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Scouting Notes: West Michigan Whitecaps (5/3/13)

Last Friday I headed back to West Michigan to check out the Whitecaps vs. Cedar Rapids (Twins affiliate). The draw of the game, aside from obviously scouting, was seeing the Twins' Byron Buxton. And he didn't disappoint.

Detroit Tigers RHP Endrys Briceno
Detroit Tigers RHP Endrys Briceno
Courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

We'll do this in bullet point format; per the usual.

RHP Endrys Briceno:

-This is the 2nd time I've gotten to see Briceno pitch this season, and this start was even more maddening to watch. John Verberg, former boss of Motor City Bengals and now of Bullpen Banter, summed Briceno up best on twitter when he said "He's a tease. A huge tease". I really couldn't say it any better. Let's talk about why:

-Briceno gave up 4 runs in the first inning, mostly on hard contact, although his defense didn't do him any favors. He had zero command of his fastball, which was impressive velocity-wise, sitting 93-95, but he was leaving it up and over the plate and it was getting pounded.

-He still shows a smooth delivery, and the ball does explode out of his hand. When he commands it down in the zone, the fastball is effective both as a swing and miss pitch, and as a groundball-inducing pitch. It'll straighten out as he ramps it up, but at 92-93 it has some nice life.

-He still has a ton of projection remaining. He's 6'4"-6'5" and is rail-thin, but the arm is lightning fast and it's easy to drool over his velocity and projection.

-I actually saw a couple above-average breaking balls, which I hadn't seen from him before. He started to pitch backwards a bit as the game wore on, showing a much better feel for the curve at 77-79. He threw a few for strikes that buckled the knees of the batter, not so much because they were "nasty" pitches, but because they were so unexpected. He's made progress with the breaking ball this season already, I can tell you that.

-Back to the "tease" part. Here's what I mean. Late in the game, Briceno was facing a left-handed hitter (I can't recall who). With the count 1-1, Briceno unleashed a hellish 97 MPH fastball that painted the outside corner right at the knees for a called 2nd strike. I almost jumped up out of my seat. That's the pitch that excites you. Then he followed that with an 87 MPH change up that, with fade and some sink, hit the exact same spot in the zone for a called third. It was just a disgusting 2 pitch sequence, and it shows you the type of potential he has. He's exciting to watch, honestly.

-With Briceno, the fastball velocity is there. The repeatable delivery is there. The easiness of his motion is there. The changeup is a nice pitch. He's coming along with his breaking ball. But his biggest issues right now are consistency and command. He's certainly not the first projectable righthanded pitcher to struggle with those two areas, but he has a long ways to go.

-I still believe that he has the ceiling of a #2 starter. With a potential (given growth, etc) of a 7 FB, 6 CH, and 5 CB, he could dominate. But with no progression of command or consistency, he could never make it past A+ ball.

SS David Gonzalez:

-1st time I've seen Gonzalez, and I was pretty impressed.

-Quick feet at SS. Comes in on the ball well. Above average range to both sides. Quick exchange. Looks like an above-average arm that can make all the throws, but I don't see a "gun" there.

-One word to describe him at the plate: Pesky. He works the count, he fouls off pitches, he doesn't expand the zone. He's a contact guy who can run some, but I'm not convinced the bat will ever have enough to play everyday. Right now I think he maxes out as a utility guy, but we'll see.

2B Devon Travis:

- <3

RHP Julio Felix:

-2nd time I've seen Felix as well. FB sat 92-93 with some life. Touched 95 once or twice but it straightened out and he left it up. Threw a solid-looking changeup at 78-80 with some fade, but not much sink, if any. Decently athletic kid that fields his position well. Wanted to see some breaking balls, but with the 4 seamer, 2 seamer, and change with decent command, I can see a middle relief upside here.

LHP Logan Ehlers:

-I've been dying to see Ehlers pitch, and I finally got the chance. He came in out of the bullpen, and was shaky.

-FB sat 90-92, touched 93 once that I saw. Did not have his command of the pitch. Was actually somewhat wild. FB had some life to it. 3/4 arm slot with repeatable delivery. Athletic.

-SL was 79-82 and was a legitimate plus pitch. Threw a few for strikes that buckled my knees in the stands. Able to bury it on back foot of RHH. 2 plane break. Love the pitch

-Showed a CH at 79-81 that was ok. He didn't command it well, but when he did it had some solid fade. Same arm speed as his FB, which was nice to see. Average projection there.

CF Austin Schotts:

-He has been struggling all season to make contact, but he made really hard contact on Friday. Unfortunately, the contact was between the ball and his leg, and he had to be removed from the game. Just in the few swings I saw, his bat DOES look faster than it was a month ago.

OF Jake Stewart:

-Moved to CF after Schotts got hurt. Kid is an athlete, no other way to put it. Above-average runner. Good reads, good jumps, good instincts in the OF. Can really go get it.

-I like his approach at the plate, but I'm not sold on his swing. There's some hand drift there. He's been able to overcome that so far this season, but I'm not sure the bat keeps playing as he climbs the organizational ladder.

CF Byron Buxton (Twins):

-Stud. StudStudStud. Oh my gosh, Stud with a capitol S. Could be the best overall prospect in the game eventually. First AB he took a 94 MPH fastball that was in and around the thighs and laced it into LF. Bat speed is very impressive. Grounded out to SS in one AB, but I clocked him at 3.70 down the line. That's freakishly fast. That's 80 speed. He's scary athletic. I see an 8 runner, potential 7 defender in CF with a 6 arm, 6 hit and maybe 5+ power. Folks, that's a FREAK. Obviously he's raw and has a long ways to go, but he could be scary good.

Reminders: You can follow us on twitter @TigersProspects; or follow me personally @B_Sakowski_PG.