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May 2, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Scouting Scratch: Following up on the Sea Dogs

-In a stroke of good timing, I had a chance to catch Stolmy Pimentel’s first start of the season during this swing up through Portland. The first thing that stuck out was how much more under control his delivery was. Outside of his third inning, Pimentel kept himself balanced and was landing more softly on his front foot. As a result, he was able stay locked into a high ¾ arm slot to throw downward with his fastball and spot it in the lower tier of the strike zone with frequency. I had his fastball sitting 92-94 mph and topping out at 95 mph a couple of times. In the inning he labored, Pimentel was rough with his landing and had trouble finishing his fastball. This resulted in his fastball staying up in the zone and flattening out. The sharp contrast was noticeable, but Pimentel was able to right the ship to finish the outing strong. This was also the first time I have seen him throw his slider in an appearance, after scrapping his curveball last season upon his demotion to Salem. The slider came in at 82-85 mph and showed tight, late power-break. Pimentel felt this offering well and had much more command of it than he did with his curveball, which had gotten very loopy and inconsistent last season.

-I touched on Bryce Brentz’s need to tone down his aggressiveness at the plate a few weeks ago and this scouting opportunity provided a chance to follow-up on that. Brentz was much more relaxed in the box. He was able to keep both his hands and weight back during his stride, which enabled him to hit inside of the baseball. Brentz drove two doubles into each gap on fastballs. The first heater was a touch on the inner third of the plate and at the belt. He was quick pulling his hands in to clean the ball out with backspin. Brentz was much more fluid with his lower body mechanics, staying closed with his hips as he started his swing. The second double came against an elevated fastball that was middle-away. The count was 0-2 and the pitch was a bit of mistake from the opposing pitcher, but Brentz again stayed fluid with his lower body and drove the head of the bat out to the ball to plug the right-centerfield gap with a hard, rising line drive off the wall. He still shows the tendency to want to chase high fastballs. This one, though, was in a better spot for him to handle and Brentz was more controlled with his swing.

-Right-handed reliever Aaron Kurcz featured his secondary stuff more in the outing I saw during this trip up to Portland. His breaking ball ranged from 75-80 mph in this appearance. It is presently more of a slurve and varies with the tightness of the break. The first seven he threw were 75-77 mph and broke like a curveball. The last three he snapped off were 78-80 mph, with slider action. I thought the harder look of the pitch played better with his fastball. The late break was more deceiving. Kurcz also mixed in an 82-85 mph changeup, with arm-side fade. His command of the pitch was below-average in this outing as it tended to float up in the strike zone. Kurcz’s arm-speed was a bit inconsistent and his arm dragged a couple of times as well. It is a pitch he is still learning how to feel. His fastball was consistently 92-93 mph until he tired out at the tail end of his appearance. Kurcz can throw the heater past batters, but tends to work too elevated with the pitch and fails to spot it. Sharpening the command is a need going forward as he transitions to the upper minors.

-Similar to the previous outing I saw, Chris Hernandez came out of the gate with so-so command of his arsenal and then got into a long groove as the start progressed. Hernandez did not have much feel for his fastball early, leaving it up in the zone and having it put into play hard. At 85-86 mph, it is a pitch with which he cannot afford to miss. As he got past the first inning, he used his fastball as a secondary pitch and leaned heavily on his 81-83 mph cutter, while mixing in his changeup and curveball. Hernandez’s cutter is his best pitch. He is able to throw it to both sides of the plate and the late break keeps opposing hitters off-balance. Even when he missed his spots with it, the Reading batters were still so far out in front of it that all they could do was roll weakly over the pitch and pound it into the ground. Hernandez will be pushed to locate better and show more crispness with his curveball against hitters closer to the major leagues, however. Despite the results, I thought he got away with a lot of mistakes.

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