Results tagged ‘ Mark Appel ’

Astros camp extras

The Astros prospect package is live! Here’s my report from Spring Training, their new Top 20 list and Bernie Pleskoff’s look at how the system addresses short- and long-term needs.

For your viewing pleasure, the video piece from camp as well:


Some good extras from my conversations, especially with GM Jeff Luhnow. I had one Q&A left over from my chat with George Springer:

Everyone talks about all the prospects in the Astros system. As a group, are you excited collectively to get to the big leagues and help turn things around?

Springer: As players and kids, the dream is to play professional baseball at the highest peak, to get there. At the same time, you still have to have the utmost respect for the guys who are in the clubhouse now, who have gone through the struggles, who’ve had success and not had success, guys like Castro, Altuve. That’s something to honor. As a player, it shows how they’re able to handle failure, adversity and success at the same time. I think for kids who are coming up, that’s something to look up to.

Now, on to my conversation with Luhnow. We’ll start with continuing on what he was saying in the story about wanting to maintain a top level system.

Luhnow: [We hope] we can consistently maintain it in the top 10-15. Obviously, as you graduate players to the big leagues, you lose some of that. I think we’re well-positioned to do that because we have an interesting system. We’ve got players that are top prospects that are both pitchers and position players. We also have players that are spread throughout the life cycle. We’ve got really good players in rookie ball, A ball, Double-A, Triple-A. They’re not all going to show up all at one time and then we’re going to have a barren system after that.

The other thing I think we’re counting on is our second tier prospects, if you will, being good major league players. When I was in charge of the Draft and player development in  St. Louis, there were a lot of players that were considered second-tier prospects, like Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay, Allan Craig, Lance Lynn, even. None of these guys ever made the Top 100 prospects. They were good players, performers in the Minor Leagues. Ultimately, those are the guys that created a ton of value when it came to the 2011 World Series and the last couple of years. I think we’re seeing a bunch of guys like that, that are sleepers in our mind. Guys like Preston Tucker, Nolan Fontana, guys that aren’t sexy because they don’t wow you with blinding speed or awesome power, but consistent performers that are going to go out and do the job. Brady Rodgers, Andrew Thurman, guys like that, who we feel are a big part of our system right now.

One of the biggest changes we’ve realized, in doing the Top 20, is how much more talent there is at 11-20. It used to be hard to come up with 20 guys, now players are being left off who are pretty good.

Luhnow: The depth is important to us. There are going to be injuries, there are going to be poor performances. That’s just part of the nature of what happens in baseball. Also, some guys are going to step up and surprise. Jonathan Meyer is a perfect example. He’s re-establishing himself. This is a big year for him. He’s either going to make himself into a Major League player or drop off people’s radar. Even those guys not on any list (he mentioned Jio Mier as one) still have the chance to bounce back. That’ll be fun to watch this year.

We talked about camp standouts and while I went with Preston Tucker in the story, Luhnow had a lot of good things to say about Mike Foltynewicz impressing in camp as well.

Luhnow: [Major League pitching coach Brent] Strom doesn’t have a lot of history with him and then you see a guy throwing 100, who’s got that good delivery and good mentality, it’s easy to be impressed with a guy like that. I do think he has the chance to break through that last barrier and get to the big leagues and be a pretty dominant pitcher. We balance the speed to the big leagues with role in the big leagues. He could probably get there quickly as a reliever, but we really feel we want to continue to give him the chance to be a starter. So far his outings have been pretty impressive.

He’s starting to develop a repertoire that’s effective. His curveball, you used to see it at times, it’s now becoming more consistent. He has a changeup that we spent a lot of time last year trying to convince him to throw it. When you throw 100, you don’t really want to throw a changeup that much, but he’s doing it and he’s having more success with it. As he develops the repertoire, he’s going to realize in Triple-A and in the big leagues that you need a full repertoire to get guys out. It’s not just about throwing gas.

And, finally, my One More Guy:

It has to be the guy who I listed as the camp standout, Preston Tucker. I really like the Allen Craig comp Luhnow made in terms of them both having been college senior signs, later in the Draft, who just went out and hit. Craig hit his way to the big leagues and an All-Star appearance. Whether Tucker can reach those heights remains to be seen, but his .303/.373/.506 so far as a pro is certainly a very good start.

Astros looking at six for top pick in the Draft

With the Draft about six weeks away, the Houston Astros — owners of the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight year — have narrowed their focus for the top pick down to a half-dozen main candidates. Four of them hail from the college ranks and two are high schoolers.

Most in the industry have felt Houston would be looking pitching, and college pitching in particular, with the top spot. And three of the six candidates do fit that description. Stanford’s Mark Appel, a No. 1 pick potential a year ago, is back and pitching better than he ever has in his Stanford career. He’s joined by Oklahoma ace Jonathan Gray and Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea.

The Astros have one college bat on that final list: San Diego third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, who has been raking for most of this season.

Finally, there’s the two high school outfielders from Georgia, Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, to round out the half-dozen.

