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Scouting the Chiefs

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Matt Swain

Illinois engineering student, way too emotionally invested in the Cubs.

As I mentioned last night, I spent today in sunny Peoria, checking out the Chiefs game against the visiting Cedar Rapid Kernels (Angels affiliate).

It wasn't a pretty game by any means, as the Chiefs racked up 6 errors in the first 5 innings, looking as if they were sponsored by Chico's Bail Bonds.

In particular, Jose Valdez was pretty awful-looking in right field. The speedy centerfielder showed off a strong throwing arm in the first as he came up gunning on a runner going from first to third. He put some serious velocity on the throw, but it landed closer to leftfielder D.J. Fitzgerald than it did to the targeted third baseman Matt Cerda. 

He would later drop a flyball, and from the ground short hop the cutoff man and have another ball get away. On a ball he did successfully field, he broke in the wrong way initially before having to come back to it. Unfortunately I didn't get a great look at him at the plate, as he only made contact twice.

You've surely heard about how good of a fielder Hak-Ju Lee is, and watching him move around out there is a treat. He has phenomenal quickness and speed that contribute to his excellent range to both sides. Lee got to one ball behind second base and one in the 56 hole he had no business fielding. He's really smooth too; very fluid in his motions.

He did disappoint me with his throwing arm, which I had heard touted as plus-plus. I'm no scout, but there were at least two throws I saw where I thought to myself: "He's going to need to whip this one over there." In both cases, the throw was late, and didn't look like it had that much on it.  It's still adequate, but unless he was holding back (and I don't see why he would be), it's not plus-plus.

Another guy I was interested to see was Matt Cerda. He's even smaller than you think, a short guy at about 5' 8", probably the shortest 3 hitter you've ever seen. At the plate, he seemed to have trouble seeing pitches from the left-handed starters. In his first at-bat, the pitcher pounded the low outside corner with a fastball, and Cerda took three of them for the strikeout. The whole game he seemed to be guessing if a pitch would be in the zone. I wrote down "I bet he has big L/R splits". Let's take a gander...

Career OPS vs. LHP- .471
Career OPS vs. RHP- .749

See? This scouting thing's not so hard. He didn't make much contact at all, only hitting a couple weak grounders within the infield, one of which went for a hit. In the field, he had just two chances on groundballs, but on one of them made a fantastic backhanded pickup and strong throw to third. He profiles MUCH better at second base, where his bat and size would play better.

As for the pitching, Nick Struck looked plain bad. Didn't have much velocity, couldn't locate any offspeed pitches, and was hammered all day. Line-drives all over the park, a few of them at people resulting in outs or errors, so his day was even worse than the boxscore would indicate. I don't want to read too much into it, since he's coming off a no-hitter and clearly I caught him on his worst day.

There was a nice surprise when Jeffry Antigua came on in relief, a guy who's been on my wish list to see. He came out strong, sitting 87-90 with his fastball in his first inning of work and quickly disposing of hitters. His change-up was terrific, and he did a great job changing speeds and keeping guys off balance. Antigua compiled 5 Ks in his 5 innings of work, most of them coming on early swings. He came out of a three quarters delivery, and has a weird windup where he kicks his butt back and leans forward a little bit.

As he settled in, his velocity dropped and he sat consistently at 85-86. When the Kernels guessed right on fastballs, they produced line drives, with a majestic home run and a gapper as a result. The velocity wasn't there to get the fastball by people. He doesn't exactly have a frame that looks like he'll add much more, but it seems like he needs to add at least a few more ticks before he'll be able to get MLB hitters out. Antigua did throw a third pitch, but I didn't have a good angle on it and can't tell you exactly what it was or how good it was.

Other quick hits:

  • Jonathan Mota was catching, and he looked pretty terrible behind the plate. Passed balls galore, and they were running on him like he was Victor Martinez.

  • The most comical error of the day was made by pitcher Andres Quezada, who reached to pick up a ball in foul territory near home plate, fell on his butt, and from the seat of his pants turned and blindly fired towards third. Of course the throw looked more like a bloop single, and the batter scored on his own double.

  • Most physically impressive prospect of the day was Angels RP prospect John Hellweg, listed at 6'9" and popping the radar gun at 94-95 in his inning of work.

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1 Comment

toonsterwu said:

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There were enough concerns about Lee's arm last year as well. The plus arm stuff comes more from 2008. I haven't made it out west this year, but from what I'm hearing, it's still a solid arm, which is fine, but it is something to watch in the coming months/years.

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