With a free afternoon on tap, my friend and I ventured down to South Bend. For those living in Chicago, it’s an easy two hour drive and as long as the traffic isn’t bad it flies by. Definitely worth a weekend visit if you have the time. Also, Four Winds Field is an incredible minor league ballpark, let alone for a Low-A team. Newly built, the park has everything, ranging from blowup toys and a batting cage, all the way to craft beers and delicious burgers. The staff are also amiable, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon or night, even if you're not focusing on the game. Having visited Myrtle Beach, Tennessee, and South Bend this year, I can safely say the Cubs organization has done a great job with each affiliate. The stadiums are fabulous and the workers have been nice enough to accommodate me everywhere I’ve went. Now, on to the recap:
Charcer Burks - He had a three hit night of all singles. Having seen him in person, Burks is a strong player who could still be growing. Although he’s only hit one home run this year, I think there is room for more. He’s also a very personable and friendly guy in the time I talked to him. Love his makeup. His first hit was when he was jammed on a 94 mph fastball by Reid-Foley and was strong enough to bloop it into the outfield. He also has good bat-to-ball skills with a strong feel for the barrel. His second hit of the night was a rocket single up the middle, displaying good bat speed as well. What I noticed about him was he was aggressive early in counts, but has a good understanding of the strike zone as he has a 9.3% walk rate this year. In the field I didn’t see much, but from highlights it appears he could be plus out there. Certainly a name to keep an eye on as he works his way up the system. He’s also just 20 years old. Stay tuned for an interview with him up sometime next week.
Gleyber Torres - Speaking of age, Gleyber is a ripe 18 years old, yet has the feel for the barrel of a major league veteran. He wiggles his bat to start before unleashing a quick, line drive oriented swing. He also has a plan at the plate and has a 9.7% walk rate this year. He is, however, prone to some mistakes which shouldn’t be surprising given his age. He climbed the latter for a fastball near his neck and came nowhere close to it while striking out. In the field, he has the hands for the position, but seems to lack the internal clock. On multiple occasions the play at first was closer than it had to be because of him taking too many steps in the buildup to his throw. Once, he rushed a throw and it skidded past the first baseman, resulting in an error. His throws are sharp and get to the first baseman quickly, and as he plays the position more I believe he’ll be able to play it in the majors. A very impressive showing for this teenager.
Kevin Encarnacion - The first thing you notice about him is how huge he is. Given this, he still has a quick step in right and has deceptive speed. He covered ground well in RF, and has a monstrous arm. Without any forward momentum, he was able to nab someone tagging from first to second from deep in right field. At the plate his bat hangs low on his shoulders, and it looked a little slow going through the zone. He did smack a changeup up the middle but I’d need to see him more to judge his bat appropriately.
Gioskar Amaya - Transitioning from second to catcher this year, Amaya is still raw behind the plate but the ingredients could be there. He has a short but thick body and has an average arm behind the plate. His receiving was very poor, however, as every borderline pitch was called a ball. He also would stab at pitches, and just needs a lot of refinement behind the plate before he could be even average. He could put it all together, but he has a long way to go. At the plate he had a nice feel for the bat and put the ball in play. Good plate discipline as well.
Sean Reid-Foley - Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 MLB draft, Reid-Foley is an impressive pitcher for just being 19. He came out of the gate throwing a 92-95 mph fastball that topped out at 96 a couple of times. He threw strikes early with his fastball and did a great job of keeping it low in the early innings. The fastball was spotted well to both his arm and glove side, and in the lower velocity band had some tail to it. In this start he was primarily working on fastball command it seemed as he threw a lot of them, but the pitch is heavy and the South Bend hitters were having a difficult time squaring him up. He also threw a slider which flashed above-average as it had nice depth to it, but he didn’t throw it very often. He also threw a few below-average changes, but had one to a lefty where the pitch had nice fade and got the hitter swinging. The potential is there for an average change. In the 4th and 5th innings he was battling with the command of his fastball, walking a few batters and leaving the fastball up in the zone, but he battled and got away with it. His mechanics seemed a little off as he had an odd head placement it seemed. He also appeared to be more comfortable in the stretch. He has strong legs, big hips, and keeps his elbow short and low when pitching. On the mechanical side, it seemed okay to me. Overall, he has the stuff of a #3 starter based solely off of the fastball, as it is a great pitch to build upon.
Zach Hedges - The starter for the Cubs, Hedges did not impress me in the look I had of him. He sat high 80’s-low 90’s with an easy 3/4 delivery. The big problem I see with him is his fastball has no movement to it. Anytime he left it up in the zone it got crushed, and his secondaries were all below-average pitches. Unless an uptick in velocity happens, he’s looking like an org guy to me.
DJ Davis - The 17th overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Blue Jays, Davis is still showing the pieces that made him selected that high but has yet to put it together. In his BP he has a noticeable bounce to his step and some loft to his swing, blasting a few out of the park. He’s very well built, has a high waist, and I’d judge him at average to slightly above raw power. He plays an average left field and had one throw to home which looked slightly below average. The utility of his hit tool has been his problem his whole career, but he was getting his bat to balls, even if he wasn’t squaring them up. He’s still a name to keep an eye on, as if he can put it together he’ll fly up the systems rankings.
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