All posts by Ryan Sullivan

Evaluating Tomorrow’s Washington Nationals – The Potomac Nationals

This weekend while most wise people in the Washington area were seeking shade and shelter from the uncomfortable heat, humidity and torrential downpours, I spent the time in Frederick watching the Keys host the Potomac Nationals. Labor Day marks the end of the minor league season, so nothing Mother Nature could throw at the area could keep me from Harry Grove Stadium.

Frederick entered this 4-game series against their local rival still in the hunt for a playoff berth, but a P-Nats doubleheader sweep on Sunday sunk their chances. Nonetheless, these weary young players muddled through the lousy weather and numerous rain delays to show future big league potential. Today I highlight three Potomac Nationals players that were particularly noteworthy this series.

Pedro Severino Catcher

Pedro Severino Waiting Out a Rain Delay 8/31/14
Pedro Severino Waiting Out a Rain Delay 8/31/14

Signed as an international free agent in 2010, the 21-year-old Severino is one of the better defensive catchers currently in the minor leagues. Physically Severino resembles a middle infielder, with an athletic, agile frame with projection remaining in his lower half as he matures. Armed with a strong arm, above-average blocking skills, and soft hands, Severino projects to be an above-average or better defensive catcher at the big league level. He is easily one of my favorite players to watch on defense in the minors.

Pedro Severino
Pedro Severino

In this viewing Severino showed progress offensively from earlier this season, hitting a monster home run Monday and showing an improved effort to lay off breaking pitches in the dirt. For the season Severino did not post overwhelming offensive numbers, although he has a reasonable swing with no obvious apparent flaws, and shows decent power in batting practice. Still young for this level of competition and with a strong chance to gain mass in the future, Severino could blossom offensively next season. Severino projects as a dynamic defensive backup catcher, with the potential to be a starting caliber player if his offense shows refinement with further experience.

Stephen Perez Shortstop

The Stephen Perez
The Stephen Perez

The difference between 2013 Stephen Perez and the 2014 version is as different as the winner on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, as he has improved more in one season than any player in recent memory. Last winter Perez gained 10-20 pounds of muscle mass while maintaining his above-average speed and overall athleticism. This has transformed his prospect profile from a dynamic defensive middle infielder lacking the bat to likely reach the majors to a possible future big league player.

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The 23-year-old Perez possesses a strong, accurate arm and sure hands, which when combined with his physical skills makes him an above-average defensive shortstop. A switch-hitter Perez shows quality bat speed, especially from the left-side, and his increased muscularity has allowed him to pepper the gaps with doubles this season. While Perez’s reputation will always be as an exciting defensive middle infielder, this improved physicality could allow him to develop into below-average starter or valuable utility infielder at the major league level.

Ross Ohlendorf Right-Handed Pitcher

Ross Ohlendorf
Ross Ohlendorf

Sunday evening Ohlendorf was making a rehabilitation start for the Nationals, throwing 3 scoreless innings and allowing only 2 hits and 1 walk. Featuring his patented full overhead windup, Ohlendorf featured a lively 90-94mph fastball, an 82-84mph slider with tilt and late-breaking action, along with a rare, firm 83-85mph changeup. I was impressed with how he aggressively attacked the strike zone and his fierce demeanor on the mound, as he overwhelmed these hitters with his repertoire.

Ross Ohlendorf 8/31/14
Ross Ohlendorf 8/31/14

Ohlendorf is currently on the 60-day disabled list for the Nationals, but is on the 40-man roster so the team could choose to recall him to Washington to provide depth for the pennant chase this month. However, with several arms promoted to Washington yesterday and his current place on depth chart, the team may choose to shut him down for 2014. Either way I was intrigued by this brief outing from Ohlendorf and would strongly recommend a team sign him to a minor league contract this winter.

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Friday Scouting Chatter – Jorge Alfaro and Manuel Margot

In this debut edition, Friday’s during the summer I will be highlighting numerous top baseball prospects I have personally scouted in a segment named Friday Scouting Chatter. I observe numerous elite prospects during the 50+ minor league games I watch each summer, yet for various reasons I have been previously unable to write a proper scouting report for them. This week I feature top prospects Jorge Alfaro of the Texas Rangers and Manuel Margot from the Boston Red Sox.

Jorge Alfaro Catcher Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Texas Rangers)

Jorge Alfaro
Jorge Alfaro

Often referred to as simply #TheLegend on Twitter, like a tween girl at a 5 Seconds of Summer concert, I was actually salivating to see Alfaro in person. Alfaro is one of, if not THE, most physically impressive catchers I have ever seen, with obvious athleticism and above-average speed. A powerfully built athlete at 6-2 185lbs, Alfaro resembles a high school nose guard yet runs like a college cornerback – it is almost difficult to comprehend until you see him in person.

Only 21-years-old Alfaro struggles defensively with his footwork and blocking wayward pitches in the dirt. However, his tremendous physical skills, along with a cannon-like throwing arm, give Alfaro a chance with refinement to be a future gold glove defender behind the dish.

Jorge Alfaro #TheLegend
Jorge Alfaro #TheLegend

Offensively Alfaro has apparent plus bat speed and obvious raw home run power, but like many young hitters, he is overanxious at the plate and racks up plenty of whiffs without many walks. His eagerness to swing the bat will hinder his future on-base percentage numbers, but the thunder in his bat should more than compensate with quality slugging percentages. Alfaro is still quite raw and needs another 500+ at-bats in the minors to refine his game, but he has the ceiling of a multiple all-star game type talent. Bottom line, Smarty Jones thinks Alfaro is a stud.

Manuel Margot CF Salem Red Sox (Boston Red Sox)

Salem Red Sox Manuel Margot
Manuel Margot

Two weekends ago while attending SaberSeminar, a fellow audience member asked Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington to name a sleeper prospect in their farm system – after debating who would be considered a sleeper, Cherington and the other Boston representatives in attendance unanimously mentioned Manuel Margot.

One look at Margot and it is immediately evident why Boston’s front office is enamored with him, as he is an elite athlete with prototypical size and speed for a centerfielder. Armed with plus (or better) speed and a solid arm, the still 19-year-old projects as a potential gold-glove talent defensively, with game-changing ability on the bases. Margot’s energy for the game is simply contagious.

Manny Margot
Boston Red Sox Prospect Manuel Margot

At the plate this right-handed batter shows apparent above-average bat speed, impressive balance through his swing, and a keen batting eye. The only obvious flaw in his game is his likely below-average power, though his wiry strength could allow him to hit 10+ home runs each year while peppering the gaps with doubles. Like any 19-year-old recently promoted to High-A, Margot needs further game experience to polish his rough edges and help translate his monster tools to game production.

Margot may have entered this season somewhat overlooked, but I expect him to be well represented on prospect lists this offseason. He is an easy top-100 prospect in baseball to me.

Scouting the Frederick Keys

Labor Day weekend arrives tomorrow, which means barbeques, adult beverages, college football, and the end of the minor league baseball season. Therefore like a rotund man at a Mexican buffet, I am trying to consume as many local minor league contests as possible before Monday unfortunately arrives.

Wednesday night was a beautiful, picturesque summer evening and I found myself watching a doubleheader between the visiting Salem Red Sox and host Frederick Keys. Due to several midseason promotions and skill improvements during the year, the Frederick roster has some prospects with major league potential. These are a few players that particularly caught my attention during these games.

Steven Brault LHP Frederick

photo 1(40)An athletic and wiry left-handed pitcher, Brault was Baltimore’s 14th round pick last summer out of small Division 2 school. This 22-year-old is rather raw for a collegiate pitcher, but he has significant projection remaining in his lean body, and appears taller than his listed 6-1 175lbs. Brault throws across his body during his delivery, which provides some deception to the batters but causes him to struggle to keep his release point. He impressively pounds the strike zone, but this mechanical issue could hinder his velocity potential. Brault reminds me of a young Ross Detwiler, both physically and with his pitching motion.

LHP Steven Brault
LHP Steven Brault

Brault features a quality 4-pitch arsenal, consisting of an 87-91mph fastball with some sinking action, a late-breaking 82-84mph slider, an intriguing but inconsistent low-80s changeup with some natural arm-side fading movement, and a rare mid-70s overhand curveball. In this viewing Brault used his fastball well to get ahead of opposing batters, but his current below-average off-speed offerings cause him to struggle to put away hitters.  His youth and athleticism give me some hope that he can polish his delivery and improve his arsenal. Brault is an intriguing, talented young arm and is a quality sleeper prospect in the Orioles’ system.

Jason Esposito 3B Frederick

A long-time personal favorite since watching him a few summers ago for Orleans in the Cape Cod League, Esposito has struggled since being drafted in the 2nd round in 2011. Defensively Esposito projects as an above-average or better third baseman, with a very strong arm, soft hands, and quality footwork for the position. Additionally, Esposito has fringy speed and good athleticism for a big 6-2 200lbs player. His defense has always outpaced his offense, where he struggles with large strikeout totals and a near allergy to drawing walks. These weaknesses have caused him to fail to turn his average or better strength and bat speed into power production at High-A the past two years. Now 24-years-old Esposito will need an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League and a breakout season in 2015 if he wishes to reach the majors. The talent and physical tools are there for a major league third baseman, if the “light bulb” should turn on for Esposito.

Adrian Marin Shortstop Frederick

Adrian Marin
Adrian Marin

Ranked as my #12 Orioles prospect earlier this month, Marin has shown obvious improvement over the course of the 2014 season. Marin possesses solid-average speed, especially once he is underway, soft hands, and Wednesday evening he flashed a stronger throwing arm that I can ever recollect, making a strong throw from deep shortstop to throw out a speedy runner. His reasonable athleticism and average arm make him profile better at second base in the future, but I believe he could play shortstop as a utility player in a backup role.

The 20-year-old still struggles offensively with off-speed pitches away, and his non-overly massive physique does not have him project to hit for much power in the future. However, he has made progress this season making harder contact and flashes gap power, portending a possible offensive breakout in 2015. While his profile is not sexy, his excellent baseball IQ should allow Marin to outplay his fringy tools and carve out a major league career.