Being in Tampa is great for covering prospects. I get to see loaded college teams, some of the top highschool talent, spring training, FSL, extended, GCL, and instructs. However, unlike Phoenix where all the complexes are within a half hour of each other, I am basically confined to seeing Yankees, Jays, Tigers, and Phillies prospects with a sprinkling of Braves, Pirates, Reds, Rays, Twins, Mets, and Marlins. Dont get me wrong. I’m not complaining. But once or twice a season, I like to travel and see prospects that I otherwise would never see. My first road trip gave me a glimpse at Aramis Ademan of the Cubs and Seuly Matias of the Royals. This trip leads to D.C. for the Futures Game and then back to Tampa with some stops along the way.
First stop was in Jacksonville, FL to catch a Double A Southern League matchup between the Biloxi Shuckers (Brewers affiliate) and the Marlins’ Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. The game was loaded with top prospects led by two tooled up CFs in Monte Harrison and Corey Ray. The pitching matchup was also stellar. Nick Neidert v Kodi Medeiros.
Without writing full reports on players after just one look, the purpose here is to give you, the reader, my first impressions of the players of note. Let’s start at the toolshed and Monte Harrison. The first thing I noticed about Harrison is the body. This guy is a physical specimen. Listed at 6’3 and 220 lbs, Harrison may have the best body and could possibly be the best athlete in the minors. Defensively, he had good reads and his speed allows him to cover a ton of ground. Harrison made a leaping over the shoulder catch at the warning track and fired a one hop missile to 3rd base, all in one fluid motion. He glides to balls in CF with effortless motion.
As a hitter, Harrison has a long ways to go. He went 1-5 on the evening with 4 K’s. The one hit though was an absolute missile for his 12th HR. Brewers LHP Kodi Medeiros worked him in and out and used off-speed low to change his eye level. Harrison really had zero chance at touching the offspeed pitches. His trouble is due more to a lack of recognition than anything wrong with his swing. Sure, it can get long at times, but Harrison looked like he was on every fastball in the zone, fouling them back, before being put away easily with off-speed. On the season, Harrison has 146K’s and a 39% K rate. So the important note is this: Patience. He has all the tools to become a dynamic MLB CF with an 80 grade arm. But the hit tool, currently 20, will hold him back for now. At only 22, Harrison has time. Will the fans give up on him? Will prospect fatigue set in? My gut tells me Harrison will be a late bloomer, afterthought type of guy that figures it out after the industry and fans have written him off. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t repeat AA in 2019. Overall, the tools are loud, the athleticism is special, and the power should improve with better pitch recognition. So patience….
The other kid in the toolshed is Brewers’ former first round pick Corey Ray. This is my second look on him, seeing him in the Arizona Fall League in 2017. Ray had been on a hot streak but Nick Neidert put that to rest. Ray had 4 K’s on the night as well, all swinging, 3 on offspeed. Where Harrison is real loose at the plate, Ray looked stiff. The approach was pull happy with the hips flying open. He had no outer half coverage and the Jumbo Shrimp exposed that hole. With that being said, Ray’s hit tool and approach are ahead of Harrison but he still probably a 30 hitter with a FV maybe 40-45. I think he profiles as a defensive CF, elite speed, and good pop but will be prone to long struggles. Ray also has a cannon. While it isn’t 80 grade like Harrison, he did show 55-60. The throws had life and zip with good accuracy. As with Harrison, the athleticism, defense, and power potential is just too good to ever write off.
As mentioned, the matchup on the mound was stellar. Both Kodi Medeiros and Nick Neidert flashed plus stuff. I’ll start with Medeiros. He is listed at 6’2 180 lbs but he looked smaller to me. The frame isn’t one where he could add weight. I would have thought he was more 5’10 175lbs. In fact, he is listed as an inch taller than Neidert with the same weight, so take that with a grain of salt. Neidert looked to have an athletic build with a thicker lower half.
Both Medieros and Neidert have deceptive deliveries. They both throw across body with fastballs sitting 92-93. They both have firm change-ups. Medeiros’ SL is 60 with two-plane tilt and Neidert featured a curve but he appeared to mainly work FB/CH.
