Monday, September 10, 2012 at 7:20 AM
A few weeks back, I wrote about the position player prospects pushing towards the majors in the upper levels of the organization and touched on the overall depth within the system. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the young crop in the lower levels. Let’s take a look at that group and how the development played out in 2012.
Level: High A
Assessment: Spring training gave an initial glimpse at De La Cruz before the season started and there was a noticeable change. More filled out in the upper body, he drove a handful of balls hard into both gaps with lift during my time scouting down in Fort Myers. In the midst of a solid first half with Greenville during my trip south, I wanted to really zone in on him. Another noticeable improvement was the increased batspeed. De La Cruz had always created leverage with his swing, at times with too much upper-cut, but he didn’t generate as much batspeed in 2011 with Lowell. He was also using his hands more to get the barrel on offerings and drive them. The upper-cut in his swing gives me hesitation when looking at how much solid contact he can make as the level of competition rises. De La Cruz is also more of a free swinger, with a strong need to shrink down his strike zone and not expand so often. He got away with it against the pitching in A-Ball when I scouted him. It will be something to continue to watch and see how he is progressing with in 2013. De La Cruz was a center fielder leading up to 2012, but shifted into left field this season with the increased bulk. It will be interesting to see if he shifts back into center field at some point because he could hold his own at the position. Presently, I see a projection as a potential fourth outfielder at the big league level. That projection is something I’m looking to continue to evaluate through scouting opportunities in 2013.
Level: Low A
Assessment: Upon first glance at his statistical line, I can see why there may be some questions as to why I’ve placed Swihart in the “moving forward” category. First, he has a lot of hitting talent. The switch hitter shows a fluid swing from both sides of the plate, along with some really quick hands that allow him to efficiently bring the head of the bat to the point of contact. I got my first look at Swihart down at last year’s Fall Instructs and when I scouted him in 2012, he again showed the feel for hitting. He is capable of turning on offerings and also can stay back to drive balls hard into the left-center field gap. Swihart is raw with his pitch recognition, however. That led to his inconsistency this season. Breaking balls give him a lot of trouble and he has yet to develop his strike zone. Given the hitting talent, with strides in these areas through experience and repetition I feel he can begin to show as a developing plus hitter for average, with average-to-better power. Swihart will need to add strength, not only for his offense, but also to aid with his defense. He’s athletic behind the dish, showing quick reactions, fluid movement, and a plus arm. The added strength will help him deal with the wear and tear at the position. I’m mixed on whether he will stick at the position in the long-term, but I saw developing skills behind the dish. He took the first steps this season at learning how to play catcher professionally, which I feel is big for his overall development in the early career.
Slow and Steady
Level: Low A
Level: High A
Assessment: Jacobs is a prospect whose raw tools I have always been high on. As he began to gain experience playing baseball full-time and focusing his off-season workouts on baseball, he made some strong strides both with his skills and body composition. Last season, Jacobs swing looked much better than it did after he initially signed. There was above-average batspeed and an ability to cover the plate. My main note on him after scouting spring training this year was that he was going to need to adjust to better breaking balls. Jacobs showed a tendency to get too far out on his front foot, while also bringing his hands forward prematurely. That carried over when I watched him in High A. There was a lot of indecisiveness, leading to weak or waiving swings. Jacobs’ swing also didn’t look quite as fluid. He got beat by fastballs and overall it was slower. Now, he dealt with a hand injury for a large portion of the season, which obviously had an effect on him. However, independent of that, the pitch recognition did hinder him. Jacobs has plus raw power and the ability to drive the ball. Thus far in his career, he’s made strides improving his hitting skills too. This year saw him hit some resistance though, with adjustments needed in 2013. The work he has to go with his pitch recognition will make it interesting as to whether he makes the jump to Double-A or returns to High A to start the season.
Level: High A
Assessment: Coyle was age-advanced in High A this season and that advancement showed when scouting him. The biggest thing that jumped out was how far behind the speed of the game he was. Coyle’s a good fastball hitter, but secondary offerings really gave him trouble. He had a very tough time picking them up, leading to a lot of weak contact or swings-and-misses against them. Coyle didn’t have much of a chance of driving them due to his hips opening early and being fooled considerably. However, he does have a quick swing. When staying back, especially against fastballs on the inner third, he can put a charge into the ball. Reports from later in the season indicated Coyle was looking more comfortable at the plate and having better at-bats. I don’t think he is ready to make the jump to Double-A though. He needs to show more consistency handling secondary stuff and also more of an opposite field stroke. Coyle’s a pull hitter, with some holes in his swing due to a lack in coverage of the outer third. He still has to learn what type of professional hitter he is, which can be expected from a player still relatively early in his career. 2013 is going to focus on how Coyle is progressing with his development needs. His projection as a major leaguer hinges on the offensive progression.
Photo Credits: Garin Cecchini, Jose Vinicio, and Deven Marrero by Dave Letizi
Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen