All posts by Ryan Sullivan

Scouting the MLB Draft – Cal State Fullerton RHP Justin Garza

Justin Garza

Cal State Fullerton RHP Justin Garza

Date Scouted: 4.18.15 In-Person

7-Word Scouting Report:   Projectable Collegiate Righty, Flashes Three Average Pitches

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On a spectacular spring afternoon, Saturday I took advantage of the flawless weather to scout national powerhouse Cal State Fullerton visit the University of Maryland. In particular I was eager to watch how Fullerton’s starting pitcher and intriguing 2015 MLB Draft prospect, Justin Garza, would fare against the Terps’ prodigious lineup.

Saturday Garza flashed a strong 3-pitch mix, featuring a 91-93mph fastball, touching 94mph, with late life. He maintained his velocity throughout the appearance, though his control wavered throughout the start. In addition, Garza flashed an 80-82mph slider with sweeping 10-to-4 action that he could locate for a strike or bury in the dirt. Finally, later in the start Garza started showing a decent 78-82mph changeup with some natural fading action and showed good arm speed with the pitch. Frankly, I am surprised he did not throw his change more often, as it induced both weak contact and whiffs.

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Physically Garza is listed at 5-11 170lbs, in which I would take the over on height and the under on weight, as he has long, lean legs, a high waist, and a rather thin upper body. Although he should not grow taller, he does have some projection for further muscularity as he matures. His delivery involves plenty of effort and he has a mild arm stab during the motion, but I was impressed and surprised how well he maintained his arm slot throughout this appearance, until he visibly wore down around 90 pitches.  He is a very good athlete and fields his position extremely well.

Although the raw numbers were underwhelming in this viewing (5.2 innings pitched, 6 runs, 3 earned, 7 hits, 1 walk against 7 strikeouts), I came away impressed by Garza and his future potential. He shows good velocity on his fastball, has two off-speed pitches that can show average, and he can maintain his velocity and mechanics multiple times through the lineup. Certainly scouts will quickly project him long-term as a reliever due to his lean frame and infrequent use of his changeup, but I think with some additional weight and mechanical refinement he could remain a starter as a professional.

As a college junior Garza is eligible for this June’s draft, although this will not be his first experience with the draft process as he was selected by Cleveland in the 26th round in 2012. However, Garza should be selected significantly earlier this time around, as his 3-pitch arsenal and extensive college accomplishments will obviously be appealing. While his lack of top-end velocity or a dominant off-speed pitch will likely keep him from a 1st day selection, I expect Garza to fit well as a Day 2 pick to a team favoring college pitchers and a track record of success.

Projected Draft Status -> Mid 3rd Round – 6th Round

An Inside Look at Baseball Scouting with CJ Wittmann Jr from Baseball Prospectus

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One of the many great things about the development of the internet for baseball fans is the extreme rise in the coverage of minor league prospects. Fifteen years ago it was Baseball America and perhaps one or two other places providing analysis of the minors. Today dozens of websites specialize in reporting on young players, in addition to the proliferation of blogs providing additional information on these individuals.

Unfortunately a negative consequence to this additional exposure is the rise of people calling themselves baseball scouts and stating they are “scouting”rather than in actuality “observing” games. I feel like this can be disrespectful to the individuals who earn a paycheck working in baseball.

Therefore, in the interest of offering some insight into the hard work baseball scouts go through each day, I reached out to rising superstar and Baseball Prospectus Prospect Team member C.J. Wittmann Jr. to explain what a scout does and the process of scouting prospects. Below is the transcript of our interview.

1) CJ, first place I want to start with you is pregame – Ideally when do you get to the park (do you go for BP, etc) and what are you looking for and to accomplish in the time before 1st pitch?

“Pregame is the most important time to take in everything. Showing up to the park early is something I routinely do. I always try to get there even before batting practice starts. Sometimes teams will take infield and outfield and there players show off arm strength and accuracy. It’s most important for differentiating arm strength between outfielders and “left side of the infield” infielders. Also during pregame, pitchers throw flat grounds, bullpens and long toss. There, you can see whether a pitching has ideal arm strength, control (flat ground) and command when throwing a bullpen session.

