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September 27, 2012 at 5:45 PM

Scouting Scratch: Notes from Fall Instructs

-Lefty Cody Kukuk is an easy thrower, but is inconsistent repeating his delivery.  Kukuk wavers when it comes to keeping his arm in a 3/4 arm slot.  The 91-93 mph fastball has the life to jump on opposing hitters, also missing bats in the process.  He can move it around both the upper and lower tier of the strike zone, but the command is presently fringe-average.  Kukuk's main developmental aspect when delivering his heater is to finish better, which will also help him throw downhill more consistently.  The pitch has the potential to be a strong offering at his disposal due to the late tail.  There's been some progress with his 80-82 mph changeup.  Kukuk showed more feel and improved arm speed when throwing it.  The change also has more fade as it drops down through the zone.  The last time I saw him, the pitch wasn't much of a viable third option.  Further progression can give Kukuk a complimentary piece in the repertoire to keep opposing batters off-balance and set up his tight 81-83 mph slider later in sequences, while allowing him to project as a future starter

-After getting my first look at right-handed pitcher Jamie Callahan, the big thing that jumped out is the cleanup work needed with his delievery.  Callahan has a loose arm, but his mechanics are rigid and somewhat stiff.  He doesn't have the easiest of time keeping his arm in slot, with there also presently some wasted motion at the end.  The fastball sat 90-92 mph.  It mostly worked up in the zone where it was straight and flat.  I feel with improvement becoming more smooth with his mechanics he can develop better command and squeeze out more velocity.  The pitch did show movement when it was down.  Callahan also featured a 74-76 mph curveball that tended to roll, but has room for growth.  He keeps his hand above the baseball and feels the offering in his fingers.  With improvement creating harder snap, the pitch can become deeper.  Callahan looks like a likely candidate early in his career to go through some tweaking of his mechanics, with the idea to enhance his stuff in the long-run.

-Blake Swihart's body looks more mature.  There's been some physical progression and growth into his frame.  Swihart was very lean in the lower body when he signed with the organization, which was an area of concern for me when first scouting the catcher.  His defensive skills have made strides over the course of the last year.  Swihart moves very fluidily behind the dish due to his athleticsm.  He's quick with his reactions, has about average present range, and a plus arm.  The receiving skills have also looked firmer.  For Swihart to stick, the body needs to be able to handle the rigors of the position.  I see the physical gains of the last year as a good first step.  He may still move off the position down the line to preserve his athleticsm and take less of a toll on the bat, but should continue to catch in the very least for the near future.

Northeast Scout Ian Cundall took a long look at outfielder Keury De La Cruz and here are his thoughts.  Cundall will be scouting Fall Instructs along with me this week, so make sure to follow him on Twitter.

One of the breakout performers of the 2012 regular season, Keury De La Cruz had a solid day at the plate showing an improved approach and making solid contact several times. Since he entered the organization, De La Cruz has filled out considerably, most notably in his lower half, which he uses to generate the power in his swing. De La Cruz has a slightly closed stance, starting his hands close to the letters on the front of his jersey. He swings with a slight uppercut and generates solid-average to plus bat speed, rarely gets cheated on fastballs. His bat speed was on display today a few times, notably in his second at-bat when he lined a 2-1 low-90s fastball to deep right-center field for a double. This swing was especially impressive, as he stayed on the ball against a left-handed pitcher, allowing him to square the offering up.

When his swing is controlled like on the double, he is shorter through the strike zone and has shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields with backspin. De La Cruz swing can get a little long and violent, especially when facing velocity up in the zone. He reverted to these bad habits a few times, most notably in his bat third at-bat when he got a fastball to drive, but instead of going direct to the ball, he came around it. This resulted in him yanking the pitch hard to the second baseman. Similarly, in his fourth at-bat, he again came around a fastball, yanking the ball this time to the first baseman. Improving the consistency of his swing is key for De La Cruz going forward as he needs to control it better and be shorter through the ball. 

Photo Credits: Cody Kukuk by William Parmeter; Keury De La Cruz by T.J. Lawrence

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