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Observations and photos from the 2014 Under Armour Game

I should start by saying that these showcases are a lot of fun and a chance to see players you only normally hear or read about secondhand.  That said, it's really hard to get a true evaluation on any one player.  It's the end of a long season.  Pitchers typically only go one inning so you can see them go all out on the fastball but also sometimes have trouble getting a quick feel for their breaking ball.  Hitters are often at a disadvantage and that was certainly the case in this game.

I also took pictures, normally not my thing, but my wife was unable to attend the game this time, so there are fewer pictures and of lesser quality than usual, but it does help you put a face, stance, and/or body type to a few of the names.

The player that stood out to a lot of people was Luken Baker in no small part because he is 6'4", 240 lbs and cut out of granite.  He looks like a linebacker out there.  It's not just for show.  Baker showed power on the mound and at the plate.  He threw mostly fastballs, sitting consistently in the 92-93 range and overpowering hitters.  He also won the HR derby contest, edging out Starling Heredia.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Baker go to college (he is committed to Texas Tech) so he can continue to hit, though most like him better as a pitcher.

Starling Heredia himself is a physcial specimen with RHP Anthony Molina simply calling him, "Puig" -- a player to whom he does show a physical resemblance. Incredible considering he is just 15.  The Dominican born Heredia showed raw power during the derby, though it did not translate to the game itself.

Chris Betts also put on a power display.  He is a catcher with a thick build, particularly his lower half.  He has a chance to stick at catcher which is a good thing because I can't imagine him playing anywhere else except for 1B.  For a power hitter, he keeps his bat in the zone a long time, indicating he can hit for average but he also showed tremendous power, hitting 6 HRs, most of the line drive variety, in the first round and then lining a double over the CF'ers head during the game.

Ryan Johnson showed a patient approach and a fluid swing but it did not translate to much success in the game.  But that was the story for most of the hitters.  Fellow LH hitter and OF'er Michell Hansen also showed good athleticism and a good fluid swing with quick hands and an all-fields stroke at the plate, hitting two drives to the left side, one of which went for a hit.  He looks rather long and lanky and he's more of a line drive type right now but perhaps he can grow into some power as he gains strength and learns to turn on the ball better.

3B Ryan Mountcastle turned on high 93 mph heat from hard-throwing Corey Zangari, showing good bat speed and making loud contact, though he was robbed once on a diving catch by Daz Cameron. Mountcastle does a good job of taking the pitch right back up the middle and looks like he'll be able to hit for some power as he fills out.   Cameron didn't stand out in the game other than his defense. Zangari throws hard but I wasn't crazy about his arm action, which was a bit long.  I found he was relatively easy to pick up and that he got squared up more than someone of his velocity should.

Nick Schumpert showed some athleticism and range on defense, but was a bit erratic on offense, perhaps trying to hard to show some of his extra base power. It should come naturally in time.  He has quick enough hands to be at least a gap power guy.

Infielder Anthony Tolbert is one of the better athletes on the field, smooth actions... but he also had a more polished swing than I expected.  Solid bat speed.

Brendan Rogers showed a natural, fluid athleticism and flows through the ball like you like to see in a shortstop.  He had a solid arm and quick release.  Looks like he can stick there long term.  As for his offense, we did't get to see his best.  He showed good bat speed but rolled over on a couple of pitches and grounded out to the left side.

Josh Naylor is a bid-bodied kid from Ontario, Canada who displayed outstanding strength and raw power.  He showed some ability to go oppo,  Not a bat speed guy, does it more with strength and leverage.  Patient, disciplined hitter.  Content to wait for a pitch he can drive.  Limited defensively so he is going to have to hit a ton.

Kyler Murray was probably the best athlete on the field (and that is saying something) but he is going to be a tough sign because he is also one of the best QB prospects in the game.  Has a career in that sport and I imagine anyone who selects him may wait until after the 20th round.  I'd be shocked if he doesn't go to college.

Kyle Dean showed good athleticism when he made a fine running catch heading toward the line in RF.  Nearly beat out a fairly routine grounder but I did not get a time on hm.

Kody Clemens doesn't have the physical build of his dad but showed a quick short stroke with surprising pop to go with good athleticism.  Projects as a 2B.

LHP Juan Hillman has a lean, athletic build with a fluid delivery that he repeats well.  He was in the 88-89 range velo wise but showed a good curve that had some deoth and which he commanded better than most pitchers that day.  There is projectability here and perhaps he can add a tick or two the fastball as he matures physically.  Good approach on the mound.

Justin Hooper, LHP, was the hardest thrower that night, reaching 95 mph from a 3/4 delivery with a little  funk and from an intimidating 6'7" frame that has to absolutely make LH hitters nervous.  Tough to pick up.  Ball gets on hitters quickly with late movement.  He was overpowering but he will have to improve his command.  He's tall and young, so it may take him time to get all those arms and limbs working together consistently but he is athletic and already shows good potential to repeat consistently  Flashed a good, sharp curve but like most pitchers could not get a cosistent feel for it.

Ashe Russell, RHP, is a strong kid who was maxing a bit on his effort, but that wasn't unusual for any pitcher on this night in which they mostly went one inning.  Russell  sat 91-92, touched 93 with some good downward movement.  Reportedly has a good slider but had trouble getting a good feel for it.  Threw it often and broke off a couple of breakers that may already be plus but did not do it consistently, especially when he tried to backdoor RH hitters.  Still that fastball by itself gave hitters fits.  Also heard he has a good change but didn't see that Saturday night either.  So as good as he was, we didn't see the best of Russell.

RHP Beau Burrows was 92-94 and has a solid athletic build.

RHP Anthony Molina has a simple delivery but his velo was down in the high 80s, slow curve in the high 60s and low 70s.  got hit pretty hard.  Hitters were seeing him well and squaring up.

Mike Nikorak already hits 92-94.  The RHP shows all kinds of projectability from an athletic 6'5", 205 lbs frame, quick arm but easy delivery that to me was more fluid than either Russell's or Hooper's.  Flashed a couple of good curves.  This kid looks like he is just scratching the surface.  Definitely someone I'm going to watch.

RHP Cole Sands, brother of Cubs LHP prospect Carson, was 88-91 mph but showed good arm speed and can probably throw hard.  He also threw perhaps the best changeup of the night.  A bit raw overall, though, not as advanced as Carson but there may be more projectability.

RHP Gary Fenter is a smaller pitcher with a strong build (6'0", 200 lbs), makes up for lack of height by throwing with good leverage, generating some plane on his low 90s fastball. Showed potential for a good slider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Hillman to me seems like David Price Light. He might hit that ceiling, but even the motion has some similarities.

    Nikorak was the pitcher I was most excited about. Hooper was second.

    Sands I have some concern about that grab of the cap after the pitch is delivered, not sure if he's putting too much effort, if it's a nervous/bad habit, or if he just needs a size smaller cap. Either way can't say I like it.

    Talked to a scout for an NL team for a couple minutes after the game, Baker seemed to be the player he was most, even though he said his organization normally doesn't go after high school players.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts, Jim. Interesting stuff.

  • Good stuff John. Too bad you didn't get see Rodgers barrel up any baseaballs. That's what he's known for.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks. Just wasn't his day at the plate. Played well in the field, though. That's the trouble with seeing one game -- you can get a guy on an off night.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I got to see him @ showcase this summer. It was almost as if he knew what they going to throw him before they did. I can see why some are saying he will top HS position player taken.

  • Lets hope that giving the Astros the 2nd pick is not going to hurt us

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    So far, having the Astros pick ahead of the Cubs hasn't worked out too bad...

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    Great stuff. Some of those "kids" look like they're 30!

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    I was saying to Mike that night, "I don't remember kids being that big when I went to high school."

  • is it just me, or does Corey Zangari look like VogelBOMB's little brother?...

  • Zangari reminds me of a younger Vogelbach

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I thought people might say that about Josh Naylor, actually. Big lefty 1B with power, good approach, big, big body.

  • I only got to stay through the HR derby but it was still fun and the experience of getting to watch baseball in a mostly empty Wrigley Field is a unique experience. I spent 30 minutes just walking around to all the different sections and taking in all in. It was nice to meet John (thanks again for the ticket), the rest of the staff, and a handful of posters as well. As expected, everyone was very nice and it was a joy to sit and talk baseball for a few hours before the game. It was worth the 7 hour round trip car ride.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Good to meet you too mjvz! Too bad you couldn't stay longer.

  • Hillman jumped out at me.. kid was fluid and everything just seemed natural for him

  • Great report...I've been waiting for this recap ever since you guys went to this. Cameron looks bigger than I thought he was. I've read some great things about Brendan Rodgers.

    Question- Besides Cameron, Rodgers, and Hooper do an of these kids project as early 1st round? It sounds like Nikorak & Baker (if he doesn't scare teams away with college) have a chance.

    Also that Starlin Heredia is one developed 15 year old! What year is he Draft eligible? 2016?

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Ryan Johnson could be a top 10 guy, as is Kyle Tucker, a guy I didn't write about here. Only the 3 you mentioned would be in play for the Cubs at #5, however. There is a full season to go though, so someone could take a step fprward. Guys like Russell and Nikorak are guys to watch in that respect.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Oh and Heredia should be an IFA.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Nice, just in time for the Cubs to break the bank on IFA's again (as is rumored that they will do again). Hope he is one of them.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    2013 IFA haul was impressive. Let's do it again.

  • In reply to John57:

    Defenitely, but now the harshest penalty is being unable to sign any players for over $300,000 for the next TWO years instead of the $250,000 - one year penalty that we incurred the 1st time. However that still won't stop them, (as it didn't the Yankees this year), I imagine they will just go WAY over like the Yanks & Red Sox did this year signing all the top talent...which is another plus that those two teams won't be able to compete for the top guys and they are both major players. Also an IFA draft will eventually happen so this could be one of the last chances to load up more than other teams.

    Theo and Jed hired a ton of new international scouts and revamped their scouting process since they arrived. Which is huge now because of the new rules tht were just instituted by MLB that now teams aren't allowed to have any kids younger than 16 at any of their facilities. That is a huge change because MLB teams evaluate these kids by bringing them to their academies and putting them through a bunch of tests and exercises. So now scouting will become that much more important for teams to evaluate these kids...I'm glad we have an organization that is so on top of it.

    MLB Makes Significant Changes to International Player Rules

  • Justin Hooper struck me as the most exciting prospect. 6'7 lefty, funky delivery, low 3/4, hardest thrower of the night, good tailing/sink action, sharp curve. Needs more consistent command, but his control was pretty good and he painted a few pitches. Best upside I saw from the mound. Although I did really like the Nikorak kid.....he has that TOR look with the projectable stuff to go with it......Hillman is smooth and polished for his age.

  • Thanks for the write-up John. Is Heredia going to be in the IFA pool next year?

  • This was a total blast. I had been trying to attend for a number of years and always had to work. Just a very cool experience being in the empty park, being so close to the field, sitting among scouts, Theo, McLeod. It was also great fun meeting and talking with some fellow denizens. In terms of the game, most of the pitchers did rush through their inning, so it wasn't that easy to get a real long look. And man, there were a lot of big kids in that game. Must be the vitamins. Anyway, great fun. Thanks again John for the ticket.

  • AAAhhhh, the pain, the pain. no more Ed, pleaseeee.

  • I can hear it from the corn field right now.... Ease his pain. Please DFA the poor man!

  • Addison Russell with--what else?--a HR.
    Reminds me that I need to send Billy B. a thank you note tomorrow.

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    He is unbelievable. Three games in a row with a HR. He was better than everyone else when he was "settling in" but it seems he has taken it to another level now.

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    Don't torture the poor man. Shark 7 run in 4 innings today.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    I would still take that over jacksons performance tonight

    Deriously. Cubs should just forfeit games when jackson starts... Or refund tickets...

    Unfortunately for me i am at wrigley again, spending good money watching this clown

  • At least we will get another look at Turner again tonight. Edwin is doing his best to get yanked early.

  • I don't want to see Ejax pitch any more. I wish the Cubs would find a reason to shut him down for the year.

  • In reply to Letsplay2:

    I've learned to gamble on the opposite team whenever Edwin pitches. He's my favorite Cubs pitcher.

  • In reply to Letsplay2:

    He should not be allowed to make one more pitch in a Cubs uniform. We're a better team without him. We need to get rid of him and we need to do it now.

  • Cub fans are underestimating the value of Edwin Jackson to this team. With Hendricks & Wada going 8-3 between them we creeping up in the standings and are not even in the bottom 5 anymore. Jackson is going out of his way to counter this and keeping us in the bottom ten so we do not have to worry about losing a first rounder if signing free agents.

    I didn't look it up but I bet he easily leads the majors in total losses combined for 2013 and 2014.

  • Is it too soon to get concerned about Alcantara?

  • In reply to Csanad:

    Yes.

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    In reply to Csanad:

    Way too early on Alcantara. His numbers are very similar to Pedroia's when he got his first cup of coffee in The Show.

    I realize it is an exercise in futility but I get worked up about minor's numbers. The # that has me most upset is Almora's walk number but I digress.

    I have been somewhat underwhelmed by Schwarber (especially with Rodon making the roster for September) but if he had enough ABs he would have the second best OPS (.847) in the entire FSL only behind Josh Bell. Hopefully he goes to AFL and starts next year in Tennessee.

  • In reply to Daniel Rosenberg:

    This is why I like these early call ups. They get some of their learning curve / growing pains out of their system this year and can hopefully hit the ground running at the start of next year.

  • In reply to Csanad:

    Double YES

  • And...Bryant with a mammoth HR.
    Is it 2015 yet?

  • I liked Ashe Russell Best They all have excellent talent he looks to have an intense intangible about him that can't be taught He just seems to have a gritty mad dog attitude about him, His Pitching is impressive also!! Whats not to like about Justin Hooper. But because of timelines my top choice who isn't here because he is several years older is still Michael Matuella assuming he keeps pitching the same or better than he has at Duke and we can lose enough to get him, right now I think he would be gone when we draft.

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