Prospect Watch: Mike Zunino

Once a steady feature in these hallowed pages, Prospect Watch has taken a bit of a back seat since it last appeared back in February! Various other items have come and gone – Spring Training, the start of the MLB season, Fantasy Baseball, loads of different card products – but NO MORE!!

Prospect Watch IS BACK!!

And who better to start us off again than the #3 overall pick in the 2012 Draft – Seattle Mariners prospect, Mike Zunino.

Zunino is a 6’2″, 220lb player from the University of Florida. Known for his excellent defense, Zunino has a good glove, is well built and has excellent leadership ability, drawing a number of comparisons to Red Sox stalwart, Jason Varitek.

One of the best quotes I’ve seen about Zunino was attributed to Jason Churchill last year in AA Jackson, who said – “Zunino is already the leader of this team. That seems to have taken place about four seconds after he got here.”

The son of ex-Yankee-turned-scout Greg Zunino, Mike has spent most of his early life around ballparks and developed a keen eye for the game. He was originally selected in the 29th Round of the 2009 Draft by the A’s but elected to go to Florida instead, where he spent the next few years developing his game.

Despite starting the 2013 season at the Mariner’s AAA affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers, Zunino has been tearing away at the ball in the early part of the season and has already driven in 29 runs in only 23 games, with 5 home runs, as I write this. He does have a propensity to strike out a lot with 31 whiffs in 89 ABs and his batting average currently sits at an anaemic .195.

Here’s what the guys over at Baseball Prospect Nation have to say about him –

Body (6-2, 220): Excellent build with good muscularity and flexibility. Thick build that screams catcher and durability. Works hard to maintain his body.

Hit: Excellent balance throughout swing. Shifts weight slightly to back leg to load and triggers hands consistently as the pitcher starts toward the plate. Simple, compact path to the hitting zone with explosive bat speed. Has learned to stay back on the ball and work the other way, improving his ability to hit breaking balls and change-ups. Has solid feel for the barrel with some ability to adjust mid-pitch. Doesn’t have much swing and miss but will need to evolve against better breaking balls in pro ball. Has plenty of hit projection given bat speed, hand-eye coordination and natural feel for his swing. Huge fan of the swing. Believe he could approach .300 at his peak. Grade – 40/70

Power: Plenty of strength and plus-plus bat speed. Ability to drive the ball to all fields and get it over the fence. Doesn’t have a ton of loft or leverage in his swing but should still have average home-run power. Wears out the gaps and has potential to hit 30+ doubles a year. Added loft in swing is possible but may come with a little less contact. Grade (raw power) – 40/50

Arm: Quick release with smooth transfer from glove to hand. Gets rid of the ball quickly. Ball comes out of his hand cleanly and almost appears to throw “down” to second base. Easy plus arm strength with good accuracy. Grade – 60/60

Fielding: Tons of improvement over the last three years. Good receiver that knows how to frame pitches and help his pitchers. Reads hitters well and shows some aptitude for calling a game. Good blocker that is aggressive behind the plate with good movements and solid athleticism. Excellent leader that commands the pitching staff and gets the most from his pitchers. Could still improve consistency with receiving and blocking, which should come easily with pro instruction. Potential impact defender. Grade – 50/60

Speed: Runs pretty well for a catcher but will likely slow down as he matures and gets more innings behind the plate. Fringe-average runner now that can get to average once underway. Projects to be below average. Grade – 50/40

Summation: Potential plus defender with receiving, throwing and leadership ability. Should be a standout defender long term. Has excellent feel for hitting and a good concept of the strike zone. Makes easy hard contact and has started to use the whole field better. Will need minimal adjustments to hit as a pro and should hit right out of the gate. Power has some projection though I see him as more of a big doubles hitter with average home run pop. Star potential that contributes in every facet on the field and is a leader off the field.

Relative Risk: Moderate. Borderline “low” risk level. Injury risk of all catchers keeps him in the moderate zone. Has easy hit and defensive projection that should make him a big league starter.

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Mike Zunino is an incredibly hot ticket in the prospect card world at the moment, with most of his cards shifting for some heavy coin on eBay!

