Scouting Cardinals Prospect Jim Rapoport

Our local reporter in Honolulu, "highrent", caught the Sharks' Hawaii Winter Baseball game on Friday. This report focuses on St. Louis Cardinals prospect, outfielder Jim Rapoport.

After his having some tough games at the plate recently, I was able to see St. Louis Cardinals prospect Jim Rapoport again as the Honolulu Sharks took on the North Shore Honu in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League on Friday.

I guess I have to go to the outfielder's games more often because he again didn't disappoint me. I got to see more of what Rapoport should be doing to get to the majors as well as things he could improve on.

In the second inning, the left-handed hitter continued to show a good eye, laying off low pitches and fighting off pitches close to the zone. It was a key situation since runners were on first and second and the game had yet to descend into a bloodbath (final score 10-3).

The 23-year-old pulled a 2-2 slider, guiding it between first and second into right field for a single that loaded the bases. The pitch was low and away and he clearly redirected in attempt to punch it out of the infield. Rapoport showed his speed by effortlessly going back to second to tag up to third on a big fly out to deep left field. He later scored on an RBI single.

Rapoport came up in the third with the bases empty and he tagged a first-pitch fastball down on the inner half of the plate to right field. That chased the pitcher from the game for fear that another rally would occur. Rapooprt was watched closely to prevent him from stealing and ultimately did not score.

In his third at bat, Rapoport experienced the following sequence: ball high, foul, fastball low, breaking pitch low, and strike two swinging on a high inside fastball. At this point, the pitcher tried to jam him again inside and he laid off it to draw a walk. Rapoport eventually scored on a single after moving up from first to third on a single. He seems have above-average speed and a quick first step. Instead of gliding with long strides, his legs pump very quickly to get him going.

In the sixth inning, Rapoport next faced Chris Hicks, a big right-hander with a fastball in the low 90s and good movement on his pitches. Hicks struggled a little bit with his control early on and is only 21 years old. Rapoport took the first pitch low and then a called strike at the knee. He remained patient and took another low pitch. Hicks reared back and fired a nasty 93 mph fastball that bore in from left to right up about shoulder high. Rapoport, thinking it's in the zone as it bores in out of the strike zone and high, swings and misses. It was a very nasty fastball that seemed to fool Rapoport by appearing to be over the plate and then comes up and in. Hicks next threw virtually the same pitch and he K'ed Rapoport. Clearly Hicks had found Rapoport's Kryptonite.

Defensively, Rapoport almost made an excellent play in the fourth when a high fly ball hit the fence in right. Rapoport got there and tried to play it off the fence but it took a weird angle. He managed to glove it but it popped out and the runner moved to third. Rapoport showed good reflexes on the play and it is awkward playing off a fence rather than a wall. Had he made the play, he would have limited the batter to a double instead of a triple.

Rapoport still had a good night and did what he had to getting on base and using heady base running to move up. He still needs to try and test the defense more with his speed. Rapoport may have to work on finding a way to deal with good high and inside fastballs. His newfound plate discipline minimizes it, but in the majors he'll find that many pitchers will bust him in similar to Hicks did. So far I have only seen Rapoport swing and miss on high inside fastballs. He'll probably need to better recognize these pitches and lay off them while at the same time improving his timing in order to fight them off if they are too close to the zone.

I still think he could make as a utility outfielder.

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