Lone Star Dugout Video: Asher & Payano (3/16)
Right-hander Alec Asher has created some spring buzz on the back fields of the Surprise Recreation Campus, impressing with his mixture of size, stuff, and strike-throwing ability.
The Rangers' fourth-round pick in last year's draft, Asher signed for a reported $150,000 bonus out of Polk State College in Florida. The Lakeland native pitched well in relief at short-season Spokane after signing, posting a 3.09 ERA in 35 innings. He yielded 29 hits, walked 11, and struck out 50.
Although Asher worked out of the bullpen during his debut summer, he projects as a starting pitcher going forward and will be in a full-season rotation this year––likely at Single-A Hickory. Standing 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, the righty has a big, strong frame with a good delivery and a potentially deep repertoire.
The 21-year-old Asher made his spring training debut in a recent back-field intrasquad game, which Jason Parks and I wrote up at Baseball Prospectus. Parks wrote the following from Asher's two-inning appearance:
Big kid; well built; overhead windup; high three-quarters slot; some front-side deception in delivery; stays balanced; throws on good downhill plane; fastball was stiff at 92-94; touched 95; not a big mover, but firm and thrown around the zone; slurvy breaking ball at 79-80; money potential slider at 84-87; very sharp at 87 with some angle; 83-84 mph changeup; good arm speed; not big movement; limited burst, but excellent pitcher's body and good stuff; could develop into mid-rotation type; worth keeping an eye on.
On Saturday, Asher's stuff was very similar in a two-inning start, although he had some struggles. While he didn't quite get to 95 mph, he worked anywhere between 90-94 and sat mostly in the 92-93 range. The fastball lacked life but was thrown on a downward plane. He mixed in an upper-70s curveball to go along with a slider at 86 mph and an 82-83 mph changeup.
Asher's curveball flashed, but he had trouble locating it in Saturday's two-inning look. His hard slider is clearly the bigger pitch at present, with relatively short-but-late break and some tilt at the end. He showed a good feel for his change and actually had some success with the pitch. Coming into the spring, the scouting report was that Asher has a mature fastball-slider mix with feel for command but must work on his underdeveloped changeup.
Typically a strike thrower, Asher earned high marks last summer for his ability to locate his plus fastball to both sides of the plate. He had trouble doing that on Saturday, missing the zone early with his fastball and catching too much of the plate after falling behind. You can see that in the following video.
With two potential 60-grade pitches in his fastball and slider, Asher is an intriguing arm with mid-rotation potential. If he commands his mature arsenal during the regular season, he could be a relatively quick mover with a chance to finish at High-A Myrtle Beach.
Asher checked in at number 33 on Lone Star Dugout's offseason top 50 Rangers prospects list. Those lists are always highly fluid, and it'd already be changed if redone during spring training. Asher would be rising into the top 25 or 30, without a doubt.
Left-hander Victor Payano came in at 30th on that offseason top 50 list. The 20-year-old prospect is having a bit of a pedestrian start to camp; he hasn't ‘wowed,' but he hasn't been bad either.
After watching the first two innings of Asher in the High-A game, I popped over to the Low-A field and caught Payano's final frame.
The Dominican Republic native worked three scoreless innings against Fort Wayne, but he didn't do so with his best stuff. Payano began his third frame by working between 85-88 mph before sitting 90-91 to the final two hitters he faced (note: he was 88-92, T93 in his intrasquad outing). His curveball had good shape but was coming out very soft at 68-69 mph with an 81-82 mph changeup. He wasn't throwing his curve with much arm speed, floating it up there a bit.
Last spring and early in the regular season, Payano showed an 89-94 mph fastball with a sharp low-to-mid 70s curveball that was a potential plus hammer in the upper reaches of that velocity. The good stuff helped carry him to a Sally League All-Star Game appearance, as he posted a 3.36 ERA while yielding just 52 hits in 67 first-half innings.
The long and lanky 6-foot-5, 185-pound Payano quickly wore down in the second half, however. His velocity often dipped into the mid-to-upper 80s, and his curveball once again became soft and loopy. As a result, he was tagged to the tune of an 8.38 ERA in his final 10 appearances of the season.
When at his best, Payano flashes a mid-rotation ceiling with a more likely back-end future. He has a chance for two plus pitches and an average (though currently below) changeup. His fastball shows plus velocity and he can throw it on a steep downward plane at times, but he too often works up in the zone. Both his fastball and changeup lack much life, so any added angle and deception is a benefit. It appears the Rangers have attempted to add some deception to his delivery but creating a slightly higher front side with his glove hand (as seen in the video below), though Payano hasn't been getting downhill with much consistency yet and has been working up in the zone (or above it).
There's always a chance Payano returns to Hickory for a period out of camp this year, but he'll most likely progress forward to the High-A Myrtle Beach rotation, where he should spend the entire year. His durability will be the thing to watch––will he be strong enough to hold his stuff and produce results throughout the long season?
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