Scouting the FSLby Adam Guttridge
July 27, 2009
On July 15, I was in Sarasota for the Reds-Miracle matchup (those being the FSL affiliates of Cincinnati—duh—and Minnesota). I was joined for the game by Kiley McDaniel of Baseball Prospectus. Contrary to popular belief, BP and THT writers actually do not engage in Los-Angeles-gang-style warfare when they come into contact with each other.
Furthermore, Kiley and I have a lot in common: we're both the same age and from the same general area, and we both have our feet wet in MLB front offices. And, we're both currently seeking to make that our full-time vocation. Also, Kiley's experience has been more in the scouting side of things, while mine has been on more of the statistical side (though we've each done a fair amount of crossing over). So watching the game with him and being able to pick his brain about a certain player's swing path, or the finer points of the difference between 40 power and 50 power (on the 20-80) scale, was an enriching experience.
The Miracle have an awfully stacked roster. On display today were top prospects Ben Revere, Chris Parmelee, and Joe Benson, with some interesting players sprinkled elsewhere throughout the roster. The game was a laugher; a 13-0 rout in the Miracle's favor. As such, the Reds pulled top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco early. Since I got a good look (six plate appearances) at all the Miracle hitters, and I'll see Sarasota again soon, I'm going to withhold reports on Sarasota for now, and just focus on the Miracle roster.
Ben Revere, CF, MIN
Background: Revere led the minors in batting last year with a .379 average. He is consistently rated in the upper crust of position player prospects in the game.
What I Saw: Revere is not the dainty leadoff hitter who hopes to slap and chop. While his frame is small, he is muscular, and he takes aggressive cuts. While his swing doesn't generate a ton of force, his hands are lightning quick through the zone. He sprays medium liners and hard grounders all over the field, and occasionally (as in his first at-bat: a right-center triple) he'll generate enough loft/torque to penetrate a gap. He's no Juan Pierre, but he's also no Johnny Damon. He'll max out at five to seven homers a year, but he should hit enough leg-doubles and triples.
His most impressive offensive trait is that he just plain old finds the barrel. He covers the plate well, and despite an aggressive cut, he managed to get good wood on practically every hack he took. Despite a mild lunge in his swing, he never found himself out of balance. One of his three hits was on a slow breaking ball, and a hard groundout up the middle—where he was robbed with an amazing play by Reds second baseman Jacob Kahaulelio—was on a slurvy slider.
Kiley timed Revere at 3.94 and 4.02 to first base, which is quite impressive. He later scored from first on a double and displayed great agility and gait. His stolen base record thus far in the FSL (33-for-47) doesn't live up to his raw speed, so he needs to do some work on reading pitchers.
Defensively, Revere showed amazing range on a left-center flyout. Great jump, great route, and just covered an unbelievable distance. Later, he made a highlight reel over-the-shoulder catch on a fliner to the warning track. He got a bit turned around, but balls hit directly over the head will do that to anyone.
Outlook: Offensively, Kiley and I thought Chone Figgins to be a very similar profile of player. But we better make that Chone Figgins who is also a perennial .300 hitter. He's an advanced hitter for age 21, and he doesn't have major adjustments to make; he just needs to continue getting stronger and seeing better pitchers. The ceiling may not be incredibly high, but his odds of being an above-average player are as high as most any 21-year-old you may find.
Chris Parmelee, OF/1B, Twins
Background: Parmelee was taken 20th overall out of a California high school in 2006. He hit 14 homers and drew 52 walks in just under 300 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in the MWL last year before injuring his wrist.
What I Saw: The first thing that struck me with Parmelee is that he's a bad-body guy. When he was drafted, he was a shade under 200 pounds; he's now more in the 230 range, and it's soft. First base is now his likely destination, which obviously hurts his value.
He's got a real top-hand-heavy swing, which means a couple of things: A) he'll probably get destroyed by any left-handed pitcher with a decent breaking ball, and B) he'll be pretty pull oriented and have poor outside plate coverage. In fact, Parmelee seemed to have trouble with breaking pitches in general, finding himself well out front on below-average FSL stuff a couple times during the night.
He takes a vicious hack, and if the pitcher misses the holes in his swing, he has plenty of raw strength to make them pay. Parmelee didn't chase anything out of the zone all night, and that's not a fluke; he's got a great walk rate for someone his age.
Outlook: Parmelee has two things we love to salivate over: homers and walks. And for someone his age, he provides a very high dose of both. But the problem is, he won't have anything else. He won't have positive defensive value. He'll be a base clogger.
The key is, will he cut the strikeouts without sacrificing too much of the power? It would be very easy to just say, "well, he's 21, so he has plenty of time to figure it out." That's true, but you want to get a read on the likelihood of that happening. On one hand, he's got an advanced awareness of the strike zone and plus bat speed. On the other hand, he has a lot of trouble with breaking pitches and controlling the outer edge of the plate. One thing is for certain: as a guy who brings nothing to the table but a bat, he won't be an impact player if he's Adam Dunn Lite.
Joe Benson, RF/CF, Twins
Background: A second-round pick in 2006, Benson chose baseball even though he was a highly recruited running back. He hit .248/.326/.382 in the MWL last year before injuring his back midseason.
What I Saw: Benson has a strong, athletic body with some moderate filling out left. He has plus bat speed and covers the plate well. Benson showed strong opposite-field power on a right field flinout. The swing is a bit opposite-field oriented, if anything, and generates decent leverage. He did not chase pitches out of the zone.
He showed a strong right field arm, though I did not see any play that shed light on his range. He was fast on the bases, however.
Outlook: In all honesty, I'd like to see a bit more of Benson before I decide whether his upside is a stronger Ryan Spilborghs or a more athletic Tim Salmon. He reminds me of both those players, though, and they both have value.
Alexander Soto, C, Twins
Soto showed a great arm and plus power. He rocked a 410-foot home run to left-center field on a chest-high 90 mph fastball. He later flied out to the center field warning track on a curveball despite being noticeably off balance (out front) on the pitch. His swing could use a bit of refinement; he needs to simplify his load and subsequent weight transfer so he can handle offspeed pitches better. He swings as if he's trying to murder the ball, which I like, but he needs to get it under better control. But I like him a lot as a sleeper.
Estarlin de los Santos, SS, Twins
He rocked two wall-scraping doubles and showed good raw power from each side of the plate. His smallish frame limits his future home run totals, but he'll at least have gap and moderate over the fence power. He was playing second on this day, but I'm not sure why. He looked quite rangey and, while he never had to show it off, the arm looked at least adequate for short.
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