August 13, 2012 at 7:15 AM
Assessment: In what was an extremely difficult 2011 in High- A for Britton, I happened to catch him at his very best. That day, he consistently stayed on top of his 92-94 mph fastball to command it well and frequently topped out at 95 mph. Britton also showed a tight, biting curveball that more often than not straightened opposing hitters up. It is always interesting when you see a prospect at their best in what turns out to be a year in which they took a step or two back. The potential stands out, but the question of whether it can actually be reached stands out equally. I don’t see Britton as a long-term starter. His fastball command is inconsistent as he has trouble repeating his delivery multiple times through a lineup and he doesn’t have a lot of trust in his changeup. Britton now works a slider into sequences to go along with his curveball, which has helped him miss more bats. He profiles more as a late inning reliever in my eyes. Can he continue to start and potentially make starts at the major league level early in his career? Absolutely, but I feel that over the long haul the shorter one-inning outings will allow him to repeat his delivery better and focus on his fastball/breaking ball combination to get key outs late in a game.
Regression/Stuck in neutral
Assessment: After receiving mixed reviews during his first professional season in 2011, Ranaudo came into 2012 with some questions surrounding his status. Beginning the season on the disabled list with a groin strain, I gave him a couple of starts to get his feet on the ground before lining up a scouting opportunity towards the end of May. I came away from that outing rather unimpressed. Ranaudo started out of the gate strong, sitting 91-93 mph with his fastball and featuring a very tight 78-82 mph curveball. The curve showed deep break, with strong crispness. He easily snapped the pitch off, while also throwing downhill with his fastball. However, things unraveled very quickly in his third inning of work due to a messy delivery. Ranaudo had considerable trouble repeating it, consistently flying open early, which caused him to fail to finish his fastball and have trouble creating velocity. His changeup was also very flat overall, without much depth, deception, or trust throwing the pitch. He was a different guy than I saw in early 2011. The trend continued for Ranaudo over the next handful of starts. Reports into me from a couple of veteran scouts were also very similar and highlighted the regression of his stuff. He has gone backwards in 2012. Ranaudo was placed on the disabled list with “shoulder fatigue” in early July and does not look likely to pitch again with Portland this season. I saw the ceiling of a back-end starter when scouting him, with thoughts of a future reliever entering my mind.
Level: Short-season A
Assessment: One of this year’s first round picks, scouting Johnson during his debut summer in professional baseball is about getting an initial base because he is logging shorter outings due to his heavy workload in college this past season. His fastball has operated 90-94 mph thus far and he shows polish in terms of repeating his delivery to throw downhill. Johnson also mixes in a curveball and changeup, which grade as about average offerings presently. He has the body and size to withstand the rigors of starting as a professional, but will also have to keep his body from getting away from him as he ages into his mid-to-late twenties. Next season will be a much better scouting gauge of Johnson when he is free from pitch restrictions and I get a chance to see how his stuff holds as he goes deeper into outings. My first impressions are that Johnson is a polished enough arm to begin 2013 in High A and that he is likely to track as a starter up through the ranks. He has the look of a potential back-of-the-rotation starter, who can log innings and be successful in the role.
Level: Short-season A
Assessment: Northeast Scout Ian Cundall recently profiled Light in our first report on the pitcher, and like Johnson, he is in the same boat when it comes to being on a pitch limit. Light is not as polished as Johnson entering the professional ranks, but has a live arm and a body that has room to fill out as he matures into his mid-twenties. He is capable of dialing up his fastball into the mid-90s and shows an average slider presently. Light will pitch in his early career as a starter to give him a chance to work on sharpening his arsenal and to see if he can stick in the role. The initial scouting opportunities have given the feel that he will eventually transition into a bullpen role, where his stuff can play up as a potential set-up man or closer with development steps forward. Light is an intriguing arm given the room for growth he has, but also has some volatility with his future projection. 2013 will give a much better look at Light and also serve as a chance to watch how he is progressing towards sharpening his secondary offerings.
Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen