Oakland Athletics vs. Texas Rangers (Mesa, AZ)

And we are back in Mesa! Really excited because my favorite pitching prospect from last year, lefty Jesus Luzardo is on the mound today for Oakland. As a Scout, it’s really important to check your bias at the door. One of my mantras is that you should really walk into the ballpark with zero preconceived notions and strive (as much as possible) to eliminate any bias from your evaluations. That’s one reason why I never really like to ask about players who I haven’t seen before and for the past 5 years I really shied away from reading Baseball America or MLB pipeline before seeing a new player (although I may check it afterwards because they do have good material). My goal is to approach the evaluation with as little information about the player as possible – meaning where they are drafted, what their statistics are, etc., should not effect my view of them. In this way, I am striving for the most unbiased evaluation that I can. However, once you’ve seen a player before, it becomes difficult to not let your previous view effect the new view, we are human after all, and therefore, seeing a player the following year, like now in Spring Training, I am bringing a certain amount of “history” to the evaluation. Luzardo is my top pitching prospect from last year and he has the stuff and pitchability to make any evaluator giddy about watching him, but I have to approach this view in Spring Training as fresh as possible because he may have changed, for better or for worse.

And so, after 2.2 innings of Luzardo (6 K’s, no hits, no runs) I can honestly say that he has improved, which is hard to do considering what I had previously seen (I graded him out as a future Ace last year). He came out throwing 96-98 in the 1st inning, sat 95 in the 2nd and 94 in his 3rd inning of work. His overall range was 93-98, which was up from last year when I saw him twice in June in AA and he was 89-96 and sat in the 92-94 range. His FB had heavy sink and occasionally some late arm side run. Due to his shorter frame and slot, the FB has a tendency to flatten out at times but there’s enough velo and deception that he can still get away with making a mistake in the middle of the plate. Even more impressive was his change-up (85-87 mph) that falls off the table at times and he can really sell it, getting plenty of swings and misses from RHH. He also featured an above average and projectable power slurve (somewhere in between a curve and slider) that he can add and subtract from, going as low as 82 and as high as 87. The slurve is really tough on LHH and has a tight rotation with sharp late break out of the zone at times while other times he will front-door a LHH throwing it with a bigger bend and a bit slower, dropping it in the zone for a strike. If that isn’t enough pure stuff already – he showed 6 command of all his stuff and he changes up his delivery, sometimes quick pitching/slide-stepping from the windup and the stretch to really mess with a batter’s timing (see video below).

To read a full report and grades of Jesus Luzardo – click this link: (in order to access this premium content, you just need to sign-up for free)

After Luzardo dominated and froze the Rangers line-up he gave way to some Major League relievers and starters. The middle frames were highlighted by Joakim Soria, who I had seen pitch a few days ago, and again baffled hitters with his new trickery, by changing slots on all his pitches. He mostly worked with a 91-93 FB that appeared quicker at the plate and then threw a CB from over the top and from low 3/4 at varied velocities, going from 69 MPH to 75 MPH. His CB appeared to be more of a floater with lots of movement and he both froze hitters for strikes and got some swings and misses with it. I’m really curious to see how this pitch will play once the regular season starts. He threw one split from over the top at 87 MPH. It will be important for him (and typically for pitchers who change their slots) to be able to throw all his pitch types from both of his slots so he doesn’t “tip off” the pitch to the hitter before he actually releases it.

Soria gave way to Daniel Mengden, another player I have evaluated and liked in the past. Mengden is a throwback type of pitcher, in the sense he utilizes an over the head pump during his delivery and will also vary his timing to the plate with various pauses before he goes into his actual delivery of the pitch. One of the things I’ve always liked about Mengden (and pro pitchers in general) is the ability to throw an array of different pitches to keep hitters guessing. It’s generally harder for pitchers to have good command of each additional offering they throw because it takes more reps and practice to master, but Mengden has had success at the big league level with 4 different pitches. Today, he was mostly shuffling between his FB (which ranged from 90-94 and sat 93 early and 92 by his 2nd inning of work), Slider and Change-up. It wasn’t until his third inning of work when busted out his big hump curve ball and also featured a 5th pitch I hadn’t seen much of previously, an 87-88 mph cutter. The ability to throw 5 different pitches, all from a range of 74-94 MPH and WITH a unique/funky delivery gives him all the ingredients for being a legit mid-rotation starter. The only thing that I can see really holding him back is what he struggled with today at times, just missing his spots and being up in the zone because he would rush through and rip his front-side open. Check out the 2 videos below, first where he’s trying to throw his off-speed and at foot strike when the ball is about behind his head, his front side is very open and the ball ends up sailing high, arm side.

In the next video, on his FB, the very next pitch he makes the adjustment and keeps his front shoulder on line a bit longer, allowing him to get his release out in front.

Timing is going to be everything for Mengden if he hopes to gain the consistency to make him a solid rotation option for the A’s.

To finish off the A’s pitchers was former Brewers big leaguer, LHP Wei-Chung Wang. Interesting guy here, he had been taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Brewers back in 2014 and stayed with the Major League team the entire year (as the Rule 5 draft stipulations enforce), however he didn’t pitch well and when I saw him in the minors the following year pitching at High-A Brevard County Manatees (which is no longer a team, by the way), he was good but still a long way from getting back to the bigs. When he finally did get called up again in 2017, he didn’t fare well either, and as it stands he has a lifetime E.R.A. of over 11 in 22 games at the highest level. Still, Wang is only 26 years old and in camp as a minor league free agent, and he showed the makings of a shrewd pick-up by the Athletics. He pitched the last inning by pounding the zone with a 90-92 FB that was always cutting and then complimented it with a solidly deceptive change-up from 81-83, showing good velo separation between the FB/CH yet no noticeable variance of his release point or arm speed between the two offerings. If this guy can pitch like that, he’s going to be able to contribute at the big league level effectively, especially being a left hander who can throw strikes with the requisite velo and off-speed for success.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t yet mentioned any hitters, that’s because up until the bottom of the 6th inning there was a combined 1 hit and zero runs between both sides. Texas countered with two veteran starting pitchers back-to-back to open the game, LHP Drew Smyly who has been injured the past couple of years but looked to be regaining the form that made him a very solid rotation piece for Detroit and then Tampa Bay before injuring his arm in the World Baseball Classic after signing with the Seattle Mariners 2 years ago. His FB sat 91 with solid sinking action, that almost appeared to disappear as it reached the plate. He kept the ball low and induced weak contact. He also featured a lot of cutters around 88 mph, not very big but just enough movement at the end to miss barrels. When he needed a punch-out he would go to his big 12-6 curveball (77-79 mph) that he would start above the zone and drop it in for a called strike, and also start it in the zone and make it drop beneath it for a swing and a miss. He was throwing it effectively to LHH and then backdoor to RHH as well. He flashed a change-up at 85-86 mph but only on occasion. Overall, he can still be a very productive back-end starter if the arm holds up. After Smyly, RHP Jason Hammel came in and just pounded the zone with a good moving FB. The velo was 91-93 but it played up due to the cut, run, and boring action at times. His quality FB movement and ability to throw strikes was really all he needed on this day because there wasn’t much off-speed to grade out.

Oakland went with most of their starting lineup (sans the injured Khris Davis) as it looks like they’re trying to get everyone at least 3 AB’s right now before they head to Japan in about 10 days to start the MLB season over there vs. Seattle. Just a few quick notes on some of the lineup that I’ve now seen for a 3rd time:

Matt Chapman – yes this guy has a gold glove but I really like his patience at the plate, his bat path and his strength. There’s some Josh Donaldson in there and at 25 years of age and 2 full big league seasons under his belt, I’m predicting he hits over 30 homers this year. Even though he hasn’t done much during the games this Spring, just the way he is tracking the ball this early in March is a very good sign and that is what I’m basing my prediction on.

Steven Piscotty – I like the bat speed, he has some holes and can be pitched too but if it’s over the plate he’s going to hit the ball hard somewhere.

Jurikson Profar – We already talked about him in a previous post but he had a hard base hit to RF from the left-hand side today on a hanging off-speed that knocked in some runs. He’s going to breakout this year if he stays healthy. The defense at 2B is more than fine.

Chad Pinder – Haven’t seen him in the field but this guy takes hacks. Not a bad dude to have off the bench for some offense.

