***Rob Young contributed to this report
The Intimidators have been playing good baseball, since their 1-7 start. Coming into the season they appeared to be an intriguing group, and their lineup has been a pleasant surprise. We caught four of their games in early May in person, where we took a lot of video and notes, talking with scouts, players and coaches, and got a deep look at some of the Class A bats in the system.
While nearly the entire Kannapolis lineup is made up of players worth keeping an eye on, here we will focus on five hitters in particular that caught our eye. What follows are reports, with video and some quotes, on all five...
It should be no surprise that Micker was one of our primary targets, but what we saw was something better than expected. The 20-year old came into the system three seasons ago with a fair amount of hype, but injuries have limited his playing time (just 138 games played in his first three years) and the development has been slow. Yet it appears that this toolsy athlete has made a substantial leap here in 2017 and the results are backing that up.
Adolfo's stance hasn't changed much, but he showed less load and has shortened up his swing a bit and he's noticeably quicker to the ball as a result. This hasn't diminished his significant bat speed - he turned around a 96 mph fastball from Riley Pint, without cheating it, and put a well-struck ground ball single in the 5/6 hole - see in this video:
Perhaps most impressive is his change in approach. Not only did Adolfo work some deep counts, but he adjusted his plan and had a couple obviously intentional oppo hits when he was defending a 2-strike count. One he inside-outed, the other was on the outside edge and he went with it. As a scout watching one of the games with us commented quite simply, "Last year he doesn't do that." Here is another video, this one open-face of a double he hit:
Defensively, he seems to be a little more mature (direct) in his routes, and still shows a lot of arm strength. Accuracy on his throws is lacking though. He has more than enough speed, and while he doesn't have a quick first step (yet, anyway), he's pretty fast once he gets going (we caught him at 4.1 to first on a jail break). Adolfo making this sort of jump is big for not just him, but for the system as a whole. He's still a couple years younger than the average player in the South Atlantic League, and if he keeps this up he could be promoted to Winston-Salem before the year is out.
Last year's 4th round pick is the highest-ranked position player in the system in the I's lineup. But we happened to catch the club when Fisher was mired in a slump, as he's struggled in Low-A in a way that was unexpected. So what is causing his troubles?
Fisher shows an open stance at the plate, and he's got a very nice looking swing with quick hands, some loft in the plane and a pretty follow-through. The swings we saw looked typical for him, and we did see him hit the ball hard a couple times, but it seemed as though he was caught between pitches. He let good hitter's pitches go through and swung and pitcher's pitches, was behind some fastballs and flailing at offspeeds. Clearly knowing he is struggling to hit and looking to make something happen, he attempted a bunt for base hit as seen in this video (open face, full at bat, includes a full swing too):
On that bunt, I had him at 3.95 seconds to first (from the left on a bunt lean), so he's certainly got some speed in his tool box. And when he does get the pitch judgment right, it all looks very good. A scout we sat with commented they were surprised to see Jameson struggle as much as he has, and there's a lot of thought this is a temporary slump. Here's another video, in this case he hit a double:
Defense is a question mark for Fisher, who is learning the outfield after playing catcher and first base in college. The bad news is, his routes are pretty adventurous at this point. The good news is, he shows plenty of speed and range, and a pretty strong arm. He even made a nice diving catch at one point. Despite the warts, I am actually more confident now in his ability to stick there long term, as he shows all the right tools to make it work given enough time.
Fisher agrees, and said that "from last year to this year, I feel like a completely different player in the outfield." Jameson credits White Sox legend and roving coach Aaron Rowand for his improvement. "Every time Aaron is here, we are out in the outfield working. I feel like that helped a lot, I feel so much better."
