Oakland Athletics pitching prospect A.J. Cole (Photo by John Sickels, SB Nation/Minor League Ball)
Scouting Report: Burlington Bees
I was in Burlington, Iowa, this past weekend, taking in a pair of games between the Burlington Bees and the Beloit Snappers, then a single contest between the Bees and the Quad City River Bandits. Here is a scouting report on what I saw, continuing with Burlington.
BURLINGTON BEES (Low-A Midwest League, Oakland Athletics)
Raul Alcantara, RHP: Just 19 years old, acquired from Red Sox for Andrew Bailey last December, from the Dominican Republic. Tall, lean but wiry strong at 6-3, 180, showed impressive fastball at 90-95 MPH. He gave up two runs and five hits and a walk in six innings, but struck out just one guy despite his velocity. I wasn't impressed with either his slider or his changeup, and poor secondary pitches are probably why he's fanned just 34 in 61 innings. He has the arm strength to be a very good pitcher but is still figuring out how to use it.
A.J. Cole, RHP: One of the big pieces acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez trade, Cole got off to a terrible start this year in the California League (0-7, 7.82, 31/10 K/BB in 38 innings but with an incredible 60 hits allowed). Recently demoted to Burlington, he has a 3.86 ERA with a 19/5 K/BB in 16 innings with 20 hits allowed. He gave up one run and four hits in five innings Thursday, walking one while fanning six. His fastball was consistent at 90-93 MPH, a few MPH down from last year when he was reportedly throwing mid-90s and peaking at 98. Breaking pitch and changeup were very poor in the first inning, but improved as the game progressed, as did his location. Biggest thing I noticed: his mechanics looked consistent and steady when nobody was on base, but when pitching from the stretch he had problems, rushing his delivery in a way that looked like it would stress his shoulder and lead to command troubles. Assuming he is healthy, I think his problems are fixable.
Bobby Crocker, OF: Age 22, listed 6-3, 215 and looks it, hits right, drafted in the 4th round in 2011 from Cal Poly. He's not having a great year, hitting .257/.320/.355 with 11 walks, 36 strikeouts in 152 at-bats. He is obviously physically strong, but his swing is level and he doesn't drive the ball the way you would expect him to. He showed good plate discipline in these two games, although that hasn't been true most of the year. Good speed for a big guy but hasn't been a threat to steal yet.
Rashun Dixon, OF: Age 21, listed 6-2, 210 but looks a bit bigger than that, quite muscular, running speed is above average. Hit a triple and a home run in the first game, showing very impressive raw power. He was making an effort to work counts although that has been a problem for him in the past. He takes a big rip and tries to pull everything; pitchers with superior command would take advantage of that. Dixon looked like the most physically gifted of the entire Burlington squad, but he's still learning how to play. He was drafted in the 10th round from high school in Mississippi in 2008.
Sean Jamieson, SS: Age 23, hits right, listed 6-0, 193, drafted in the 17th round in 2011 from Canisius. Not a big-time tools guy, but runs well and has a refined, patient approach at the plate. Hitting .254/.383/.376 in 57 games thus far, with 38 walks, 36 strikeouts in 205 at-bats. Has also stolen 17 bases in 19 attempts. He's not a spectacular player, but he has good instincts and profiles as a potential utility infielder at higher levels.
Eliezer Mesa, OF: 23-year-old Dominican, small at 5-11, 180 and looks smaller. Athletic, runs well, but impatient at the plate. Hitting .333/.357/.454 in 31 games with three walks, 16 strikeouts in 108 at-bats, but has stolen seven bases in eight attempts. Was acquired from Rockies last September to complete Mark Ellis trade. He looks pretty marginal to me, but his speed will keep him employed for awhile.
Chih Fang Pan, 2B: Left-handed hitter from Taiwan, 21 years old, listed at 6-1, 170. Impressively quick bat, not a lot of home run power in there but he hits the ball hard to the gaps and has the bat speed to catch up with plus fastballs. Aggressive on anything close to the zone, but he makes contact and doesn't fan much. He wasn't challenged enough for me to get a strong read on his defense, but he looks like he has enough athleticism for second base. I like the bat and he is off to a solid start thus far (.298/.358/.409 with 14 walks, 33 strikeouts in 181 at-bats).
Nick Rickles, C: 14th round pick in 2011 out of Stetson, hits right, big guy at 6-3, 220 but is quite mobile and runs decently for a catcher. I thought he was a big sleeper pre-season but he hasn't lived up to that, hitting just .211/.263/.317 thus far. He's obviously strong but his swing is very level, and while he made contact on almost everything, he just didn't drive the ball for distance effectively. He has a hitch in his throwing motion, but despite that his release works and he's caught 38% of runners this year, 40% in his career. His receiving skills looked decent enough, but he also looked like he was physically tired and lacked energy.
Aaron Shipman, OF: Listed at 6-0, 175 but looks smaller, age 20, hits left, drafted in third round in 2010 from high school in Georgia. Very, very fast and patient at the plate, drew two walks in three games but is hitting just .225/.320/.278 overall. His swing doesn't have much strength to it, and despite his speed he hasn't been an effective stealer this year, swiping three but being caught four times. Looks very good in the outfield, plenty of range and a solid arm, and he's young enough for the bat to improve.
B.A. Vollmuth, 3B: Third round pick from Southern Mississippi in 2011, listed 6-3, 215 but looks more like 6-4, 220, hits right. Very erratic from game to game and even at-bat to at-bat; he looked very poor on Thursday, easily fooled by breaking stuff, but looked somewhat better on Friday, then hit a home run (along with two strikeouts) on Saturday. At his best, shows plus power and just looks like a major league player, but there is a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. Strong throwing arm from third base.