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July 20, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Scouting Scratch: Tate Matheny and Kyri Washington

 GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Over the course of the season, the Greenville Drive has become arguably the deepest, most interesting team in the Red Sox farm system, with several potential big leaguers both on the mound and at the plate. Over the July 4th weekend, I was able to travel down to South Carolina and take in all four games of a weekend series between the Drive and the Asheville Tourists. After finishing our run through the pitchers, today we take a look at two Greenville outfielders making their full season debut after struggling in 2015 with Lowell.

- Kyri Washington has formed a formidable power duo in the middle of the Greenville lineup along with first baseman Josh Ockimey. A 2015 23rd-round pick, Washington got off to a slow start in the GCL and Lowell while showing little power with only one home run and 11 extra base hits in 135 plate appearances. This year, however, Washington has found his power stroke, hitting 13 home runs, 17 doubles, and 4 triples, putting together a .264/.324/.520 triple slash in 276 plate appearances through July 19 with 22 walks and 79 strikeouts. While the power is there, the other aspects of Washington’s game lag behind, and I am skeptical about how he will handle upper level pitching.

Washington does not have a prototypical power hitter’s frame, listed at 5-foot-11, 220 pounds. He has a very strong, muscular build without much projection remaining. He starts with a vertical, slightly open stance from the right side. He utilizes a slight leg lift with a short stride, generating most of his power with his upper body and strong wrists. He has a slight uppercut in his swing to generate lift and a pull approach. Noticeably, Washington did go to right-center a few times during the series, including hitting his second home run that way. He has bat speed and rarely gets cheated, getting everything into his swing when he decides it is a pitch he can hit. Washington has an aggressive approach, and as result has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. He also makes a fair amount of weak contact due to his aggressive approach. He struggles to recognize spin and his backside often collapses against breaking balls. His 29% strikeout rate is not a fluke, and as the pitching becomes more advanced and the book gets out on him, he will likely see a lot of a soft stuff away, forcing him to make an adjustment.

When Washington gets a fastball, he can square it up with his plus-to-better raw power. How much of that power actualizes in game is up in the air, however, as at best he projects to have a below-average hit tool. If he does not make enough contact, the power will not show up, but if Washington can tap into his power, he has the potential to hit 20+ home runs. At this point, almost all of Washington’s power is to the pull side, with 10 of his 12 home runs to left or left-center. Part of this could be due to the short porch in left field at Greenville, which encourages a pull approach, but looking at his splits, his power is pretty much evenly distributed at home and away.

Though he has eleven steals on the year, speed is not a big part of Washington’s game. He is an average runner at best right now, and as he matures, his speed will likely play closer to below-average.

Defensively, Washington has a left field-only profile and does not project to be anything better than average there. He clearly recognizes that is a part of his game he needs to work on, as he was out early working on his first step and footwork prior to games with the coaching staff. Compared to last year in Lowell, he has improved, but he still likely will be relegated to a left field/designated hitter profile. In this look, Washington did not get a chance to show off his arm strength, but in past looks last year it graded out as average.

Overall, Washington’s long-term value is tied up in how his bat develops. His only carrying tool is his power, and if his hit tool and approach do not improve, it will be difficult for his power to play at higher levels. Washington is on the younger side for a 2015 college draft pick having only just turned 22 a few days ago, but he is already showing considerable swing-and-miss against less-than-polished South Atlantic League pitching. As he moves up the ladder, he will see pitchers who can command their fastballs and have better secondary offerings, which will really test him. Best case for Washington, he will develop into a bat-first left fielder, but at this point it is a stretch to project him as anything more than bench player given his defensive limitations. More likely, he develops into an organizational player, as I am not convinced he will be able to hit against higher level pitching. Because of his power, Washington will be given every chance to show he can make the necessary adjustments, and if he does show some contact ability, he has a chance to be more than that.

- Another 2015 draft pick, fourth-rounder Tate Matheny, got off to a terrible start to his career, putting up a .181/.233/.218 line with Lowell in 2015 with 9 walks and 52 strikeouts in 213 plate appearances. As a relatively early college draftee with some pedigree, it was a particularly disappointing showing, and coming off of that I was not sure what to expect from him going forward. This season, he looks much more like the player the Red Sox must have thought he could be when they drafted him, putting up a .304/.343/.442 triple slash with 4 home runs and 15 steals in 286 plate appearances through July 18. Unlike Washington, who has one carrying tool, Matheny does not have any stand-out tool. When evaluating him, you have to take the sum of all his parts in order to paint an accurate picture.

When you first see Matheny, he does not stand out physically, looking his listed height and weight of 6-foot-0, 200 pounds. He does not have much projection remaining, though he could stand to get stronger. Matheny hits from a square stance from the right side with his hands high and a wide base. He utilizes a toe tap and ends in a good hitting position. He only has average bat speed and has length in his swing. He looked to inside-out the ball often, and made a lot of weak contact either on the ground to the left side or in the air to right field. Matheny struggled when pitchers were able to get the fastball in on his hands and may struggle against velocity as he moves up the ladder. Matheny’s approach is still on the rudimentary side, and given his lack of power, he needs to cut down on the swing-and-miss in his game. Compared to last year in Lowell, his strikeout rate has only slightly decreased (from 24.4% to 21.7%) while his walk rate has also only slightly increased (from 4.2% to 5.6%). Long term, Matheny projects to have a fringe-average hit tool.

Power will not be a major part of Matheny’s game, as he does not have the bat speed or loft in his swing to profile as a power threat. He struggles to square the ball up to left field, with almost all of his contact in the air to right side of second base. Outfields at the Low A level already shade him that way and will continue to until he shows he can consistently turn on the ball. All four of Matheny’s home runs are to right field and only 3 of his 16 doubles are to left field.

Defensively, Matheny is a surprisingly good defender given that he is a below-average runner. He makes up for his lack of speed with solid instincts, a quick first step, and good reads, taking efficient routes. He showed only average arm strength, but his arm is accurate and would profile at all three outfield positions. This year, he has yet to play left field, playing the majority of the time in right in deference to Luis Alexander Basabe with some center field sprinkled in. Although he has below-average speed, Matheny does have good instincts on the bases that allow him to still steal a few bases.

Though Matheny does not have any tool that projects to be better than average, he still has the potential to profile as a fourth or fifth outfielder if everything turns out right. Even though he lacks speed, his defensive profile and versatility could prove valuable in a bench role. His defensive profile also takes some pressure off his bat, though even in a bench role he would have to show enough hit tool to keep pitchers honest. While not a high-ceiling prospect, Matheny is the kind of player every organization needs, and it would not shock me to someday see him find his way on to the back end of a big league roster.

Photo credit: Kyri Washington and Tate Matheny by Kelly O'Connor

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