Salt River-Scottsdale, Tuesday
Starting for Scottsdale was arguably the best pitching prospect in the AFL, Pirates righty Jameson Taillon. I've soured on Taillon a bit from his days in the Hi-A Florida State League where I consistently saw a 70 or better fastball and 65 or 70 curveball for full outings along with at least an average changeup. The last few times I've seen Taillon, the fastball has still been there but the curveball has been mostly grade 55 with a few 60s and the command and changeup have been inconsistent. In this outing, Taillon sat 95-97 as expected with a low 80's curveball that was above average and a high 80's power changeup with limited action.
Taillon has the size and raw stuff to regain his former status of #2 starter, but he hasn't really progressed much and, as mentioned above, has lost a little consistency. He's still got a solid shot to be a middle of the rotation #3 starter given his elite fastball and potential out-pitch curveball, but I'm a little down on him as are most scouts I talk to. When the offseason prospects lists get going, he may now be overtaken by Tyler Glasnow, as discussed in the mid-season top 50 MLB prospect list.
Bo Schultz started opposite Taillon and I wasn't too familiar with him, but he showed impressive stuff for a relative unknown. Schultz sat 92-95 mph with some occasional cut to the pitch along with a solid-average slider at 83-85 mph. He's got a little length to his arm action and a slight wrist wrap that both undermine his command a bit, but Schultz is a solid athlete and has a good, controlled delivery. He threw a few mid-80's changeups that were fringy and had some command issues in the latter stages of his outing, so he isn't a slam dunk starter though there's some back of the rotation possibilities with his fastball surely fitting in the bullpen if that doesn't work.
One of the my favorite prospects from the 2012 Draft was former Duke righty and current Blue Jay Marcus Stroman. He's somewhere between 5'8 and 5'10 depending on how much someone is lying to you, but he's a great athlete with a good arm action and delivery and literally every pitch he throws is at least a 60. In this outing, he sat 93-95 mph with a wipeout slider at 85 mph that was a 65 on the 20-80 scale and a changeup at 86 that was a 60 or 65. He also mixed in a hard cutter at 91 that, again, is a 60 or better. It would be an awful waste of talent to make him a reliever long-term and the Jays promise they will give him every chance to start, but concede when he comes up next year, it will almost definitely be in the bullpen. We've seen in the past that sometimes a prospect is so good in his first experience in the pen that it's hard to move him to the rotation, but the Jays should do everything they can to make Stroman a starter because this is frontline stuff.
Now to the lightning round of notable arms: Rockies lefty Tyler Matzek, Braves righty Juan Jaime, Giants lefty Adalaberto Mejia, and D'Backs righty Matt Stites. Matzek was in the top tier of prep arms in the class that included Shelby Miller but Matzek has had tons of command issues in his career. This was my first time seeing him and he looked like a guy whose delivery has been tinkered with a lot. He worked exclusively from the stretch, loads his arm very early and has an awkward finish to his delivery. That said, the arm speed is still there, sitting 92-94 mph in his inning with an 84-85 mph slider that flashed above average potential. I don't know what he becomes, but there's still something here.
Jaime was grabbed off the scrap heap by the DIY bullpen wizards in Atlanta and is doing a good Fernando Rodney impression on a few fronts. Jaime sits 95-99 mph and looks like he's making up a new delivery on each pitch but his outpitch isn't the knockout plus-plus change that Rodney has, though Jaime's hard 85-87 splitter was above average. Mejia didn't get me too excited but when there's a big lefty working 90-94 with at times an average changeup and slider, that's a a big leaguer and I need to mention him. Lastly, Stites has some effort to his delivery and throws from a near-over-the-top angle that undermines the lateral movement on his slider, but sits 93-96 mph and flashes a solid-average slider at times, making him another likely big leaguer worth mentioning.