June 29, 2012 at 7:30 AM
-The two things that jumped out after getting the initial look at Deven Marrero were his athleticism and quick hands during his swing. Although Marrero served as the designated hitter and did not play the field, his athleticism was on display as he ran the bases. He got out of the box well and was very fluid with his actions in going from first to third. Marrero’s hands are the strength with his swing. Although on the level side, he is fluid using his hands to start his load quickly and pull them in as he brings the head of the bat through the zone. There is not much more room on his frame to fill out, but he has the type of hands to stay inside of the ball and produce backspin. He shows a feel for hitting and how to control the head of the bat.
-Jose Iglesias was finishing up his rehab assignment after a lay-off due to a back injury, but the underlining theme of my scouting opportunities the last two years continued to show. There is a lot of work to go handling breaking balls. Iglesias has improved with shrinking down his strike zone, but has a tough time keeping his hands back when trying to attack secondary offerings. His hips open up quickly, which causes him to bring his hands too far forward along his body. This results in Iglesias only being able to lunge at the ball and leads to a lot of weak contact. Without much power, it is important for him to be able to stay back to utilize his batspeed and square offerings up. Iglesias’ below-average pitch recognition hinders his offensive game. It shows with how he gets in-between fastballs and appears to be guessing in counts. So far this season, he does not look much closer to being ready to handle major league pitching than at the end of 2011.
-Newly acquired Zach Stewart heavily relied on his 88-91 mph two-seam fastball during his first outing with Pawtucket. Stewart showed strong feel and pitchability with the offering, pounding the lower tier of the strike zone on both sides of the plate for most of his six innings of work. Although a bit of a short-armer, he is consistent with his delivery and there is not a lot of wasted effort that could tire him out. His two-seamer is a contact inducing pitch and is not going to miss bats. At times, he did miss spots with the pitch and worked up in the strike zone. The damage was minimal at this level, but a major league lineup would have done more with the mistakes. Stewart’s four-seam fastball has regressed since seeing him last season with Manchester and he has lost some feel for it. The arm-speed was there, but it lacked life and topped out at 92 mph a couple of times. The return of his ability to utilize the four-seamer to throw it past hitters is key, if he is to be successful at the big league level. Stewart’s 82-85 mph slider was the only offering that missed bats in the outing and hitters began laying off of it after the first trip through, keying in early on the two-seamer.
Northeast Scout Ian Cundall checks in with some observations after spending the last week covering Lowell and Pawtucket.
-While extremely young and filled with potential, Williams Jerez has a long way to go, especially at the plate. Presently, Jerez has well-below average pitch recognition and really struggles picking up breaking balls, especially from left-handers. He is consistently out in front of those offerings, resulting in some ugly swings against bad breaking balls in the dirt. If he does make contact, it’s often a weak groundball chopped to the right side as he commits too early and is unable to wait back on the pitch. Jerez’s struggles against breaking balls also impacts his ability to hit fastballs. When down in the count, Jerez can get caught guessing breaking ball, causing him to be late on fastballs. When this occurs, Jerez tends to slash at the ball and if he makes contact, it’s generally weak and to the left side. As noted in a prior first-hand report, Jerez swing looked defensive, but a follow-up look showed a more aggressive swing, where he tried to attack the ball. The best example of this occurred when he got a fastball away, which he attacked and lined hard into the left-center gap for a double. Jerez still struggles with fastballs on the inner half and needs to work on pulling his hands in to hit inside the ball. One tool Jerez has impressed with so far in initial looks has been his speed. At the plate, Jerez has turned more than one ball in the gap into a double and he has multiple infield singles due to his speed which grades as plus-to-better. In the field, while his routes are still a work in progress, he can easily make up for a poor read using his long strides to track balls in the gap.
-Kendrick Perkins generates plus raw power and when he squares the ball up he produces strong backspin. Perkins has a fluid swing with a slight uppercut, which generates loft. At this point, he is a dead fastball hitter, but when he gets a pitch in his wheelhouse on the inner half, he does a good job driving the ball. Perkins is in the initial stages of developing an approach, thus he tends to try to cheat on the inside pitch. As a result, fastballs on the outer half give him a lot of trouble. He doesn’t do a good job staying on these pitches and has shown little ability to drive the ball to left field. Perkins also really struggles with pitch recognition, specifically on curveballs. He over commits early to hit fastballs and often gets caught out in front of the pitch resulting in him swinging with only his hands when he gets an off-speed pitch. If he makes contact against these offerings it’s generally a weak groundball chopped to the right side. On one occasion, Perkins waited back on a slider, lining it hard to right for a single, but that was the only time he made solid contact against an off-speed pitch in the three games I’ve seen him play thus far. As Perkins makes his way through the New York-Penn League a second time, his ability to hit off-speed pitches will continue to be tested, thus strides he makes in pitch recognition are key for his development.
-At the plate, Ryan Lavarnway could contribute to a major league team right now. He looks extremely comfortable in his at-bats, doing a great job staying back on the ball. In past looks Lavarnway’s swing has looked a little long at times, but Wednesday night his swing was shorter and more compact. He picked up three hits, all of which came against fastballs on the outer half. His first hit came on a fastball, which he muscled down the right field line for a double. The ball wasn’t hit well and had a lot of topspin, but Lavarnway had the strength to still drive the ball. In his next at bat, Lavarnway got a fastball down and away and used a smooth, compact swing to punch to ball to right field. The pitch was located well, thus Lavarnway was focusing on making contact rather than driving the ball. Similarly, in his third at-bat, Lavarnway punched a fastball past the second baseman for a single. He put a very similar swing on the ball as in his previous at-bat, but in this instance the pitch was up in the zone and a great pitch to hit. In past looks, this was a pitch Lavarnway has driven into the gap or for a home run as it was in a location where he could extend his arms and elevate the ball. Lavarnway did get fooled a few times by off-speed pitches, and in his final at-bat he was caught out in front of a slider, which he reached for and rolled over to third base. Behind the plate, Lavarnway had a relatively easy game as all the Pawtucket pitchers commanded the ball well. His arm was only tested once, with the runner stealing second. He registered a 2.08 pop time, (2.00 is what you would like to see), and the ball seemed to float a little to second base. Overall, I would grade his arm as fringe-average (45 on the 20-80 scale).
Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen