Monday, May 24, 2010

Trayce Thompson - OF - Kannapolis Intimidators

Trayce Thompson is a wirey 6'3" and 195. Tall, slim frame with relaxed and balanced approach at the plate. Still a work in progress at the plate. Needs to work on identifying the off-speed pitches as he tends to get out on his front foot. Much like Nate McClouth with an upper cut that he tends to exaggerate at times. Power will come as he continues to gain strength and fill out. Average speed out of the box and on the base paths. Intelligent on the base paths and an excellent hustle factor will make him an above average base runner as he continues to play at the pro level.
Also plays an intelligent center field. Covers the field from gap to gap. Long strides with a smooth approach to fly balls. Average arm strength, but still raw defensive talent at this point. One opportunity caught sacrifice fly at the wall (approximately 370 feet) set his feet and delivered a one hop throw to home plate. As he continues to gain experience and strength delivery from outfield should improve. Needs to get ball down and more on a line.
Very much a work in progress, but it's still early in his development. An athlete that has an obvious passion and drive to improve. A lot of upside and with continued development a solid center field prospect for the White Sox organization. Should be a starter at the major league level.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Joe Serafin - LHP - Kannapolis Intimidators

Joe Serafin, a 5'10" LHP out of the University of Vermont, was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 37th round of the 2009 Amateur Draft and currently playing for the Kannapolis Intimidators of the South Atlantic League. Throws a lot of off speed stuff. Fast ball stays in the low 80s. A slider/2 seam fastball that comes in the mid 70s and a curve ball that stays around the high 60s. Wind up and delivery has a lot of movement and is very mechanical with a high leg kick. Tends to leave the ball up in the zone. With the low velocity and the consistent off speed stuff he needs to keep the ball low in the zone and get ground balls. Gets hit hard when he leaves the ball up in the zone, 5 of 10 hits allowed today were extra base hits to the gaps or home runs along with 2 line drive base hits to the gap. Lacks stamina at this point to be a viable starting option (averaging approximately 5 innings per outing). The more pitches he throws the more he leaves it up in the zone. Effective when he keeps it down in the zone, forces a lot of ground balls and can get the double play ball when needed. Doesn't appear to have the confidence in his stuff with runners on base and tends to aim the ball. Needs to trust his stuff and his catcher to be able to throw off speed pitches down in the zone and get much needed outs with runners on. Works well to both sides of the plate and keeps the ball off the sweet spot of the bat early in the game.
Its still early, but Serafin needs to gain confidence in his stuff and work more consistently through 2nd and 3rd times through the lineup. Otherwise a move to middle relief may be in his future with the organization.

Dallas Tarleton - C - Asheville Tourists

With a 1.7-1.9 pop time, Dallas Tarleton, has allowed him to throw out 14 of 31 base stealers (45%) in only 18 games this season. He gets a quick shuffle and takes ball directly to the ear and releases the ball with an average release time in the .65 range. Liability defensively is he will sometime throw off the back foot or sling the ball causing the ball to tail toward right field. Does well keeping ball in front. Blocks balls well to the right and left (only 3 past balls this year). Needs to funnel ball directly in front more, often bounces off to 1st or 3rd base sides. Calls a good game behind the plate. Mixes it up a lot and doesn't show setup too early but presents an effective target for the pitcher.
Offensively, he has yet to show much consistency. For his career (granted that only amounts to 166 at bats) he is under the Mendoza Line (which is .200) at .199. Short in stature, Tarleton stands in the plate with a textbook upper body swing. Easy load, hands move back, slightly open stance closes and he is down and through the ball. Swing is not quick, which could explain his early inconsistencies. Hits ball well to center and left. Has line drive power from gap to gap. Has yet to hit a home run in his pro career. Weak on the inner half of the plate. Needs to improve bat speed and ability to hit that inside pitch and power will come. Another hint that bat speed needs to improve is the 1 strike out per every 4 at bats.
Defensive ability will keep him in the system. Has the potential to hit for power and his ability to hit the ball gap to gap give him the potential to hit near .275 (career .324 at Elon University). Playing in a catching heavy organization. Will probably continue moving up the ranks with another organization.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Jared Clark -1B, 3B & DH - Asheville Tourists

