Howdy everyone. Sorry, no more fancy graphics. Too time consuming for now, as I have a lot of content to get out to you. Opening day has come and gone, and I still haven't finished this project. Most guys I've touched upon on twitter @tigersprosects or may touch on in the second rendition of backfield notes.
11. Kevin Ziomek- I wish I'd have compiled my rankings after firming up some viewings last week, but alas, Ziomek is #11. He's probably 3-4 spots too high, but it's really not a big deal, as you all know, I love high floor lefties, especially in a shallow system. I have some video coming later, as I have about 75 pitches from behind home plate. Reports on ZIomek were strongly variant, and there's the possibility that I see him at WMI and he throws differently. He's a bit enigmatic.
Ziomek has a funky delivery, and hides the ball well, especially from left handers. He works from 88-91 T 92 with the FB, but his comfort zone is 88-89 with a bit of two seam run. His FB doesn't have much life, but he commanded it well to all four quadrants of the strike zone when I saw him, which runs a bit counter to reports I've seen in the past. If he can continue to command the inside part of the zone, that will be very helpful, especially if he can prevent RHB from diving out over the plate. Ziomek's curveball is a bit slurvy, but it's got extremely good spin and depth at this point, and works around 76 MPH. I wouldn't say it's an outstanding swing and miss pitch, but he can throw it for strikes, and it comes out of the same arm slot as his FB. I'd throw a 55 grade on it at this point, with the potential for a plus major league pitch in the future with some refinement. The change up showed some potential, and he didn't throw it that frequently in my viewing, probably because he was facing lower level hitters, which he carved up. It had some arm side fade, and the arm speed was good. I'd imagine he'll throw it more frequently as he moves up the ladder. The stuff isn't overpowering, but with a few tweaks, I can see him as a back end starter, with the possibility to become a mid rotation guy depending on durability. I wasn't blown away, but he's a relatively safe bet to reach the major leagues in some capacity.
The one thing that concerned me about Ziomek, even against the lower level guys, was that he wasn't generating a lot of swings and misses in the zone. He didn't get barreled frequently, but I suspect he may have to change his sequencing at the higher levels.
10. Steven Moya- Consider me the low man on Steven Moya. I had the chance to see him for about 10 PA, and it was the same old stuff. Moya doesn't have much of a plan at the plate, and while the power remains prodigious, and raw 80 grade, he's still far away from letting even half of that play out on the field. I understand that he had some success in the beginning part of spring training, and that's awesome. However, most guys were working on things, throwing plenty of fastballs for him to feast on, and not sequencing like they normally would. In my viewing, he had trouble with all breaking pitches, and was absolutely carved up by arm side pitching. He hit two balls hard in those 10 or so PA, and trust me, they were absolute lasers, but had far too many empty PA for my liking. AA should be a good challenge for him, as pitchers are much more advanced than A+ (it's the biggest jump besides the major leagues).
The overall approach definitely needs some honing, as do the barrel control and barrel accuracy. Those two terms are thrown around a lot, often by me. They're essentially synonyms for the same thing: how often can a hitter deliver his barrel to the ball and hit it hard? A quick tangent here: I played youth ball with major leaguer D.J. Lemahieu, and he had some of the best barrel control I've seen, even to this day. It seemed like every single time up, he'd hit the ball hard somewhere. On the ground, in the air; didn't matter. Every time he went up there, he had a plan, which was basically getting a pitch in his zone that he could drive. Most great hitters are this way: they have a plan of attack, know the situation, and adjust accordingly. Moya basically just went up there every time trying to hit the ball 700 feet. Whether there were runners on base, how many guys were out, what the score or count happened to be, didn't make a difference.
The problem with this type of approach is that only hitters with superior hand-eye can overcome it. It's why I'm not a huge believer in Hernan Perez yet. It's why Avisail Garcia may see some regression this year. Guys who have trouble getting a pitch in THEIR zone to drive, and who swing at pitcher's pitches have to be really special in order to succeed. Until Moya can hone in on his plan and work himself into better counts, I don't care that he hits it 600 feet in batting practice. He's a 5 o'clock hitter until proven otherwise. I get that the talent is there, and the athleticism is there, and he's decent in the OF and can move for a guy who's all of 6'8. However, until he firms up that approach, he's going to stay in the minors.
If he stepped onto a major league ball field right now, not only would he get absolutely decimated by left handed pitching, but you're also looking at a guy who has had exactly 0 high minors plate appearances, is behind in overall PA as it is due to injury concerns, and hasn't showed much ability to make adjustments to the league just yet. Not even to mention the absolutely abysmal K/BB ratio or sub .300 OBP in A+. If you want to see Moya succeed, you're going to have to be patient, because he's further away than people think, and these changes don't happen overnight.
