On Episode #8 of THE NatsGM Show, I had the privilege of interviewing Baseball Prospectus’s and Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh.
This week Ben and I covered many topics, including his meteoric rise to Editor-in-Chief of Baseball Prospectus, his Podcast Effectively Wild, and we briefly previewed the MLB Trade Deadline. Special thanks to Ben for being so generous with his time.
Saturday evening, in an effort to have a unique date night with Mrs. NatsGM, I surprised my wife and took her to the Frederick Keys game against the Lynchburg Hillcats. The promise of a Nick Markakis bobblehead (which were gone before we arrived at 4:45pm), postgame fireworks, and a start from Lucas Sims made this the perfect opportunity to enjoy a wonderful summer evening. Although the smell of the tasty food and the delicious Flying Dog made it difficult for me to focus on the action on the field, I was mesmerized by the immense talent of Lynchburg’s starting pitcher, Lucas Sims.
Lucas Sims RHP Atlanta Braves
On the hill for Lynchburg was Atlanta’s top prospect, 2012 1st Round pick, 21st overall, Lucas Sims. The 20-year-old Sims has a classic pitchers frame, listed at 6-2 195lbs, with plenty of physical projection remaining, especially in his lower half. A quality athlete with obvious athleticism, this young right-handed pitcher currently lacks rhythm in his delivery, which causes him to struggle to find a consistent release point. During this appearance Sims was featuring a 90-93mph fastball, touching 94, with late life, natural cutting movement, and he located the pitch well both low in the zone and to the glove side. In addition Sims showed a slurvy, inconsistent 73-75mph curveball with potential, and an impressive 82-83mph changeup with glove-side downward sinking action.
A still raw pitcher, Sims has plenty of current strengths and weaknesses to his game. Presently, Sims has an above-average or better fastball with natural right-to-left movement and his off-speed offerings can both flash above-average or better. With more experience and refinement, Sims could potentially have 3 better than average pitches, which when combined with his natural athleticism, allows you to project him as a future #2 or #3 starting pitcher.
With that said, Sims struggles to repeat his delivery, which is not a particularly fluid motion and looks surprisingly non-athletic: as my wife eloquently described, “He is not the most graceful pitcher, is he”? He needs to improve his momentum throughout his delivery, but his youth and athleticism, not to mention Atlanta’s track record with young pitching, gives me little doubt he will improve and refine his motion with age. These improvements should help him reduce the number of walks allowed, and perhaps gain better consistency with his changeup and curveball.
Sims needs more development time in the minor leagues to refine his motion and develop his off-speed pitches, but this is an extremely promising young arm with true mid-rotation potential. Assuming he stays in High-A the rest of the season, and spends all of 2015 in Double-A, Sims is on-track to debut in the majors sometime in 2016. Sims is one of the most exciting pitchers I have watched this summer and is a no-doubt top-50 prospect currently in the minor leagues.
On a picturesque summer day in the greater Washington D.C. area, Monday I took in a matinee getaway game between the Frederick Keys, the Hi-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, and the Winston-Salem Dash. Frederick has been bolstered in recent weeks by some promotions from Delmarva, so I was eager to watch and evaluate the new Keys on the roster. Additionally Harry Grove Stadium, home of the Keys, is my personal choice for best minor league stadium, so I take any chance I get to watch a game there. These are some of my scouting notes from the game.
Mark Blackmar RHP Frederick Keys
Son of former PGA tour professional Phil Blackmar, Mark is a physically imposing pitcher on the mound, standing 6-3 215lbs and looks much stockier and stronger. The 22-year-old right-hander overwhelmed the Winston-Salem lineup with a 4-pitch mix, featuring a 90-92mph fastball with life, an 89-92mph sinker with sinking, occasional “parachute” movement, a below-average 80-85mph slider, and an infrequent mid-80s changeup.
Blackmar has a relatively smooth, compact delivery, and hides the ball well from the batter through his pitching delivery. Presently his below-average slider and changeup hinders his ability to induce whiffs and limits his future ceiling. However, Blackmar’s 2-seam fastball is a major league quality pitch and if he can develop one of both of his off-speed offerings, he could develop into a major league reliever. Blackmar does not have the sexiest profile, but he has a quality arm and is a prospect to watch in the Orioles’ farm system.
Jon Keller RHP Frederick Keys
The Orioles 22nd round pick last summer, Keller made his Hi-A debut the 7th inning and immediately impressed with his prototypical pitcher’s frame, standing every bit of his listed 6-5 215lbs. Keller features a 3-pitch repertoire consisting of a 93-95mph fastball with a good downward plane and late life, a hard 85mph slider which shows promise, and a firm mid-80s changeup. The almost 22-year-old pitcher needs to refine and polish his delivery, as there is some excess movement in his motion, which caused him to struggle to maintain his release point. Like most pitchers in A-ball, Keller also needs to improve his off-speed offerings, but both his changeup and slider showed promise. Keller is still rather raw, but he has major league potential, and the Orioles got a steal with him last summer. Expect him to be a popular name in trade discussions with other clubs the next few weeks.
Trey Mancini 1B Frederick Keys
One of my personal favorite prospects in the 2013 draft, Mancini was chosen by the Orioles in the 8th round last summer after a notable collegiate career at Notre Dame. A mountain of a human being, Mancini is surprisingly agile and athletic defensively at first base, as he made three eye-opening plays in the field Monday. He has below-average speed, but runs better underway and should not be a future base-clogger.
However, Mancini is primarily a hitting prospect with average or better bat speed and monstrous right-handed power. Mancini has a longish swing presently and has always been pull happy at the plate, which leads to a healthy amount of strikeouts, but he does show a good batting eye and consistently gets on-base. His power has not necessarily translated thus far professionally, as he has 9 career home runs in 600+ at-bats. Mancini will face a difficult challenge at Hi-A and Double-A, and it will be intriguing to see if he flourishes like fellow Orioles prospect Christian Walker, or if the strikeout totals begin to mount and keep him from reaching the majors. In a system lacking hitting prospects, Mancini is a name to remember.
Adrian Marin SS Frederick Keys
Like the coffee at McDonald’s, I like Adrian Marin far more than I should. For too long I stayed hung up on what Marin likely is not – a future MLB shortstop or speedy prototypical leadoff hitter. Conversely, I have started to focus on what the 20-year-old Marin is, a young middle infielder with average tools who’s baseball acumen allows him to play above his skills. Marin will never hit for power, and is likely a second baseman or utility player in the majors, but his bat-to-ball skills, defensive talent, and wisdom on the diamond should allow him to carve out a career as a major leaguer. The profile is not particularly spicy, but Marin is a quality prospect and a solid pick in the 3rd round.