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April 3, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Scouting Scratch: Wrapping up Spring Training


Here is a compilation of scouting notes from Fort Myers in this final preseason installment of Scouting Scratch.

- Outfielder Keury De La Cruz (pictured) had a breakout 2012 season with the Greenville Drive, showing plus power for someone with his frame. De La Cruz is listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, but he looks considerably bigger than that, with a well-filled out lower half. He generates plus bat speed from the left side, and rarely gets cheated at the plate. He generates a lot of power with his lower half and gets great leverage with a slight uppercut swing. During batting practice, he showed power to all fields, driving the ball with backspin easily out of the park. He also showed in-game power, driving out a belt high fastball to deep right-center field during a Double-A game.

De La Cruz still needs to work on his consistency from at-bat to at-bat. He often gets caught off balance against off-speed pitches, as he is always looking for a fastball he can drive. His swing is also long, and it is so violent that at times he spins around when he swings and misses. In season, I’ll be interested to see if he can make the necessary adjustments to his swing, especially with two strikes, in order to stay on the ball longer rather than swinging for the fences every time.

- Outfielder Brandon Jacobs has the power you want to see in a corner outfielder and an impressive frame, but he still has a lot to work on at the plate. His approach is rough; he has trouble picking up secondary offerings and his swing can get long, resulting in him coming around the ball. When he keeps his weight back and is short through the ball, he is at his best. His inconsistency at the plate was on display in a Double-A game against the Twins. In his first at-bat, Jacobs got a 3-2 fastball out and over the plate that he could crush. His swing was a little long, however, and he got just under it and a little jammed by the inside fastball, resulting in a flyout to center field. Similarly, in his next at-bat, Jacobs got chewed up by fastballs on the inner half and ended up striking out on a fastball down and in. In his third at-bat of the game, however, Jacobs recognized a 2-2 slider early and kept his weight back, lining the pitch to left-center for a single. There, he didn’t try to do too much, shortening up and staying inside the ball.

- Sean Coyle had a good day at the plate in the same Double-A game, tripling twice and adding a single. Coyle showed quick hands and used a short, compact stroke to drive the ball into the right-center gap twice on fastballs. The swings were identical and Coyle did a great job taking what the pitcher was giving him, rather than trying to over-swing and pull the ball. Although his approach at the plate is still a work in progress, it was encouraging to see him working to right field and shortening up on a pitches that weren’t in his wheel house.

Senior Columnist Jon Meoli adds his observations on two pitchers with plus-to-better velocity he saw during Spring Training.

- Frank Montas (pictured) pitched a four-inning, 61-pitch stint in the Low A game against Tampa Bay. Montas threw his fastball exclusively in the first inning, sitting 95-97 mph. The pitch had late downward life when Montas finished his delivery, and batters struggled to make good contact against the offering. As the outing progressed, however, Montas slowly lost his velocity. In his fourth and final inning of work, his fastball sat 91-92 mph. He was also spotty with his command of the pitch, and occasionally left it up in the strike zone. More advanced batters will take advantage of the pitch if it’s over the plate.

Montas also threw an 84-85 mph slider with tight break, an offering he was able to bury in the dirt for swinging strikes when located. He also threw a changeup that sat 86-87 mph, though there’s not enough separation between that and his fastball for it to presently be an effective pitch. While slower bats in the low minors will struggle to make good contact with his fastball, the changeup velocity is in a range that could allow them to see the ball and react as they would a slower fastball.

Watch video of Montas from this outing here.

- In an inning of work against the Twins in a March 22 Double-A game, newly-converted reliever Miguel Celestino (video below) showed an immediate improvement. As a starter, Celestino worked in the low-90s with his fastball and located the ball well in the lower half of the zone, leading to weak contact and plenty of groundouts. In a 14-pitch inning, Celestino ramped up his velocity as the inning progressed. After starting out at 95 mph, he ramped up to 97 against the final batter of the inning before elevating a 96 mph fastball for a swinging strike. He threw one slider on the day, but Celestino’s three-pitch mix will likely be pared down with his transition to the bullpen.



Photo credit: Keury De La Cruz and Frank Montas by Kelly O'Connor

Ian Cundall is a Northeast Scout for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.
Jon Meoli is a Senior Columnist at SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMeoli 


 
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