Wednesday, October 28, 2015

AFL Notes 10/27: Sean Manaea, AJ Reed, JD Davis, Andrew Knapp, and more

This was my second time seeing the Glendale Desert Dogs as well as Mesa and Oakland A's SP prospect Sean Manaea.

I am reminded today that many of these players are coming from long seasons and.or injuries.  We're also seeing players working on certain skills.  So we should keep that in mind when individual performances don't quite live up to our expectations.  That was certainly the case with some of the big names in this game.

I haven't written anything on Daniel Robertson, for example, simply because I can't get a good read on him.  The Tampa Bay Ray infield prospect spent most of his season at the AA level.  He was diagnosed with a broken hammate bone on June 8th of this year and he still doesn't look all the way back.  We just haven't seen that plus hit tool  Those who follow Cubs prospects will remember Albert Almora suffering a similar injury and how long it took him to fully regain his stroke.  Robertson has just one extra base hit so far and is hitting .235 on the AFL season -- neither is indicative of his true hitting ability when healthy and in rhythm.   He has shown his usual good approach, but the quality of contact hasn't been there consistently yet.


Sean Manaea, LHP, A's, AA

  • Age: 23
  • 6'5", 215 lbs.

Manaea has dealt with his own injuries but  thankfully they've been non-arm related.  Manaea was a mixed bag on this day.  He started well, commanding a 92-94 mph FB and showed that good, hard slider.  It appeared to me, however, that he began to struggle with his arm slot as it looked much lower in the 3rd inning.  The  stuff flattened out and Manaea was hit hard.  He rebounded a bit in the 4th but struggled again in the 5th, allowing the first 3 runners to reach base before getting lifted.  Overall, it was an up and down, inconsistent day for the A's pitching prospect.

Brandon Brennan, RHP, White Sox, (A+)
  • Age: 24
  • 6'4", 220 lbs.

Jharel Cotton was originally listed as the day's starter so it was a surprise to see Brennan out there.  He's a big kid who throws from a 3/4 arm angle and works off of a 93-94 mph FB with some sink, which was his best pitch by far.  The report I read on Brennan indicated a low 80s slider and a change-up in the 83-85 mph range, but everything I saw from Brennan outside his FB was in the 85-88 range and it did not have much in the way of movement, leading me to believe he may have been overthrowing his secondaries.  The results were good, but Brennan looks like a one-pitch guy at this point, perhaps profiling as a middle reliever who can get you a ground ball or two.  Then again, that is why he's down here -- to work on expanding his game.  The size and the arm make him someone worth watching and as someone who has had TJ surgery in the past, perhaps the best is yet to come.


23 year old Phillies prospect Tom Windle was originally drafted as a starter but he is working out of the pen and it has led to a big increase in velocity.  The 6'4", 205 lbs LHP was in the 94-96 mph range and complemented that with a hard, mid 80s slider.  I don't love the delivery.  He's a little stiff --  so I think the bullpen is probably his ultimate role as it is hard to imagine him holding up under a big innings load.

23 year old A's pitcher Brendan McCurry is not physically imposing at 5'10", 165 lbs but he throws everything but the kitchen sink at hitters, going after them with all kinds of arm angles and velocities.
 He tops out at 91-92 with his FB, throws an above average curve -- including one big breaking one that clocked at just 70 mph, a slider, and a change.  He also throws a lot of strikes so he's not going to beat himself out there.  He's a fun pitcher to watch and it will be interesting to see if his extreme mix-and-match approach can work at the big league level.  He certainly has had success at every level of the minors, including AA last year.  MLB hitters are a different story, you can only fool them for so long, so McCurry likely fits best in middle/situational relief.

