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August 16, 2012 at 7:40 AM

Scouting Scratch: Johnson ramping up; Carpenter on road back

Northeast Scout Ian Cundall files his latest report after his recent swing out in the field.  Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall for live scouting coverage from the parks.

-In limited action, Brian Johnson has shown the stuff and polish to validate a first-round selection in the 2012 draft. Starting off his career with Lowell in the New York-Penn League, Johnson has shown a deep repertoire combined with better-than-advertised velocity. Reports from his time in college had Johnson sitting in the high-80s and topping out in the low-90s, but he has seen an uptick in his velocity since entering the system. In the two outings I scouted, his fastball sat 90-94 mph and topped out at 95 multiple times during his last start on August 9. The uptick in velocity is likely due to his current usage, where he is limited to two-inning stints where he doesn’t have to worry about holding velocity deeper into games. His ability to hold velocity next year shouldn’t be an issue though, as he is already well filled out and has a smooth, repeatable delivery from a ¾ arm slot. Johnson gets good downhill plane on his fastball and it has some late arm-side action. The rest of Johnson’s repertoire consists of two breaking balls, a slider and curveball, and a changeup. Thus far, Johnson has primarily used his curveball to complement his fastball. The pitch ranges from 73-79 mph and showed good bite on occasion, missing bats. Johnson’s slider is harder, coming in at 80-83 mph, but he only threw it a few times, showing good depth on one occasion. Finally, Johnson mixed in a changeup that came in 84-85 mph. The pitch showed good drop when thrown, but again it was used sparingly in the outings. With his four-pitch mix and solid command of all his pitches, Johnson easily overwhelmed hitters at the current level. Next year will provide a better test of Johnson’s ability as he will likely start at Salem, where he will encounter more advanced hitters who are used to seeing pitchers with polish and the ability to throw multiple secondary pitches for strikes.

-Deven Marrero, another of the Red Sox 2012 first-round picks, has had mixed success with Lowell. Marrero possesses quick hands and earlier in the season showed a fluid swing with gap power. When locked in, Marrero uses all fields and puts together quality at-bats, laying off bad pitches. Recently, however, Marrero has been in a slump and struggled to put together these quality at-bats seen earlier in the season. His swing has gotten notably longer, resulting in him coming around the ball, so he gets jammed on pitches on the inner half instead of pulling his hands in and getting the barrel of the bat on the ball. He also has been seeing more breaking balls as the season goes on, and has struggled to recognize them and keep his hands back. Surprisingly, Marrero has also had his struggles defensively. Multiple times in games scouted, he was caught flat-footed; he has also shown sloppy footwork that resulted in errant throws to first. At this point, however, I wouldn’t read too much into the struggles. Marrero played a long college season prior to signing and already has 46 games under his belt in Lowell, so fatigue could be a factor. If he continues to struggle into next season then it would be something to worry about, but right now he is just having the ups and downs you expect to see in someone adjusting to their first season in professional baseball.

-Mookie Betts entered the season as the starting shortstop for Lowell, but since the signings of Marrero and Mike Miller, he has primarily played second base where he looks a lot more comfortable. Defensively, Betts is extremely athletic and has relatively smooth actions along with a solid-average throwing arm. Earlier in the season, he seemed to be fighting the ball at shortstop, but at second base he’s shown soft hands and a quick transfer from glove to throwing hand. At the plate, he also has looked more comfortable as the season has progressed. In the most recent look, Betts had three hits and made solid contact all game. Betts was much more direct to the ball, showing off solid bat speed and a fluid, compact swing. Betts has quick hands, but at times this season his swing got a little long. Even so, Betts has made consistent contact all season and has shown a discerning eye at the plate for a player with his limited experience. In addition, Betts has noticeably improved against breaking balls over the course of this season, doing a better job staying back and working to all fields against them. Even with the consistent contact he’s been making all season, Betts hasn’t shown much power. He doesn’t possess a frame that projects to fill out much, especially as one of his greatest assets is his athleticism, so he only projects to have gap power in the future.

-Acquired as part of the Theo Epstein compensation, Chris Carpenter hasn’t shown the velocity he had earlier in his career, but he has shown improvement with his breaking ball, likely positioning himself for a September call-up to the major leagues. Carpenter is tall and long and relatively stiff with his delivery. He is quick to the plate (sub 1.4 seconds), even though he starts off slow with his delivery before speeding up as he drives forward. Both times I’ve seen Carpenter this season, once on a rehab outing in Portland and last week in Pawtucket, his fastball has ranged from 91-95 mph, down from the 95+ mph that was reported in previous seasons. In the most recent outing he struggled to control the pitch, but made up for it, when he showed a plus slider which he relied on heavily. His slider ranged from 82-86 mph, showing good bite and the ability to miss bats. The pitch was especially impressive when thrown at 85-86 mph, as at this velocity it showed tight rotation and he was able to bury it down and in to lefties.

-Alex Wilson’s raw stuff looked impressive during his two innings of work scouted, but he struggled with his command and control. His four-seam fastball sat 92-95 during the outing and showed the ability to miss bats. The pitch was especially effective when working down in the zone as it jumped on hitters due to its late life. He also mixed in a two-seam fastball at 88-90 mph that showed good arm-side run. As has been a problem throughout his entire career, however, Wilson struggled with his consistency, especially locating the pitch. He seemed to be fighting his delivery and, as he got deeper into his outing, he started to rely more on his slider. Just like his fastball, his slider was also inconsistent, showing good depth on occasion but also coming in flat when he didn’t get on top of the ball. Stuff-wise, Wilson is ready to pitch out of a major league bullpen, but he currently lacks the consistency you want out of a major league reliever.

Photo credits: Brian Johnson by Dave Letizi; Chris Carpenter by William Parmeter