I made a quick trip up to Nebraska this weekend to see the Omaha Stormchasers, Triple-A farm team of the Kansas City Royals, take on the Fresno Grizzlies in Pacific Coast League action. This trip was primarily for relaxation and mind-clearing after a long summer so I did not bear down on the Stormchasers with detailed scouting in mind, particularly since I'd seen almost everyone on the Stormchasers roster before.. But I did take a few notes and make a few observations on key players of interest.
Cheslor Cuthbert: Cuthbert looks to me like he's lost some weight, or is at least in better condition; his lower half didn't look as thick as I remember seeing in 2014 or 2013. This looks to have good effects on his range at third base and general quickness as both a hitter and fielder.
Brett Eibner: Eibner is hitting .308/.366/.525 on the season with 18 homers, 34 walks, and 70 strikeouts in 364 at-bats. He's also stolen nine bases in nine attempts.
2015 is by far the best season in Eibner's career. Kansas City's second round pick from the University of Arkansas back in 2010, Eibner has always had impressive physical tools (speed, raw power, strong throwing arm) but was bedeviled by serious contact problems and a "swing from the heels" approach. He's 26 now but the tools are all still there, and this weekend was the first time in watching him over parts of five seasons that he looked like a refined player.
He was much more selective, and while he struck out twice in eight at-bats he didn't flail wildly at junk pitches outside the strike zone, he did a much better job with his timing on breaking pitches, and in general looked a lot more like a baseball player instead of just an athlete without much feel for the game, which is how he looked in the past.
It is dangerous to draw broad conclusions based on two games worth of observations, but what I saw fits reports from more frequent Omaha observers and it fits with what the numbers indicate, too. He's not likely to hit .300 in the majors but I think he has turned the corner and can be a player who contributes in several ways.
Andy Ferguson: Right-handed starter Saturday night, gave up three runs in 5.1 innings, five hits, zero walks, five strikeouts, but three homers. 18th round pick from Arkansas State University in 2011, having a good year in difficult PCL environment (3.31, 65/15 in 68 innings). Listed at 6-1, 190, but looks a little smaller than that in person. Low-effort delivery, fastball at 88-89 but played up due to contrast with very good change-up and okay breaking ball. Allergic to walks, doesn't have a big margin for error but has a shot at becoming a Chris Heston-type surprise if everything breaks his way.
Alex Gordon: He was here on rehab assignment for his leg injury and he looked just fine. Timing, swing, and hitting approach all looked strong, he was running at normal speed and did not appear to be favoring the leg on the bases or in the outfield. He's ready for September.
Jose Martinez: 27-year-old minor league vet having a stellar season, hitting .383/.455/.567 in 92 games with a 42/50 BB/K in 321 at-bats. No, he's never hit like that before. He had a decent year in High-A in 2014 (.319/.375/.444) but was very old for the level; his 1.022 OPS this year is over 200 points higher than his previous career best.
What gives? Well, I'm not sure. He's lean and lanky at 6-7, 210, and it looked to me like his big wingspan was something that pitchers could exploit. They didn't do so this weekend, he was actually pretty selective, and his swing appeared compact for such a tall hitter, more of a line drive stroke than an approach that would produce huge power. His BABIP this year is a ridiculous .414 but he's maintained the hot pace all year. I think this is a stereotypical age 27 career year but he could be a useful bat for the Royals down the stretch.