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.
On Episode #7 of THE NatsGM Show, I interviewed Sirius/XM’s Mike Ferrin.
Mike and I Discussed the 2014 Futures Game, the Recent Cubs Blockbuster Trade with Oakland, and the Washington Nationals. Enjoy and Thanks for Listening!
Sunday represented the 2014 Sirius/XM MLB Futures Games, the 16th annual edition of this game and easily the best part of All-Star Week festivities each summer. Baseball America selects the 25-man rosters and divides them into two teams, the US team with prospects born in the United States, and the World team, comprised of players born outside the country. Each organization must be represented with at least one prospect, and teams are extremely accommodating in allowing their best prospects to participate in the game.
The setup of this event typically favors the pitchers, as they pitch 1 inning or less and thus often only throw their best pitches and try to outdo each other with the highest readings on the radar gun. Nevertheless, this light-hearted exhibition gives scouts and prospect-nerds like myself a one-of-a-kind opportunity to watch the top pitching and hitting prospects compete against one another. In a well-played contest, the US team defeated the World team 3-2 in the 16th edition of this contest. These are some of my scouting notes on the top arms in this year’s game.
Lucas Giolito RHP Washington Nationals
Giolito was not his sharpest on Sunday in his 2/3 innings of work, struggling with the consistency of his delivery and looking rather nervous in front of the large crowd and television audience. Giolito could not command his 94-96mph fastball and lacked the feel for his 79-83mph curveball, hanging one to Javier Baez that he hit for a 2-run home run. Finally, Giolito did show a quality 82mph changeup with good arm action and movement. Even on a poor day for Giolito he showed three solid pitches and appeared to belong against some of the best prospects in baseball.
Hunter Harvey RHP Baltimore Orioles
Harvey entered for the US team in the 4th inning, and much like Giolito, he struggled a bit with his delivery and did not appear to ever get completely comfortable on the mound. Harvey has an excellent, projectable pitcher’s body and showed a solid 91-94mph fastball that he located to the outside of the plate well, in addition to a quality 75-79mph curveball, and an 81-82mph changeup that needs development. Harvey needs to continue to refine his delivery as he slows his momentum during the middle of his motion, but the repertoire and body are simply outstanding and Harvey projects as a strong #2 or #3 starter in a few seasons.
Alex Meyer RHP Minnesota Twins
I was eager to see Meyer pitch, as he was the Nationals 1st Round pick (23rd overall) in 2011 and the player the team parted with to acquire Denard Span from Minnesota two years ago. Impressively Meyer only needed 4 pitches to complete the 5th inning, utilizing a 97-98mph fastball to overwhelm the World team lineup.
Meyer is a large man with many moving parts in his motion, which will contribute to a higher than average walk rate in the future, but his strike out ability and outstanding repertoire should allow him to be a starter in the majors.
Robert Stephenson RHP Cincinnati Reds
After hearing the Baseball Prospectus gentleman mentioned him as a potential future Ace at their DC event last month, Stephenson was appointment television Sunday afternoon. A thick, well-built athlete, I was immediately impressed by the sheer physicality of this 21-year-old Cincinnati prospect.
Stephenson only needed 11 pitches to complete his inning of work, and he showed why he is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball with 95-98mph fastball with late life, a true hammer 82mph curveball, and a firm 88mph changeup with good sink. Stephenson still needs some polish to refine his delivery, but the raw stuff and physicality portend a future as a top-of-the-rotation starter if everything comes together. This is a monster prospect who deserves more attention.
Julio Urias LHP Los Angeles Dodgers
Still only 17-years-old, Urias became the youngest ever participant in the Futures Game Sunday, needing only 14 pitches to retire the side in the 5th inning. Urias featured a 92-95mph fastball which he located to both sides of the plate, along with a sweeping 11-5 79-81mph wipeout slider, and a noteworthy 82mph changeup with natural fading action.
The same age as many rising high school seniors, Urias still has a babyface, but his skills are far more mature than virtually any teenage pitcher in recent memory. Currently more than holding his own at High-A, Urias could reach the major leagues late in 2015 before his 19th birthday. He does not possess an Ace-caliber repertoire, but Urias should have a long career as a quality mid-rotation starting pitcher.