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October 8, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Scouting Scratch: Fall Instructs Part One

Recently, SoxProspects Director of Scouting Ian Cundall traveled to the Fall Instructional League to report on the goings-on in Fort Myers. This is the first of four reports from his trip.

- Perhaps the biggest news from the Fort was that Rafael Devers had his right foot in a cast and was on crutches. We have confirmed that Devers turned his ankle while sliding and suffered a stress fracture. Luckily, the Red Sox expect him to be healthy by late November and have a normal off-season.

- 2014 first-round pick Michael Kopech started my first game down there, working only one inning but showing the tools that made him an early selection. Kopech has a prototypical pitcher’s frame, listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds. He has the frame to support added size as he matures without losing any of his present athleticism. Kopech throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a high-effort delivery that has already improved since his amateur days. He still utilizes a high leg lift and turns at the waist prior to coming forward, but the turn is less pronounced now and his arm is not as long behind. Still, it is not a clean delivery and could be something he and the organization continue to tinker with to make it easier for him to repeat in longer outings, although he was able to repeat it throughout his inning here for the most part.

Kopech has a live, loose arm with an explosive fastball. The pitch worked 93-96 mph in this outing, touching 98 mph, with life. The pitch has the potential to play as plus-plus in the future although he has a ways to go with his command and control of the pitch. He only threw three secondary pitches, so I did not get a great feel for them. His curveball came in at 78 and 80 mph, with one very poor, loose one where he dropped his arm slot and got on the side of the ball. He threw one changeup at 82 mph that had some drop. Kopech had occasional troubles in a very small sample size during the Gulf Coast League, struggling to throw strikes in some outings. That is something that will continue to pop up on occasion, as he does not profile as a player who is likely to move quickly. His development will take time, but the potential reward in the end is significant. 

- This was my first look at Jeffry Fernandez, and while he got hit around a bit, I saw some intriguing things that make him a player to watch for me next year. First, Fernandez is listed at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, but looks a bit heavier than that. He does not have a great body, and will have to maintain it as he matures. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot with long arm action behind. He has a loose arm and heavy fastball that worked 91-93 mph in this outing. When he finished the pitch and kept it down, it showed sink, and on one occasion it showed cut at 93 mph. When elevated, the pitch was flat and very hittable, which was the case too often in this outing. His slider worked 82-85 mph and was on the loose side. He threw one tight one at 85 mph, with two-plane movement, down and away to a right-handed batter for a strikeout. When he was able to snap the pitch off, it flashed out-pitch potential. He threw his changeup 83-87 mph with deceptive arm speed and fade.

- I saw Karsten Whitson once this year in Lowell, and compared to that outing, he looked like a completely different pitcher. He only appeared in four games for the Spinners, instead getting lots of work on the side, and that appears to have made a difference. Whitson has a solid pitcher’s build with a well-developed lower half and live arm. He throws over the top with a high leg lift. His arm action is a little long behind, and he lands with a stiff front side. It took a few pitches, but once he got in rhythm, he repeated his delivery and finished his pitches. Back in July, Whitson’s fastball sat 88-90 mph, topping out at 93, but in this outing he eventually sat at 92-94 mph, topping out at 96 mph with late life. During his best stretch, he worked 94-95 mph and commanded his fastball down in the zone. He had some struggles finding his release point with his slider, but it was harder at 84-86 mph, whereas it ranged from 77-84 mph back in July. Finally, Whitson threw his changeup at 85 mph. It was on the firm side, but showed some fade. Because of his past injury history, Whitson is likely best suited for a bullpen role long-term, where his stuff would certainly play, but he will probably be developed as a starter in order to allow for further development of his secondary pitches, as he could get by with just his fastball out of the bullpen, especially in the low minors.

- The first thing that stands out with Dedgar Jimenez is his size. He is listed at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, and looks all of that, if not more. At the age of 18, that is already a big body, so his conditioning will be key for his development going forward. His delivery is simple, with a short motion back and slight arm hook behind. It is a low-effort delivery, and he throws from a high-three-quarters arm slot. His stuff was on the pedestrian side this outing, with his fastball sitting at 89-91 mph but lacking life. He has solid feel for his secondaries, with his changeup showing better on this day. He throws the pitch with deceptive arm speed at 82-83 mph and turned the pitch over, showing drop. His curveball is a long, sweeping breaking ball thrown at 74-76 mph.

- The reports out of extended spring training and the Gulf Coast League on Williams Jerez’s conversion to the mound were promising, and he showed why in this look. Jerez looks the part, listed at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot, with surprisingly solid mechanics for a converted position player. He has a high leg lift and turns his body before coming forward, which adds deception. Jerez did a good job repeating his delivery and threw strikes. His fastball sat 91-93 mph, topping out at 94 with sink. He showed solid feel for his slider, with the pitch showing short two-pane break and bite at 81-83 mph, and displayed the ability to bury it down-and-in to right-handed hitters. He threw one poor changeup at 87 mph, but previous reports had him having some feel for that pitch as well. Overall, thus far the conversion seems to be working out well, and if development takes its course, it is not a stretch to see a potential reliever from the left side with a plus fastball and at least one average secondary pitch.

Photo credit: Rafael Devers and Williams Jerez by Kelly O'Connor

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.