Sean Murphy – Catching prospect who probably won’t start the year with the big league team, but he showed plus bat speed, turning around an inside FB and hooking it just foul. This guy is coming and will be a nice productive offensive catcher at his peak.

Dustin Fowler – Another guy we talked about in a previous post. He hammered a homer today and every time I’ve seen him this Spring he puts a nice swing on the ball.

From the Texas side, it was hard to get a feel for their hitters, most of whom I was seeing live for the first time. Luzardo and the pen had their day. Eli White started (who was acquired in the 3-team deal with Oakland and Tampa that netted Oakland Profar). While he looked a bit over-matched today, I do like the swing and his ability to play around the field should make him an intriguing building block for a young Texas team. Of course, as many teams do during Spring Training on the road, they didn’t bring that many of their regulars with them, so if you’re a Texas fan or looking for more info on the Rangers players’, I’m sorry – this is not your post (also it’s Taco Tuesday and I need to get over to Taquitos Jalisco here in Mesa, an under-the-radar, above average Taco joint.


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Chicago White Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Glendale AZ)

The second week of our Spring Training Coverage begins and we renamed this “Blog” – “From The Scout’s Seat” (subject to change but we’ll roll with this for now).

Traveled across the valley for one of the longest drives you have for Spring Training in Arizona – approximately 35 minutes on the way in at noon. Compared to Spring Training in Florida where you routinely can have drives in the 3-4 hour range, this is quite nice.

Seeing these two teams for the first time this Spring I noticed I have familiarity with a little over half the roster and most of the Major League guys who I haven’t seen live, I have at least seen on TV at some point. Both starting pitchers were solid and impressive in different ways, even though they didn’t have their best stuff.

The White Sox started Reynaldo Lopez, a one-time top pitching prospect acquired from the Nationals a few years ago in the Adam Eaton trade. What jumped out at me was the FB velocity (sat 95 for the first few innings and worked in the 92-96 range overall) and quality movement of his FB (albeit inconsistent). He had heavy sink at times and showed the ability to get a nice tight rotation with “hop at the top” when he was ahead in the count. Lopez also flashed two above average secondary pitches: A slider with late and true, 2-plane break in the 83-85 range and very solid change-up that showed quality movement at times and was able to get RHH and LHH to swing and miss on it when he sold it. Early in the game he threw all his pitches with the same arm speed giving him some deception and only made one mistake to power hitting Jarrett Parker, leaving a FB out over the plate that Parker backspinned into the opposite field for a dinger. Lopez showed enough stuff that he is at least a solid, league average starter right now, his command, however, was inconsistent and he definitely wasn’t precise to spots, not wild, but not always in the zone and not economical with his pitches. There’s upside for him to be an above average starter as he’s still just 25 years of age but with 4 command of all his pitches and an inconsistent release point, he’s only a mid-rotation guy for me right now. I would compare him to a right-handed version of Francisco Liriano. Plus stuff with inconsistent command.

Reynaldo Lopez (CWS) with a high FB to strike out Justin Bour and end the inning

Countering Lopez was 31-year old RHP Trevor Cahill. Like a true veteran he showed the ability to mix and match, AND locate an assortment of average pitches. Nothing blows you away but he knows how to pitch and puts the ball where he wants to. His FB was in the 90-93 range (a 2-seam 90-91 with tailing action and sometimes heavier sink and a 4-seam that was 92-93 with a little cut at the end). Overall his FB played slightly better than average with better than average movement and command and he worked around it with his solid 3/4 spike Curve (79-80 mph) that has a big shape at times and a solid change-up (81-83 mph) that he commands to both sides of the plate and uses it vs. RHH and LHH. His delivery is balanced and repeatable and his almost over-the-top slot is unique enough to give him some deception as well.

After the starting pitchers left the game, a slew of relievers with good FB’s but working generally much slower kind of slowed the game to a halt. At one point I began to notice the pitch clock in RF next to the scoreboard but I don’t think the umpires or the players paid much attention to it. Often a pitcher would come set with about 3-4 seconds remaining on the clock and then hold the ball another 4-5 seconds before delivering, all while the clock would be shut off as soon as they would come set. Plus, a batter can step out of the box and ask for time or the catcher can put his hands up and reset the clock as well. The clock was definitely ineffective.

