March 11, 2013 at 6:45 AM
2012 Team: Lowell Spinners
2013 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 22
Strengths: Light’s fastball is his best asset. The offering operates 90-95 mph, with the ability to touch up to 97 mph when he reaches back or is working in short stints. Light creates excellent leverage when delivering his heater, utilizing his big frame to throw downhill. The pitch displays heavy, downward movement through the strike zone, which causes opposing hitters to swing over the top of it and pound it into the ground often. The right-hander can also elevate the offering to throw it past hitters when needing to vary the look or eye level. There’s solid overall life on his fastball. Light also leans on an 85-87 mph slider during sequences. The offering shows late break and the type of hard bite to get hitters to commit early. The 22-year-old can be very deceptive with the offering when he matches the release point of his fastball. The slider has plus-potential and can round into an effective out-pitch at the major league level. Standing 6-foot-6, the righty has a strong frame to grow into as he matures into his mid-twenties.
Development Needs: Light is on the raw side for a pitcher coming out of college, lacking some polish to his overall repertoire. He is presently inconsistent with his slider, at times wrapping his wrist when throwing the pitch. This causes it to spin to the plate and the offering to lose the tight, crisp break that he can generate otherwise. The righty also doesn’t command the pitch well, grading as about fringe-average presently. More advanced hitters are likely to lay off the pitch more frequently without improvement throwing the offering for strikes. Light’s changeup considerably lags behind the rest of his arsenal. There’s improvement needed with the depth and consistency created with the pitch. The change typically floats flatly to the plate, with little deception or finish. Light has yet to master the arm speed needed to effectively throw the pitch as well. It remains to be seen how much further growth can be made with the offering.
2013 Outlook: Light got his feet wet in the New York-Penn League after signing and is on track to begin his first assignment in full-season baseball this year. The 22-year-old is likely headed to Greenville, where he’ll continue to be stretched out in a starter’s role to work on polishing off his stuff. I don’t see a tough adjustment period in front of him and feel his stuff will show to be ahead of the level of competition. What’s important for the right-hander is to begin ironing out the rough edges. His stamina is also going to be tested with a full workload. It will be interesting to see how his stuff holds up deeper into games during the year as there can be a drop-off the second and third times through a lineup. Between Light’s heavy fastball and hard slider, there’s potential to develop some nasty stuff. The righty’s ultimate role will likely be in the bullpen, with a set-up or closer ceiling. This year will be about sharpening his arsenal and gaining experience as a pro to start bringing the projection into clearer focus.
2012 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
2013 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners
Opening Day Age: 19
Strengths: Lin’s compact stroke and bat speed lend clues that he can develop into a high-contact hitter. The left-handed hitter shows quick hands, with the ability to guide the head of the bat through the zone evenly. He is able to keep his hands inside of the ball, which bodes well for him to be able to use the whole field as he settles in against professional pitching. The shortstop also shows the early makings of a patient and disciplined approach at the plate. Lin is athletic overall, with speed that grades as well above-average out of the box. His wheels also translate into the field, where he moves well laterally and has a quick first step to both his left and right. The 19-year-old has the defensive tools to develop into a steady player in the field. His soft hands allow him to adjust to the path of the ball quickly and there is smoothness with the transfers.
Development Needs: Lin’s body is small, with little projection for large physical gains as he continues to mature. The size may be a concern given the grind of the long season and the toll it takes on the body. There also isn’t much power in his offensive game as his power projects as well below-average. Lin’s offensive value will rest with developing into a high-contact hitter. His ability to make consistent hard contact will be tested, with some questions as to how the stroke will translate against better arms. The progress he makes with his approach and pitch recognition will also be very important. The 19-year-old must develop into an all-fields hitter and show that he can drive pitches when he gets them. Opposing pitchers will be inclined to just challenge him consistently if he’s only weakly putting the ball into play. Lin’s arm has scouted inconsistently. The shortstop was limited to non-throwing drills during the Fall Instructional League due to injury. It remains to be seen what kind of arm strength he can display when letting loose, which will bring into better focus whether he projects to stick at shortstop.
2013 Outlook: Lin is just beginning the professional journey and is likely to stay back in extended spring training before beginning an assignment with the Lowell Spinners in 2013. This will enable the 19-year-old to ease into the professional game and ramp into handling the grind of the long season. Lin’s pitch recognition will be tested in the New York-Penn League. It will be a good challenge for the young shortstop to show that his batting eye is trending in the right direction. Secondary offerings are likely to be a test. This season will begin to lend some clues as to what he can do with the bat. I see his lack of strength being an issue in the early going. The 19-year-old can control the head of the bat, but there will be a learning process when it comes to driving the ball. 2013 is the first extended run of action for Lin. This year is about gaining experience and building upon the foundation to show that he is trending towards being ready for full-season baseball in 2014.
Photo Credits: Pat Light by Dave Letizi: Tzu-Wei Lin by William Parmeter
Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen