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August 23, 2022 at 8:00 AM

Notes from the Field: Marcelo Mayer, Blaze Jordan, Niko Kavadas and Nathan Hickey


Over the last few weeks, SoxProspects.com Scouting Correspondent Chris Clegg has checked out several Greenville Drive home games to get live looks at some of the talent on display. The Drive have a stacked lineup after the recent promotions of Marcelo Mayer (pictured, right) and Blaze Jordan. Today we will take a look at four members of the Drive who have been promoted from Salem this year. Let’s dive into the players. 

It has been a blast to follow and scout the Greenville Drive’s lineup this year. The Red Sox High-A affiliate has featured a ton of talent, and even though the Drive have sent some of those players up to Double-A Portland, the team has also received a new crop of prospects. In late June, Niko Kavadas and Nathan Hickey were promoted, then, last week came the much-anticipated  Marcelo Mayer and Blaze Jordan promotions. Here are my observations on these four recent additions to the Greenvile lineup.  

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Marcelo Mayer got off to a slow start upon his promotion, going just 1-for-18 in his first four games and 4-for-28 over a six-game series against Hickory. Still, he showed good strike zone awareness and pitch recognition. Mayer worked deep into counts and overall made good swing decisions. Although he struck out six times in those first four games, the larger issue was the type of contact he made when he did make contact. 

Early in the week, Mayer had plenty of topped balls and pop-ups, and seemed to be pressing. In his final at-bat on Tuesday night, Mayer did scorch a line drive into the right-center gap that would have likely been a hit against most teams, but Hickory center fielder Evan Carter, himself a top-100 prospect, made a great catch. As the series progressed, Mayer began swinging more frequently and tried to make things happen. 

Despite the early struggles, Mayer was able to turn things around and show why he’s one of the game’s top prospects on Saturday, when he broke out for three hits in four at-bats, including a big home run. He also did not strike out on Saturday or Sunday. 

The talent is undeniable with Mayer and was clear, even in just a short look. He has a great glove at shortstop and a strong arm to go with it. His strong plate discipline and smooth swing leave Mayer with a very high floor and plenty of upside to dream on. 

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Blaze Jordan started his Greenville career much stronger than Mayer, with a three-hit, two-home run game. He hit one home run so far over the mini Green Monster at Flour Field that it landed on top of the apartment building behind it, then followed it up with another home run in his next at-bat. Jordan finished his first series in Greenville with six hits in 18 at-bats. 

Jordan (pictured, right) is hyper-aggressive at the plate and is the opposite of Mayer in that sense. He loves swinging earlier in counts and often hurts himself because of it. I also noticed that Jordan struggled with velocity. He is very late on fastballs, even around 94 mph, and I did not see Jordan turn on a fastball all week. He can destroy offspeed pitches, but unless he can pick up on fastballs quicker out of the pitcher's hand, there are major concerns with his hit tool. It is something to monitor with Jordan moving forward. 

Defensively, Jordan is not likely a third baseman long-term. He played two games each at third and first against Hickory (plus a fifth game at DH), making one error at each position, including a bad throw from third. Jordan has big power and hits the ball extremely hard when he makes contact, but the inability to catch up to fastballs makes me slightly concerned. 

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Niko Kavadas (pictured, lefthas set the world on fire this season. After mashing 14 home runs in Salem, he earned a promotion to Greenville in late June, and he hit well enough in High-A that he earned another promotion, to Portland, last week. With the Drive, Kavadas hit ten more home runs–in nearly 100 fewer plate appearances–with a .308/.472/.592 slash line. 

The numbers look great, but also merit deeper examination. Kavadas hits the ball extremely hard with a swing geared for power and extra-base hits, but you have to wonder if Kavadas will be more of a three-true-outcome player given his 20.6 percent walk rate, 26.9 percent strikeout rate, and 24 home runs this season, those accounting for 53 percent of his plate appearances. The strikeouts come from working deep into counts and from some swing-and-miss in the zone. Kavadas makes good swing decisions in general, but he works deep into counts often and has one of the lowest swing rates in the minor leagues, which leads to more strikeouts. You would like to see him be more aggressive. 

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Nathan Hickey
 (pictured, right, with Kavadas) is similar to Kavadas in that he has strong plate discipline and is selective choosing pitches to swing at. Before his promotion to Greenville along with Kavadas in June, he had a one-to-one strikeout-to-walk rate with 39 each. In 94 High-A plate appearances, he has 17 walks to 24 strikeouts. Hickey has a .263 batting average on the season but a strong .417 OBP to go with 10 home runs. 

Hickey, a left-handed hitter, was running a 32.7-percent strikeout rate against left-handed pitching coming out of the weekend compared to a 19.8 percent rate against righties, and he walks at a much lower rate against southpaws (9.0% versus 23%), but that has not stopped him from hitting for a respectable .286/.364/.571 slash line against left-handers. Still, the drastic difference in his walk and strikeout rates portends potential issues against more advanced left-handed pitching, so despite the small sample of 55 plate appearances, Hickey may end up as a platoon bat behind the plate. 

Photo Credit: All by Kelly O'Connor.

Chris Clegg is a Scouting Correspondent for SoxProspects.com. Chris has been writing about baseball since 2019 covering fantasy baseball and MILB prospects. He resides in Greenville, SC and began to develop a passion for evaluating Minor League players in 2017 when he began attending more Minor League games. You can find him behind home plate at plenty of Drive games and other MILB parks. You can find more of his work at FantasyPros and FantraxHQ. Follow him on Twitter @RotoClegg.