There might be a couple of players on the periphery — a Colin Moran from North Carolina, perhaps — but those six appear to be the main candidates. All are in the top 10 of MLB.com’s Top 100 Draft prospects list.

Expect the list to stay more or less the same up until Draft time. Don’t be surprised if Houston keeps its options open in case it wants to be creative at the top, like it was with Carlos Correa a year ago.

 

Draft recap: Last weekend’s action

We’re in the process of putting together a weekly feature that recaps the weekend action on the amateur scene. It won’t be just stats, though they’ll be included when possible. The idea is that I’ll talk to scouts at the end of each weekend to see who stood out/who didn’t and report back to you what the Draft landscape is looking like. I got a little bit of a late start for this week as we’re getting the ball rolling on Draft-related coverage, so I wanted to just post some “news and notes” on 2013 Draft prospects and their performances from last weekend to whet your appetite.

Top matchup

May have been Stanford vs. Fresno State. Friday saw a good power vs. power contest with Mark Appel facing Fresno State’s Aaron Judge. The Stanford senior had a much better start than he did against Rice the previous week, tossing a complete game, allowing one run on three hits, walking one and striking out 11. He also got nine ground ball outs.

Judge went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in that game, but he finished off the series with a 5-for-5, 3 RBI performance, including his second home run of the season. People will talk about the swing and miss to Judge’s game, but as one scout put it… there are guys in Cooperstown who had swing and miss to their game. More than one scout projects Judge as a first-rounder.

Stanford will be watched carefully throughout the year because of the depth of talent there. Brian Ragira looked good over the weekend as well, going a combined 5-for-13 with a homer, a double and two RBIs

College Lefties

Sean Manaea is the top lefty in the 2013 Draft class

Indiana State’s Sean Manaea is the top lefty in the 2013 Draft class.

Sean Manaea, the Indiana State lefty was reportedly sharper in his second start of the year than his first. Facing College of Charleston in an Auburn tournament, Manaea gave up one hit and one walk while whiffing 10 over six shutout innings. He showed at least solid average stuff across the board as the top lefty in the class has made a very strong early case to be a top of the draft candidate.

Vanderbilt lefty Kevin Ziomek isn’t quite in that stratosphere, but he threw well on Friday, albeit against Monmouth. Ziomek was sitting at 91 mph with his fastball, touching 93 mph, to go along with a solid average curve, thrown 75-77 mph. His changeup is fringy, but he threw strikes and impressed with his mound presence as he went seven innings and allowed a run on five hits and two walks while striking out 11. Some scouts see him as a back end of the first round type of college lefty selection.

College Righties

Appel wasn’t the only right-hander to throw well for scouts. Florida’s Jonathon Crawford didn’t go deep, going just 3 2/3 innings and allowing two runs on three hits while walking one and striking out four. He had some command issues, which got him into trouble. But he was aggressive with his fastball, up to 94 mph, sitting 91-92 mph. He showed flashes of a plus slider and a fringe-average changeup.

Texas Tech’s Trey Masek got the ball on Sunday against UConn at the UCF tournament in Orlando and tossed nine shutout innings in a no-decision, allowing just five hits and one walk while striking out seven. He was up to 93 mph with his fastball and worked very quickly, going right after hitters.. He also showed feel for three secondary offerings — an average slider, a fringy, but usable curve and a playable changeup. He’s not overpowering, but he showed how effective he can be.

Hunter Brothers of Lipscomb might be a little further out on the radar, but his arm strength might be something scouts will continue to monitor. Pitching Saturday at the tournament his school was hosting, Brothers was up to 95 mph in his start, sitting at 92 mph. He had given up just one run through five, but ran out of gas in the sixth, leaving with one out. He ended up allowing five runs total (two earned), allowing four hits and four walks wile striking out two. His command wasn’t good on all of his pitches. He showed glimpses with his slider and he kept attacking hitters, but delivery inconsistencies hurt him. With his arm strength, but lack of command and a changeup that’s not a factor, you have to wonder if teams will look at him as a future reliever.

High school arms

One of the more intriguing names to watch is that of Jordan Sheffield, and not just because of who his uncle is (Gary).  The Tennessee high school standout showed some excellent arm strength in his last outing. He touched 95 mph with his fastball, sitting around 91 mph, and he showed a solid changeup, especially for a high schooler. What he didn’t have was good command, especially of his breaking ball. He competes well, though he’ll have to work on managing his effort level.

High school hitters

Scouts hoping to see top SoCal high school hitter Dominic Smith in action on Monday were disappointed. Smith, the Serra HS standout walked his first time up. Then he struck out in his second plate appearance. When he hit the catcher on his backswing — inadvertently, according to reports I received — Smith was ejected from the game by the umpire, leaving many frustrated.

Florida high school shortstop Oscar Mercado had a so-so showing over the weekend as well. Reports were good about his batting practice and infielde pre-game, but his at-bats were just fair and didn’t stand out. He did make some good defensive plays, but also threw a couple of balls away.

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