Neidert has improved command of the FB and better feel for pitching. His 93 FB and 81 CH kept hitters off balance all night and the arm action and deception allows the FB to play up even more. Medeiros hit three batters and has 11 HBP on the season after hitting 3 last season. And that to me is the only thing holding Medeiros back. He threw 91 pitches/55 strikes in 5 IP. While he never seemed labored and he had good pacing, I was actually shocked that he threw that many. He changed eye level and worked the 4 quadrants of the zone, racking up 9 K’s. Medeiros throws from a low 3/4 cross body slot. The arm is fast with good feel for the SL. When he is on, he is nasty. I think he has the pitch mix and deception to become a pretty good bullpen piece. If he can clean up the command a bit and continue to challenge hitters inside, I think he can be a SP3-5.
Neidert on the other hand, threw 102 pitches/75 for strikes in his 7 inning 9 K performance. Like Medeiros, he changed eye level and worked hitters in and out. The FB has life and gets on hitters quick. He breezed through 3.2 perfect innings with 6K (5 swinging) before walking Keston Hiura. The Shuckers adjusted 2-3x through the order and forced Neidert to work a little more to get outs. While the FB does have life and there is some deception to the delivery. When Neidert was hit hard, it was on the FB. Overall, I like the arm. He has a fast, short action and repeates his delivery. The delivery is a little funky and can give hitters fits the first time they see him. Overall, I like the command and the late zip on the FB. I think he is a safe bet to be a solid rotation piece.
Hopefully you are still with me. If so, here is a quick rundown of the rest of the hitters.
Lucas Ecerg, 3B
Closed stance, loose wrists. Good approach at the plate. Hands stay back. I thought a saw a slight loop in the swing when the hands load. Did not get anything to turn on. Seems like he could be a hitter that makes his living driving balls to LCF.
Isan Diaz, 2B
Wide base, open stance, loose wrists. Plus bat speed. Smaller frame but gets excellent leverage and swing has natural loft. Swing can get long and picking up spin is still a work in progress. Loud contact. Pull approach, will need to use LF consistently in order to reach potential. Rangey defender at 2B.
Jake Gatewood, 1B
Strong XL frame with plus raw power. Picking up spin is an issue. Swing is long. Pitchers stayed away the whole night. Able to rocket a FB into RF corner for a stand up 2B.
Joe Dunand, SS
Wrote about him here. I still think the bat speed is slow and he looked overmatched even moreso in AA. Pitchers consistently attacked him up with FB and Dunand was consistently late. He did draw a 3-2, 2 out, bases loaded walk off walk.
Brian Miller, OF
Along with Dunand, I wrote about Miller when he was in Jupiter. The approach is plus. After striking out swinging in his first AB, lined a single through the 5.5 hole. That will be Miller’s moneymaker. The swing is still linear and the GB rate will always be high. Miller also drew a walk and was hit by pitch twice.
Keston Hiura, 2B
Plus bat speed. Strong lower half. Compact swing. He had a quite night. Neidert induced weak contact with a front door curveball that ate him alive and he struck out later on a high heater. He did draw the only walk on the night from Neidert and I could tell that Neidert was trying to stay away from him. Consistent good at bats and approach despite an 0-3. For me, I would go with what the consensus is saying about him and this look has no bearing on that.
Under the radar
Troy Stokes, OF
Stokes has a small frame at 5’8 but boy is he strong. He has an athletic build and has maxed his projection. He packs a lot of power in his swing. The swing is short against the FB and the contact is loud. Stokes got on top of a high heater from Neidert and lined it over the LCF wall. He followed it up with a hard line drive 2B to LCF.
Luis Aviles, Jr., SS
6’1 170lbs. Strong, loose, athletic defender. Plus arm strength, maybe a 60. Good range charging in with strong accurate throws. Errant throw on the one ball that he waited back on. Swing was short, line drives up the middle and to gaps. Limited power potential.