Two Angels relievers caught my attention, each new to the organization – RHP Luis Garcia and RHP Hansel Robles. Garcia who I have seen before with the Phillies organization featured a FB 93-97 and a late breaking average quality slider 84-86. His command was below average and his stuff was a bit all over the place but there’s enough there to get outs in the big leagues. He was relieved by Robles who threw from a lower 3/4 slot with a 96-97 FB that seemed to explode at the plate. His angle was definitely tough on RHH but LHH seemed to see him a bit better. He featured a secondary pitch – a hard slider, cutter type that kept moving away from RHH at 88-89 MPH but seemed to lack depth. Meanwhile, the White Sox brought in some quality big league relievers – first RHP Alex Colome, former All-Star closer for Tampa Bay and he showed average command of a 95-96 FB and late power slider/cutter that was 90-92 and definitely a well above average offering (somewhere between a 6-7 grade for sure). After Colome, Nate Jones came in, and he’s funky and different. I’ve seen him get near triple digits before but today he was only 95 but still effective with his unique delivery.

Offensively, the most interesting non-Major Leaguer I saw was top rated Angels prospect Jo Adell. I had never seen him before and I came away impressed. He has a lean and athletic frame (that will probably continue to fill-out) and he has a really nice, handsy swing with bat speed and contact ability. He showed advanced plate discipline for his age and worked the counts well, not getting too big, especially with 2-strikes, and making pitchers get him out with quality pitches instead of expanding the zone and chasing. He’s the type of player you definitely notice at the plate with his approach and swing. He kind of reminded me of a young Gary Sheffield. Maybe not quite the same bat speed but there’s a lot to like there. The Angles also started former Giants prospect Jarrett Parker who thus far hasn’t really produced in his big league time but he did today. He looked confident with his swing and let the ball travel. He smashed an opposite field homer, drew a walk and hit a 1B, keeping his hands back on a change-up. He’s 30 years old now and definitely well past prospect status as a non-roster invite but there’s a chance for him to make a team and I could see a 2nd division club rolling with him as a platoon bat and him becoming a productive hitter in the bigs if he has more days like today.

Jo Adell (LAA) with a swing and miss, but oh what a nice swing it is!

The White Sox rolled with a couple of regulars, some AAA and non-roster invites and former Detroit Tigers starting catcher James McCann, who I’ve always been a fan of. McCann was non-tendered by the Tigers this past winter and I thought the White Sox were shrewd to pick him up, since finding solid starting big league catchers who can hit a little bit, is still, and always will be a tall order. McCann looked solid behind the dish and you know he provides veteran leadership with a good idea how to handle a staff since he worked with a number of Cy Young winners while with the Tigers (Verlander, Porcello, Price, Scherzer, and former ERA leader Anibal Sanchez). McCann struggled last year hitting, but today he swang the bat okay, blooping a 1B into RF and staying back on an outside FB in his 2nd plate appearance and backspinning a ball to the opposite field warning track. I think this was a solid pick-up for the Sox who will be competing for what might be a wide-open Central Division. McCann will provide leadership, solid defense and if he can regain his confidence at the plate – he can be good for a .230 – .240 average and 15 HR, which is hard to come by from the catching position.

My last take-away: The one thing that really stands out to me at these Spring Training games is the noticeable difference between the guys with big league time or big league tools and the players that are either overmatched by a lack of tools or have yet to become confident in their abilities. From the approach at the plate or the command on the mound, you can just SEE how a big leaguer or a future big leaguer carries themselves compared to the others. Most fans come to these games and really wouldn’t notice that much of a difference on the field. In fact, some of the guys who tend to be overmatched or lacking in skills or experience can have productive AB’s or outings on the bump from time to time and look like they do belong. However, when you really focus and zero in on how they walk up to the plate, how they breathe in between pitches, how they react after swinging and missing or how they approach a ball in the field – you CAN see the difference. You just have to watch the game.


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Oakland vs. Cleveland (Mesa AZ)

Day 2 of Baseball Spy’s Spring Training coverage and thanks to everyone who checked out and signed-up yesterday!

