I spent a weekend in Springfield taking in some local company and a pair of games: one on Saturday and one on Sunday. There are three position players on the Springfield team (Matt Adams, Ryan Jackson and Tommy Pham) that I paid special attention to and I had the chance to get a look at Nick Additon and Kevin Thomas as starters.
Let me start with the problems. Matt Adam’s footwork around first base is atrocious. Transitioning from the base when he’s holding the runner to a fielding position when the pitcher delivers to the plate is a challenge for Adams and he gets about 3 feet away from the base during that process. It leaves a huge gap on the right side of the infield. He had to field a pop-up in the 6th inning of Sunday’s game and, while there was some wind, it was a bit of an adventure despite being well within range of first base. He needs to do about a dozen side-step drills as lateral movement without turning seems to be unnatural. He’s just not going to get to much at first base as a defender though he looked fine receiving throws.
The good news is that his swing is pretty great. He keeps his hands loaded well and uses a minimalist stride. It’s a nice left handed swing that doesn’t have too much uppercut in it. Adams hit a 400′ homerun in the first inning of Saturday’s game to CF and on Sunday hit a sharp double just inside the left field foul line. He obviously has power in his bat and the power will play up. I worry a little bit about his pitch selection as he was swinging at a lot of pitches — not all of which were strikes — though I don’t have any notes of him looking a true fool on a breaking ball or change. I think the bat is for real but I could see teams finding a weakness in his plate coverage and exploiting it. I’m not sure Adams has the discipline to prevent that. He’s got a real shot at the majors but he’s not a perfect prospect.
Ryan Jackson is something of the reverse of Adams. The questions for Jackson mostly revolve around his swing and his offense. He is very, very busy at the plate. The bat is rocking back and forth before he gets it into a mostly upright, cocked position. More problematic, in my opinion, is the high leg kick where he actually rocks back on his right leg before stepping forward. It doesn’t commit him to the pitch but it seems like he’d have a hard time adjusting to breaking balls from that position — he’s left to flail with his upper half at breaking pitches away.
With the high kick, he also has some head movement that makes me concerned about his ability to pick up on advanced breaking balls though his walk rate has been good thus far in the minors. I’d like to see a quieter swing and a leg kick that doesn’t have him physically shifting his center of gravity backwards.
Defensively, Jackson (right) is just incredible to watch. He fits the classic description of “soft hands”, is fundamentally sound with his footwork/ mechanics and has a strong arm. His range is better than average though not on the same level of Brendan Ryan. Jackson gets a good first step and has impeccable instinct. The highlight of the weekend was diving play to his right during Saturday’s game at the edge of the outfield grass. He doesn’t need to hit much to be an average shortstop overall given his defense.
I’m not really sure what to make of Pham at this point in his career. He’s age appropriate for AA but he didn’t look spectacular at the plate this weekend. (In fairness, he looked much better when I saw him in Springfield last year.) His tools have long been his selling point but he’s approaching the age/level where he simply has to produce more. Pham looks sound at the plate with a quiet line drive oriented swing. I just happened to catch him on a weekend when he went a rather unimpressive 2-for-9 at the plate.
In the outfield, he looked good as usual. He covers plenty of ground and has a plus arm throwing some real bullets back to the infield. He started out Saturday’s game with a jumping catch at the wall to rob Angels’ #1 prospect Mike Trout of a near homerun or a double (hard to tell if it was over). I still left with a positive overall impression of Pham but it wasn’t a standout weekend for him.
The first thing to note about Additon is his mechanics particularly with the lower half of his body. It’s immediately apparent when watching him that his step towards the plate contains what is almost a hop. He really pushes forward with his back leg and doesn’t land with a fully extended lead leg. I would think that he’s losing velocity because of the mechanics. Without a stable base, it would seem hard to get the full torque rotation through this mid-section.
Additon never broached 90mph on a questionable stadium gun (local scribe Kary Booher has commented that it is running hot lately) but Additon almost certainly wasn’t throwing gas. His flyouts turned into line drives around the 5th inning and he was not fooling hitters with his stuff though he did work in the strikezone consistently. I remain surprised by his modicum of success given what I saw on Sunday.
- Kevin Thomas was initially displaced by Maikel Cleto’s promotion to the Springfield rotation. He’s not long for the rotation as a right handed version of Nick Additon.
- Alex Castellanos got hit by a pitch in his second at bat of Saturday’s game and had to come out for a pinch runner.
- Jackson’s HR on on Saturday was 320′ squeaker that just got over the LF fence.
- Nick Derba managed a 340′ HR on Saturday.
- Niko Vasquez’ hit a nice 375′ HR on Sunday.
- Alan Ahmady is generously listed at 5’11″. He had a rough weekend defensively with bad misplays in the 4th inning of Saturday’s game and the 5th inning of Sunday’s game. He moves well in LF and has at least an average arm but his decision making in the outfield needs some work.
- None of the Springfield relievers made a lasting impression on me. I wasn’t in a position to verify radar readings for any of them but I don’t expect any of them to have extended MLB careers.
- Mike Trout, the #1 prospect in baseball right now, is a bit unassuming at first. The key physical difference between him and other players was the breadth of his shoulders and the size of his forearms. He’s quick in the outfield, which left me questioning the whole weekend whether they were lazy flyballs or if he’s just THAT fast, and can really run the bases quickly. He didn’t do anything that screamed “#1 prospect” over the weekend but he’s obviously gifted physically.