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June 6, 2012 at 1:30 PM

Scouting Scratch: Swing through the Roanoke Valley

-Xander Bogaerts generates very easy batspeed. While his swing can get long and there also can be too much upper-cut at times, he has made strides using his hands to hit inside of the ball. This improved aspect of Bogaerts’ game allows him to get a lot of wood on offerings in all four areas of the strike zone. Even when he does not hit the ball well, he gets enough bat on the ball to muscle it over the infield due to his batspeed and strength. Bogaerts has not shown his in-game power during this scouting trip, but I have liked the way he has worked to the opposite field. He has taken a couple of outside fastballs hard into right field for base hits, showing the ability to stay back and take what is given to him during at-bats. Defensively, Bogaerts has not looked overly fluid at shortstop. He moves a bit stiffly and does not have the quickest of reactions at the crack of the bat. Independent of how he fills out, I do not see the type of skills to stick at the position and see him moving off the position at some point in the upper levels of the minors. Bogaerts has the athleticism and arm to slide over to third base, while the projection of his bat will play at a corner outfield spot. For a player well age-advanced for the level, he has looked like he is more than holding his own in this scouting opportunity.

-Brandon Workman did not have his best stuff during his start. His fastball command and control was off, while his curveball was very inconsistent. Workman sat 91-93 mph in the first inning of his outing, but after throwing 32 pitches and laboring through the frame his velocity died off to 90-91 mph. As the start progressed, he leaned more on his 89-90 mph cut fastball, of which he had much better feel and command. Workman’s cutter is his best pitch. The hard, late glove side break makes it a deceptive pitch. Opposing hitters had a tough time handling it and picked up the offering late. It is presently a solid-average-to-better pitch at his disposal. Workman did get more feel for his curve in the later innings of his outing, but he tends to wrap his wrist when throwing it and does not get on top of it consistently. This left it mostly loopy and caused it to roll to the plate. It was a below-average pitch for him in this scouting look. There is also some effort in his delivery. Workman gets just about everything behind each pitch and this leads to expending a lot of energy repeating his delivery. I see his projection as a relief pitcher at the major league level with the ability develop into a seventh or eighth inning one with more consistency staying on top of his stuff.

-The big thing that sticks out when watching Jackie Bradley, Jr. play centerfield is how he always seems to be moving at the crack of the bat. His instincts are outstanding and it is easy to tag his defense as well above-average. Despite not having plus speed, Bradley gets to every ball hit out his way and is always in the right spot to make the play. His knowledge of how to play the position is off the charts. He can track down the ball with the best of them and can become one of the better defensive outfielders at the major league level. Bradley looks much more comfortable and confident in the batter’s box than when I saw him after signing. He is approaching each plate appearance with a plan. Bradley grinds through sequences, looking for pitches he can handle. His swing has looked very fluid and it has led to a good share of hard line drives during this scouting view. I can see him being able to develop into a contact hitter who has a ceiling of hitting at the top of a big league lineup. Bradley’s power is about fringe-average-to-average, but if he is focused on hitting gap-to-gap he can project to hit doubles. The one hesitation and area that needs some cleanup is how he uses his hands against inside pitches. Bradley is a touch long with his swing. He extends out to the ball and tends to jam himself, rather than keep his hands in to drive the ball. This bears some watching in the upper levels against opposing pitchers with better fastballs, which I see him getting the chance to face after the All-Star break.

-Sean Coyle is having a lot of trouble handling breaking balls in High- A. Sliders have especially given him trouble. Coyle gets his hands way out in front of his body when attacking them and ends up lunging at the ball with a very weak swing. With the exception of just staying back enough to flare one into left field for a single, he has either produced extremely weak contact against secondary offerings or swung and missed. While Coyle is very age-advanced for the level, he has some clear work in front of him with his pitch recognition and learning how to stay back on the ball. He is not presently a hitter who hits inside of the ball well. Coyle’s swing is designed to get out in front of the ball. This has shown to be effective against fastballs, where he drove one over the middle of the plate hard into the left-centerfield gap for a double, but leaves him very vulnerable against secondary offerings. Coyle is not overly versatile defensively and his offensive development is very important. Follow-up looks will be focused on how he is progressing with handling breaking balls. Without progress in this area, it will be tough to project him as a future major leaguer.

-Very patient at the plate and with a gap-to-gap approach, Travis Shaw has been staying back on the ball very well. This was on display during my first game here in Salem when Shaw sat back on a fastball down in the zone and drove it deep into the right-centerfield gap for a home run. He put an easy swing on the offering and extended well to produce lift. Shaw is an interesting prospect. He is not overly athletic and batspeed is average, but has the mindset of a player who has been around the professional ranks for a few seasons. He also has a strong knowledge of his strike zone. Shaw will be tested offensively in the upper minors and will have to show his talent can translate against more advanced pitching, but I see his ceiling as a starter on a second division team. New to first base as a pro, Shaw has been learning the position and puts a lot of work into polishing his skills during batting practice. The work ethic is there to maximize his defensive talent. However, he has looked a bit limited with his hands and on the slow side with his feet.

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