His first official Bowman card, along with its multitude of parallels, appeared in 2012 Bowman Draft. His autographed prospect card (pictured above) is the one to have but you’ll have to dig deep to be able to afford it. He’s also appeared in 2012 Bowman Sterling and 2012 Panini Elite Extra Edition, in all his autographed and parallel glory.

Already a highly respected young player, Zunino will be the cornerstone of a developing Mariners team for a good few years, as well as being a hit with collectors!

Next on Prospect Watch – A look at some of the top prospects from 2013 Bowman Baseball, due to hit the stores on Wednesday 8th May

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Prospect Watch: Oscar Taveras

As a Cardinals fan I’ve been well aware that we’ve got one of the best farm systems in Baseball, if not THE best!!. And while I’ve become familiar with young names like Matt Adams, Shelby Miller and Kolten Wong, there are other players who have so far escaped my notice.

So while following the Winter Leagues for the first time this off-season I was pleasantly surprised to come across a name I didn’t recognise, and if current form and future potential is anything to go by, will be a future All-Star for years to come – ladies and gentlemen I give you, Oscar Taveras.

2012 Bowman Chrome Oscar Taveras Prospect Autograph

2012 Bowman Oscar Taveras Chrome Prospect Autograph

I recently found this tweet from Jason Parks of The Baseball Prospectus, regarding Taveras, which just about sums up how highly regarded this young Prospect actually is –

Easily standing out as the best hitting Prospect in the Cardinals organisation since Albert Pujols (oh, how quickly we all forget Colby Rasmus), Oscar Taveras spent 2012 in AA playing for the Springfield Cardinals where he put up a .321/.380/.572 line to go with his 23 home runs, 74 RBIs and 37 doubles! Bear in mind he won’t be 21 until June 2013 and, as he gets older and fills out, you can look at adding some serious power to go along with those numbers!!

His sterling efforts helped lead his team to the Texas League Championship and the Springfield Cards were later named Baseball Americas Minor League ‘Team of the Year’. Oscar Taveras himself was named the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year as well as the Texas League Player of the Year. MLB.com ranked Taveras as the Cardinals number one prospect (a position echoed in Baseball Americas 2013 prospect guide), and the number three prospect in the whole of Baseball!

Wow!!! We’re talking a huge bat here with massive potential for the future!

An recent Bleacher Report article from JerryBurnes described Taveras as The Next Big Thing –

“From an overall outlook, Taveras has the tools to be in the majors right now and follow Harper, Trout and Manny Machado in the outstanding wave of 20-year-olds that has taken over baseball. Taveras will start the year in Triple-A but should make his debut in 2013 barring any setback in his progress.”

As always I’ll let the guys at Baseball Prospect Nation take it from here…

Body (6-2, 185): Average body with natural strength. Doesn’t stand out physically but has a decent frame. Solid athlete. Improved conditioning and physique over last year.

Hit: Incredible. Wide base with outstanding balance throughout swing. Leg kick keys timing and he loads heavily on his back leg before exploding at the ball. Tremendous hand speed and strength allows superb bat control. Very aggressive swinger with swing that borders on violent. Makes easy contact. Plus-plus hand-eye coordination. Incredible natural hitter with batting title potential. Could hit .280+ in the big leagues right now and has potential to hit .300+ for his career. Near big-league ready hitter with elite potential. Grade – 60/80

Power: Improved power projection this year. Plus-plus bat speed with incredible ability to square the ball. Can drive it to all fields and has improved loft in swing. Has 25-30 home run potential with tons of doubles as well. Could continue to improve power profile but has plus future power right now and I’m buying plus-plus ceiling. Grade (raw power) – 50/70

Arm: Arm strength varies at times. Showed more consistency this year. Flashes above-average raw strength with solid accuracy on throws. Doesn’t project for plus arm and still has to fine tune throwing mechanics. Grade – 50/50

Fielding: Worked very hard to improve defense this season. Has limited chance to stick in CF, more likely corner OF. Takes solid routes and gets good reads off the bat. Won’t be a defensive weapon but should be a solid all-around defender. Grade – 40/50

Speed: Average runner down the line. Aggressive stroke doesn’t let him get out of the box easily and can hamper his home-to-first times. Shows a tick better speed once underway in the outfield. Should stick as an average runner long term. Grade – 50/50

Summation: Continues to improve entire game. Absolutely incredible offensive ceiling. Potential batting champion with 25-30 home runs a year. Could be a superstar caliber number three hitter on a championship level club. May be best offensive prospect in the minor leagues. Has minimal CF profile but should be an average defender on either corner. Instincts are improving in all facets of the game. High character/good makeup type. Though he can contribute in all phases, the bat will carry him and could be elite. Potential superstar.

