Game Story: Winston-Salem Dash 5/27/2015, with Video and Scouting Notes

BB&T Ballpark during BP

BB&T Ballpark during BP

On May 27th, we had a live look at the Winston-Salem Dash. In this matchup, the Dash took on the Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians' Affiliate). Robin Leyer started for the Dash, while Luis Lugo took the mound for the Hillcats. The Hillcats' lineup features considerably more thump in the form of notable prospects Clint Frazier, Bradley Zimmer, and the powerful 1B Nellie Rodriguez. That was evident in this game, as those 2-3-4 hitters combined for ten total bases. The Dash struggled to generate offense all night. A Keenyn Walker two-RBI bloop single in the fourth (on a pitch that jammed him) accounted for both runs and the last of two hits on the night. The Hillcats ultimately beat the Dash by a score of four to two.

This article will cover the performance of some specific White Sox prospects in this game, and includes videos and scouting notes. We also interviewed some players, but those interviews will be published in a separate post.

The Starter – RHP Robin Leyer:

Leyer’s line for the night: 6IP, 5Hs, 3ERs, 1BB, 6SOs, 1HR.

Season stats (45.2IP): 7.29 K/9 (18.4%), 2.56 BB/9 (6.5%), 58.1 LOB%, 4.14 ERA | 3.66 FIP

Robin Leyer signed with the White Sox prior to the 2012 season out of the Dominican Republic. The 22-year-old stands a wiry 6’2”, 175 lbs and employs an “inverted w” throwing motion, seen in the GIF below. The delivery is fairly loose and repeatable. I timed Leyer a few times in between his reception of the ball from the catcher and the point during which he began his motion, often taking between eight and 10 seconds. Leyer has a leg kick, but not one that generates torque and deception like fellow Dominican righty, Johnny Cueto. Leyer does not generate that much power from his lower half, as he plants his kick leg before brandishing the ball. Instead, he puts his impressive arm speed and strength on display with a somewhat violent arm action.

Robin Leyer's Delivery (Fastball)

Now, that might seem to add up to a high-effort delivery, but Leyer made it work. While the fastball repeatedly hit 95-97 mph in the first inning, mid-way through the game (and the second time through the lineup), the velo dipped to 94-95 – that’ll play. The fastball, which has some arm side tailing action to it, is easily his best pitch and one that he commanded sporadically throughout the night. As for his offspeed pitches, Leyer throws a fringy change (82-83 mph with tail and one-plan vertical drop) – for which the arm speed often does not match that of the fastball. That induced a lot of grounders and big hacks, largely due to the contrast with his electric fastball, a show-me slider (80-81), and a show-me curveball (75-76).

After breezing through the lineup in the first go-around with ease, the contact got noticeably harder and harder against Leyer. In the video and GIFs below, Bradley Zimmer – in his second plate appearance – sat first-pitch-fastball and swung and missed badly on a changeup. Later in the at bat, Leyer tried to get another change by Zimmer, who promptly rocketed the pitch to right for a stand-up double. Leyer delivered the change with noticeably slower arm speed and lobbed the change over the middle of the plate. One scout told me that, going forward, Leyer’s problem will be leaving the fastball up in the zone when hitters – as Lynchburg did in this game – are sitting on it.

Bradley Zimmer Sitting First Pitch Fastball

Bradley Zimmer sitting first pitch fastball – gets a change (with noticeably slower arm speed and motion by Leyer)

Then, later in the AB, Zimmer gets that same changeup out over the plate and sends a screamer to RF for a ground rule double:

Hanging Change to Zimmer

(Full AB):

This is not to say, however, that Leyer’s talent did not shine through in this game. Leyer froze hitters on some well-commanded 96-97 mph fastballs on the corners for looking strikeouts. At times, Lynchburg could not catch up to the fastball, as Leyer generated his fair share of swinging strikes. He also induced many grounders on the changeup down in the zone – an encouraging sign for the future value of the pitch.

There is no real harm in keeping Leyer in the starting rotation because the upside is big. The results are fine now, but a good amount of work has to be done before Leyer would be promoted as a starting pitcher. Leyer could be a high-octane reliever with better fastball command and just one (above) average off-speed pitch – likely the changeup.

Reliever – RHP Brad Goldberg:

Goldberg’s arm action and delivery (with a little less gravitation to 3B) reminds me of former White Sox closer Addison Reed. Goldberg sat 93-96 with the fastball, slider at 84-85 with a biting two-plane-break, and a curve at 77-78. Goldberg went two innings, allowing two hits, an earned run, a walk, while striking out two. While the 25-year-old made seven appearances as a starter last season for the Dash, he figures to be a reliever going forward. He’s had trouble with control the past two season for the Dash, walking 5.5 BB/9 last year (75+ IP) and 5.3 BB/9 this season (17 IP).

