May 2014

What to make of Jacob Gatewood

Is there any Draft prospect in this year’s class tougher to figure out than Jacob Gatewood (Michael Gettys fans, you’ll just have to wait)?

It’s been tough to figure out where the NoCal high school shortstop will go when considering mock drafts (I had him going No. 22 overall in my first projection of the opening round). While it’s still very unclear if that’s the right spot for him, I have been getting more and more feedback that Gatewood belongs in that neck of the woods, with interest coming from the mid-first round on down.

“I think you would have to consider him [in that area],” one cross-checker said. “I think he’s right around there.  I think he’s still going to go towards the end of the first round. I’d feel comfortable taking him in that area.”

There are a couple of things to consider about Gatewood before trying to pass any kind of final judgement about his future. The first is that people were probably a little too over-zealous in their praise and that expectations were too high after the summer. If he had been thought of as a mid-to-late first round pick all along, there wouldn’t be talk about him sliding, etc. (Call it a market adjustment).

Gatewood has a playoff game on Tuesday, giving scouts another look in a pressure situation as the Draft rapidly approaches. And there are sure to be private workouts, which can really help a player like Gatewood.

It’s also important to recall other hitters who had similar concerns, i.e., the swing and miss in their game and what it meant in terms of them reaching their power potential. Some examples:

Joey Gallo. Gallo and Gatewood aren’t great comps, because Gatewood is more athletic, but there were the same issues being voiced by scouts when the now-Rangers prospect was a high school Draft prospect  in 2012. He ended up going in the supplemental first round (No. 39 overall) as a result. Sure he struck out 172 times in 2013, his first full season, but he also topped the Minors with 40 homers. He’s doing it again this year (18 homers) and he’s also hitting .342 in the Class A Advanced Carolina League. He’s, that’s right, making adjustments at the plate.

Kris Bryant. Yup, that Kris Bryant. When he was coming out of high school, there were all sorts of questions asked about his hit tool. He was an all-or-nothing type with tremendous pop, but holes in his swing. The question was: Would he be the Kris Bryant we all see now? Teams weren’t sure enough to really go after him. Three years later, he’s one of the top offensive prospects in the game.

Giancarlo Stanton. He was Mike back in 2007, a multi-sport athlete who every team in the first round overlooked. What it came down to was the work a scout with the Marlins did to really know what Stanton was all about.

“Stanton wasn’t really anything out of high school. That Marlins scout was on that one and was relentless. He did not relent since Area Codes. Everyone who tried to catch on to that late, he knew the makeup, that he wanted to play. Someone will have to know that about this kid.”

That’s what the key will be for Gatewood, for one team to know him well enough and feel comfortable that he’ll be able to make adjustments. Baseball has been full of guys like this who have become superstars. And a fair share have gone the other way.

But could Gatewood be Stanton? Absolutely. And the team that thinks he will be — and has done the exhaustive homework about his makeup, his approach, his process — is the one that will take him before the first round is over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Draft tidbits — pitching, pitching, pitching

This time of year, information starts coming in fast and furious regarding the 2014 Draft class. I’ll try to update everyone as I get good intel in.

Today, it’s all about pitching. Here’s what I’ve been hearing the last day or two:

  • Hawaii high school lefty Kodi Medeiros (Ranked No. 24 on the Draft Top 100 currently) made his final start of the season on Wednesday, a tough 2-0 playoff loss to St. Louis HS in the quarterfinals. But Medeiros was impressive, up to 95 mph with his fastball and showing his outstanding slider. He maintained his velocity throughout his 119-pitch performance with a lot of scouts in attendance.
  • He was bested by St. Louis HS right-hander Jordan Yamamoto. Yamamoto isn’t on the same level, Draft-prospect wise, as Medeiros, but he certainly helped his stock in this duel. He tossed a complete-game shutout, a two-hitter that needed 100 pitches to finish. He was at 92-93 mph all game and had outstanding control. He’ll likely be in the Top 200 we unveil closer to the end of the month.
  • Questions about Luis Ortiz’s (Ranked No. 33) health may have been answered on Thursday. The NoCal high schooler had missed time with a forearm issue, but appears to be 100 percent now. On Thursday, he threw a two-hit shutout, striking out 11 and walking none. He was 93-97  mph with his fastball and maintained that velocity throughout.
  • One of the wild cards in the first round is TCU left-hander Brandon Finnegan (No. 11). He missed time with shoulder stiffness and teams want to see if he’s healthy before making a call on him. If healthy, he’s a top 10 pick candidate. If not… who knows? He made his second start since missing time on Thursday. The results weren’t great — 3 1/3 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 K — but scouts were pleased with how he threw. His velocity was fine; he just wasn’t sharp as he continues to shake off the rust. He’ll get a conference tournament start and a likely regional appearance to further convince teams he’s good to go.
  • Hartford lefty Sean Newcomb had a rare Friday morning start today. The early start didn’t seem to bother the southpaw, ranked No. 14. Through his first seven innings, he allowed one run (on a play that should’ve been an error), walking one and striking out eight while getting his fastball up to 95 mph (sat at 92-94 throughout) against Stony Brook. Nothing was hit hard and he was commanding his fastball very well. Among those in attendance: Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, for whatever that’s worth

More talk about season rebounds

Last week, I wrote a feature that focused on Courtney Hawkins, Brandon Nimmo and Trevor Bauer and how, in different ways, they were all bouncing back from either up-and-down or subpar seasons in 2013 to have solid-to-outstanding 2014 campaigns to date.

