June 26, 2013 at 8:00 AM
A quick note before we get started: With Lowell starting off their season last week, the Scouting Scratch will typically run every Wednesday for the rest of the summer.
This year’s Lowell roster has plenty of interesting prospects, especially in the starting rotation. This week I take a look at two of the younger players on this year’s team, and I’ll be keeping my eye on both of them as the season progresses.
- Selected in the second round of the 2012 Draft, Jamie Callahan (pictured) was the youngest player taken by the Red Sox last year and got a few innings in the GCL at the end of the season. My first look at him came during the Fall Instructional League, where I saw him throw a couple of innings against the Rays Instructional Team. When I saw him in Lowell recently, it was the first time I had seen him throw an extended outing.
It was immediately clear that his raw stuff had taken a step forward since last year. During Instructs, Callahan sat 90-92 mph, but in his first inning with Lowell, Callahan was throwing much harder, at 92-93 mph, and touching 94 and 95 once each. He recorded one strikeout that inning on a good 92-mph fastball away from a right-handed hitter. In the second inning, Callahan held his velocity, sitting 92-93 again, but as his pitch count increased, he lost a bit of life and by the third inning he was more 90-91. Over his final three innings, he topped out at 92 twice and 93 once. This was only his first start in game action, thus the velocity drop isn’t something to worry about at this point, but with his mechanics, it is something worth tracking as I see him more this season.
As referenced, Callahan’s mechanics still could use some cleaning up. He throws from almost directly over the top, and the ball comes out almost like it would from a pitching machine. As a result, he still has some trouble keeping the ball down in the zone. Over the course of the outing he only got two groundball outs, compared to seven fly outs and two pop outs. Callahan’s fastball is straight and, when elevated, very hittable; he needs to do a better job finishing his delivery and keeping the ball down, where it did show some movement on occasion.
Callahan also mixed in a curveball and changeup, though both were inconsistent. He threw each pitch only a handful of times, as he didn’t really need them since he was getting outs with his fastball. With his arm slot, his curveball is a true 12-6, over-the-top offering. It tended to roll to the plate in this outing, but it was noticeably harder than during Fall Instructs, coming in 77-80 mph compared to 74-76 mph in the fall. He had some trouble controlling the pitch, consistently missing in with it to left-handed batters.
Callahan threw his changeup in the mid-to-low 80’s, but the pitch was firm and his arm speed tended to slow. He was more effective with it than with his curve, controlling it better and getting a swinging strikeout. Both pitches are works in progress, and I’ll look to get a better feel for them when I see him next time.
- Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin (pictured) doesn’t have ideal size for the position, but he is athletic and has a strong overall tool set. At this stage in his development, Lin’s standout tools display in the field with his arm and glove. Lin showed a great feel for the position, making play after play look easy. Lin gets himself in a good fielding position pre-pitch, and once the ball is hit to him he displays soft hands and smooth actions. He showed a quick glove-to-hand transfer and a plus arm. His most impressive play came on a slow one-hopper just over the pitcher’s head, which he bare-handed and made a strong, accurate throw, while falling over, to get the batter.
At the plate, Lin isn’t as advanced, but there is potential in his hit tool. Lin lacks strength right now and as a result he’ll struggle with high velocity, but in recent game action he showed a knack for putting the bat on the ball. He sets up with his feet level and his hands low, before bringing them up during his load. He uses a leg kick as his timing device, and is very short and direct to the ball. He is more of a slap hitter at this point, but he has quick hands and an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. When Lin puts the ball in play, he puts pressure on the defense, as he is a plus-to-better runner. On a jailbreak play when he check swung on a grounder to short, I timed him 4.08 seconds down the line. Lin’s swing isn’t really conducive to anything more than gap-power right now, and considering his frame, I don’t project him to be a big power hitter in the future. Even though he is one of the younger position players on the Lowell roster, he is one of the more advanced hitters, especially approach-wise, and the polished college arms he will see in the New York-Penn League will provide a good test for him.
Photo credits: Jamie Callahan by William Parmeter and Tzu-Wei Lin by Kelly O'Connor
Ian Cundall is a Northeast Scout for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.