Evaluating Hagerstown Suns OF Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson   OF          Hagerstown Suns

Future Grades   Hit (40) /  Power (45) /  Run (65)  /  Defense (60) /  Arm (65)

Washington’s 5th round selection in the 2016 MLB Draft from New Mexico State, signed for a $325,000 bonus.  Born in July 1995, Johnson is a left-handed hitting, left-handed throwing outfielder.  Listed at 5-10 185lbs, Johnson is a well-built, thick athlete and looks more similarly to a Division-1 point guard than a typical baseball player.  His muscles seem to have muscles, so he looks fully mature physically with little projection remaining.  Johnson has excellent speed, routinely clocking 4.07-4.11 seconds home to first from the left side, making him an easy plus runner.  Consistently smiling on the field, Johnson seems quite affable and popular with his teammates, which along with his hustle leads me to believe he has quality makeup.

Defensively Johnson has spent time at all three outfield positions, but his impressive raw speed and cannon-like arm has him profile best in center field, where he projects as an above-average to plus defender.  He does need more experience in center field to improve his routes and instincts, as he has split time with Nationals’ prospect Blake Perkins this season.  However, aside from experience, there is little reason to believe he will not be a terrific defensive outfielder.

At the plate the left-hand hitting Johnson displays loose lithe wrists and impressive bat speed, whipping the barrel through the strike zone like a child with a stick.  He sets his hands near his heart and uses a small-to-medium leg kick to trigger his swing.  His has a small wrist wrap which lengthens his already longish swing, causing some swing-and-miss in his game.  I have seen him struggle with velocity up-and-away, in addition to recognizing and hitting spin on the inner-third of the plate.

Johnson shows natural raw power, especially to the pull side, both in batting practice and in game action.  Additionally, he punishes the baseball into the gaps, where he utilizes his speed to gather doubles and triples.  However, he does not steal many bases and looks unrefined in doing so, failing to capitalize on his speed to create havoc.  Johnson needs to refine his swing mechanics, which will help quiet his body down and allow him to make more contact.  I have some concerns with his hit tool, but I can envision a future .245-.260 hitter with 12-17 home runs if things truly come together for Johnson.

After a somewhat underwhelming stat line last summer, Johnson has emerged for Hagerstown this season and become the hottest prospect in Washington’s farm system.  Defensively, Johnson needs experience in center field, but his plus speed and powerful arm allow him to project as a future plus defender.  At the plate, there is legitimate raw power in his bat and the aptitude to spray line drives all over the field.  If he can tame the strikeouts and make more contact, he could profile as a slugging #6 or #7 hitter.

Johnson is still raw and needs plenty of game experience, but his impressive physical tools are beginning to blossom into a quality baseball prospect.  His speed, defensive versatility and skills, plus his left-handed raw power should give Johnson a floor as a #5 outfielder or Quad-A player.  However, if his skills continue to flourish, Johnson has the ceiling of a league-average two-way major league centerfielder.  Johnson is a top-10 prospect currently in the Nationals’ system and will be a coveted name in trade discussions this summer.

Evaluating Baltimore Orioles Prospect Keegan Akin

Keegan Akin        LHP        Frederick Keys

DOB: 4/1/95    Height: 6-0       Weight: 225lbs           Bats: Left          Throws: Left

Fastball (50/55)    Slider (45/50)     Changeup (40/45)   Command (50/50+)

2nd round pick, 54th overall, by Baltimore in 2016, signed for $1,177,200 – 22y/o who is listed as 6-0 225lbs, well-built and stocky physique with little to no projection remaining.  Akin throws from a high 3/4s arm slot and utilizes a waist-high or slightly above leg-lift; possesses a simple one-step movement into leg-lift and drives toward home, repeats mechanics well.  Will occasionally lose balance toward second base, causing his arm to lag behind his lower half.  Akin keeps his body slightly closed to lefties, allowing him to hide the baseball and deceive hitters.  A very polished pitcher for High-A, Akin pounds the bottom of the strike zone, changes the batters’ eye level and sets up hitters.

3-pitch repertoire:  Fastball (89-92mph, T93) shows good life at the upper velocity bands and can sink the pitch at lower velocities.  Akin keeps the ball down in the zone, can both cut or sink it and locates it well inside to righties.  Akin commands his fastball to all four quadrants and the pitch consistently shows some type of wiggle.  Changeup (80-83mph) was inconsistent, as the pitch was rather mediocre early, but flashed good sink and arm-side fading action later in the outing.  He will slow his arm speed on the poor offerings, but when he replicates the arm action, the pitch can be a fringe-average to average.  The slider (81-83mph) was thrown only a few times but showed average potential.  Akin threw his slider both in the zone for a strike and in the dirt as a chase pitch; can look slurvy at worst, needs repetitions to refine the offering.