Batting practice is the most important time to dissect a hitter. In BP, a hitter shows whether they have bat speed, raw power/strength and how much feel they have for squaring balls up. If a player has true natural feel for the barrel, they will show ideal contact skills and can usually consistently find the sweet part of the barrel on mostly every pitch.”

2) Now the game has started… What are you looking for when scouting pitching prospects?

“When scouting pitching prospects, I like to watch every single warm up pitch they throw before the inning starts. During this time, I like to take as many notes I can, as quickly as I can, on a pitchers mechanics. I do this so I don’t miss any velocity readings during the inning. Although pitchers may not throw 100% in warm ups, they still use the same mechanics. Things of note would be: arm slot, hips/shoulders in sync, landing point, arm action, angle, deception, and effort. During the inning, dissecting a pitchers’ control/command is ideal. Control is showing the ability to throw strikes in a certain vicinity while command is showing they can consistently hit their spots. Usually, I mark fastball velocity readings in the 1st, 3rd and 5th innings to see how well a pitcher holds his velocity.

When grading secondaries, it it ideal to recognize whether a pitcher uses the same arm speed and arm slot. This is especially important when grading change-ups because usually they are most effective with the same arm speed. A good change-up will come from the same arm speed and slot and have a fading action to a pitchers’ arm side. Although, I have seen pitchers be successful with cutting change-ups. I think the hardest secondary to grade is a good curveball because not many pitchers have them. A lot of pitchers “throw” curveballs but not many grade to plus or better. The ability to spin a breaking ball is a true art and when grading I look at: spin, break, sharpness, depth and velocity. A slider is a little different because it is a horizontal breaking pitch. For a slider, I look for spin, break (tilt), sharpness and velocity as well.”

 

3) Conversely, what characteristics or skills are you looking for when scouting a hitter? What flaws can be corrected and which are “in-correctable”?

“Scouting hitters is a bit different. Like I said, the most telling time to scout a hitter is in batting practice. First thing I look for in a hitter is bat speed. If a hitter has premium bat speed, then it allows them to make “more” mistakes in game (when guessing a pitch or two strike approach) because they have the bat speed to make up for it. In game, the easiest thing to scout is a hitters’ approach. During at-bats, you can tell if a player has a real plan at the plate or whether they are just a hacker. Although, it is easy to identify, a bad approach is one of the easier things to correct/teach.

Next, I look at pitch recognition for a hitter. Can they read spin? I’m a firm believer in recognizing and reading spin is a neurological skill. You can tell this but how a player reacts to spin. Does player x flinch? Does he bail out? Or does he recognize it and stay in and barrel the ball. Which leads to make next skill: barrel control. When a player has true feel for the barrel, they can usually barrel and square all types of pitches in every location. Lastly, I think the most correctable aspect of hitting is approach. You cannot teach bat speed and you cannot teach the neurological aspect of recognizing spin.”

4) Now the game is over… What work do you do post-game?

“Post-game, I collect all of my notes and all of my thoughts. If I am at a game with another BP member or scout, I like to pick their brain on what they saw/thought as well. I write down all of initial reactions and thoughts about each individual player and gather them into a report once I get home to my computer. I usually write out an elaborate report on players and how I feel they grow and progress as they make their way through the minors. AND my favorite post-game activity is to watch the post-game fireworks through the rear view mirror as I’m driving away.”

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Thanks C.J! Furthermore, C.J. has agreed to return for a Part-2 of this article in the near future, so if you have follow-up questions or other questions for a baseball scout, please leave them in the Comment’s Section or Tweet me @NatsGMdotcom. Thanks for reading!

THE NatsGM Show Episode 32 – Guest Grant Paulsen

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Episode #32 of THE NatsGM Show finds me fortunate enough to interview Washington DC media icon and 106.7 The Fan midday host Grant Paulsen.

