After debating whether to brave the stifling July humidity, yesterday I decided to make the drive up to Municipal Stadium to watch the Hagerstown Suns, the Low-A minor league affiliate of the Washington Nationals play a getaway day game against the Rome Braves, Atlanta’s Low-A team. Municipal Stadium is an older facility but it has wonderful charm and is an excellent place to watch a game, I highly recommend making the trip.
Two of the more intriguing Suns’ prospects Narciso Mesa and Tony Renda were given the day off, much to my chagrin, but nevertheless there were plenty of talented players on the field. Considering the early 10:30am starting time and it was a travel day for both teams, the quality of play on the field was surprisingly good and efficient. These are a few of my scouting notes from Monday’s Sally League contest, a game Rome defeated Hagerstown 3-1.
Ian Dickson RHP Hagerstown Suns
The prospect the Nationals received in the Henry Rodriguez trade to Chicago earlier this season, Dickson served as Hagerstown’s starting pitcher Monday and pitched fairly well, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits with 1 walk and 3 strikeouts. Dickson flashed an 86-89mph fastball which topped out at 92mph, a 78-81mph slider that showed potential, and the makings of a changeup. The impressive things about Dickson are the sheer amount of movement he has on his pitches, and his relatively smooth, clean pitching delivery.
Unfortunately Dickson does not have much deception in his motion or life on his fastball, making it relatively easy for the opposition to square up on his pitches. Unless he finds some additional fastball velocity and dramatically improves his off-speed pitches, Dickson is unlikely to ever reach the major league level. That said he is much better than the cliché “A bag of balls”, and seems like a reasonable return for Henry Rodriguez, whom the Cubs designated for assignment this past weekend.
Mauricio Cabrera RHP Rome Braves
I entered Municipal Stadium Monday morning excited to see some future Nationals and left three hours later giddy like a teenage boy with his first crush – that crush is Mauricio Cabrera. Cabrera featured a 94-97mph fastball, touching 98mph four times, which happens to be the highest reading on my radar gun in 2013, and held his velocity through six innings. He had trouble locating his fastball at times, often missing high in the zone but the sheer velocity overwhelmed the Suns hitters.
That said Cabrera’s best pitch is his 80-83mph slider with sharp, late-breaking downward movement that he can locate in the strike zone or bury in the dirt to induce swings-and-misses. Later in the game Cabrera threw a few pitches in the 88-91mph range that exhibited cutter action and others that exhibited downward movement like a split-finger; I assume this is his currently underdeveloped third offering.
Only 19-years-old, Cabrera has nice size with some projection remaining in his body, and looks the part of a talented, but unfinished Low-A prospect. He still needs to refine his pitching delivery, and to discover and develop a third pitch if he wants to remain a starting pitcher, but the tools are loud and his potential is immense. I like Cabrera more than the people of New Jersey inexplicably like Bruce Springsteen, and I am anxious to watch his career development.
Brandon Miller OF Hagerstown Suns
One of my favorite “sleeper” prospects in the Nationals organization, Miller leads the Suns in home runs with 16 this season, more than tripling his closest teammate Wander Ramos’ 5 homers. In addition, Miller has a monster throwing arm, which when combined with his noticeably leaner physique this summer make him an asset defensively in right field.
Miller still struggles to make contact, as evidenced by his 0-4 with 3 strikeout performance Monday and his 121 strikeouts in 339 at-bats this season. Currently 24-years-old, the strengths to his game are easily apparent and all that is holding him back from rising through the minors and possibly reaching the major leagues is drastically cutting down his strikeout ratio. Unfortunately time is not on his side.
Derek Self RHP Hagerstown Suns
Drafted in the 9th round last summer, Self entered the game in the 9th inning and caught my eye with a 90-92mph fastball that topped out at 93, and a slider with bite at 82-84mph. Self has good size and some deception and effort in his delivery, although he noticeably slows his arm speed when throwing his breaking ball. While his talent does not scream “top prospect”, his ability to throw strikes gives him a solid chance to rise through the minor leagues and perhaps eventually reach the majors.
Carlos Franco 3B Rome Braves
Finally Franco caught my attention for his defensive skills at third base, his dreamy projectable body, and fluid left-handed swing. Sure, he struggled at the plate Monday, going 0-4 with 3 strikeouts but his raw tools and ability are readily apparent, and this is a name to remember for the future.