Relative Risk: Moderate. Still very young but has adjusted extremely well and is incredibly gifted.

Future: Wouldn’t be overwhelmed hitting in the big leagues right now but will likely spend the rest of the year in Double-A with a chance at Triple-A late in the year. Should make MLB debut in 2013 and may be the team’s best hitter by the end of 2014.

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Being a Cards fan I couldn’t be any more excited at the thought of Oscar Taveras bringing his big bat to the Majors. Alongside some of the other talented prospects emerging from the Cardinals farm system the future looks extremely bright for the Redbirds for a good few years to come!!

You can pick up a number of Oscar Taveras cards across last years Bowman brands (along with Topps Heritage Minors and Topps Debut) but his main autographed Chrome prospect card can be found in 2012 Bowman (pictured above) and it’s already escalating in price, with non-refractor and non-graded versions of the card shifting in the three figure range! That’s some pretty hefty coin for such a young player, but such is the excitement that Oscar Taveras generates in the prospect card market. Coming off the back of a strong showing in the Dominican Winter League hasn’t hurt his card values either!!

The ceiling for Taveras’ cards, along with his potential on the Baseball diamond, is almost without limit! And it’s with young players like him that the future of a successful card market will either stand or fall.

… Oh, did I mention he plays for the Cardinals??? Yes!!!!

Prospect Watch: Billy Hamilton

This weeks Prospect Watch looks at the fastest pair of young legs in the Minor Leagues, Reds shortstop – Billy Hamilton.

Hamilton is an elite, top-tier talent and the No. 1 Prospect in the Reds organisation according to Baseball America’s 2013 rankings! With a game built almost entirely on his speed and his ability to run the bases, Billy Hamilton set a professional record in 2012 by swiping 155 bases in the Minor Leagues, split between Single-A and Double-A…

I’m just going to repeat that again for you… 155 total bases!!!

Wow!! That’s 10 more than Vince Coleman’s Minor League record of 145 set in 1983, and 25 more than Rickey Henderson’s Major League record!

Like I said… Wow!!

2012 Bowman Chrome Billy Hamilton Prospect Autograph

2012 Bowman Chrome Billy Hamilton Prospect Autograph

Hamilton was drafted out of Taylorsville High School, Mississippi, by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2nd round of the 2009 Draft. He was offered a football scholarship to Mississippi State – he played receiver and returned punts – but instead decided to pursue a career in baseball as it better suited his 6-foot tall, 160-pound frame.

During his early years in the Minors Hamilton relied purely on his speed to steal bases, but under the tutelage of Reds coaches, including former Reds outfielder, Eric Davis, he has developed his game to read pitchers more effectively in order to expand his skills as he progresses through each level.

Hamilton will start the 2013 season in Triple-A and has moved from shortstop to centre field to accommodate the young Zack Cozart, who is pencilled in at shortstop for the foreseeable future. Hamilton is expected to take over the centre-field role either late-2013 or at the start of the 2014 season, depending upon how quickly he develops at Triple-A.

In the fan-community SB Nation, John Sickels writing for Minor League Ball notes that Hamilton’s speed is “tremendous”, something that he uses to his advantage when running the bases. He goes on to say –

“Unlike many speedsters, he has good technique, and he’s so fast he often outruns any mistakes he does make. The rest of his hitting game is steadily coming along. He doesn’t have home run power and probably won’t develop much, but he has ability to lace the gaps, making him a threat for more doubles and triples as he matures. His plate discipline is gradually improving, and he’s done a good job reducing his strikeouts this year [2012]. He’s still learning finer points of the game like bunting, but he understands that anything he does to leverage his speed and get on base more frequently is to his advantage”

Some scouts have speculated that his base-stealing game could develop along the same lines as Rickey Henderson’s but concede that Hamilton will probably never develop the same power that Rickey exhibited throughout his career.