Reliever – Sean Hagan:

Hagan is a 24-year-old side armed reliever in A-advanced who is striking out 4.2 batters per nine on the season. In this outing, though, the burly 6’6” lefty’s high-eighties fastball was effective. He pitched a perfect inning (no strikeouts). Hagan was promoted to AA Birmingham (5/30/2015).

Position Players:

CF Adam Engel:

Engel has the physique, wheels, and agility of a running back. The former high school football player has a level swing with a one-hand-finish that looks prone to getting jammed and under the ball too much – as he did in this game. In the video above, Engel hit a soft fly ball to the OF for an out. The supremely athletic burner will go as far as his hit tool can develop. In an interview, Engel mentioned that he had – for the last couple weeks – gotten away from maintaining a sturdy base which has led to an offensive slump. After batting practice, while all other players were presumably in the clubhouse, Engel was on the dugout steps picking the mind of hitting coach Charles Poe, going through mechanics and approach.

2B Jake Peter:

Peter played a very good second base in this game, showing both range and flexibility throughout the night, especially on a tough throw from 3B Trey Michalczewski on a 5-4-3 double play. As a closer at Creighton, Peter threw 96mph. He showed that arm strength, as he made a tough side-armed throw ranging to his right on a softly hit ground ball. He also correctly anticipated a tough hop on a sharply hit one-hopper. At the plate, against a high 80s, low 90s fastball from Lynchburg's Luis Lugo, Peter uncharacteristically expanded his zone and went down on a swinging strikeout – audibly and visibly frustrated with himself after the AB. I like Peter's high contact skill-set at the plate and seasoning having played both at Creighton (three years) and summer collegiate league in the Northwoods League.

3B Trey Michalczewski:

It is easy to see why the White Sox are so high on the 20-year-old Oklahoman. He is a switch-hitting 3B with the athleticism and range to stay there, and possesses a knowledgeable perspective and is coachable.

The main concern regarding Michalczewski is the contact rate and, ultimately, strikeouts. He had trouble catching up to the fastball all night, as he struck out twice. But he did manage to put together one of the more impressive plate appearances I saw on my 10-game-MiLB road trip (featuring notable position-player prospects such as Rafael Devers, Forrest Wall, Ryan O'Hearn, Clint Frazier, Bradley Zimmer, and others). Batting right handed, Michalczewski strung together a seven minute AB, fouling off pitches, waiting for his pitch, and laying off a fastball for ball four –a pitch that crossed him up earlier in the AB. Speaking with Trey on this very subject – plate discipline, approach, and pitch recognition – revealed that as his PAs accumulate, so too will his ability to recognize pitches.

There is one eccentricity to Michalczewski's game: the throwing motion. It's an interesting, to say the least, short-arm, hitched throwing motion. It gave him some trouble on a couple errant throws during the game, none of which went for errors because of athletic plays by Jake Peter and Chris Jacobs. I am curious to see if player development plans on tinkering with it all because everything else is there defensively for a big-league third basemen.

1B Chris Jacobs:

Jacobs is every bit of his 6’5” 260 lbs frame. The swing is long, as Jacobs golfs at it at times, but he is surprisingly nimble and athletic over at first. In the game, he fielded tough hops, picked it, and made impressive stretches and dives to save errors on errant throws by Michalczewski and Rondon.

 SS Cleuluis Rondon:

The White Sox player development is trying to get Rondon to use his legs more in all facets of the game. I could see that as Rodon got no lift on any of the contact he made. Even defensively, Rondon’s calling card, a throw or two bounced into first base because of the lack of drive he gets from his legs. Rondon is a silky fielder, as I saw throughout BP, but his base – both at the plate and in the field – is something that player development will (and should) emphasize going forward. When Rondon is not 100% "on" in the field, his 47 wRC+ (171 PAs in 2015) becomes that much more glaring.

An example of Rondon not using his legs and getting away from a strong base.

An example of Rondon not using his legs and getting away from maintaining a strong base.

Here are videos of a handful of other players in the Dash lineup:

OF Keenyn Walker:

C Omar Narvaez:

OF Michael Suiter:

Suiter made an unbelievable leaping grab to rob Clint Frazier of extra bases. The 23-year-old Suiter is a max-effort organizational player and has good speed and defensive capabilities.

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