Jared Clark a right handed hitting first baseman for the Asheville Tourists has gotten an opportunity to play and has made the most of it. With Mike Zuanich currently on the disabled list Clark has assumed the role of the everyday first baseman. The Colorado Rockies selected Clark in the 12th round of the 2009 draft out of Cal State Fullerton.
Clark's a tall strong player that can hit to all fields with power. Has shown power at all levels. Hits for average as well despite high strike out numbers (once every five at bats). Is a run producer and fits well in the third spot in the line-up. Lacks aggression at times at the plate. Takes a lot of pitches and has tendency to strike out looking. Addresses plate with a crouched open stance and hands/arms around the ears (a right handed approach similar to Ryan Church of the Pittsburgh Pirates). Wraps the bat in a busy load which causes some long casted swings. Current weakness is the inside pitch. Taking strikes gives pitchers opportunity to pound him inside. To compensate, starts his swing (prestep/load) early in effort to catch up to the inside fastball. Will need to shorten swing from beginning to end as he progresses through system in order to remain successful and continue advancement at the plate.
Student of the game type guy. Has played everywhere on field throughout career. Has firm grasp of team concept (Team USA experience and College World Series participant) and plenty of experience as well. This provides a leadership and field general quality.
Defensively plays a solid first base. Reacts well to ball at first. Plays the ball, not the player throwing the ball. Handles short hops, errant throws and can stretch to get a ball when needed. Is quick off the bag when holding runners on and is ready to handle any batted ball. Reacts quickly and knows where to go with the ball when it comes his way. Moves well to his left and right. Moves to keep the ball in front. Can play either infield corner. Arm strength is solid, but has long slinging arm action at times, but has the arm strength to play right field if necessary.
Is a little older than most draft picks from the same year, luckily his experience internationally and in CWS should compensate for that "late start." Will not have trouble finding an everyday spot in the lineup when Zuanich returns from injury. Positional flexibility is a huge benefit for Clark. The organization is pretty heavy at the first base position, including a higher 2009 draft pick than Clark in Ben Paulsen (3rd round out of Clemson University) playing for the Advanced - A Modesto Nuts. However, Paulsen, Kiel Rolling & Matt Repec (AA Tulsa Drillers), Mike Paulk and Brad Eldred (AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox) are all having less than stellar seasons looking solely at the numbers. Thus, there is the potential for internal movement at first base in the organization.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Asheville Tourists - Nick Schnaitmann

Nick Schnaitmann threw 7 solid innings and gave up 2 earned runs on 7 hits Tuesday night. Schnaitmann's tall (6'6) frame gives him a solid angle at which to deliver the fastball from. Smooth delivery from a 90 degree plane on the mound. Keeps the arm on the same plane with his right leg during delivery. High 80s to low 90s fastball that can touch mid 90s at times. When his pitching arm doesn't stay directly behind him he tends to lose a little bit of control. Delivery is fluid and appears effortless. Economical with his pitches and stays around the strike zone. Works ahead in the count, which allows him to utilize his slider. Slider has good movement and is his strike out pitch (3 Ks on the night). Arm action is pretty consistent through all of his pitches, but Schnaitmann elevated the off speed offerings which is where most of his against him came from. Pretty consistent from the stretch as well. Holds runners well for someone without a slide step and predictable delivery times. Similar build and delivery to Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves. Spent second half of 2009 on Disabled List (DL), a set back that appears to be behind the 20 year old.
Shows poise and maturity so long as things are going well. Shows a loss of focus when defense makes and error or he gives up a solid hit on a good pitch. In his 2 losses on the year he has an ERA of 17.06 over 6.1 innings and in his 2 wins an ERA of 2.03 over 13.1 innings. Hitters are hitting .484 against him in those losses and .240 in the wins. If he has it going early as he did in his most recent start, then Schnaitmann should deliver a solid outing. However, if he gives up some hits early or struggles to find the strike zone, then he becomes shaky as exhibited in the previous stats and a WHIP (Walks/Hits per Innings Pitched) of 3.32 in his losses and a respectable 1.05 in the wins for an overall WHIP of 1.78. At only 20 years old, this should improve with time and experience.
Career parallels that of Hanson as well. Both were selected out of junior colleges in California in the 22nd round of their respective drafts (Hanson - 2005 & Schnaitmann - 2008). In an even more ironic twist, both were the 677th picks in those drafts. In 14 starts for the Rome Braves of the South Atlantic League in 2007, Hanson was 2-6 with an ERA of 2.59 before being called up.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Braves 1B Prospect Freddie Freeman

