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March 1, 2013 at 6:45 AM

2013 Prospect Previews: Jose Vinicio and Brandon Jacobs

Position: Shortstop
2012 Team: Greenville Drive
2013 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 19

Strengths: Vinicio brings strong defensive tools and instincts to the diamond. His athleticism is evident when going after balls hit his way. The shortstop is very light on his feet, with a quick first step and fluid actions. The range grades as above-average, and is accentuated by an innate feel for the game. Vinicio anticipates the ball off the bat well and seems to be moving to the right spot at the crack of the bat. The 19-year-old is a natural in the field, with the projection of a future above-average-to-better defensive shortstop at the big league level. A switch hitter, Vinicio flashes a compact stroke from the left side. He’s smooth driving his hands through the hitting zone and staying inside of the baseball. He demonstrates the ability to turn high velocity offerings around, while also showing a knack for getting the fat part of the barrel on the ball consistently as a lefty. The offensive talent is there for him to develop into a gap hitter, who can peak as a number two hitter in a lineup. Vinicio’s plus-plus speed also gives him the potential to round into a consistent base stealing threat at the highest level.

Development Needs: Vinicio’s overall game is still on the raw side and there is a lot of physical development needed for the shortstop to sharpen his impressive tool set. While he has relaxed in the box since the beginning of his career and made some strides building an approach, Vinicio is still very much a free swinger at the plate. He tends to expand his strike zone often, lacking discipline against elevated fastballs and well-placed ones early on in counts. As the level of competition continues to advance, his strike zone management skills must grow to show the bat is moving forward. Given his lack of power projection, much of Vinicio’s offensive value is tied into being a hitter who makes consistent hard contact and uses the entire field. Present strength is also an issue for the shortstop. While huge physical gains aren’t expected, the body is in need of more muscle and good weight. The head of the bat can drag, especially hitting right-handed, and the grind of the long season takes a bigger toll on him. Vinicio’s projection as an everyday player hinges on physical growth to enhance all aspects of his game.

2013 Outlook: Vinicio ended up playing a little more than half of the year after dealing with some injuries during the 2012 season. The progression of the body and ability to handle the daily grind will be an area of watch this upcoming year. Vinicio has a solid foundation of tools to build upon. His development with slowing down the game, especially defensively, and reeling in his enthusiasm are also key aspects of focus in 2013. He will likely return to Greenville out of spring training to continue to get at-bats at the level and show some further progress with the approach. Vinicio’s work becoming more patient will likely be the key factor in the team deciding whether or not he’s ready to take the next step up to the Carolina League at some point in the summer. I expect him to finish the season in High A. The natural hitting ability was on display when scouting him in 2012 and despite his age, the shortstop did not look behind the level of competition. With further experience, he should be ready for the next challenge and how quickly he can progress into the upper levels will start coming into focus.

Position: Outfield
2012 Team: Salem Red Sox
2013 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 22

Strengths: Raw strength and power are a large part of Jacobs’ game. The former Auburn football recruit has undergone a transformation since signing with the organization, chiseling down his frame and becoming much less bulky. Jacobs’ actions and movements have greatly benefited from dropping the old football weight. The outfielder’s swing shows strong torque and lift, which enables him to generate solid back spin and plenty of carry when he gets a hold of offerings. Jacobs likes to extend his arms, and hammers pitches out-and-over the plate especially well. The raw power is there to hit around 25 home runs at the big league level, with the ability to drive the ball out to all fields. Jacobs can make pitchers pay for their mistakes. The approach and plate discipline have shown improvements over the course of the last couple of seasons. The 22-year-old has made a conscious effort to dedicate himself to getting better in this aspect of his game. There’s more of a plan at the plate and an understanding of the process of singling out pitches he can handle. Jacobs shows a strong work ethic, with solid baseball makeup and desire.

Development Needs: Jacobs is still relatively weak with his pitch recognition. This leads to many instances of swing-and-misses, along with him having a tough time keeping his weight back. The early transfer of weight and subsequent bringing of his hands forward too early during the stride leave him unable to adjust to offerings with break. There’s a lot of growth in this area for him going forward if he is to develop into a consistent major league hitter. Jacobs will be challenged by advanced pitching and it is presently uncertain whether there is much more room to grow with the pitch recognition. Although athletic for his size and possessing slightly better than average speed, the defense is also an area of weakness for him. The reads off the bat are on the rough side, with the angles and routes in the outfield inconsistent. Jacobs is limited to left field. The defense doesn’t project to be an area where he brings a ton of value to a roster, which puts a lot of pressure on the bat developing to full utility. He may ultimately end up ceiling out in the upper levels if the offensive progress is only moderate.

2013 Outlook: Jacobs dealt with a hand injury for about half of last season, but showed some signs of having an adjustment in front of him leading up to the season. A return to full health will be beneficial for the outfielder. At times in 2012, he looked reluctant to unleash his swing and there was a reduction in the bat speed. Jacobs will be challenged in the upper levels. There are presently spots that experienced and high quality arms can work to. I’m mixed on how things are going to end up translating. The power is a big draw, but the pitch recognition has looked limited. The gap may ultimately be too much to close. 2013 will be an interesting and important year for Jacobs. A development push, while showing he can adjust quickly to Double-A will put some of the questions behind him, especially regarding his hit tool. I’m in “wait-and-see” mode presently with Jacobs, ready to get a good look at how things are trending.

Photo Credits: Jose Vinicio and Brandon Jacobs by Dave Letizi

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