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June 19, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Scouting Scratch: Quick-hitters from Portland

With Red Sox third basemen still struggling, the calls for Rafael Devers to come up to the big leagues will only continue to grow. After seeing Devers for three games recently, however, it is clear he still could use seasoning in the minor leagues. Devers can get pull-happy and overly aggressive hunting fastballs. As a result, he can be susceptible to off-speed pitches and extend his zone, chasing them. Even when he briefly falls into such streaks, Devers has the mentality and ability to turn things around quickly. He has shown this ability recently—after an 8-for-48 stretch over his final 12 games of May (.167/.226/.292, 1 HR), he is hitting .364/.397/.764 with 5 home runs. 

The minor league all-star breaks are upon us—the Single-A break is happening now, while the Eastern League’s game will be on July 12. Considering Michael Chavis’ continued assault on Carolina League pitching, it would not be a surprise to see the two promoted over the next month or so. Moving Devers up to Pawtucket would provide a further challenge for him, especially if the Red Sox are considering him as an option to fill the third base void at some point late in the season.  
Nick Longhi has always shown an intriguing hit tool, but faced questions about whether he would hit for enough power for his bat to play at first base—questions that led to his retooling his swing during the offseason to generate more lift. After a frustrating April in which he hit just .182/.194/.288 with 1 double and 2 home runs—albeit with a .185 BABIP, suggesting extremely poor luck—he appeared to revert back to his typical self in May, hitting .290/.353/.376 with 5 doubles and one home run. But in June, Longhi seems to be turning the corner. He is hitting .309/.367/.564, slugging 8 doubles and 2 home runs in 15 games.

Although the home run power is not yet showing, there is a noticeable change in his batted ball profile month-to-month, with his groundball percentage showing a notable decrease as he starts hitting more balls in the air (53.6-55.4-45.5). That said, it is clear that Longhi is still getting used to his new swing mechanics. His timing is still off at times,  as he will get his front leg down too late. On occasion, he will show off his raw power, such as when I saw him drive a 3-2, 93 mph fastball out to deep right-center field back at the end of May, but things are still a work in progress for Longhi.
Right-hander Kevin McAvoy is in the Portland starting rotation right now, but looks destined for the bullpen long-term. McAvoy has a starting pitcher’s frame, but his delivery is tough to repeat in long stretches and his stuff is unlikely to play in a starting role. McAvoy pitches exclusively from the stretch, with a jerky delivery including a long arm action where he shows the ball behind. He will show five different pitches: a fastball, cutter, slider, changeup and curveball, but when I saw him recently he struggled to miss bats with all of them. His cutter showed the most potential, with short, horizontal movement. His fastball sat 91-93 mph with sink when he got over the pitch and kept it down in the zone. 
Luis Ysla’s stuff has been down when I’ve seen him this year, but at least his velocity was back the last time I saw him. His fastball sat 95-96 mph in this outing, but his control still needs improvement. Ysla has a high-effort delivery with a long arm action and a lot of moving parts. His raw stuff is very intriguing, especially coming from the left side, but he needs to take significant strides with his command and control for his prospect stock to rise back to where it was entering the season. 

Photo credits: Rafael Devers and Kevin McAvoy by Kelly O'Connor

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