Notes from spring's first big scouting event
Conditions on Sunday were poor; it was cold, below 60 degrees with a lot of cloud cover and a stiff wind, and the fields were still a little damp, meaning that the "track" from home to first was slow. Only one pitcher topped 91 mph on my gun, and the game (a showcase, where each pitcher faced four batters) didn't have much crispness to it. These are early impressions of the 10 best prospects who were there, but bear in mind that for many of the players this was the first real baseball they've played in at least two months.
Jiovanni Mier, SS: Mier was the one legit shortstop prospect in the game; he has a 6 arm, good feel for the position. He transfers well on on ground balls and double plays. At the plate, he has quick hands and good plate overage, although there's not going to be much power there.
Jacob Marisnick, OF: Marisnick has a very fluid swing with good loft; he gets his hands started early and showed a more consistent swing than he did last summer at the Area Code Games. He also showed improved power and looks like he's added some muscle over the past six months. He projects as a corner outfielder with an above-average arm.
Matthew Davidson, 3B: Davidson showed good bat speed and squared the ball up well, with the most consistent power of anyone there. If you had to bet on one position player to hit in the majors, he'd be it. He's a well-below average runner, and he was rough at third base, worse than last summer before AFLAC, so he'll have to address the positional question this spring.
Bryan Berglund, RHP: Berglund's stock has been rising quickly over the past few months among SoCal scouts after a good showing in fall ball. Berglund offers good projection at 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, with a wiry frame. His solid-average fastball is a bat-breaker. He also had one of the best sliders of any pitcher, 80-82 mph with a short, sharp break and good tilt. His changeup was soft, and he's a little stiff through his delivery.
Tyler Skaggs, LHP: Skaggs is a projectable lefty who sat in the upper 80s and touched 91. His curve was slow, 69-74 mph, but he can spin it and got good rotation on the pitch. He has a quick arm, which some scouts feel is critical to snapping off a good curve. He should add velocity when he fills out, as he's listed at 6'4", 180 pounds.
Jonathan Meyer, C/3B/RHP: Meyer is the starting shortstop for Simi Valley High -- a fairly prospect-laden team this year, with catcher Drew Sandler and outfielder Brent Keys also participating on Sunday -- but his pro future is behind the plate, where he showed a quick transfer and plenty of arm strength. He threw off the mound and touched 91 with a decent curveball, although the best thing he showed as a pitcher was his athleticism, getting off the mound quickly to field a dribbler in front of the plate.
Matthew Hobgood, rhp: Hobgood showed the most arm strength of any pitcher, touching 94 and sitting 91-92, moving the fastball around well. Hitters reacted late to the pitch, although that may have been because he was throwing a good 4-6 mph harder than the pitcher who preceded him. He showed a very hard downer curveball anywhere from 74 to 80 mph and flashed a change or split-change. He's got a strong, thick build, but started to overthrow as his outing went on.
Austin Wilson, OF: One of two underclassmen in the event, Wilson was probably the best prospect there despite turning 17 yeas old the day before the event. Wilson is around 6-4 and 200+ pounds, with a great baseball body. He showed outstanding power in BP -- hitting a few balls out that he didn't even hit squarely -- although he got jumpier as the round went on and wasn't keeping his weight back. He also showed good arm strength, but his throws in infield practice were all over the place. He's a very likely first-round choice for 2010.
Beau Wright, LHP: Wright didn't have as good a showing as the other players on this list, but the fact that he's out pitching is a bonus considering he took a line drive off his skull in a workout for the AFLAC game last year and missed the rest of the summer. Wright sat 87-90 with some natural cut on most of the fastballs. He threw an inconsistent curve with some two-plane action and flashed a sharp slider in the low 80s. He hides the ball well; hitters clearly didn't see it. His velocity has been better in the past, and he needs to shed some pounds and get into playing shape.
Notes from behind the plate:
• Steven Strasburg has been lights-out in preseason outings for San Diego State, sitting 97-100 in one recent outing with a plus-plus curveball. One scouting director told me that Strasburg's delivery was cleaner and that he was in better shape than when he saw the pitcher last summer.
• Daniel Webb has come out of the gate slowly for Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) Junior College, after turning down roughly $250,000 from Arizona last year. Webb had a scholarship to Kentucky waiting for him last year, but didn't qualify academically and fell due to signability.
• Left-hander Tyler Matzek, the best prep arm in California this year and one of the best in the country, skipped this event and is only throwing one or two innings per outing right now after taking two months off from throwing. The consensus among scouts and directors to whom I spoke was that, between the temperatures and the fact that he's not fully up to speed yet, Matzek could only hurt his stock.