An MVP award at the California League All-Star game has led to an invite to the 2013 Future’s Game at Kansas City during this year’s All-Star Week-End!! And it doesn’t stop there…

The Reds have also been concentrating on developing Hamilton’s switch-hitting game, with the emphasis placed on positioning him on the left-hand side of the plate so that he has the added advantage of starting out closer to first base, thereby being able to beat out more infield ground balls due to his quickness!

Because of the way that Billy Hamilton’s speed impacts games he has started to garner national recognition, particularly when one of his inside-the-park home runs became a YouTube hit and he was clocked at just over 13 seconds covering the bases! He’s also a throwback to an era when base-stealing was an integral part of the game, when the scrappy ‘small-ball’ plays were seen as an important way of generating runs, as opposed to the modern game which has placed more emphasis on the long-ball.

The Bleacher Report makes an interesting observation when assessing how Hamilton’s speed might impact a game –

“It’s hard to measure the true impact of a speedster through stats. Total number of stolen bases does not quantify their impact. A players slugging percentage takes into account the total number of bases that a player gains throughout his at-bats. But, it does not, however, factor in stolen bases as a total base earned.

If Hamilton reaches base on a single and then steals second, he essentially got a double (or gained two total bases), right? If he steals third base after that, then he essentially has earned a triple, or recorded three total bases, correct?

So, if we added Hamilton’s stolen bases into factoring his slugging percentage it comes out to a whopping .745! Take the season that Joey Votto is having right now [2012] and factor in his stolen bases and you get .675. When using SLUG as a measure of the amount of total bases gained by a player (with stolen bases factored in), you begin to see just how amazing the impact of Hamilton’s stolen bases.”

THAT is pretty impressive!! Based on that kind of production Hamilton could end up carrying your Fantasy team for a whole season in the SB category in most Roto Leagues!! Think about that for a while!!

As per usual we turn to Baseball Prospect Nation for a full scouting breakdown as of May 2012…

Body (6-0, 165): Very thin. May be shorter than listed height. Plus-plus athlete was a Division I football recruit as a wide receiver. Lacks strength throughout body and doesn’t have a lot of room to add strength in the coming years. Body fits his game. Classic burner body.

Hit: Drastic improvement since beginning of 2011 season. Previously showed inconsistent swing mechanics with a lot of hand movement and some delay getting the bat to the zone. Has quieted his setup and load, and now gets the bat to the zone much more consistently. Has average to a tick above-average bat speed from both sides of the plate. Improved ability for solid contact to all fields from both sides. Needs to stay within himself at the plate and not get power hungry. Approach can get overly aggressive at times and he needs to improve pitch recognition on secondary pitches. Will always run out extra hits which should help him hit for higher averages. Needs to improving bunting to fully develop the hitting ability his speed can support. Potential to push upwards of a .300 average in peak seasons and hit at the top of a big league order. Grade – 40/70

Power: Not part of his game. Lacks the strength and bat speed to drive the ball. Speed can generate extra-base hits but will not drive the ball to the gaps or over the fence consistently. Doubles and triples from speed will make power look a little better than grades. Grade (raw power) – 20/30

Arm: Fringy arm at shortstop. Can make most throws for the position but really has to get on it to make the tough/long throws. Loses accuracy and velocity on the run. Arm is stretched at shortstop but can play at second base and would play in the outfield. Grades ranged from 40 to 50 over the last two years, will likely settle with a fringe-average arm that could play up if he better learns how to use it in game situations. Grade – 40/50

Fielding: Speed gives him incredible range to both sides at shortstop. The same was true at second base in 2010. Lacks the instincts for shortstop and his actions aren’t fluid. Hands are below-average. Tendency to make some routine plays more difficult because of lack of instincts or not catching it cleanly and on the proper hop. Many scouts would prefer to see him in center field where his speed could be a defensive weapon. If at shortstop, would likely remain a below- to fringe-average defender at the position. Grade – 30/40 (shortstop)

Speed: Absolutely elite. Fastest player in the minor leagues, and it’s not even close. True burner that gets out of the box quickly and has even better top end speed. Can turn routine grounders into base hits. A threat to take over any game with his legs. Can scoring chances almost at will. Instincts have improved since signing and he now gets good jumps off both right-handed and left-handed pitchers. Brilliant runner whose legs could have a 1980s style impact on the game. Grade – 80/80

Summation: Improvements with the bat look significant and maintainable. Potential .290+ hitter with enough on-base ability to wreak havoc on any opposing team. Could cause chaos at the top of the lineup. Needs more well-rounded and consistent small-ball game to help take further advantage of his speed. Elite, elite runner with instincts to let it play to the max. Shortstop defense is still rough and doesn’t project to improve arm strength, instincts or hands enough to stick there long term. Could be an impact defensive player in center field. Has the swagger of an elite player. Plays the game hard and works hard before/after games. Potential to impact the game on both sides of the ball thanks to elite speed.

Relative Risk: High. Everything rides on the sustainment of his hitting ability and the health of his legs. Any deterioration in either could destroy his prospect stock.

Future: Hamilton could see Double-A before the end of the 2012 season. Defensive development will be what holds him back and the development of his bat may force his move to second base or center field. Could be ready for big league action by 2014 and could hit atop the Reds order for quite a while.

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Billy Hamilton is an incredibly exciting prospect. I’ve always had a soft spot for the speedy base-runners but appreciate that their shelf-life is often limited, and more often than not an abrupt leg or foot injury can put the stop to a once promising career.

Hamilton’s first Bowman card appeared as a Prospect in the 2009 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects set but his 2012 Bowman Chrome contains his autograph and will no doubt be the card everyone will be chasing!!

You can also pick up a number of base and parallel Hamilton cards in 2012 Bowman Platinum, but if you want to go for a cheaper alternative to the Bowman Chrome autograph then look no further than the 2012 Bowman Sterling Prospect auto, and obligatory refractor parallels!!

Along with his licensed Topps and Bowman releases there are a number of non-licensed releases that feature Hamilton that might be worth your time, including 2012 UD Goodwin Champions, 2010 Tristar Pursuit and 2009 Tri-Star Prospects.

A great player to watch out for with a rich life on baseball cards ahead of him!

In the next Prospect Watch – The next ‘Albert Pujols’ for the Cardinals??

Prospect Watch: Gerrit Cole

Last week I promised another Prospect Watch feature especially for all the Pirates fans out there. Obviously I’m not one to go back on my word so, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to another player from my PC and the #1 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, Gerrit Cole.

While doing my research into Cole I’ve found that there don’t appear to be enough superlatives around to describe this young pitcher, and despite being such a hard thrower of the baseball he has proven himself to be incredibly durable during his time pitching in college.

Back in 2008 Gerrit Cole turned down the chance to be taken by the New York Yankees in the first round of that years draft. Instead he opted for college at UCLA where he came to dominate through the college ranks. The Bleacher Report has noted that throughout his college years Cole’s commanding stuff was almost as hard to hit as Stephen Strasburg’s, but that Cole was “missing the secondary stuff to compete with Strasburg’s ridiculous four plus pitches.”

In his article for Project Prospect, Lincoln Hamilton examines Cole’s pitches in more detail, and notes that despite having an overpowering fastball, his best pitch is actually his change-up (“already a big league out pitch”), which clocks in between 83-86 mph. The effectiveness of his fastball and change-up stems from the fact that his arm speed is virtually identical between the both pitches, making a devastating combination of the two together.

Here’s the February 2012 scouting report from Baseball Prospect Nation, who describe Cole as a “potential ace” who just needs to add polish to his “enormous raw stuff”. Interestingly his change-up isn’t rated as highly as in the Project Prospect scouting report!

Body: Classic power pitcher’s body. Broad shoulders, strong torso, thick and powerful legs.

Makeup: Impressions of his competitiveness and makeup varied from start to start last year. Some scouts believe he lacks the fire to be a truly great pitcher, noting he has a tendency to pack it in when things don’t go his way. Needs to prove mental toughness on the mound but is still young with plenty of time to do just that.

Delivery/Mechanics: Much smoother than in high school. Deliberate and balanced through his windup. Gives hitters a peak of the ball behind his back, losing some deception as a result. Will show good extension out front but cuts himself off at times, coming up a little short and not following through. Good drive off back leg taking some stress off his arm.

Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High – 101, Low – 92, Average – 95-96, Grade – 70/80

Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High – 99, Low 92, Average 95-96, Grade – 70/80

Fastball (FB) Movement: Has explosive life on 4-seamer when he doesn’t overthrow it. Can get a little straight when he reaches back for more but pure velo can overcome this most of the time. Hasn’t developed ability to manipulate the ball at lower velocities but really hasn’t needed to either. Grade – 50/60

Overall Fastball: Outstanding velocity. Could sit as an 80-pitch in the future. Has toyed with a 2-seam FB that has some sink and run on it and if that comes it could be unhittable in the 92-95 range. Potential elite pitch with minor refinement. Grade – 70/80

Slider (SL): Throws it very hard with outstanding bite. Generates foolish swings with plus-plus two-plane bite. Must improve ability to keep it down in the zone. Already understands how to use it as a chase pitch to both righties and lefties. Not much room to add much more to the pitch. Grade – 70/70

Change-up (CH): Started throwing in college. Doesn’t always maintain arm speed and has a tendency to guide it to the plate rather than trusting the grip. Has some fade when he’s throwing it well. Still a work in progress but flashes as a nice third pitch. Grade – 40/50

Control: Throws a lot more strikes after three years in college but will still lose the zone. Loses it most frequently when he falls in love with the radar gun and tries to blow hitters away. Needs to trust himself and throw strikes. Raw stuff is good enough to miss bats and get outs in the strike zone. Grade – 40/60

Command: Not really a part of his game right now and may never be. Will flash ability to paint the outside corner and elevate the FB when he wants to. Doesn’t show consistent willingness to work inside on hitters, which would be a huge help for him. Grade – 30/40

Summation: Some of the best raw stuff in the minor leagues. Can dominate inexperienced hitters by just blowing it by them and feeding him his filthy SL. Needs to learn how to pitch and utilize different parts of the strike zone better. Questions about his competitiveness on the mound can’t be ignored until he goes out and disproves them. Pure ceiling is that of a number one starter but he’ll fall short of that without some kind of command. Still learning the nuances of the game such as controlling runners and fielding his position but those should come fairly quickly once he starts working on them more heavily.

Relative Risk: High. He’s close to the big leagues but his lack of command and character questions leave his risk level elevated.

Future: To date the Pirates have pointed toward High-A Bradenton as his likely 2012 starting point. He could reach Double-A in extremely short order and it wouldn’t be entirely surprising he received a September call-up. His timetable is easily in the 2013 season and it would take some significant setbacks for him to be delayed beyond that. Cole has the potential to be one of the game’s elite starting pitchers in a few years.

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The Pirates have a number of exciting Prospects coming through their farm system and, coupled with one of the best players in the game in Andrew McCutchen (in my humble opinion, of course), are primed to challenge in the newly structured NL Central for a good few years to come.

And Gerrit Cole is just the player to help them finally snap their crazy streak of losing seasons going back to 1865, or something like that!!! It really does seem that long!

In terms of his cards Cole is a player whom I have coveted for some time now, and his 2012 Bowman Chrome Prospect Autograph is one card I’d love to get my hands on at some point. However there are a number of Prospect-related releases over the last couple of years, along with college-related releases from around 2009 and 2010, that feature Cole’s cards so he’s pretty easy to track down for base cards as well as numerous autographed inserts!

2013 could well see Cole’s MLB debut and if he is half the pitcher that a lot of scouts are predicting then it’ll be worth keeping an eye on his cards over the coming years, particularly those 2012 Bowman releases!

OK – we’re done!!

Coming next time – a young speedster for the Reds!

Prospect Watch: Corey Seager

When I first began this blog I set up a category called ‘Card of the Day’, where every now and then I’d peruse my own collection and pick out a card that holds some sort of significance to me as a Baseball card collector. Unfortunately, as I don’t have the largest collection in the world by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve only ended up posting four articles under the ‘Card of the Day’ banner… More like ‘Card of the Month’ I suppose!!

Anyway, I’ve mulled a few ideas over and, as I’ve recently been taken over by the Prospect bug, I thought I’d start up a new and (semi) regular feature called ‘Prospect Watch’ – although you probably got that from the title of the post!

The idea behind ‘Prospect Watch’ is to highlight younger players, just on the cusp of their MLB careers, who have the potential to become the stars of the future! I’ve said before that a large number of collectors in the UK don’t always hear about these types of players until they hit The Bigs, so this is really who I’m aiming these posts at… and anyone else who might be interested, of course!

