This week, we’ll look at an outfielder who’s terrifying pitching in Triple-A, a shortstop with the speed and quickness that people love in their middle infielders and a teenager who can play three positions while tearing the cover off the ball.
Triple-A Pawtucket: Jackie Bradley Jr., OF and Pat Light, RHP
JBJ has set fire to the entire International League lately. In July alone, the 25-year-old outfielder has registered a .914 OPS, with five home runs and a 5/5 K/BB ratio in just 60 PA. Bradley has rediscovered his power stroke in Pawtucket this year, and he’s markedly improved against left-handed pitching, posting a .282/.337/.447 slash line against southpaws. He’s hitting more for contact than he used to, as both his walk and strikeout rates have dropped noticeably. Not too bad for a guy who has changed his batting stance roughly 4,000 times within the last calendar year.
What JBJ needed more than anything was reps in the field. Boston’s outfield doesn’t have an obvious spot open for him, and while one might open up after the trade deadline, the Red Sox were content to let Bradley get some games in Triple-A. It’s not the most ideal situation, but Bradley was not ready in 2014, and the Red Sox need to make sure he will be the next time he comes to the big leagues for an extended stay.
Pat Light’s 2015 has been a year of transition. This season was the first in which Light would pitch out of the bullpen, after starting for most of his professional career with mixed results. Light has cut his losses when it comes to his repertoire: he’s stopped using his changeup, put his slider away, and focused mainly on a fastball-splitter combo. The mid-90s fastball is very good, especially in the bottom of the zone, and the splitter can fall right off the table to generate embarrassing whiffs. His issue is command. Light can throw it hard and down, but his control isn’t there all the time, and that usually results in flat, unremarkable stuff in the top of the zone. He’s had a rough go of it in Pawtucket so far (7.43 ERA, 11/12 K/BB in 13.1 IP), but the stuff is there. If he can add some control and a little command, Light could soon be a fixture in Boston’s bullpen.
Double-A Portland: Simon Mercedes, RHP
Mercedes, like Light, is probably best suited to a bullpen role where he can simplify his offerings. He was pretty unremarkable while starting in the low minors, and switched between the bullpen and the rotation every so often. He’s got a good fastball that reportedly can hit 100 mph, but he’ll lose velocity the longer he works into games. Mercedes debuted a solid slider last year to go along with a curveball that ranged from “above average” to “inconsistent” according to scouts, and a changeup that can move like a splitter, but one can only guess when and where that’ll happen. Remember what Winston Churchill said about Russia? That’s pretty much Simon Mercedes. You don’t know what you’re getting – you just know you’ll get something.
High-A Salem: Jordan Betts, 3B and Mauricio Dubon, SS
As much as you want to hope he’s related, Betts is not in any way connected to Mookie, neither in family and baseball skills. Salem’s Betts is a free-swinger, and despite a powerful showing at Lowell last year, he’s found it hard to adjust to High-A ball. In 269 PA, Betts has registered a .229 TAv, and his 91/25 K/BB doesn’t inspire confidence. He’s got a lot of power – at least that much is certain – but his bat speed is so slow that he’ll have trouble with good fastballs if he’s not expecting them. Betts isn’t much of a guy to jump on breaking pitches either, as it’s hard for him to pick up spin. He carved out a pretty good college career at Duke, where he put up a .919 OPS in his senior year, but he’s yet to show any of that raw power in Salem. Pitch recognition is a must-have for him if he sees himself moving up in the minors.
Dubon, who just turned 21 on the 19th, continues to show promise as he moves through the minors. In Greenville, he slashed .301/.354/.428, hitting for contact and using his good speed to wreak havoc on the bases. While that’s yet to translate so far in Salem, he hasn’t even reached 100 PA yet, and he’s got the skills to get it back to that level. When hitting, he’s got solid hands and compliments those with good hand-eye coordination that allows him to make a lot of contact. Power won’t be a strength of his at all, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but he tends to try and make contact on pitches he shouldn’t, a la Pablo Sandoval.
In the field, he’s becoming something of a wizard. He’s confident, has good arm strength, and can range to both his left and right with relative ease. His footwork has improved greatly, and his athleticism can aid him when making tough plays. With both the bat and the glove being solid, Dubon has some utility infielder potential here.
Low-A Greenville: Nick Longhi, 1B/OF
It’s not often that you see a 19-year-old with a great feel for hitting, but Longhi is one of those guys. It seems like he makes hard contact all the time, and he can hit it to all fields. He’s got some power now, but he’ll grow into more as he fills out his frame and matures. Projecting his power can be tough, as it’ll be good if he sticks in a corner outfielder role, but it’ll be merely average if he’s moved to first base. His arm will work anywhere, even in right field; pitching in high school gave him increased arm strength. Longhi has the stuff you want to see in prospects, and he’s only a teenager. He can hit, throw and field all at acceptable levels, and they’ll all improve as he gets older.
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