Good morning everyone and welcome to today's edition of Baseball Prospect Notes. Items for your consideration today:
****Over at Over The Monster (say that five times really fast), Marc Normandin tells Red Sox fans not to worry about top catching prospect Blake Swihart and the fact that he hasn't drawn any walks for Pawtucket this year. Marc notes that Swihart didn't draw many walks early last year either, and in both cases he's made contact and kept his strikeouts under control while holding his own overall, hitting .333 with .405 SLG.
There are a couple of other factors that bear notice here. Swihart's Isolated Power is low right now and below his career norms. He's also had a few issues defensively early in the season, catching just 25% of runners and already giving up two passed balls. He didn't give up any passed balls in 97 games behind the plate last year, which is pretty damn incredible.
All of that means very little, of course, given the early season sample size. Scouting observations on Swihart during spring training were very enthusiastic and a couple of glitches as he gets used to Triple-A are to be expected. He is human after all. I think Normandin is right: there is nothing to worry about here and Swihart should improve as the season progresses. He will be a solid hitter and an excellent defender.
****Marc also notes persistent rumors that the Red Sox are interested in LSU infielder Alex Bregman and Vanderbilt right-hander Carson Fulmer for the 2015 MLB draft. Given the instability at the top of the draft this year I think either would be a valid target for the Sox, assuming they are even still on the board at seventh overall. They may very well not be. More on that topic tomorrow.
****Jason Hunt at Faketeams takes a look at Los Angeles Dodgers outfield prospect Alex Verdugo, currently playing for Great Lakes in the Low-A Midwest League. Through nine games he's hitting .275/.326/.325, hardly outstanding but a credible opening given that he is two and a half years younger than the competition and is making the jump directly from rookie ball.
I put a big bet down on Verdugo pre-season and put him at Number 50 on my Top 50 Hitting Prospects list. Here is the comment on Verdugo from the 2015 Baseball Prospect Book:
A very fascinating case. Alex Verdugo played high school baseball in Tucson, Arizona, and was very successful as both a hitter and pitcher. Most teams preferred him on the mound since he was a lefty who could touch 93, but the Dodgers felt hitting was the way to go, drafting him in the second round last June as an outfielder. This looks like a genius move, at least if the early returns are any indicator. He hit for both average and power in rookie ball while demonstrating outstanding strike zone judgment. He stole 11 bases in 11 attempts and showed enough mobility and outfield instincts to handle center field. Overall he was much more polished as a position player than anyone expected, except perhaps the Dodgers. He can always return to pitching if necessary but I think there are many reasons for optimism here. Grade B.
****Baltimore Orioles outfielder Henry Urrutia had a strong spring training, giving hope that he could overcome his injury-riddled 2014 season and regain a spot in the Orioles long-term plans. The Cuban flycatcher is performing well so far with Triple-A Norfolk, hitting .304/.347/.403 through 49 plate appearances. I'd like to see a higher ISO but it is early and in general he is hitting the ball with much more authority this year. There are also reports that he looks very good defensively.
I gave Cuban defector Henry Urrutia a very aggressive Grade B last year but he ended up having a very disappointing season. His power completely vanished and he lost all track of the strike zone. There was one huge caveat here: he missed half the season with a painful sports hernia, and reports from International League observers indicate that he didn’t look right even when he got back on the field in August. He did manage to hit .303/.309/.369 in his last 31 games, but couldn’t drive the ball for much power and his approach was hyper-aggressive compared to what he showed in ’13. His defense also deteriorated. I’m tempted to just write this off as an injury season but Urrutia will be 28 years old entering 2015 and has no slack left on the age curve. He is still too interesting to forget about and is worth watching in spring training, but caution is advised. Grade C
As noted he is already old for a prospect at age 28 but if healthy I think he has useful skills.