As is often the case, I had way  too much information from the conversations I had with players and farm directors. Rather than send them into the vitrual trashbin, never to be seen again, I figured I’d post them here for your perusal. Some of it was used partially, but most of it didn’t make it into the final version of the story.

 

Brandon Nimmo:

“The numbers weren’t horrible, but they weren’t where I’d like them to be. This year, one of the biggest things was in the offseason, I got to some warmer weather sooner. I was little more focused on bringing the baseball aspect of it into my workouts instead of just focusing on strength and speed. Going to IMG for seven weeks really helped. We worked on everything from mental to vision to strength and speed and flexibility. We also would go on the field and work on the swing, get out there, hit with guys like Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Starlin Castro. To hit with those kinds of guys, I really benifitted from picking their brains a little bit. I’m stronger, more control of my body, which is going to happen as I mature.”

“I put the work in this offseason, lets see the results. So far, so good. There will be some bad times, but I’m trying to be more consistent and iron out those down times more.”

“You can’t let one bad game spiral into a week or two of bad games. Or maybe you had a good game, or got some cheap hits, you need to realize that’s not what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to hit the ball on the barrel all the time. You’re picking up small things that might help you not fall into those long droughts. When you’re in the droughts, you try to [remind yourself] it takes a little bit of time. Maybe you created a bad habit and it’s not going to take one swing to get out of it. [Learning to deal with success and failure are] both essential in developing for a Major League career.”

 

 Courtney Hawkins:

“I had my times where what I was capable of would pop out. I’d start feeling good and say, ok time to breakout. You really do have to take things pitch by pitch, day by day. If you let one at-bat get to you, you’re going to be screwed that whole game. I can tell you from personal experience.”

“I don’t worry about the media stuff this year. Last year, I’d read stuff and say, ‘I’m going to prove them wrong.’ I just go out and play ball now.”

“At instructs, I was hitting well again. It didn’t really click until this offseason. My second offseason, I knew how to go about stuff. I didn’t take much time off. I stayed in the groove and kept going at it. When I came into the hitting camp in January,they could tell the difference. I felt good in Spring Training. Toward the end of Spring Training, they lowered my hands more. Since then, I’ve been putting my bat on the ball more.”

“Last year, whenever they told me to do something, I did it. That’s why you saw so many different stances. I kept tyring to find something that was clicking. You ‘d be back to square one every time.  Lowering my hands clicked fast for me. But it doesn’t always work that way. You have to work on it.”

“I was tyring to get that callup, but you can’t think that way. It’s so much easier to play when you’re not worrying about the other stuff. That first summer, I had the mentality, all I worried about was just playing ball. My whole mindset changed. Now I’m back to that, just go out and play ball and not worry about anything else.”

White Sox farm director Nick Capra (on Hawkins):

“This last year, experience of first full year of baseball, maturity has a lot to do with it, him learning he didn’t have to be in a hurry to get in the big leagues. In his mind, he thought he was on a fast track. He got ahead of himself.”

“We moved him from CF to LF this year. He’s responded tremendously. His defense has improved. He looks like an OF with a passion to [play defense].”

“There are different personalities, different kids. They have to find themselves somehow, rather than look at what other people are doing. They have to focus on what they are capable of doing and how they’re doing.”

On whether in hindsight they feel they rushed him:

“I don’t think so. When he signed, he progressed rapidly. We got him to Kannapolis and he really stood out in the SAL. We got him to the Carolina League for the playoffs and he excelled. We thought he’d settle in during his first full year and grow on the success he had before. It’s easy to look back, but no I don’t think so.”

On his progress:

“I think it was more of a gradual thing. He worked on things in instructs that he brought into Spring Training. Then we worked on other things in Spring Training. A lot of it was the mental things that figure into how you play. He’s adjusted to things rather well. You have to have confidence and it plays a big factor in how you compete. This kid had never failed before. He failed a little bit last year. Now it’s about how he responds to failure. He is definitely a more confident player last year.”

Indians farm director Ross Atkins (on Trevor Bauer):

“I can tell you I haven’t met many pitchers that are as passionate about delivery mechanics, about pitching philosophically and mechanically, as Trevor. It’s been great for us to learn with and from him about him and about pitching. He has incredible toughts about pitching.”

“Even last year, when he wasn’t at his ‘best,’ we were still extremely encouraged. His results and velocity weren’t where they were. We didn’t see him back off from trying to master his skills and craft. Obviously, this year in Spring Training, you see the spike in velocity and strikeouts, how he’s pitched this year, we’ve been extremely encouraged. Although the results have varied, we’ve never been disappointed with his commitment. I know he had a hard time with last year. He was extremely frustrated. The fact he was coming close to making such a significant adjustment to his approach and still was competing, it gave us faith he’d find that comfort level eventually.”

“With Trevor, we really have been, from the start, extremely impressed and encouraged by his process and how committed he is to being great. He’s never tried or focused on , ‘I’m going to show or prove to someone,’ it’s not about how he was traded. It’s always about how can I be great. That’s why we’ve always been so encouraged. Now that he’s having more productive results, obviously we’re encouraged by that. I can honestly say , there were never levels of discouragement. He’s always been in a very good place.”

“All pitchers have ebb and flow. He’s now higher than we’ve every seen him, consistently in the mid to high 90s. His curve, slider and changeup are all average to slightly above-average weapons. They vary which one is most effective; that makes him more interesting.”

 

 

 

 

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