As most of you know, I went to a couple of SAL games a week and a half ago. I certainly do not consider myself a scout (so please don't take anything I say here as gospel), but I did take notes on what I saw:
Leandro Castro – LF – Lakewood Blue Claws
Castro is listed as 5’11” 175lbs, but he did not look like he had much more room to add muscle to his frame. His athleticism is certainly the primary thing that stands out. His speed was on display in both games, stealing a base, scoring on a Sac Fly and showing good range on the one difficult ball hit his way. His arm looked strong on a throw to second base. At the plate, he looked much more raw; he frequently took big swings, and was fooled a couple of times by off-speed pitches. When he did make contact, it was generally hard. In his first at bat on Saturday, he showed nice opposite field power resulting in an RBI triple.
Evan Chambers – CF – West Virginia Power
Chambers was easily the most patient hitter that I saw on either team. Mike Newman has claimed that he’s “too passive for his own good” , and I can certainly see that. He showed pretty good speed on the bases, but it certainly didn’t look elite to my untrained eye. His bat speed looked a bit slow to me on Saturday; however that may have been an exception as I did not notice it on Sunday. He looked rather stocky, and I wouldn’t expect much physical growth.
Jarek Cunningham – 2B – West Virginia Power
Cunningham was the one Pirate prospect that I was excited to see, but he really did not show me much offensively. He frequently chased pitches out of the zone, and was late on May’s fastball on a few occasions. In an at bat against Josh Zeid, he chased three consecutive pitches in the dirt to strikeout. His lack of adjustment is what turned me off the most. However, all was not lost. I went into the game expecting poor defensive work from him at 2B, but came away pleasantly surprised. He showed excellent range on a couple of occasions on Sunday: one on the SS side of second base and the other in shallow left field that was much closer to Aaron Baker. Neither ball resulted in an out, but just being able to field both balls was impressive.
Jiwan James – CF – Lakewood Blue Claws
Jiwan James is quite simply an exciting player. He is tall and lanky with plenty of room to fill out. His plate discipline was a bit more polished than I anticipated, rarely chasing balls out of the zone. He continually looked to go the other way with the pitch, frequently hitting line drives to left field. Given his speed, which he was not shy about putting on display, the approach suited his game quite well. James stole two bases on Sunday and seemed to do so with ease. He was only challenged once in centerfield, making the put out on a ball deep into the left centerfield gap. His throw on that same play did not look particularly strong, but with no one on base it is hard to tell whether that is a weakness in his game or not. Being a former pitcher, I assume that isn’t the case.
Trevor May – RHP – Lakewood Blue Claws
For some reason, it took me 4 full innings to realize that Appalachian Power Park had a stadium gun which means that I did not get a good feel for how hard Trevor May was throwing early in the game. For the first two innings, he worked solely with his fastball which he kept low in the zone. It featured some glove side run and induced plenty of ground balls. Quite a few hitters were late on the pitch and by the 5th and 6th inning it was in the 90-92 range. His control and command of the pitch were inconsistent; he would frequently miss low, but also went through a couple of runs where he would hit his spot. The last pitch of the game, for example, he painted the corner on a 92 MPH fastball for strike three. He started to mix in his curve ball in the third inning, featuring a sharp eleven-to-five break and coming in anywhere from 76-82 MPH. His changeup sat 80-84 MPH and had some arm-side run on it. Like his fastball, both off-speed pitches that I saw were inconsistently controlled.
Jonathan Singleton – 1B – Lakewood Blue Claws
The most hyped prospect on either team has to be Jonathan Singleton. After a blazing start in the SAL, many were lauding him as having a special bat. I did not really buy into that talk at the time, and thankfully it has quieted as his production has come back down to Earth. Unfortunately, I only got to see him play in one game, and it was uneventful. The most impressive aspect of his game, at least that I witnessed, was his plate discipline. He chased one high fastball, but otherwise, did a great job controlling the zone. He took a big swing at one pitch that resulted in a high pop up, and the rest of his at bats simply were not noteworthy. He looked solid enough at first base, but I reject any thought that he could play the outfield. Singleton already has a big muscular frame that you would expect at first base. He simply looked like a man among teenagers.
Sebastian Valle – C – Lakewood Blue Claws
Sebastian Valle is the guy who intrigues me the most from either team. Not necessarily the best prospect, mind you, but one that is hard not to like. While he played in both games, he was used as DH on Sunday which was a bit of a disappointment. His receiving looked solid for most of the night, but he went through a stretch where he miss-caught a few balls with no runners on late in the ballgame. Considering the situation, I am inclined not to assume it was more of a lapse of concentration than any deficiency in skill. His arm strength was impressive, and he could be really good at throwing out runners if he shores up his throwing accuracy a bit. At the plate, he has a quick bat and often employs a very big swing. As bad as his plate discipline numbers look, I saw him take quite a few pitches. He did get fooled by off-speed pitches at times, but on two separate occasions he made the adjustment mid at-bat to hit that off-speed pitch that fooled him earlier in the count. He also joked around with the local heckler while on deck prior to the inning. He seemed to have a firm grasp of the English language and a pretty light-hearted disposition. I came away from the trip very bullish on Sebastian Valle.
My thoughts on a few lesser prospects (Aaron Baker, Kyle McPherson and Josh Zeid) along with some pictures are available here: http://bullpenbanter.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=241:a-brief-glimpse-at-some-sal-prospects-lakewood-a-west-virginia&catid=18:articles&Itemid=11