After a strong campaign in rookie ball and some flowing reports from Arizona, Booker was one of our main targets for looks while visiting Kannapolis. Upon seeing Joel, one of the first things you'll notice is is slender build - his listed 190 pounds seems high. But one thing we confirmed from previous reports is that he is very fast. Here's a video of an infield single, where he goes home to first in 3.9 seconds or just under (from the right side):
As a hitter, Booker is patient and selective, only offering at a poor pitch once in my looks. He did struggle at times to catch up to Pint's upper 90's heat (which is probably not a fair test at this level), but was quick enough with the bat to spoil some of his pitches off in an attempt to force a mistake. He adjusts well when he notices offspeed and can still put those pitches in play. There's not much power in his game yet, and it's hard to project for much in the future. But overall he shows good bat to ball skills. Here's Booker lining a single to right off Pint (and the right fielder bizarrely trying to throw him out at first):
Now on the basepaths, it's not just about speed. Joel has a plan, as he told me:
So first, since I am quick enough, I don’t get as far off the base as most people get. When I take my lead I take three steps, put my weight on the inside of my left leg, and I’m always thinking ‘I’m going’. Then that way if he picks off, my natural reaction is to go, but I still have enough time to get back. If I was to take a couple feet more, then I’m going to get picked off. So therefore by thinking going, as soon as I get a good read that he’s going to the plate, then I’ve hopefully gotten a good enough jump to hopefully steal second. At second, I was taught to always keep my feet moving, and kind of shuffle to get started. That way when he goes to the plate you’re already in your running form. So that’s how I do second, and try to steal third.
In addition to seeing those behaviors in play, we also saw a very aggressive runner on the field. He pushed the envelope in taking an extra bag twice, and was caught once. When he gets a good jump, he's fast enough to steal bases with relative ease.
Defensively, the route work is decent in center field, though still needs some maturing. His speed gives him range to spare that helps make up for the routes. The arm is average for a center fielder, so overall he certainly looks like he can stick there, especially with further time to develop.
Thanks to Nick Hostetler's words on our podcast, then a red-hot start at the plate in April (he was hitting .355 in 25 games when we arrived), Roman has emerged on the prospect radar.
First, at the plate, he's got a very quiet setup and a short, quick swing. No wonder he's been making generally good contact and piling up the hits. Power is not a substantial part of his game and doesn't figure to be in the future, looking at his build and lack of leverage at the plate. He's somewhat aggressive in his approach, preferring to hit his way on, and his quiet and quick approach allows him to adjust during the pitch and make that work (but he doesn't walk much).
Here's some video of Mitch working an at bat to a base hit:
Roman shows above average speed, which combined with headiness on the field makes him an effective base-stealer. Defensively he's very good at second base - he showed soft hands, plenty of arm, good range and made multiple tough plays look easy and smooth. He's played some shortstop too but, from what we are told, he's at second due to concerns about arm strength for the left side of the infield. This means that second is likely his long term home, though he may continue to play other slots in the future if a utility role appears more likely in his future.
Last year's 10th round selection turned out to be an upside surprise in our looks. When Rob and I arrived in the area we were aware that he'd been hitting near .300, but we didn't have any reports that put him on our radar. Yet when we interviewed Kannapolis Hitting Coach Jaime Dismuke before we saw much of Zach play, we heard this when we asked him what player was better than their numbers indicate so far:
I would say [Zach] Remillard. I mean, he should be hitting .350.. He’s been hitting the ball hard all season long. For me he could easily be hitting .350. But he’s just been lining out to people. He’s had a couple games where he’s missed a barrel, but for the most part he’s been our most consistent guy for barreling the ball up on a daily basis.
What we saw in person was a hitter that sprayed line drives all over the field. He shows a quick hands and waits back well for pitches. There is some bat wrap that makes the swing look problematic at first, but if you watch carefully he wraps very early and gets into launch-ready position to wait for a decision. His frame and bat speed hint at the potential for some future power, but the present version is going to be more gap usage than much over the fence. In one game we saw he made hard contact three times: a drive down the LF line into the corner for a double, another in the right-center gap for two bags, and a liner to right for a single.
Here's some video of a base hit through the infield (we seemed to miss taking video of his bigger hits):
Foot speed is below average, though he is an opportunist. In one example we saw, on a pop-out to the catcher, Remillard stayed off the bag with a casual look and stared at the catcher. The catcher threw down, Zach got back in plenty of time but the throw was rushed and went into right field. Remillard took second by gaming the catcher. It's also worth noting that while he puts bat on ball consistently, he doesn't walk much and does show an aggressive approach at the plate.
Defensively, he did make an error when he was eaten up by a short hop grounder in one game. But he generally looked competent at third, with a quick first step and good hands. His arm is average for the position and should play there. As a 23-year old who seems to be hitting SAL pitching effectively, he should be pushed up to Winston-Salem during the season if possible.
Want to know right away when we publish a new article? Type your email address in the box on the right-side bar (or at the bottom, if on a mobile device) and click the "create subscription" button. Our list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.