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April 19, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Scouting Scratch: Three games in Portland



- Kolbrin Vitek has looked more comfortable down at third base and sure of himself in the early going of the season. He has been fronting the ball better with his body, along with showing quicker reads on grounders hit his way. Vitek’s throwing mechanics are a bit robotic though and he tends to push the ball over to first base. This causes his accuracy to waver, with his throws losing some steam on approach despite possessing solid-average-to-better arm strength. Vitek has made progress improving his defense down at the hot corner, but looks best suited for a move off the position. His movements do not look natural or like those of a future major leaguer at the hot corner.

- Right-handed reliever Aaron Kurcz showed a live fastball in his outings during this scouting swing. Sitting 92 mph and topping out at 93 mph, Kurcz produces solid velocity for a pitcher relatively slight of build. His command of the offering was about average in those appearances. He works to stay on top of the ball, but at times lets it get away from him, resulting in too many balls in the upper tier of the strike zone. Kurcz has also worked a 73-75 mph three-quarters breaking ball occasionally into sequences. With improvement tightening the pitch up and producing harder break, he can develop more power and bite with the pitch down the line.

-Oscar Tejeda was not challenged much in left field during my views, but has not looked out of place in the outfield. He has read the ball off the bat well when tracking flyballs. Tejeda does drift at the end of his routes and stab at the ball, but that is to be expected from a player just transitioning to the position. The test will come with harder hit drives out his way and ones that challenge his range. There has not been much of a feel for how much ground Tejeda can cover in the outfield as of yet. Offensively, he has still shown the need for keeping his hands and weight back when hitting secondary offerings. He consistently gets too far out in front of these offerings, resulting in weak, waving swings or wild ones due to being fooled.

-Derrik Gibson’s defensive instincts have been on display in game action, turning in some athletic plays in the shortstop hole. Gibson reads the ball off the bat well and utilizes a quick first step to cover a lot of ground at the position. His jerky throwing mechanics make it a challenge for him to make the longer throws. Gibson is quick with his release, but the arm does not play up well for a projection as a full-time defender at the position. His defensive ability can push him as a potential utility-type infielder if the development of his bat sees stronger gains this season. Gibson has looked better trying to attack fastballs in the early going of this season, but the inconsistencies with his swing mechanics leave some doubts as to whether he can make enough progress to hit advanced pitching.

-The physical aspects of Dan Butler’s defensive game behind the plate have shown to be polishing off well and trending towards those of a major league defender. Butler moves well behind the dish, positioning his body properly to block or smother offerings in the dirt. He also shows quick feet to fire out of his crouch smoothly. Butler’s arm grades as right around plus, but he does cup the ball at times when releasing. This slows him down a tad and makes him longer when throwing. He can clean this aspect up to become a receiver who can control the running game. The next steps lie with his game calling and management skills. Butler gets repetitive and predictable with his pitch patterns. At times, he calls the same secondary pitch three or even four times in a row and fails to mix offerings enough to keep opposing batters from sitting on one specific spot. With the physical game down, this season’s development goals look to be geared towards improving the strategic portion of playing the position.

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen

 
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