My name is Aaron. I have a decent background in baseball. Spent time with a historical baseball agency, did player development analytics in the minors for one team before getting laid off during the pandemic from another. This is not me wanting to get back into the game professionally. I simply love baseball, analytics, and scouting, and I want to continue to observe the minor leagues for fun.
I’ve developed an interest in finding diamonds in the rough. Everyone talks about top 30 here, top 30 there, but there are always guys that slip through the cracks and end up in the majors.
This is the first entry in series on players that have slipped through the cracks. I am starting with a look at the lowest full season level: Low A.
Ronny Simon (Tampa Bay, 2B, 21)
Ronny Simon is a switch-hitting infielder listed at 5’9" and 150 lbs. Let me tell you, it must be a dense 150. There is one video of a home run for Simon and the bat speed he demonstrates on that was ridiculous.
Yes, it’s not a tell of his consistency but Simon had an .818 OPS with 13 stolen bases in 349 Plate Appearances. He has above average walk and strikeout rates at 12% and 23% respectively. For those that are not huge into stats, walk and strikeout rates are what percentage of Plate Appearances the player walks and strikes out. Adversely, swinging strike rate shows what percentage of pitches they swing and whiff at. His swinging strike rate reflects this vision and finished above average for Low A with 13.3%. Simon has good vision for a Low A hitter and combines that with power potential.
His power for his size can be looked at accordingly. Simon was top 10 in his level for converting fly balls to homeruns, but in that group sustained the second highest ground ball rate. Seriously, doing it like that is incredible, paired with the vision statistics. Although not available, I would love to see what percentages of fastballs and off-speed Simon swings at, and what pitches he puts out of the park more often.
An interesting tidbit to note is that Simon was with the Cubs organization, then the Diamondbacks, and was traded in the Jordan Luplow exchange to the Rays. The Rays have a notorious scouting and player development department, and don’t pick up players they think are worthless. If I was a betting man, and I am, I’d say Simon ends up in the top 30 this season for the Rays. I had a mentor tell me that the California League was well known around many scouting circles as a hitter’s league. The neat part about Simon is that his second year in rookie league led to an above .200 Isolated Power.
With increased growth, both from a baseball standpoint and a muscle standpoint, Simon is a second basemen with a ridiculous amount of power potential for his size stemming from his quick bat speed. He should also have enough speed to steal double-digit bases. That is the profile of a top 30 prospect, and a guy who could someday make it to the show.
Adrian Florencio (Pittsburgh, A, RHP, 22)
Adrian Florencio is a Pirates RHP listed at 6’6" 205. Signed at 20 years old, Florencia started his second season in Low A and threw 95 innings in 19 starts. Florencio, per Pirates Prospects.com, signed throwing 89-91 mph, but was touching 94 by the end of his first season in rookie ball. Watching a video from October 2020 in the prospect league, his mechanics show a very smooth and comfortable high 3/4 delivery, with stability finishing on the front league and not much glove side drag. It is a little difficult to explain why all of this is important but putting strain on the front knee through lack of bend can sometimes cause issues in planting or using too much of one part of the body (in this case, the shoulder). If you want an example of this, look Ryan Weathers (LHP, San Diego) from his time in Fort Wayne and follow his landing knee.
In short, it provides consistency and control, and provides stability for velocity.
The slider has good horizontal and vertical movement, with quick break. It shows a little early, but he trusts it. A very projectible pitch. The fastball moves quickly through the zone. While I don’t have access to teams’ minor league StatCast data, I’d estimate the spin rate is somewhere north of 2250 RPMs. Again, if I were a betting man…
Suffice to say, I personally like him a lot. I’ve done a lot of work with pitchers, overlaying mechanics and breaking down biometric data and the off years really hurt the timeline. In Low A, Florencio struck out 30% of his batters, and only walked 8% with an opposing average of .198. He was above average in his league in strike percentage and swinging strike percentage, and only gave up a few homeruns.
Florencio was named Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he excelled in AA in 2022. Unfortunately, the Pirates’ system is full of quality big league capable pitching. There is a reason they named Ben Cherrington (the Blue Jays former maestro of Player Development) to Director of Baseball Operations. Florencio has all the tools to become a successful pitcher, whether it will be with the Pirates or another team makes his path murky. Overall, I have significant faith he will pitch in the majors.