9. Hernan Perez- or as Michael Kay says "Heir-nan Pear-ezz". Virtually all of what I said regarding Moya's plate discipline issues apply to Perez. However, Perez has better hand eye than Moya, yet doesn't possess the crazy raw power. However, Hernan has the raw tools to be a .270-.280 hitter, yet with a relatively low OBP. I'm not sold on Perez as an every day 2B at this point, although frankly, looking around the league, you could probably do worse. He's got the ability to play SS in a pinch, and is solid average, potentially a plus at 2B right now. Perez could also play 3B if he had to, and I wouldn't even put it past him to play some OF. He's a good athlete, and depending on what happens with the SS situation, and his counterpart Eugenio Suarez, you could see him as a helpful utility guy down the line. On defensive value and versatility alone, he should be a contributor to a major league team. Perez is a very good base runner, and while he's not a burner, he has plus speed, good instincts, and will provide value in the steals column and on the base paths.
Overall, it's not an amazing package, but he's already at AAA, and has a much higher floor than other prospects in the system. I'd expect him to carve out a nice big league career, although whether it's that of a utility man or second division starting 2B, that remains to be seen.
8. Eugenio Suarez- I had the chance to see Suarez up close and personal this past week, and the only word I can accurately use to describe his play: annoying. He's annoying, and pesky, and aggravating to play against. I love this in a player, and it's often used synonymously with gritty (#grit), although in this instance, I think it's mutually exclusive. I would hate playing against this guy, because he's a pest.
At the plate, Suarez has an advanced approach, and works the count into his favor. I'd estimate that he saw roughly 5 pitches per PA, and worked himself back from 0-2 to 3-2 two different times. While he doesn't have a world of pop, he's got a pretty nice little hit tool, and hits the ball hard often. Suarez takes a bunch of pitches, and even though his approach is a bit passive, he shortens up with two strikes, and often works himself a walk or puts the ball in play. That's fine with me. If Suarez can somehow figure out how to hit .260-.270 and continue to walk at close to a 10% rate, you may really have something here. Even if he doesn't hit for pop, if he can get on base 34 or 35% of the time, that's damn good for a MIF, let alone a SS.
On defense, he's still a bit raw, but the tools are certainly there for him to be an every day SS. His arm is major league average, and the hands are good as well. The actions and demeanor are superior to Hernan Perez' and it's no contest, to me at least, who of the two of them is the long term SS. Suarez has a bit of a ways to go, as he still needs to work on qualifying runners and making routine plays, and that's fine. He's still a young guy at 22, and has some time in AA/AAA this upcoming season in order to figure that out. With Jose Iglesias' uncertainty this season, depending on Suarez' play (and Alex Gonzalez' of course), you could see him get some time later in the year. If you'd have asked me two months ago, I'd tell you that there was a really good chance that Suarez was getting dealt for some piece at the trade deadline. Now, I'm not so sure. While Hernan Perez may have a better overall tool package, I'll take Suarez on the baseball diamond.
7. James McCann- taken in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, McCann was always viewed as a high floor, low upside back up catcher. While I'd agree that the floor is high, I'm not sold that he's JUST a back up. While the Tigers still have Alex Avila under contract for the next two seasons before he hits free agency, Avila has his warts as well, including struggling vs LHP, and not being able to stay on the field. Enter McCann, who hits right handed. By August of this year, I wouldn't be surprised to see McCann handling the weak side of the platoon after he gets some AB's in Toledo on an every day basis, and by 2015, I expect to see and Avila/McCann catching platoon, which could be pretty damn good.
At the plate, McCann is ever improving. I saw him take four PA against LHP in the same game, and he hit four absolute ropes. He stays balanced and gets his front foot down in time, which is extremely important, as I've harped on before. I don't see him as a huge power guy, but a catcher with a 50 hit tool and playable power is definitely an asset, especially if it's against opposite side pitching at the beginning of his career.
Defensively, McCann is around MLB average according to a couple of scouts I talked to, and from the side, he looked quiet and controlled back there. I wasn't able to see his positioning or pitch framing from my angle, but I'll definitely be behind the plate in Toledo at some point this year, so that's something to pay attention to. Most of his throws came in around the 2.00 or 2.05 mark down to 2B, which is around MLB average. He's a decent thrower, and that's actually something that can play up over time as you develop better instincts, positioning, a feel for what the pitchers are throwing, and who is on base. McCann has all of the makings to be a solid average catcher.
Put those two things together, and you're probably working with a really good back up/second division starter, if not a bit more. Catching is a really, really valuable commodity, and with McCann's improvement at the plate in the past 18 months, he's got a chance to put on the pads 100+ times a year for somebody.