Akin is an impressive and polished collegiate pitcher who looks advanced for High-A.  He possesses a future above-average fastball, an easily repeatable delivery and the chance for average to above-average command.  Unfortunately Akin lacks a plus offering or the projection remaining in his frame to believe his stuff could significantly improve.  This leaves him with a relatively similar ceiling and floor, as Akin profiles as a major league arm, with the ceiling of a #5 back-end starting pitcher and the likely outcome being a long reliever and occasional spot starter.  He is a low-to-medium risk prospect with a low-to-medium ceiling.  Akin could see a promotion to Double-A later this summer and projects to be major league ready late in 2018 or 2019.

Scouting Hector Silvestre

Hector Silvestre                 LHP        Evaluated 6/4 & 4/19/17

Fastball (40/45)   Slider (40/40)   Changeup (40/45)   Command (50/50)

International free agent signee in January 2011 by the Washington Nationals; Born in December 1992, Silvestre will spend this entire season at 24 y/o.  Silvestre is a well-built and wiry strong 6-3 180lbs with little projection remaining.  He utilizes a relatively simple, 1-step and rock delivery with few moving parts and he repeats his mechanics fairly well both from windup and stretch.  Silvestre throws from a medium 3/4s arm slot and pitches from the extreme third base side of the rubber.  There is some deception in the delivery, especially for lefties, as he hides ball well with his body through his pitching motion.

3-pitch repertoire – Fastball (89-91mph, T92) has natural cutting action in toward righties, especially at lower velocities – Silvestre locates the fastball well low in the zone, but struggles to command above the belt; pitch generates swings-and-misses.  His slider (79mph-83mph) is rather inconsistent both in shape and quality, some flash late bite into the strike zone and others are rather loopy.  The changeup (82-84mph) replicates arm speed well and shows quality arm-side fade, but he struggles to throw it for strikes as it tends to drift outside the zone.

Silvestre is a well-built and polished left-handed pitcher with three decent but inconsistent offerings.  He is somewhat old for the High-A level and his lack of an above-average future pitch limits his ceiling.  Silvestre is a crafty lefty who competes and knows how to pitch.  Unless his offspeed stuff improves, Silvestre possesses the ceiling as a quality Triple-A starter who unfortunately stagnates in the upper minors.


Scouting Sheldon Neuse

Sheldon Neuse   3B/SS     Hagerstown Suns

Hit (40/50) / Power (50/55) / Run (45/45) / Defense (55/55) / Arm (65/65) 

Washington’s 2nd round pick, 58th overall, in the 2016 MLB Draft, signed for $900,000.  Born in December 1994, Neuse will spend the entire season as a 22 y/o.  Listed at 6-0 195lbs., Neuse looks a bit taller than listed and his body projects to add 7-10 additional pounds as he matures physically.  He has average to below-average speed, consistently clocking between 4.32 – 4.38 from home to first.  From mere observation, Neuse has quality makeup, constantly hustling in the field and seems popular with his teammates.

Defensively Neuse has spent time at both shortstop and third base this season for Hagerstown.  Neuse has a cannon-like arm, actually spending time as a pitcher in college at Oklahoma State.  It easily projects as a plus arm and is one of the strongest non-shortstop arms I have seen in many years.  Neuse has average to fringe-average speed and mediocre athleticism, making him profile more naturally at third baseman.  But the combination of his first-step quickness, soft hands and strong arm make him profile as an above-average defender at the hot corner.

At the plate Neuse is a right-handed hitter with impressive bat speed but struggles to find a consistent length to his swing, as it can get long when he tries to “sell out” for power.  He has noticeably attempted to cut down his swing this season, with positive results.  Neuse will flash above-average to plus raw power in batting practice and has begun incorporating the long ball into game action.  He displays intriguing power to right-center field, including the ability to hit it over the wall.  He needs repetitions to get more comfortable with the swing changes he is making, but Neuse projects as an average hitter with above-average raw power.

Neuse has an intriguing package of tools and is the type of prospect you appreciate the more you watch him play.  He should be an asset defensively at third base at the big league level due to his strong arm, soft hands and reasonable athleticism.  The primary concern in his profile is the hit tool, as he has struggled in the past consistently making contact and is attempting to refine his swing.  Not to mention trying to project how he will perform against pitching three levels above him.  That said he has quality bat speed, recognizes spin and has a game plan for each at-bat, three key elements for future success as a hitter.

Neuse profiles as an average to above-average 2-way third baseman, with the ceiling of a solid starting third baseman, and the most likely outcome being a versatile bench bat.  Neuse is not flashy, but is a quality left side of the infield prospect who should receive more helium in prospect circles.  He could see a promotion to High-A Potomac in the next 30-45 days and perhaps be major league ready late in 2019.