February 6, 2012 at 8:00 AM
With Spring Training set to get under way, SoxProspects.com will be taking an in depth look at many of the system's prospects with previews set for every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leading up to Opening Day. The first installment of the series features a young arm working on becoming more consistent and a 2011 Draft Pick set to begin his first full season as a professional.
Position: Starting Pitcher
2011 Team: Lowell Spinners
2012 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 21
Strengths: Younginer possesses a live arm and a frame with more room to add strength as he continues to mature. His 90-93 MPH fastball shows late, downward finish when he is staying on top of the baseball. Younginer can reach back with his heater to touch 95 MPH and produce late swings or freeze batters when he is spotting it on the corners of the plate. With continued focus on strengthening his lower body, he should be able to operate in the upper reaches of his velocity more consistently. Younginer shows improving feel for both of his secondary offerings. While his 73-76 MPH curveball is on the inconsistent side, he produces hard snap and can create deep break through the strike zone when executing the pitch properly. The pitch has plus potential. Younginer’s changeup has made the most improvement since he signed with the organization in 2009. Approaching the plate at 83-85 MPH, the offering shows late arm-side fade when he throws it from an over-the-top arm slot. Younginer has gotten better at keeping his arm speed consistent when throwing his changeup and this has led to getting more swings-and-misses with the pitch.
Development Needs: Younginer’s delivery is still on the rough and rigid side. He is not a very loose thrower. Struggling to consistently bring his arm into slot due to long and extended arm action behind his back, his command and control suffer considerably. Younginer’s fastball tends to sail on him when he cannot repeat his arm slot and flattens out, losing its late finish. Failure to spot his fastball leads to innings of laboring and instances of high contact when he does come into the strike zone. His curveball also rolls towards the plate, lacking tight rotation when he struggles to keep his hand on top of the baseball and instead wraps around it. Batters tend to get a long look at his grip due to how early he shows the ball during his arm extension. He also strains to create velocity as a stiff thrower, which puts extra stress on his arm and suppresses his fastball velocity. Younginer has solid overall stuff, but the robotic and jerky nature of his delivery does not allow him throw it with crispness. He needs a lot more work loosening up his delivery, especially with eliminating the difficulty he has bringing his arm into slot, to enhance his presently below-average command. Younginer looks best suited as a reliever in higher levels if he can make progress cleaning up his delivery.
2012 Outlook: After spending the last two seasons with the Lowell Spinners, Younginer should have a strong chance to break camp with the Greenville Drive. Expect him to continue to work in a starting role to give him the repetitions needed to try to smooth out his delivery and sharpen his stuff. The South Atlantic League will be tough for Younginer if he cannot consistently command his arsenal and is forced to groove fastballs when behind in the count. Positive signs that he is commanding his fastball better should show with a reduction in his walks and less frequent contact against. Younginer has plenty of talent, but the progress has been slow. His delivery has looked relatively the same since signing with the organization and his command continues to be an issue. 2012 is a big season for him to show some signs of progress in his first full-season assignment. He has the stuff to be successful against A-ball hitters this season, but inconsistency with his command will hold him back and push him towards a bullpen role more quickly.
2011 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
2012 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners
Opening Day Age: 19
Strengths: Weems has a smooth, compact swing from the left-side of the plate. He brings the head of the bat quickly through the hitting zone, showing the ability to square up fastballs with backspin. He demonstrates the type of bat control to profile as an average-to-solid-average hitter as he starts to learn the strike zone. Standing 6’3’’ and weighing 175 pounds, Weems is presently very lanky, but has the type of frame that can pack on muscle as he matures into his mid-twenties. With a swing path that shows some upward plane, he projects out as having about solid-average power potential as he learns to lift the ball. Weems demonstrates quick reactions defensively and an early understanding of how to get his body in front of the ball when blocking offerings in the dirt. He controls himself when moving laterally and is firm with his target. Weems has the defensive tools to stick at the position as he progresses into the upper minors.
Development Needs: Weems needs to get stronger so that his body can handle the rigors of life as a professional catcher. His lower body presently lacks strength, which hurts him when he comes out of his crouch. Weems has a plus arm, but shows a slow release when throwing down to second base. He presently struggles to drive out of his crouch and has long throwing mechanics. Added strength will also be key to his offensive development. Weems’ bat tends to drag through the hitting zone due to his lack of strength. He hits with a lot of his upper body, opens his hips early, and can yank the head of the bat with too much top hand. This is typically seen in hitters adjusting to wood bats, but the progress Weems makes improving his plate coverage with his swing will dictate how quickly he can begin to make consistent contact as a professional.
2012 Outlook: Weems looks like a prime candidate to stay back in Florida when the full-season teams head north and then begin the 2012 season with the Lowell Spinners. He did not physically look ready in the 2011 Fall Instructional League to handle the grind of a full-season assignment. The additional offensive repetition of seeing pitches in Extended Spring Training will also be good for Weems to begin working on honing a professional approach and learn to extend better with his swing to drive the ball to the opposite field. Spending a summer with Lowell will provide him with his first extended test against advanced pitching. I do not expect him to show much in-game power this season, but to progress with sharpening his approach to allow him to make more consistent contact as the year moves along. Weems will need to learn to hit with more lower-body to drive the ball better as he matures. This season should serve as an introductory year for him to begin working on polishing his rough edges and ramp up to breaking camp with the Greenville Drive in 2013.
Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen