Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Scouting Notes: Bakersfield Blaze vs. San Jose Giants 6/7/2016

Last night, thanks to free tickets available at the local Trader Joe's, I was able to catch the Bakersfield Blaze in town to play against the local San Jose Giants, both High-A affiliates in the California League. While I didn't get to the game until the second inning (sigh... Silicon Valley post-workday traffic), I got to see most of the action and make observations on each player who got in the game. The Giants featured several college draft picks from last season, all of whom have performed well and are rising quickly, while the Blaze were relatively prospect-light outside of Mariners #3 prospect (per mlb.com) Drew Jackson, but there were other intriguing talents as well.

Tyler Pike
Starting for the Blaze was Tyler Pike, a lefty who was taken in the 3rd round out of high school in 2012 as a projectable lefty. He mostly sat around 87-89 with the fastball, reaching back to hit 91 several times. Despite the velocity, it seemed to have get good life on that pitch, and was able to hit his spots reasonably well. He mixed in a changeup clocked around 80, but it wasn't anything special. The most impressive pitch, however, was his slow curve, clocked in the high-60's, low 70's that fooled San Jose hitters and had them whiffing. Overall, he pitched well in his four innings of work, striking out 4 and walking none, but he ran his pitch count up to 94 pitches (62 strikes) and had to be pulled despite being in line for the win. His command was not bad in this game, but with a career 5.1 BB/9 he might not make it to the majors as a starter. Pike had a deceptive delivery and good arm speed that consistently fooled lefties, but righties were able to see him well, so his ceiling may be a LOOGY with a nice curveball.

San Jose starter D.J. Snelten has had good results so far in his career, but it isn't hard to see why the big lefty (standing in at 6'7'') is not considered much of a prospect. His mechanics were iffy at best as he struggled to control his large frame, and despite his size only threw 85-88 on the fastball, keeping his pitches low and away in fear of leaving it over the heart. He slowed down his arm significantly every time he threw his offspeed pitches, and Bakersfield hitters were all over him, with 6 runs on 8 hits in 4.1 innings before giving way to the bullpen.

Austin Wilson was one of the hitters who did damage against Snelten, slicing a line-drive into the right field corner for an easy triple and 2 RBIs. Wilson is a physical beast but has struggled to adjust to pro pitching so far, batting .213 on the year, but as he went 3-3 tonight we will see if he has turned a corner. Drew Jackson, the highest-ranked prospect on the field, went 0-5, but with some loud flyouts to the warning track and mostly made hard contact, and while I didn't have a stopwatch on me he seemed pretty fast from home-to-first. He did, however, look great defensively, making a quick relay throw from left field to almost nab a runner at home that seemed like had no chance of being caught. 

Steven Duggar loads to swing.
On the San Jose position player side of things, three players stood out: first baseman Chris Shaw from Boston College, outfielder Steven Duggar from Clemson, and shortstop C.J. Hinojosa out of Texas. Shaw is having himself a great season at the plate, batting .294 and already with 12 dingers, and he went 1-4 last night with a single. He hit the ball hard every time he made contact, and displayed some pretty good plate discipline. Duggar was one of my top outfielders from last year's draft class, but he had some concerning issues in his swing that limited power production for someone who struck out a bit too much. This year, however, he seems to have bulked up quite a bit, hitting his 9th homer of the season to go with a nice 40/44 BB/K. His swing was one of the nicest on display last night, and he covered plenty of ground in center field as well. If his great play keeps up, look for him to shoot through the Giants system. Hinojosa is having a great year at the plate, and last night he looked like an absolute stud defensively, making a diving play in the hole on a hard-hit ball by Jackson, and then alertly throwing to third to nab the runner trying to advance. He had a nice, compact swing as well, and that should play well as he moves up the organizational ladder. On the other hand, he didn't hustle out any his flyouts, and lackadaisically played a high chopper off the bat of Kyle Petty that turned into an infield single. You would expect someone who played three years of college baseball under Augie Garrido at Texas to play with a little more grit. He did however, win a $50 gift card for a fan by breaking the headlights of an old truck as part of a promotion for auto repair, while teammate Jonah Arenado's throw bounced off the bumper and onto the field of play. Gotta love minor league baseball.

Other players to note:
- C Daniel Torres (BAK) called a good game and handled the pitching staff well, but struggled with blocking pitches in the dirt.
- LF Robbie Garvey (SJ) was your typical #9 slap hitter with an awful bat, but he could play some defense and could really run.
- Cuban outfielder Daniel Carbonell (SJ) DH'd tonight, and he is an absolute beast of an athlete. Baseball skills have yet to develop though.
- Also DHing was Blaze catcher Tyler Marlette (BAK). Former top prospect whose development is stagnating, wasn't very impressive at the plate.
- C Ty Ross (SJ) has an absolute cannon of an arm. Defense looked great, swing not so much.
- 3B Jose Vizcaino Jr. (SJ), drafted out of Santa Clara University, took some giant cuts and could hit the ball hard.
- RHP Jeff Soptic (SJ) threw the hardest pitch of the night, up to 97 on his heater, but has command issues and is now in his fourth year of A-ball.
- 1B Kyle Petty (BAK) went 3-5 to raise his average up to .346. Is already 25 though, and nothing about his game was particularly impressive.
- 2B Gianfranco Wawoe (BAK), pronounced wah-WOO, hit a monster foul bomb on a first pitch fastball before being over eager and whiffing on two straight sliders. Has some physical tools and an 80-grade name, but needs some polish.
- 3B Jonah Arenado (SJ), Nolan's little brother, was a defensive replacement and made some nice plays in the field. Strong arm was a bit out of control and Shaw had to save him twice. Hit a long fly ball to deep left in his one AB, only to be caught at the warning track. Bloodlines, but not much of a prospect.
- Arenado wasn't even the least-appreciated sibling at the game. 1B Justin Seager (BAK) is the unfortunate middle brother between Kyle and Corey, and is batting just .206 on the year. Didn't get in the game though.

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