to a .230 BAA. The Texas righty has been injury-free throughout his professional career and a freak shark bite the summer after his draft year is the only thing showing up on his medical. Rogers needs to be added to the 40-man roster this November and that will most likely occur to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. There isn't a lot holding him back at this point except for an opening in the Cincinnati rotation. The Reds will return with Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Tony Cingrani in the rotation. Bronson Arroyo is a free agent and while he will probably depart, general manager Walt Jocketty will be on the lookout to bring someone in to replicate his lost innings. The expectation will be that Latos, Cueto and Bailey will occupy the first three spots with Cingrani earning a promotion to the fourth starter role. A free agent, trade or re-signing of Arroyo is probable but Rogers could very well be the first option up from Triple-A Louisville. The only other prospect threatening that status is Robert Stephenson, who probably needs a bit more seasoning in the minors. "Shark bite" will begin the year in Louisville but he's on the border of getting his first big league callup. Chad has the upside to be a workhorse No. 3 starter if he can find the life on his fastball, continue pitching with plus command and developing his changeup into a plus, plus pitch. The most likely scenario has him carving out a nice career as a No. 4 starter on a championship caliber club.

Projected 2014 Team: Triple-A Louisville
ETA in Majors: late summer 2014
40-Man Roster: No
Rule 5 Eligible: 2013

Nick Wittgren, RHRP, MIA (2014 Age: 23), 6-foot-3, 210 pounds
Drafted: Ninth Round in 2012 (signing bonus: $128,800)

FB Velo: 88-93 (92)
FB Movement: average
Breaking Ball: average
Changeup: below average
Command: well above average
Grade: D
OFP: 54
Future Role: good middle reliever

Body: lean and strong; proportionate; room to fill out a bit more; athletic; good pitcher's frame
Durability: no known injuries or concerns; hasn't been exposed much on back-to-back days but seemed to bounce back fine when he was used in that manner
Arm Action/Delivery: 3/4's; short, compact; comes from behind ear; repeats arm slot; some effort with a little head snap; slight hesitation and hop in his push from the rubber; throws slightly across his body; works from the middle of the rubber with solid mechanics

Notes: Wittgren is the classic "performance versus stuff" guy that scouts and the stat guys argue over all the time. The Purdue right-hander works with his fastball anywhere from 88-93 mph and consistently hits 92. The life on the fastball is fairly straight, but he gets good enough movement on it that he can miss barrels. What stands out for Wittgren is his command. He dots the corners and paints the black over and over again. He throws strikes at will and is very aggressive and confident. He adds a bit of deception, although I haven't seen as much as others have. The Marlins have toned down his delivery some in order to find more consistency with his line to the plate. He throws a bit across his body with a quick drive to the plate. With his command, average life and the bit of deception he has, his fastball plays up and is at least a solid average pitch. Another separator for Nick is his awesome control as he's posted a 1.52 BB/9 in his career. At least average stuff coupled with a high percentage of strikes equals a lot of outs in the minor leagues, however, when Wittgren reaches the show, his stuff won't necessarily play as well as it has in the minor leagues. He lands his breaking ball for strikes and it shows plus action at times. It has the potential to be a plus major league pitch and if it in fact does, he'll be a successful late innings reliever. Lefties haven't given him too much trouble and while his changeup is below average, he's able to crossfire with his fastball and command it on the hands of opposite side hitters, proving effective. The Boilermaker will continue to get looks but he'll have to keep proving himself and he could make a push for the big leagues with a strong spring and good start in 2014. The Marlins don't have a lot standing in his way and he could be piling up a few holds by mid-summer and it's not out of the realm of possibility that he gets some save opportunities if something happens to Steve Cishek. He doesn't have "closer" stuff but he has shown more than enough to potentially be a quality setup man in the big leagues and pitch the seventh and eighth innings. I may have been a bit aggressive in his grades but his performance to date really factored in and guys like Wittgren have a way of sneaking up on us when we're not looking. Ultimately, he has the performance that dictates an eighth-inning man but the smart money is on him having a nice career as a middle reliever on a championship caliber club.