A little rain sprinkled the stunned scouting section expecting Arizona sun and 75 as the forecast called for. Cleveland traveled over from Goodyear with mostly non-roster invites, a minor league roster and some 25-man roster guys needing extra AB’s (I see you Taylor Naquin). Trevor Bauer started and cruised through 4 innings, not really amping up his FB but throwing his improved Change-ups in big spots. Bauer and Oakland starter Nathan Blackburn set the tone for what turned out to be a pitcher’s day, with both teams giving up a combined 7 hits and only 1 run (on a passed ball). Oakland rolled with 2 former Closers – Joakim Soria and the ageless Fernando Rodney and then brought in current closer Blake Treinen during the middle frames. None of them gave up a hit. Soria utilized different arm slots than I’ve seen in the past, including a slow bending low 3/4 breaking ball that got impatient Cleveland hitters out in front. Treinen was ONLY topping out at 96 on this day but his slow developing delivery and deceptive release makes that ball appear a lot quicker at the plate than the radar gun reads. Pretty much every batter was overmatched by him.

The most interesting “prospect” today was Frankie Montas, who I don’t think really qualifies as a prospect anymore. I have seen him in years sitting upper 90s and topping out over 100. Today he pitches from 91-95 over the last 3 innings and mostly sat 93 MPH. His FB was tight and had good late sinking action at times but more importantly he commanded it to both sides of the plate effectively. He also showcased a power slurve from 81-85 MPH that fooled RHH and showed a big shape change-up at 84-85 MPH that is at least a Major League average offering and potentially an above average pitch when all said and done. He showed 6 command of both off-speed pitches in addition to his FB. He has an efficient transfer of energy in his delivery and he repeats it very well. His overall control was above average, always in the zone, and he knew what he was doing – even incorporating a quick-pitch/slide-step at times from the windup and stretch, giving him an additional weapon to keep hitters off-balance.

There wasn’t much to report offensively except former top prospect Dustin Fowler (who seems to have that prospect title forever), with a really nice opposite field slash when he came on later in the game as a replacement. I liked the swing.

– Boomer

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Oakland vs. Colorado (Mesa, AZ)

Baseball Spy’s first game of 2019! And we are officially launched at 1:00 PM MT, 5 minutes before first pitch!

Aaron Brooks (RHP) started for Oakland and threw what seemed like over 50% Change-ups. I’ve got it graded as a Major League average offering. He didn’t feature many breaking pitches, and the ones he did tended to lack consistent shape and sharpness. His 2-seam FB was 89-91 mostly sinking and he ran his 4-seam FB from 92-94 but the command was only fringe-average at best. Still he showed solid control overall and ability to compete with FB/CH combo. He’s a guy on the periphery of a roster, but if he gets his command going a bit better and gets one of the breaking pitches going enough to at least be a change of pace/look type of pitch – he can be a Role 3 Long Reliever. Right now I have him more as an extra big leaguer, up-down value.

Oakland started most of their main guys with new off-season acquisition, Jurikson Profar, the former #1 prospect in the sport according to multiple publications, looking pretty good from both sides of the dish. He showed good plate coverage and the ability to hit the ball with authority to all fields. I like his quick twitch swing and he plays the game with enthusiasm and a smile. Maybe this change of scenery will help creep towards the unrealistic and often lofty expectations bestowed upon him as a minor leaguer. In the 5th inning we started to see the mass exodus of starters during these Spring Training games but that means 4 of Oakland’s better prospects appeared, all of whom I’ve scouted before: Catcher Sean Murphy, INF Jorge Mateo, OF Luis Barrera, and INF Franklin Barretto. Tough to write up full reports on an AB or two, especially this early in the Spring. However, on first glance, Franklin looks in mid-season form. With his filled-out short, stocky, strong and athletic frame he looks like he got very serious about his conditioning and strength. He showed a quiet, compact but strong swing – rifling 2 balls over SS, and turning one into a hustle double out of the box, going 4.5 down the line on a turn. He’s definitely trying to win a roster spot.

I wasn’t really that focused on Colorado’s hitters but prospect Ryan McMahon, who I have never seen live before, stood out. He showed me a really nice powerful swing from the left-hand side, belting a homer later in the game – the swing was fluid and quick with a good path to the ball.

Overall, it’s good to be back at the ballpark scouting again! Day 1 in the books.

– Boomer

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