When I planned my scouting trip last week to Quad Cities, I was as excited to see the River Bandits play as I was to see the prospect-laden Cedar Rapids Kernels. Alas, the four most interesting players on the QC roster didn't play: Carlos Correa and Rio Ruiz were on the disabled list, Vince Velasquez got rained out, and I missed Lance McCullers in the rotation. Still, there were some interesting players on the field and here are some notes about what I saw.
Michael Dimock, RHP: 37th-round pick last June out of Wake Forest, relief pitcher, old for Low-A at age 23 but he looks like he has some ability, using a 90 MPH fastball and an 80 MPH breaking ball. He commands both pitches well and has a 10/1 K/BB in 9.2 inning so far this season. He's mostly organization fodder at this point but he might turn into a useful middle reliever if he maintains his command and if his mustache intimidates more advanced hitters.
Austin "Catfish" Elkins, SS: Switch-hitter, drafted in the 19th round last year out of Dallas Baptist, age 22, hitting .241/.341/.304 thus far, was playing shortstop in the absence of Correa. High-energy scrappy type with marginal tools, runs fairly well, shows good range to his right, arm is a bit weak for shortstop. Makes a good-faith effort to work the strike zone but I don't think he'll show enough power to survive at the highest levels. Good organization player.
Teoscar Hernandez, OF: Age 20, signed by the Astros out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, right-handed hitter and thrower listed at 6-2, 180, though he looks a bit stockier than that. Aggressive hitter, seems to have trouble with pitches low in the strike zone and breaking pitches give him problems. On the other hand, he mashed a hittable fastball for a long home run to left field. Best tool is speed; he's not as fast as Byron Buxton but he runs well above average and knows how to use it, has stolen 11 bases in 12 attempts thus far. He is a long way off but he also had more upside potential than anyone else the River Bandits ran out there.
Brian Holmes, LHP: 13th-round pick out of Wake Forest in 2012, 6-4, 210 lefty with classic pitcher build. 3.54 ERA in 28 innings so far with a 31/8 K/BB and 25 hits. Four-pitch lefty with fastball, slider, curveball, changeup. Heater was 87-88 MPH with some tailing action. His velocity is marginal but it plays up at this level due to his wide array of secondaries: slider at 84 MPH, change-up about 78-80, curveball in the 71-74 range. He works very quickly, throws strikes, and kept the hitters off stride. I think he will continue to pitch well in A-ball but Double-A will test him as it usually does with finesse pitchers.
Jordan Jankowski, RHP: 34th-round pick in 2012 from Catawba College. 6-2, 200 pound right-hander with a 90 MPH fastball and a mid-80s slider, age 23. Like Dimock, he's old for the level but he throws strikes and has enough stuff to present a problem for inexperienced A-ball hitters. 2.87 ERA with a 20/7 K/BB in 31 innings so far. Like Dimock, if he makes it at higher levels, it will be as a middle reliever.
Michell Lambson, LHP: 19th-round pick in 2011 out of Arizona State. Fastball not that fast at 86-88 but he has a good change-up and is aggressive about throwing strikes and challenging hitters. Listed at 6-1, 198 but looks taller and stockier than that. 1.65 ERA with 17/8 K/BB in 16 innings so far. As with most of the other QC pitchers, he is somewhere on the borderline between good organization arm and possible middle reliever.
John Neely, RHP: 30th-round pick out of Texas Tech in 2012, age 22, listed at 6-2, 195 and that looks accurate. He had the best pure stuff of any of the River Bandit pitchers, throwing his fastball up to 93 MPH with excellent action low in the strike zone, along with an 80-82 MPH knee-buckling slider. His pitches have so much movement that he has problems commanding them. Has a 1.23 ERA with an 11/10 K/BB in 15 innings with a 5.20 GO/AO. What I saw in person matched the numbers exactly: good stuff, gets grounders, but will need better command at higher levels.
Ariel Ovando, OF: Signed out of the Dominican in 2010 for $2,000,000. Tall and strong-looking at 6-4, 225, but I was very disappointed. He supposedly has great power potential, but I didn't see a lot of bat speed, his swing mechanics were awkward, and he was completely helpless against breaking pitches. He lacks running speed and his throws didn't carry. He is still only 19 years old so it is way too soon to give up, considering how much was invested in him, but his .153/.270/.224 line through 25 games is not deceptive: he's legitimately overmatched right now.