In 2007 the Atlanta Braves made the most of the first two rounds of the draft. With their first round pick the Braves were able to secure OF Jason Heyward, who has quickly become the favorite for this year's Rookie of the Year honors. With their second round pick in that draft the Braves selected 1B Freddie Freeman out of El Modena High School in Orange, CA.
Freeman and Heyward have essentially been joined at the hip since being drafted. The two players have made every organizational leap together until Freeman was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett at the end of Spring Training and Heyward earned the starting right field spot with Atlanta. However, the close proximity of Atlanta to Gwinnett has allowed the two to remain roommates this season.
Freeman is considered one of the top minor league prospects in the Braves organization and probably the next guy to make the jump from Triple-A to everyday starter for the big league club. Freeman was selected as a first baseman, but was a highly regarded pitching prospect for many major league teams. Had he not gone to the Braves with the 78th overall pick, then it is probable that Freeman would have been drafted as a pitcher. Thus, he has above average arm strength for a first baseman.
Freeman is 6 ft. 5 in. and weighs in at 225. His length and stature probably keep him from being a candidate to move to the hot corner if he were to ever need to find a spot to play in order to get his bat into the Braves lineup. His arm strength and his fielding ability at first could be useful in left field if the Braves were to need a long term option in that position, which has become a platoon position for the Braves since Chipper Jones moved back to third base a few years back. Freeman does well keeping the ball in front of him and is able to handle just about any hop that comes his way. In several chances this afternoon against the Durham Bulls, Freeman managed to make a few solid defensive plays.
Freeman spent Spring Training 2010 with the Braves in Orlando and managed some respectable numbers. He went 14-42 (.333 BA) with 3 doubles and 7 RBIs. His walk to strikeout ratio (1-4) is a bit concerning, but that is to be expected from young power hitters. Currently Freeman is hitting .254 (18-71) with Gwinnett with 4 HRs (including one as I wrote this) and 12 RBIs. His BB/SO is still pretty high (3 walks to 16 strikeouts) this season. This will improve with time, experience and at bats. That ratio could be largely attributed to his sometimes long swing which when it pops up causes Freeman to be a little late on some pitches. When it does get long he tends to weakly foul some balls off to the third base side. He is not a feast or famine type hitter, despite the number of strikeouts early this year. His 10 singles, 4 doubles, 1 triple and 4 home runs have been pretty well scattered across the field. His current batting average is on the rise after somewhat of a slow start in his new surroundings.
When will this guy make his Major League debut? I would think it would be sooner, rather than later. The Atlanta Braves are struggling at the plate right now and are getting very little production from Troy Glaus at first base. Glaus is hitting .186 with 2 HRs and 8 RBIs. His 17 strikeouts have come in some crucial situations. He has also become a double-play liability, which does not bode well for a lineup that is currently only getting production from the guys hitting directly in front of Glaus. In his defense, Glaus did not play last year and is still getting back into the swing of things. However, he seems to have had enough time to get going. I would expect Bobby Cox to give the veteran first baseman another month or so before pulling any trigger. Eric Hinske has spent some platoon time at first base, but he is not the long term option. If Glaus is taken out of the lineup for any amount of time, traded or just placed on waivers, then expect Hinske to take over as the starting first baseman. You may even see Omar Infante as the starting second baseman and Martin Prado move over to first. Unless the season gets out of hand, and the Braves find themselves out of playoff contention, then I wouldn't expect to see Freeman on the 25-man roster prior to September call ups. My projection is that he will be the starting first baseman for the Braves on Opening Day 2011.

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