Breaking down the draft: Picks 44-49

It has been a while since the previous installment of this series, but I was waiting to see who signed by the August 15 draft deadline. For a listing of past articles from this series, please click here.

44. Jeremy Bleich | | LHP | New York Yankees

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Bleich has a pretty good tempo—he comes out around 24 frames from the point at which his knee reaches its uppermost point until release. Usually, the faster one’s tempo, the better one’s velocity; however, Bleich’s velocity registered only between 87-91 mph.

One thing I was not impressed with was his arm action—it’s a bit long, and he didn’t generate much arm speed from the loaded position into release. He appears to be pushing the ball rather than throwing it. Also, he’s a little too “tall-and-fall” for my taste, meaning that he comes to a balance point before driving toward home plate. He is essentially stopping his momentum mid-way through his wind-up. He isn’t a complete tall-and-fall pitcher, but I would rather see his hips moving toward home plate a little earlier.

One thing that Bleich seemed to struggle with was his release point, which is probably one reason for his poor control at Stanford this past year. I can think of a couple reasons for this:

1. Front-side mechanics – Bleich’s front-side mechanics aren’t necessarily bad, but there is something that’s not quite right. It could be Bleich firming up a little too late, or not leaving the glove extended out in front of his chest. Instead of letting the chest meet the glove, Bleich pulls the glove back, which I’m not really a fan of.

2. A somewhat late body rotation – I actually like the fact that Bleich has a fairly late body rotation, since it adds deception to his pitches, but it can have a negative impact on a pitcher’s command if he doesn’t have great body control and precise timing for when his body rotates and the arm is brought around into release.

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Fastball Grade – 40 Now, 45 Future

Curveball Grade – 45 Now, 50 Future

As I mentioned earlier, Bleich’s fastball clocks in only between 87 and 91. However, his fastball does have some decent tailing action. In addition to his fastball, Bleich has a low-to-mid-70s curve, which he actually commands a bit better than his fastball. He has issues with the consistency of the curveball, and as of now it profiles as a close to average pitch. I’ve read that his change-up is his best pitch, but he didn’t throw one in the video I saw.

If you’re a numbers guy, then you probably aren’t happy with this pick. Bleich’s strikeout numbers were okay (8.0 K/9), but his control scares the death out of me (5.1 BB/9). In addition, he appears to be a fly-ball pitcher (though the sample size is small). That isn’t a combination that I would like in any pitcher.

Now, if you’re searching for positives, Bleich’s control was much better in ’06 and ’07. However, his K rate was also lower. Also, he gave up just one home run this past year; on the other hand, his home run rate was a lot higher the prior two years, as was his H/9.

Overall, I’m not very impressed with Bleich, and I feel that there better picks on the board, even among players who were drafted for their “signability.”

45. Bryan Price | RHP | Boston Red Sox

Check back next week for a comparison with Brad Holt of the New York Mets.

46. Logan Forsythe | 3B/Util | San Diego Padres

Forsythe was the third of seven straight position players drafted by the San Diego Padres. What does he provide that the others don’t?

Versatility, for one. Forysthe has the capability to play all over the field: both corner outfield spots, both corner infield spots, second base and even shortstop and catcher in emergencies.

Versatility is always good to have, especially when your bat doesn’t profile awfully well at the main power positions. Forsythe’s bat should play at third base, but being an offensive-minded utility player wouldn’t be a bad back-up role.

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Forsythe should be able to hit for average power, but he is more of a doubles/line-drive sorta hitter. He carries his weight forward well and has a relatively short path to the ball, but he isn’t always able to keep his hands back, and his swing plane is more tailored for line drives rather than for fly balls.

Forsythe isn’t a flashy pick, but I like his versatility and his already advanced understanding of the strike zone to go along with his good-but-not-great bat.

47. Kyle Lobstein | LHP | Tampa Bay Rays

Lobstein is another one of the many projectable lefties drafted in the supplemental round this year. Normally, I prefer pitchers with aggressive mechanics and better-quality stuff, but there are some things I like about Lobstein.

First, Lobstein has good potential to add velocity. One way will be through filling out his projectable frame. Another way will be by working with his mechanics. Lobstein is interesting because he produces average velocity (87-90, touching 92) without doing much to actually produce velocity (which is why you’ll see people say that the velocity that Lobstein produces is “easy”).

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To start, Lobstein has an extremely slow tempo, coming out around 32 or 33 frames. Like Bleich, Lobstein is a “tall-and-fall” pitcher; the difference is that Lobstein is much more of a straight tall-and-fall guy. It takes him much longer to get his hips moving forward in the direction of home plate.

My advice: Speed it up, get moving—see if he can get his hips moving a little earlier toward home plate. That alone will help increase Lobstein’s velocity. Lobstein is known to be a good athlete, so I don’t think he’ll have a problem making these adjustments.

Lobstein has a smooth delivery, as you’ll read in almost any scouting report on him, but there are times when he lacks intent. The more intent one has, the harder one throws (within reason, of course; you don’t try to throw so hard that it messes with your control).

Stuff

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Fastball – Lobstein’s smooth, slow wind-up also provides a little deception to his fastball because the ball gets on hitters a little faster than expected. His fastball has some movement but not a lot, especially for a lefty. However, he commands the pitch well to both sides of the plate.

Grade – 45 Now, 55 Future

Curveball – Lobstein’s curveball isn’t a big breaker, as it’s more of a slurve but with a sharper bite. Like his fastball, Lobstein commands the pitch well.

Grade – 40/45 Now, 50 Future

Lobstein also features a change-up, and although the pitch might grade out a touch better than his fastball and curveball, he doesn’t command it as well as he does his other two pitches.

Lobstein has the potential for three at-least-average pitches to go along with potentially plus command, but he still has plenty of adjustments and many levels to conquer before reaching the majors.

Pick No. 48, Tanner Scheppers, did not sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

49. Johnny Giavotella | 2B | Kansas City Royals

Giavotella is a nice little (literally and figuratively) under-the-radar selection by the Royals. The 5-foot-8 second baseman has a quick bat to go along with a very short swing, lets the ball travel deep into his hitting zone, and sprays line drives to all fields. Before going further, let me make the distinction about a swing with quickness and a swing with speed.

A while back, I wrote an article about Tim Beckham that highlighted the adjustments he would need to make to his swing going forward and one of the few problems I noticed with Beckham’s swing was the quickness of his bat. A general rule that should be followed is to invest in players with bat quickness over players with bat speed.

Let’s put hitters into three categories: bat speed, bat quickness and a blend of bat speed and bat quickness. A player with a lot of bat speed will often times have a longer swing. So even though the player will generate plenty of bat speed, it takes a longer time for the player to build up that bat speed. As a result, the player has to start his swing earlier. While that may lead to many strikeouts, the ball will also go a long way should the player get a hold of one. What this player is demonstrating is the ability to generate bat speed, but not the ability to generate quickness.

Bat quickness is something you’ll see in players with high contact rates but also light power. The swings of players who possess bat quickness are usually short and quick to the ball, but they don’t have the loading process to generate sufficient bat speed that would produce some sort of power.

Elite hitters blend bat speed and quickness. They keep their swings short, yet generate plenty of bat speed to hit for power. They combine the ability to hit for power and average.

Obviously there are different levels of bat speed, bat quickness, and swing length. And there are many more factors that go into whether a player hits for power or makes consistent contact.

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In Giavotella’s case, he has a very quick bat—a very short path to the ball that helps him minimize his overall number of strikeouts and make contact on a very consistent basis. However, Giavotella also possesses pretty good bat speed, in that you can project him not just to be a high contact singles hitter, but also a hitter with gap power to go along with the occasional home run.

Giavotella has a small loading of the hands that helps him generate at least some oomph to his swing. However, he offers little in terms of physical projection and combined with other attributes associated with his swing (his weight transfer, for instance), it is difficult to project his power out at the major league level.

What Giavotella gives the Royals is a prospect at a position that is very scant in talent throughout the minors. He’ll play solid defense at second, steal a few bases, rarely strike out, provide a strong batting eye, and hit for a moderately high average. There are certainly question marks in regards to how much Giavotella will hit, but he’s worth taking a shot on, especially since he plays at a position where the bat doesn’t need to carry the player.

To round out this series, I will be looking at some of the various requests made to me over the past couple months.

References & Resources
MLB Scouting Bureau
Minor League Baseball
College Splits

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