Projected 2014 Team: Double-A Jacksonville
ETA in Majors: late summer 2014
40-Man Roster: No
Rule 5 Eligible: 2015

Elmer Reyes, ATL, SS (2014 Age: 23), 5-foot-11, 150 pounds
Drafted: Signed as an International Free Agent (signing bonus: n/a)

Hit/Future Hit 40/45
Power/Future Power: 30/40
Run: 45
Glove: 50
Arm: 50
Grade: E
OFP: 47
Future Role: Backup Middle Infielder

Body: short and lean; not muscular; proportionate and athletic looking
Injury History: None

Notes: Reyes is a small shortstop with limited skills and major league upside. He has the potential to be a decent enough hitter in the big leagues but shouldn't be expected to hit above .260. He has very little pop and is not projected to develop future power. Reyes is a free swinger but he makes a lot of contact. He's not much of a threat on the bases and despite his quickness he's a tick below average as a runner. Elmer is coming off of his best season in full-season ball and was a solid player in the Carolina League. Defensively, his glove is at least average and he can handle both middle-infield positions. His arm is average at shortstop and he displays average range. Reyes will have to build off of his good 2013 and prove that he can handle the bat at the upper levels. There isn't a single above average tool and so his performance will dictate whether he sticks in the big leagues in the next three years. Reyes has maintained his health throughout his professional career. His upside is probably as a backup middle-infielder with a very limited chance to be an everyday shortstop or second baseman in the show. He should be the everyday shortstop in Mississippi in 2014 and if the Braves put him on the 40-man roster this winter he could be nearing a big league callup in late 2015. He's someone to watch though because I spoke to some Braves people this year who believe he finally broke through and he's back on their radar.

Projected 2014 Team: Double-A Mississippi (Southern League)
ETA in Majors: 2015
40-Man Roster: No
Rule 5 Eligible: 2013

Marcus Semien, CWS, INF (2014 Age: 23), 6-foot-1, 190 pounds
Drafted: Sixth Round in 2011 (signing bonus: $130,000)

Hit/Future Hit 50/50
Power/Future Power: 40/45
Run: 50
Glove: 50
Arm: 50
Grade: D
OFP: 50
Future Role: Everyday Second Baseman

Body: solid body; square and broad shoulders; athletic frame; physical and muscular but not overly strong looking; well proportioned
Injury History: shoulder tendinitis in 2012

Notes: Semien has made major strides in the last two years, even earning a promotion to the big leagues this September. Semien is a good looking athlete but his tools are not plus. He displays about average to solid average tools across the board, but he has worked hard since he began concentrating on baseball 100 percent of the time. Like his father, Marcus was a football player but focused solely on baseball in college. He got a late start to baseball, but he is beginning to develop some major league skills. Included in those skills are his propensity to take good at-bats and battle counts. The evaluations on Semien are a mixed bag. Some think he doesn't have a chance to hit in the big leagues while others think he can hit at least .270. He runs fairly well and demonstrates solid instincts for the game. He can handle himself at short and has even shown he can be placed at the hot corner but Semien has a chance to carve out a career as an everyday second baseman. He is limited as an everyday shortstop due to a lack of range and his lack of power prevents him from profiling at third base. At the keystone, however, the Berkeley alum has average defensive skills and the tools to be a quality source of production. His bat will determine if he sticks around as an everyday player but the upside is there for him to hit at least .270 with double-digit home runs in the 10-12 range and the chance to steal 15 bags. A prime as a .280 hitter with a .360 OBP and about 12 home runs and 15 stolen bases with solid defense is not out of the question. Semien probably needs a little more seasoning at Triple-A, but the Sox have plenty of room and they will keep second base open long term for him. He has the chance to break camp as the everyday second baseman in 2014 and could profile as a good No. 2 hitter.

Projected 2014 Team: Triple-A Charlotte (International League)
ETA in Majors: 2013
40-Man Roster: Yes
Rule 5 Eligible: n/a