Sorry, shit's gotten a lil' crazee for me lately. I've still been able to get to the games, I just haven't had time to write. Sorry. I feel like I owe you some scout-erish thoughts on the mad prospect mojo that's been going on with the 'Riders lately, so here's a banger.
Frisco has DUDES. This is some of what I've seen over the last month.
Jorge can throw like a mother fucker. It is the most impressive arm I've ever seen from a catcher and frankly, I can't think of another arm cannon from any player I've ever been more impressed with. It takes your breath away. Tonight he had three throwing errors. That also took my breath away. He has a tendency to speed up the game and get sloppy. He's in near-constant motion behind the plate. Even once the pitcher comes set, Jorge is still wiggling into position. I've asked, and pitchers don't really mind this, but it certainly doesn't help with his framing. He catches incredibly deep in the box and still has a tendency to stab at the low stuff rather than keep his elbow bent and absorb the pitch off his chest protector or his open mitt. He doesn't move particularly well to his glove-side (he might struggle catching lefties with good sliders), but moves to his right adeptly. At the plate, the plus power is still there, but he's looked a little frustrated lately as he adjusts to AA pitchers. He'll hit- I feel confident of that. And he'll catch enough to stick at the position. He's my favorite unicorn. A quick smile and a friendly talker, he puts on a filthy show in BP but has had a spot of trouble bringing that mega-power up to game speed. It's still ridiculously early in his AA arc, and he's got crazy-fun tools. Gonna take a minute for him to put it together, but I remain a big believer. He might be 23 or 24 when it happens, but he'll be the Rangers everyday catcher.
Joey looks like he's having more fun these days. He had a pretty UUUUgly slump there for a chunk of August, and it appeared to me he was carrying his floppy bat into all the other aspects of his game. Big fellas gotta learn that a stick like his will come and go, just like the homer binges, but he's gotta stay in the game with his defense and base running and being a kick ass teammate. He's a really hard working kid who has more bullshit to deal with on a daily basis than any prospect I've ever seen. The Futures Game thingy really blew him out into the stratosphere. On any given night, it'll take him 20 minutes to walk the 50 yards from the clubhouse to his car- because of autographs and photo requests. It's mostly kids and fans - which all players are cool with - but Joey's orbit now pulls in the "professional" autograph seeker. He handles it all with a maturity that I'm certain I wouldn't have had when I was 20, but I still wonder how damn draining it all must be. He's had a ridiculously good season and has earned his place at the top of the Rangers prospect perch. The adjustments he made early in the year had immediate effect. My wish for Joey is that he goes home and does nothing except flop down on the couch for about a month. Then go find Giambi, Tulo, Bryant, Harper, and the rest of the Vegas posse around the first part of November and start the process all over again. Get some rest, kid.
What. The. Hell. Is Nomar Mazara the most intelligent kid on the Rangers farm? Could be. The son of a retired Dominican Navy officer, Nomar didn't grow up wanting for as much as many of his curent Dominican colleagues, but the desire to be great is clearly built into the fabric of his makeup. His father was in Frisco last month and I meant to talk to him, but kept forgetting, also I was scared. Mr. Mazara looks like a man who took himself and his job seriously, and that's the best way to describe Nomar. Effortless English and the focus of a prospect 5 years older than his actual age of 19, Nomar has sort of just blown me (and many others) away. He tracks pitches into the catcher's mitt, he knows the strike zone, he works the count, he runs with his head up, he hits the cutoff man. He will improve his routes, his power will develop further, and he'll acknowledge that while blessed with many outstanding tools, speed is not one of them. He'll learn all these things and he'll be a big leaguer. A Top-5 guy in the system for me.
Nick hits more homers in BP than anyone. It's not even close. Everyday he hits at least a couple shots out of the ballpark completely. He trounces Gallo in that regard (Gallo says he has no interest in "being a BP hero"). Nick knows one speed- and that speed is GO! His swing is basically the same at any point in the count. Despite the prodigious power he shows everyday at 4:15, he's yet to hit a homer for the RoughRiders. I'm a little concerned, like a few notable pundits, about his ability to adjust. He sees lots of soft and spinning, especially once the pitcher gets ahead in the count. At this point, I'd just love to see Nick get himself into more hitter's counts. If he develops the ability to lay off the first couple breaking balls and/or FBs out of the zone, he'll be able to sit on pitches ahead 2-0 or 2-1 or 3-1, then he can do crazy damage. AA pitchers are working him right now and his instinctive style has met its match on a few nights. But I gotta give him credit for hustling like a wild man out of the box and giving it his all in the field. Let's go there for a moment. The organization obviously wants Nick to develop the ability to play centerfield. He damn sure has the tools- the speed, the arm, etc. But I'd be lying if I told you it's been anything other than a big damn mess thus far. Routes have been awful, playing carroms has been silly, the cutoffs have missed their mark, and even simple pop flies have squirmed out of his glove. Jake Skole has replaced Nick for defensive reasons late in both of Frisco's playoff games thus far. Gotta long way to go in the field and at the plate, but my oh my, if he puts it together at the dish, as our dear friend Don Welke would say "It won't be normal."
Here's my simplified thought on Chi Chi: he's good now, but he's going to get better. He's not an overpowering guy, so he's not reliant on velocity to miss bats. He moves the ball all around the zone with a few versions of a FB, a really good slider, a curveball I think can grow into a plus offering, and a CH he uses sparingly, but will develop. I think Chi Chi will pitch for a long time because of his stuff, and his makeup, and his pitchability. He could end up pitching in the big leagues next year, but I won't hold my breath for outstanding results. He'll likely get hit around in a few big league games. But give him a season. Better yet, give him two. I think if he stays healthy, once Chi Chi has made about 40 or so starts in the big leagues, he'll hit his stride and be a solid big league starter for a while. He'll keep improving. Don't you short-sell your Chi Chi Gonzalez class A shares, hold on to them. I like Chi Chi a lot, so give him some time.
Gimme Eickhoff. He's going to stay a starter for a while because the club likes him there and he's taken a big step forward in that role this year. He'll make a bunch of starts in AAA. But gimme Eickhoff because his floor might be higher than any of Frisco's current pitchers. Yep, fur reals. Tonight he got 2 swinging Ks in the 5th inning, both on 95mph heaters, then got one in the 6th with 96. I've seen him consistently hitting mid-to-upper 90s late in his starts all season. He's a midwest brick shithouse (6'4" 245lbs) who's "aw shucks" demeanor off the field is completely betrayed by his nasty, bulldog bite on it. His curveball is really good and generally earns "plus" and a few "plus plus" marks from scouts. Jerad's slider is good in flashes, but inconsistent and the changeup continues to be an elusive muse. For me, his floor is a potential late-inning reliever who can pump upper-90s velo with a 75-79mph hammer curve. His ceiling is a middle of the rotation starter if the CH develops enough to keep hitters honest. Gimme Eickhoff.
I've spent a lot of time over the last month or so chatting with Keone and I'll write up a full profile of him this winter. Talk about a guy who has come a long way. Spoiler Alert! After spending parts of his childhood in Long Beach and Compton and being the son of teenage parents, Keone is not lacking in toughness, but he's a spiritual soul with a genuine curiosity about people and the way the world works...until he takes the ball. A born closer, Kela's stuff has been all but unhittable in the second half of the season. Sitting 96-99, touching 100 on a few occasions, the development of his enigmatic breaking ball has separated him from the pack. A legitimate swing and miss pitch, the bender sits 80-83 and makes professional AA hitters look silly. He's been getting more movement on his fastball and given its velocity, it's basically a colossal F-U pitch right now. Keone has a very good chance at closing big league games at some point. Closers have to earn the right and it seldom goes to the young guy, but his stuff is so good, he's gonna get a lot of attention.
There's a snapshot of what's been going in in the north Dallas 'burb. Of course, all these observations carry the usual caveat that any one of these player's careers could come completely off the rails at any moment because baseball can be a sonofabitch. But I'm not expecting that, because I'm an optimist...and you should be too.
I hope this bibble-babble gets me back in your good graces. Let's do this again sometime soon.
Take care, enjoy baseball! Love Ya!