  • McCurry's teammate,  24 year old RHP Kris Hall (6'3", 210 lbs), is pretty much the opposite.  He is a power pitcher all the way, rearing back and attacking hitters with mid 90s heat that has hit as high as 97 this fall.  He threw a couple of power curves in the 80-82 range to get Adam Frazier to fly out and end a threat in the 6th..  He was inconsistent in the minors, especially in terms of throwing strikes, but has been one of the more consistent pitchers on the Solar Sox, though that hasn't been exactly a high bar to this point.
  • 6'3", 180 lbs.White Sox RHP prospect Peter Tago was at 91-92 mph with his FB, which I understand is on the low side for him and mixed in a solid low 80s curve.  The arm action is short and quick. He profiles best as a middle reliever.
  • Cubs RP David Garner continues to impress with a loose, effortless delivery that generated 92-96 mph heat.  He uses the FB to get ahead of hitters and then puts them away with an 82-83 mph slurve.  He has yet to allow a run on just one hit in 5 innings of work.  He has walked 4, but two came on his first two hitters of the fall and he has settled in nicely since then.

Position Players

AJ Reed, 1B, Astros (AA)

  • Age: 22
  • L/L
  • 6'4", 240 lbs.

Reed had a tremendous year between advanced A and AA in the Astros system and established himself as one of the better hitting prospects in the game.  Reed may be one of the cases I spoke of earlier because he appears to be wearing down a bit.  His swing is a bit long anyway as he extends his front arm early in his swing, what is often referred to as an arm bar -- but he just looks a bit slow up there and is getting beat by good fastballs, something that wasn't happening during the regular season.  He's a big kid and that may have something to do with  him wearing down after his first full season as a pro.

J.D. Davis, 3B, Astros, A+
  • Age: 22
  • R/R
  • 6'3", 215 lbs.

Reed's first half Cal League teammate Davis put on a better show on this day.  He showed a good approach, working counts (including drawing 2 walks) and going the opposite way for two deep doubles to RF.  Davis has good, raw power but had all kinds of contact issues-- and there's some concern ass to whether he can repeat the numbers he put up in the hitter-friendly Cal League.  In that light, it was the approach that was encouraging today as Davis showed a willingness to take what the pitcher was giving him.  He was the DH this day, so I did not get a read on his defense -- though as a two-way player who hit the mid 90s on the mound, it is probably safe to say he has the arm to play 3B.

Andrew Knapp, C, Phillies, AA

  • Age: 23
  • S/R
  • 6'1", 195 lbs.

An offensive-minded, switch-hitting catcher, Knapp has a chance to be an asset for the Phillies lineup as they step back and rebuild.  There have been questions in the past as to whether he can stick at catcher but he looked solid, if unspectacular, behind the plate on this afternoon.

Where Knapp has a chance to make an impact, however, is with the bat.  He has strong, quick hands with a swing plane conducive to line drives and gap power.  He can bring his hands in and turn on good fastballs.  Knapp is selectively aggressive at the plate.  He's not looking to take a walk up there but he'll take it if that is what the pitcher gives him.  He pulled both of hits today but the good hands indicate the ability to go the other way.  

  • Austin Meadows (Pirates, OF) has struggled this fall but he made the best contact I've seen from with a ground-rule double to RF.
  • Jake Bauer has also had his struggles but his his 2nd HR.
  • I wrote about Adam Frazier (Pirates, OF) previously.  He's more grindy (5'11, 17 than toolsy but he continues to be productive and his defensive versatility give him an excellent chance to make it to the major leagues in some role.
  • 25 year old Chad Hinshaw (Angels, OF) has a similar profile to Frazier with less defensive versatility and better size (6'1", 205 lbs).  He can play all 3 OF positions, however, and he has been productive -- especially during this Fall League season.
  • White Sox OF prospect Adam Engel looks the part and he can really run the ball down in CF, but he's not nearly as polished at the plate, where he looks surprisingly mechanical for such an athletic player.
  • Jake Peter is a polished hitter with an advanced approach, though there isn't much power in his swing.  He played 2B this game and his bat profiles better there than 3B.  Defensively, however, he profiles better at 3B -- especially with his strong arm.  Peter is something of a tweener and  may end up as a utility guy/LH bat off the bench, but if he continues to hit like he has this fall, the Sox will find a place for him.
Chad Hinshaw

Jake Peter 

Adam Engel

Austin Meadows

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