Sunday, October 25, 2015

AFL Notes: Dominic Smith, Casey Gillaspie, Gabby Guerrero, Rob Zastryzny, Carlos Estevez, David Garner

I have decided I am going to format this a little differently.  Instead of reporting on players on the days of  games, I'll just take notes on players in general and spread it out a bit.  That way I can write something everyday rather than just on game days.  The posts will be a bit smaller, but more frequent.

The Position Players

Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets (A+)

  • Age: 20
  • L/L
  • 6'0", 185 lbs.

The first thing that stands out about Dominic Smith is his exceptional hand-eye coordination and bat control.  He makes easy contact and sprays the ball to all fields.

Though he does have good pitch recognition skills and an intelligent approach, he doesn't take a ton of walks at this point.  That may be due in part to how he easily he puts the ball in play.  I believe as he continues to gain experience he'll put up solid walk rates and enhance what should be a plus hit tool.  That makes him more of an OBP oriented player.  He'll show some pop in BP and HR'd in the previous game, but in the game I saw watched, he seemed more content to hit line drives and take what the pitcher was giving him.

The lack of in-game power will draw concerns because Smith is a below average runner and profiles best at 1B and teams tend to prefer power at that position.  But while Smith isn't a quick athlete, he does have good hands and should be a well above average defender at 1B, although  his strong arm is wasted there. Physically, he appears to be a little soft and adding some lean muscle may help him hit for more power.  If not, he still has a shot to be more of your Mark Grace type 1B.

Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Rays (A+)
  • Age: 22
  • S/L
  • 6'4", 240 lbs.

Gillaspie, a switch-hitter is built for power (6'5", 240 lbs) but a lack of speed and athleticism relegates him to 1B, so he is going  to need to hit.  He is not unathletic, however.  Gillaspie is loose enough to get good rotation on his swing, In the game on Saturday, he generated hard, loud pull-side contact in his first two ABs, then showed his ability to use other  fields in the next two, grounding out hard to the SS and then lining out to CF.

He's something of an aggressive hitter and you'd like to see him add better OBP skills since so much of his game will depend on what he provides at the plate.

Despite not being a great athlete, he has shown that he can be more than adequate at 1B and, in fact, shows the good hands to be an asset there.

Gabby Guerrero, OF, Diamondbacks (AA)

  • Age: 21
  • R/R
  • 6'3", 190 lbs.

Guerrero looks a lot like his uncle Vlad in terms of his frame (and facially, as well).  He is a toolsy type but don't mistaken that for a player whose only worth is from the neck down.  Guerrero's head is in the game at all times and it helped him create a run.  He caught the SS slow to untangle after a steal of 2B and Guerrero pounced on the opportunity, scoring from 3B without a throw.

Those good instincts, unfortunately, don't translate to his approach at the plate, which is way too aggressive -- especially since he is not the bad ball hitter his uncle was (who is?).  Guerrero was schooled by the relatively experienced Zastryzny, though Guerrero did manage to get the bat on the ball  and hit a seeing eye ground ball single in his 2nd AB.  Guerrero shows good bat speed and quick hands -- and his good size and projectable frame translate to plus raw power, but he is going to need to improve his approach if he is ever going to tap into it.

In the field, Guerrero has enough speed and athleticism to go with the kind of cannon arm that profiles in RF.  There is a lot to work with and the good makeup is there to put the work in, but there is still a ways to go if Guerrero is going to succeed against more advanced competition.

The Pitchers...

Rob Zastryzny, LHP, Cubs (AA)
  • Age: 23
  • 6'3", 205 lbs.
A lot of Cubs fans have taken greater interest in Willson Contreras, Jeimer Candelario, and another Cubs SP prospect, Pierce Johnson -- all with good reason.  But  for me, the most interesting player to watch from the Cubs is Rob Zastryzny.

Zastryzny has been anywhere from 87 to 94 with his fastball (including instructs I have seen him 3 times this offseason). Zastryzny is continuously adding to and subtracting from his FB.  He can also add sink and occasionally create some arm side run.  He's an intelligent pitcher and I think he's the kind of pitcher that the more you see him, the more you appreciate what he does out there.  
As you can infer from the description above, he can be a finesse guy, but he really defies being so neatly categorized because he can also bring it as hard as 95.  One one occasion he elevated a FB and blew it right by Rowdy Tellez, popping the glove and drawing some oohs from the crowd.  I was on the 1B side at the time, so I did not get a reading, but I would guess it was toward the top end of his velocity range at 94-95.  In the previous at-bat, he got an overly aggressive Gabby Guerrero to chase a good change-up low and out of the zone.

The key for Zastryzny is to develop his curveball and it was much more consistent this time out than the last and he seemed to trust it more as the game went on.  Another thing to watch with Zastryzny is to watch his command.  There are times when he can pick his spots to elevate, but in general he doesn't have the pure stuff to pitch up in the zone.

One more thing to add about Zastryzny is his good makeup.  He works hard and is a good teammate and is quick to give them credit when they make plays behind him.When Zastryzny is commanding his pitches and throwing a solid curve, as he  did in this last start, he looks like a #3 type starter.  The better bet, however, is that he fits better at the bottom of a rotation.  The floor is a solid lefty RP.

I concentrated on hitters this weekend and other than Zastryzny, no starting pitcher jumped out at me. So in lieu of that, there were a couple of relievers that I found interesting.  

Carlos Estevez, RHP, Rockies (A+, AA)
  • Age: 22
  • 6'4", 210 lbs
Estevez is a pitcher with a big, athletic build (6'4", 210 lbs) who sits in the mid 90s but can reach back and hit the high 90s at times.  He turns his lead shoulder in slightly and brings his knee up high, helping him hide the ball early in his delivery.  He then dips the back shoulder a bit, creating good leverage that, along with his higher arm slot, helps accentuate his good natural plane.  Hitters got some late swings on Estevez's fastball.  While the delivery isn't simple, Estevez repeats it well and throws strikes.  He also mixes in a mid 70s CB with good break that complements the FB well.  Estevez's numbers haven't matched his stuff or his peripherals, but if he can just refine his command (he left one FB up and got squared up by Contreras for a line drive out to CF), he has the stuff and control to be a high leverage reliever.

David Garner, RHP, Cubs (A, A+)
  • Age: 23
  • 5'11", 180 lbs.
Garner is interesting to me for one simple reason -- easy gas.  Listed at just 5'11" and having a slight, but athletic build, Garner generates 93-95 mph heat with seemingly no effort.  What's more is that I believe that build and effortless style create a unique sort of deception.  You don't really expect it but suddenly he's on you with 95.  And while he doesn't have an exceptional breaking ball (it's more of a slurve in the 83 mph range), he throws it with the same arm speed and slot as his FB, so it becomes a very effective change of pace, it has frozen more than one hitter down here and the pitch has enough bend to change eye level and create swings and misses.  Garner needs to continue to refine his command because the pure stuff isn't good enough for him to get away with poor location.  Because he is such a good athlete and he generates good arm speed without max effort, he should learn to repeat his delivery with experience and that should help his command.

Off the field, Garner is a good kid who listens well and has the aptitude to quickly absorb instruction and apply it on the mound. .  Garner profiles best as a middle reliever.

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