September 3, 2015 at 2:30 PM
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- The Greenville Drive lineup is the deepest in the system prospect-wise. After looking at the pitchers (Part 1, Part 2), as well as the system’s top two prospects in Yoan Moncada and Rafael Devers, this edition of the Scouting Scratch, written by Director of Scouting Ian Cundall looks at three other position players based on this four-game look.
- Javier Guerra started the season at number 16 prospect in SoxProspects.com rankings, but in hindsight that was too low. Guerra had shown significant upside in the field at shortstop, but questions remained at the plate, specifically with his approach and power projection. This year, Guerra has greatly exceeded expectations at the plate, hitting both for average and power, putting up a .277/.324/456 slash line with 15 home runs and 22 doubles. In the four-game look, Guerra came as advertised in the field, but his improvement at the plate showed as well.
The 19-year-old Panamanian has an athletic, average-sized frame for the position. He is listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, but is still on the skinny side with a decent amount of projection left as he matures and gets stronger. At the plate, he starts with his feet square and his hands high by his ear. He utilizes a toe-tap timing device and has solid bat speed from the left side. He has good hand-eye coordination, strong wrists, and quick hands.
Guerra likes to attack the ball and has some length in his swing, rarely getting cheated. His approach is still developing and will need refinement, as he still struggles against secondary offerings, especially against lefties. He looks to pull the ball and struggles with pitches away, but he did show the ability to make adjustments when pitched there from at-bat to at-bat, staying back and hitting the ball hard to left field a few times. His pitch recognition is also still a work in progress, as too often he gets fooled and caught out on his front side. At present, he has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, with 104 strikeouts in 435 plate appearances, but as the season has gone on he has cut down on his swing-and-miss.
Though Guerra has 15 home runs, he still does not project for more than fringe-average (10-14 home runs) to, in the best case, average power (15-19 home runs). Guerra’s power is almost exclusively to the pull side, with thirteen of his fifteen home runs pulled. With his defensive potential, however, any power is just an added bonus, as his glove alone is enough to carry him.
Guerra’s calling card is in the field, where he has the potential to be a 65-70 defender at shortstop. Though he has below-average speed, Guerra has a very quick first step and excellent range to both sides. He has very good instincts and plays the position with swagger. He has very soft but lightning-quick hands and is very assured in the field. He has made 26 errors on the season, but a handful of those are the result of him getting to balls most shortstops would not reach. To top it off, Guerra has a plus-plus arm, perhaps the strongest in the system. He can make any throw look easy, even from deep in the hole. Even if the bat doesn’t develop, he has big league potential, and if it does develop, he has role six, everyday player upside.
- Entering the season, Michael Chavis was the highest-rated of the three players discussed herein, but he has had his ups and downs in 2015. Chavis has shown flashes of why he was a first-round draft pick as a Georgia high schooler, but he has also struggled both in the field and making contact at the plate. Chavis does not have the typical frame of a third baseman, listed at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds. He has limited physical projection remaining, but is a good athlete, is very strong for his size, and has a thick, developed lower-half.
In the box, Chavis starts with his feet open in a slight crouch. He utilizes a leg lift, and his swing is on the long side with a uppercut swing path. He has plus bat speed and does not get cheated on his swings. In batting practice, Chavis was the most impressive of any of the Greenville hitters – this even including Rafael Devers and Yoan Moncada – showing easy plus raw power, driving the ball out consistently to left and left-center field. But while it worked in BP, Chavis used the same swing in-game, and he seemed to be pressing and trying to drive the ball out of the ballpark regardless of the situation. On occasion, he did shorten up with two strikes, but for the most part, he failed to make adjustments and try to make contact when the situation called for it.
Chavis’s power has 15 home runs on the year, with five coming this month, but he also has 131 strikeouts in 431 plate appearances and is hitting .228 with a .281 on-base percentage. Chavis does have more potential in his hit tool than he is showing, but he needs to make major progress with his approach to reach that potential, and may have to cut down his swing and look more to drive the ball into the gaps than over the fence.
At third base, Chavis was inconsistent, showing a solid-average to plus arm that could play at third base, but some issues with footwork and throwing accuracy. When he got to the ball and was able to set his feet, he was able to make the play, and he did show range towards the line and confidence charging the ball.
Chavis has more upside at the plate than he has shown, and he young enough that there is time for him to figure things out. Based upon the year he has had, I would not be surprised to see him start again in Greenville next year with an eye towards an early promotion to Salem. However, if he shows improvement over the season’s final few weeks and carries that over to Fall Instructs and Spring Training, an assignment to Salem to start 2016 is not out of the question.
- Even though he was drafted back in 2013, Nick Longhi was young for his draft class and only recently turned 20 years old. As a result, his .275/.335/.388 line with six home runs and 22 doubles is very respectable, as he has typically been facing pitchers two or more years older than him. Longhi has a strong, athletic frame, listed at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. Longhi looked to be in noticeably better shape than past seasons, looking stronger, quicker, and more agile in the field and on the basepaths. He still has some projection left in his frame and should add more strength in his upper body as he matures.
At the plate, Longhi starts with his feet slightly open from the right side and his body straight up. He has his hands high and utilizes a toe-tap timing device, ending up in a good hitting position. He has strong bat-to-ball skills and a natural inside-out swing. Longhi has shown good pitch recognition skills and an all-fields approach. Opponents have seemed to notice this—in the series scouted, the Asheville outfield shifted to right field during his at-bats. At present, Longhi has more gap power than over-the-fence power, but during batting practice he did show the ability to square the ball up to the pull side. He has also flashed pull power in game, with four of his six home runs to left field or left center and a few other pulled balls that would have been home runs if not for the green monster in left field in Greenville. With a first base/corner outfield defensive profile, how Longhi's power develops will be key for his long term projection. He has the frame and bat control, and is still young enough that he has power potential, but it would not be surprising if that did not develop until later in his career.
Defensively, Longhi has played first base and right field this season and has also played some left field in the past. At first base, Longhi looked very comfortable, making several excellent scoops on balls in the dirt, showing off soft hands and good footwork around the bag. There, he has the potential to be a plus defender, but Longhi has a plus arm, which is wasted at first. He is a good athlete with fringe-average to average speed and solid instincts, which combined with that arm should play in the outfield as well. In right field, he looked comfortable, getting solid reads and showing decent range for someone his size. It is not a stretch to project him as a solid-average defender out there with plenty of arm to keep baserunners honest.
Overall, Longhi has put up a solid season in his first taste of full-season ball. Having defensive versatility will serve him well as he moves up the ladder, especially if his power takes time develop, because being able to play solid defense at both first base and corner outfield will put less pressure on his bat. Ultimately, however, corner positions are run-producing spots, so how his hit tool and power develop will be the key to reaching his potential.