SoxProspects News

October 16, 2015 at 7:30 AM

Scouting Scratch: Anderson Espinoza, Roniel Raudes, Logan Allen and Josh Pennington


Recently, SoxProspects Director of Scouting Ian Cundall and Assistant Director of Scouting Chaz Fiorino traveled to the Fall Instructional League to report on the goings-on in Fort Myers. This is the third of six reports from the trip.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander Anderson Espinoza put together one of the most impressive debut seasons for a Red Sox pitching prospect in recent memory. In my first chance to see him live—in an outing where he didn’t even throw his best secondary pitch, no less—he was extremely impressive. Espinoza doesn’t have a prototypical tall, projectable pitcher’s frame, but calling him undersized is a disservice, as he looks all of the 6-foot-1, 190 pounds at which he is listed. The young Venezuelan definitely has room to add weight as he matures and gets stronger, but did not look out of place size-wise when around players sometimes five-plus years his senior.

Even before you see Espinoza’s raw stuff, his demeanor and feel for pitching really stand out. He is very advanced for his age and did not look out of place at all facing polished college hitters from the 2015 draft class. He is a solid athlete and has a very quick, loose arm. Espinoza has a clean, free, and easy delivery and his arm works fine. He does a very good job of repeating his delivery and showed off quick feet and a solid pickoff move.

Espinoza sat 93-96 mph over his two innings of work with most of the pitches at 96 mph. Espinoza generates really easy velocity, and his fastball showed heavy arm-side run and sink. It is easy to see why the pitch generates so many groundballs, because he can locate it down in the zone where it is extremely difficult to square up. This will serve him well going forward, as it will allow him to keep his pitch count down and work deeper into games when he can generate weak contact early in the count. Espinoza topped out at 97 mph once with his fastball, on what was one of if not the most impressive single pitch I’ve seen this year. After retiring the first two hitters in the first inning on five pitches, Orioles prospect Ryan Mountcastle, the 36th selection in the 2015 draft, came to the plate. Espinoza threw him a fastball that started over the inner third of the plate and looked like a good pitch to hit. By the time Mountcastle made contact with the ball it was barely above his hands on the handle of the bat at 97, shattering the bat and resulting in a weak groundout to shortstop. That type of movement on a fastball is rare, let alone one thrown at 97 mph.

Espinoza only threw his curveball in warm-ups, but even when not throwing it at 100% the 12-to-6 shape and the advanced feel and confidence in the pitch showed that at its best it could be a plus-to-better pitch. Espinoza did throw a pair of changeups, one at 81 mph and the other at 83 mph. He threw the pitch with deceptive arm speed, the same as his fastball, and it showed late fade, getting one swing-and-miss. Again, Espinoza showed solid feel for the offering, which projects as at least a above-average third pitch that will not lag far behind his curveball.

Espinoza has the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect in the Red Sox system. He has the type of arm that does not come along very often, and at only 17 years old, he has the demeanor and polish of a pitcher much older. Espinoza will start next season in Greenville, and if he continues to show improvement from where he was this season and succeeds at the level, he will find himself near the top of the list of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.

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Aside from Espinoza, Nicaraguan right-hander Roniel Raudes had the best season of any arm in the low minors. Only 17 years old, Raudes excelled in the Dominican Summer League, putting up 63:3 K:BB ratio in 53.2 innings before a deserved promotion to the Gulf Coast League, where he put up a 16:6 K:BB ratio in 20 innings while allowing only two earned runs. After seeing Raudes live, it is easy to see why he excelled at those levels, as he is very polished for a 17-year-old. Raudes is listed at 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, and he is on the thin side with a long torso. He has projection in his frame and will be able to support added weight as he gets stronger and physically matures without loosing much athleticism. Raudes has a loose arm, throwing over the top with a slight trunk twist and head whip in his delivery. He falls off to the first base side and is quick to the plate.

Raudes was one of the pitchers who threw twice during our time in Florida, and both times he sat 88-91 mph, topping out at 92-mph. His fastball is on the straight side, but it jumps on hitters, and as he matures he projects to add some velocity. He was able to throw the pitch for strikes, though he was missing high to the arm side a fair amount when he did not finish his delivery. He complimented his fastball with a 74-76 mph curveball that flashed solid-average to plus. It was clear he had confidence and advanced feel for the pitch, throwing it early in counts to get ahead of the hitter. The pitch showed 12-to-6 break with nice shape and depth through the zone. Raudes also threw a few changeups at 83 mph that showed late fade and solid arm speed.

With advanced feel for a curveball and ability to locate his fastball, it is easy to see why Raudes excelled in the complex leagues, but his stuff will be tested against more polished hitters who have seen a solid breaking ball before and will punish fastballs that miss location. Though he does not have the same upside as some of the other arms in the system, Raudes is an interesting prospect, and depending on how he develops physically, he could become more of a household name in coming seasons.

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Though only 18 years old and drafted this year, left-hander Logan Allen is extremely polished for a high school arm. SoxProspects Assistant Director of Scouting Chaz Fiorino recently wrote up a longer Allen appearance from the end of the season in Lowell, and what we saw at Instructs confirmed what we thought after seeing that Lowell start. Allen has a solid pitcher’s frame and mature build for his age, listed at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. He has a sturdy, filled-out lower half, but does have some projection left, especially in his upper body as he adds strength.

Allen has an easy, repeatable delivery. He uses a medium leg kick with a slight back tilt as he rocks back. Allen showed off four pitches during his two innings, a fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. He showed feel for all of his pitches, but none of the pitches stand out as better than solid-average right now. His fastball sat 90-92 mph and he continued to show impressive control for his age. His used his curveball the most of his secondary pitches, throwing it in the low-70s, but with inconsistent rotation and finish.

Allen is very polished for his age and not someone you would guess was drafted just this year. He does not have the highest ceiling due to his lack of a true plus offering or out pitch, but with feel for four pitches and a simple, repeatable delivery, Allen has a relatively high floor and should be able to handle an assignment to full-season ball next year.

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Right-handed pitcher Josh Pennington made his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League this year after tearing his UCL during his senior season of high school and undergoing Tommy John surgery following the 2014 draft. At the complex, he impressed in an abbreviated season, allowing only 17 hits in 22 innings with a 0.82 ERA and 13 walks to 22 strikeouts. Pennington’s stuff was impressive in the Instructional League outing scouted, quickly disposing of the Orioles lineup in each of his two innings of work. Pennington has an average build, listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, with an athletic frame and live, loose arm. He does not have much projection left in his body and has effort in his delivery. Pennington starts on the first base side of the rubber and throws from a high-three quarters slot with a short arm action and a quick arm. He has solid arm strength and sat 94-96 mph during his two innings of work. The pitch was on the straight side, however, as Pennington does not get great plane due to his height, but he did a good job staying in line to the plate and was consistently around the strike zone. He complimented his fastball with a firm changeup at 86-88 mph and a 12-to-6 curveball at 76-78 mph. The curve showed better potential, flashing solid-average as he really snapped it off with tight rotation and sharp break. He had good feel for the offering and showed the ability to throw it for strikes both called and swinging by burying it down and out of the zone. Because of Pennington’s prior arm trouble, delivery, and build, he is best suited in a bullpen role, but with his fastball-curveball combination, he bares watching as someone who could impress in that role.

Photo credit: Anderson Espinoza by @johnsilver52; Logan Allen by Dave Letizi; Josh Pennington by Kelly O'Connor

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

 
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