The minor league season is in full swing and I’ve already made several scouting trips to see prospects and take in the wonderful world of minor league baseball. Where else can you see an overweight dad, maybe he was a granddad, running around with a sign that said, “We scored” when his home team was loosing 11-2. Yep, minor league baseball is where the true fans hangout.
Franklin Barreto (Oak, SS)
Traded by the Blue Jays as part of the Josh Donaldson deal over the winter, it was my second time seeing the 19-year-old Venezuelan. At only 5-foot-9, Barreto is not a big guy by any stretch, but is well built with an aggressive swing that is more geared to doubles power than over-the-fence power. That said, he has excellent bat speed and enough leverage to eventually hit double-digit home runs.
While he has a 7% lifetime walk rate, I did not see any plate discipline in the games in which I scouted. He swung early and often on most at-bats but was able to catch a 87 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate for a home run to left-center field. I did clock him at 4.12 to first base on an infield hit and while he has yet to steal a base in the early going, there is the potential for 20 plus stolen bases annually.
Defensively, Barreto showed enough in the field to convince me he can stay at shortstop for the foreseeable future. He showed very good lateral movements with a quick step to the hole and an average arm to complete the package.
Brett Phillips (Hou, OF)
It’s easy to see why the Astros are so high on 21-year-old outfielder Brett Phillips. He’s the definition of a gamer who plays all out with infectious energy to spare. The JetHawks had him batting leadoff in all three games that I scouted, and while he has the tools to hit at the top of the order, he also has the bat control and contact skills to hit anywhere from one to three.
Phillips has plus speed that was on display in the outfield as he and his two running mates were chasing balls down all night in Game 1. He cut off two balls to hold batters to a single and showed off his plus arm several times. I was able to clock him at 4.08 and 4.10 to first in two of his at-bats.
The open question on Phillips has been how much power he will eventually develop. He has good bat speed with a quick and short compact swing, but I don’t see the kind of strength or loft in his swing for him to profile for more than low double-digit home runs. That could change as he continues to fill out, but a slash line of .275/.350/.440 with 8 to 12 home runs feels like what he could do once he makes his way to the major leagues.
A.J. Reed (Hou, 1B)
This was my first time seeing the Astros 2014 second round draft pick and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that Reed was a decorated college player who won the College Player of the Year in 2014, so I guess my expectations were high…I guess. After seeing him for three games, I left a little empty.
First, batting practice was impressive as Reed showed above-average, if not plus raw power. It’s hard to get a great read on power in Lancaster as the wind blows out, the field is elevated and the air is very dry with little humidity. It’s truly a hitters paradise. What did strike me the most was Reed’s body. To put it kindly, he’s a big boy. He’s every bit the 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds that his baseball-reference profile shows. I had heard that he lost weight and his body was in better shape, but I wasn’t impressed.
Reed will likely be relegated to first base and therefore, he’s going to have to hit and hit with power. While I can see 20 home run power, he really struggled with spin in the games I scouted. As an elite college player, I expected a better hit tool and while he’s very early in his professional career, there appears to be a long way to go.
J.D. Davis (Hou, 3B)
Drafted in the third round of the 2014 first year player draft, J.D. Davis really impressed me in both games.
In Game 1, he went 3-for-3 with two singles and a double. Davis was able to square up a low 90’s fastball and take a pretty decent slider the other way. He showed excellent strike zone awareness as well as good bat control.
Batting practice was also impressive as Davis showed plus raw power to all fields. As was mentioned with Reed, it’s hard to get a great read on power in Lancaster, but the swing was easy and the ball really jumped off his bat. In the field, Davis struggled with his footwork at third base but showed a cannon for arm that should allow him to cover-up some of those mistakes.