Hitter Scouting Reports: Coming Soon
Matt Purke is arguably the highest profile pitcher in the AFL and that became obvious when he was charting in front of me and there was a non-stop flow of autograph seekers dropping by in between innings. He didn't sign as a first rounder of the Rangers out of high school, went to TCU and starred for a bit before some shoulder trouble sapped his plus-plus fastball and took some bite from his wipeout slider. The Nationals paid him a big contract (4-year, $4.15 million MLB deal) counting on his stuff coming back but it hasn't come all the way back and is now looking like it won't. Purke's been to the Fall League the last three years to get innings because various arm injuries have sidelined during the spring--he got a career-high 90 innings under his belt this spring.
Purke sat 90-92 hitting 93 mph, his 78-80 mph curveball flashed above average potential while his 82-84 mph changeup was also solid-average. That's three solid-average to above average pitches from a 6'4 lefty with some idea how to pitch, so it's easy to get excited even with this new version of Purke that has a shot to be a league average starter if he can stay healthy. That said, it's clear to see the stress his delivery puts on his shoulder and you have to wonder if arm problems may crop up again. He unnecessarily throws across his body (one of my big mechanical pet peeves), pitches against a locked from leg in an upper-body heavy delivery that isn't doing him any favors.
The above Aaron Sanchez video is from an outing earlier this spring (click on Sanchez's name to see that report). He looked similar to that in his first AFL outing but got the hard bite on his curveball I had been told was there but hadn't seen yet. Sanchez sat 94-97 mph with an average power changeup at 87-90 mph and an 80-81 mph curveball that flashed plus potential with late, hard downer bite. As I mentioned previously with Sanchez, I don't love how his delivery is very upper-body heavy but it is controlled and low-effort, making elite velocity possible due to his size and crazy arm speed.
All the basic things you're looking for are here but consistency and some more advanced starter traits like advanced feel for a changeup and some life to his fastball (which was shockingly easy to square up for hitters this outing) are missing. I'm not as bullish as some as this is the basic scouting report you see when you look up hyped pitching prospects that failed (though also the same on some late-bloomers). There are some of the same things going on with Sanchez as are with Jameson Taillon with hype, size, elite velocity and inconsistency otherwise, leading me to project more of a middle rotation future despite flashes of top of the rotation ability.
Rays LHP Mike Montgomery was an unheralded part of the very heraled Wil Myers-James Shields swap last offseason. He was a bigger prospect a few years back before an elbow injury sapped some of his stuff. Montgomery sat 91-93 mph with a good delivery and the same off-speed stuff that he had as an amateur: and above average 80-81 mph changeup and a fringy to average curveball at 77-80 mph. The fit here is back-end starter or possibly a very good setup man that should be able to contribute next year in some capacity.Cam Bedrosian, son of Steve didn't show us much with an all-fastball inning but he sat 93-95 mph with a high-torque delivery but he had fine command and showed a solid breaking ball in warmups giving him a chance for a late-inning fit. Cuban defector and new Cubs righty Armando Rivero has some hype and had apparently showed better stuff in the past but was is just another good relief arm off this look. He has a longer arm action (in part due to his long limbs) and off-balance delivery crossfire delivery (ugh) with fall-off after release that's makes him a likely relief fit. The stuff and projection is good, at 6'4/190, working 91-94 mph with a solid average slider at 79-81 that could be above average on a night where he had better feel for the pitch. The frame gives some hope there's more in there but he'll be 26 on Opening Day, so there isn't that much time.
Four more relievers shone in the Salt River-Mesa matchup with Tigers recent sandwich rounder out of Texas RHP Corey Knebel showing the most upside. Knebel had some well-publicized discipline issues before the draft and has a high-effort, quirky delivery that limits him to relief but the stuff is for real. He sat 93-95 mph with some cut and flashed a plus hook at 81-83 mph that may be a 65 pitch on the 20-80 scale. He makes his delivery work and should have good enough command to make the stuff work and reach his closer potential. Rockies RHP Cole White is the classic max effort righty but showed some flashes of vintage K-Rod, pitching at 91-94 with life and a 79-81 mph slurve that flashed plus at times. That said, White has a high back elbow and 45 at best command that beg to be rushed up the chain before his arm implodes.
Jays righty John Stilson showed some of the best velo in the AFL, sitting 95-97 mph but was curiously easy to square up for hitters, just like teammate Aaron Sanchez. The delivery and command aren't great and Stilson has overcome some shoulder issues in the past to have a solid-average curveball and changeup. It's hard to see much more than middle reliever here, but it is fun to watch. Cardinals LHP Lee Stoppleman is a long lefty with a low arm slot that slings from an arm-heavy delivery at 87-90 mph with a changeup at 82-84 flashing solid-average potential and a below average 72-76 mph soft curveball. He was intriguing enough to mention since there's just enough stuff, quirk and left-handedness here to contribute in a big league bullpen.