Grant discussed how he got his start working in sports journalism and his legendary appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman. Furthermore, we chatted about the 2015 Washington Nationals and played a Tabasco Sauce hot game of “Rapid Fire”.

Thanks to Grant for joining me on the show – Download and Enjoy sports fans!

Scouting the Potomac Nationals

This past Saturday afternoon I drove to Woodbridge to scout the doubleheader between the Lynchburg Hillcats, Cleveland’s High-A affiliate, and the Potomac Nationals. In addition to observing Jayson Werth in a rehabilitation assignment, I was able to get my first up-close look this season at several of the most talented prospects in the Nationals farm system.  These are my notes from Saturday’s games, which the Nationals won 1-0 in Game 1 and lost 2-1 in Game 2.

Wilmer Difo Shortstop

Difo had a day to forget on Saturday, going 0-3 with a strikeout in game 1 and 0-3 with a run scored in game 2, along with a throwing error on a routine ground ball.

From a scouting perspective it was a positive day (for me), as Difo flashed some impressive arm strength both during pregame warmups and during game action that I had not seen previously. He has a quick release and an above-average arm, which when coupled with his above-average speed and solid athleticism, gives him the tools to develop into a major league quality shortstop

Offensively he appeared out of sync and to be pressing, swinging at most anything near the plate and selling out on each swing.  He is an  aggressive hitter, but like most hitters early in the season, he seemed to be trying to find his comfort zone at the plate.  That said, he still shows quick wrists, healthy bat speed and the ability to make contact and this viewing did nothing to change my long-term opinion of him as a hitter.  Difo still needs refinement but he is my choice for the top prospect currently on the Potomac Nationals roster.

Drew Ward 3B

Drew Ward

I am officially #TeamDrewWard in the scouting community. Ward is still raw offensively, as his left-handed swing is still rather long and his balance at the plate could certainly improve, yet he is making a noticeable effort to have better quality at-bats. He is doing a much better job of avoiding offspeed pitches away and concentrating on hunting and hitting fastballs. He shows some home run power in batting practice and could develop average or better pop when he matures physically. I like the adjustments I have seen him make since entering professional baseball and think he will continue to hit in the future.

My biggest question concerning Ward is his eventual defensive position, as a scout friend recently reminded me “the defensive position is everything, because the move affects the entire profile of the player’s bat”. I am concerned Ward will eventually move off of third base, not because of a lack of talent or aptitude, but because the 20-year-old is every bit of his listed 6-4 210lbs frame, and has plenty of physical projection remaining. His bat does not profile well at first base and I am not sure his athleticism translates to a corner outfield spot if he gets any larger physically. Nonetheless, Ward is holding his own against players 2+ years his elder and I am excited to see his progress throughout the season.

Spencer Kieboom Catcher

Kieboom is an absolute joy to watch defensively, as he is quieter than a baseball stadium in December behind the dish and has the feet of a ballet dancer; in fact, Michael Flatley is jealous of Kieboom’s footwork. Furthermore, I had Kieboom with a 1.94 second pop time in throwing out speedy Indians prospect Clint Frazier on a steal attempt in game 1. Kieboom has the makings of an above-average to plus major league defensive catcher.

Nick Lee LHP

Nick Lee

Lee entered the game in the top of the 7th in relief and immediately had the scouting section buzzing, as the lefty was sitting 93-94mph with his fastball, touching 96mph, along with a hard 79-82mph slider. The fastball had impressive late life and he seemed to locate it well to the armside.  Furthermore, Lee used his slider as a swing-and-miss chase pitch in the dirt to tempt eager opposing batters. Now 24-years-old Lee needs to start moving up the organizational ladder, but any lefty with mid-90s velocity and a clue of the eventual location is a name to remember.

 

* Special Tip of the Fedora to Bryan Holland and the Potomac Nationals staff for their hospitality Saturday afternoon… Thanks! *