I’ve scoured the Scouting Reports and various other Prospect-related sites, so please enjoy! And first out the blocks is one of my own cards, pulled fresh from a pack of 2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects, a few weeks ago.

2012 Bowman Draft - Corey Seager Autograph

2012 Bowman Draft – Corey Seager Autograph

Corey Seager was drafted by the LA Dodgers with the 18th pick in the first round of this years amateur Baseball draft. He is the younger brother of Mariners 2B Kyle and scouts predict that he has the skills in time to eclipse his older sibling. Corey played SS while at Northwest Cabarrus High School in North Carolina but it is believed that as he develops his game at the next level he will eventually move over to 3B.

Coast 2 Coast Prospects points out that Seager has been on the scouts radar for some time “thanks to his Major League bloodlines” and has always displayed raw hitting ability at the plate. His improved consistency at being able to drive the ball has seen his stock rise quickly, and he rapidly moved from 3rd to 5th round draft consideration to being discussed as a 1st round pick! Despite being only drafted back in June, Seager is already the #3 rated Prospect in the Dodgers’ organisation, behind Yasiel Puig (OF) and Zach Lee (RHP).

Seager, who turns 19 in April 2013, has committed to college at South Carolina (and it is believed it will greatly help his game by honouring his college commitments) so we shouldn’t be expecting to see him in the majors any time soon. Staff writer at the Bleacher Report, Will Leivenberg, contributed this analysis of Seager back in June 2012:

“Corey is a tall and projectable left-handed hitter who plays top-notch defense at the hot corner. He exhibits natural instincts in the field and possesses surprising speed. He has soft hands and a smooth transfer, and has popped 90 mph across the infield.

At the plate, Seager has impressive raw bat speed and the ball jumps off his bat. However, he has a hitch in his swing that makes him vulnerable to quality velocity, and will likely need some experience to iron it out.”

This in itself speaks highly of this young
but for a more all round view of Seager then check out this Scouting Report courtesy of Baseball Prospect Nation:

Body (6-3, 195): Premium body. Very good athlete. Long and lean with room for additional strength without compromising athleticism or quickness. Good present strength. Two paths for physical projection; remain long, lean athlete with some additional strength, or thicken up with maturity and become a physical beast.

Hit: Natural hitter. Consistent swing path and hands work well throughout the swing. Simple trigger allows him to get the bat to the zone quickly. Plus bat speed that could get even better with more strength. Struggles to control barrel of the bat at times; that should improve with added strength. Potential for above-average to plus hitting ability if everything develops properly. Even without reaching max potential, enough feel to hit .270-.275 at his peak. Controls the strike zone well and should add some on-base ability on top of batting average. Grade – 30/50

Power: Bat speed allows for good present pop. Can drive the ball to the gaps with ease at present and gap power projects to translate to HR power down the line. Good loft on the ball now. Easy projection for 18-20 home runs a year and depending on physical development, could max out with 25 annually. Offensive approach and advanced hit tool utility project him to translate power to games easily at each level. Grade (raw power) – 40/50

Arm: Arm stands up to the left side of the infield. Can make all the throws for SS and could handle third base throws as well. Quick release from multiple arm angles. Good accuracy. Good raw strength. Arm is true plus right now and should stay there. Grade – 60/60

Fielding: Amateur scouts were consistent in believing that he would need to move to SS, more because of physical development than skills. Pro scouts in the Pioneer League saw a quality SS defender with a legitimate chance to stick at the position. Instinctual player with good first step. Reads the ball well off the bat and reads hops well. Can get to both sides with average to above-average range. Good hands and footwork. Quality defender overall with chance to be average at SS. If body develops too much, could easily move to 3B and tools would play there as well, possibly at a higher grade. Grade – 40/50

Speed: Shows consistent average times home to first with the occasional plus dig mixed in. Gets out of the box well and has good instincts on the bases. Average runner with a chance to maintain his speed; depending on the physical development. Grade – 50/50

Summation: May have been under-drafted. Really strong potential on both sides of the ball. Bat can play at either SS or 3B. Raw ceiling of plus hit, plus power. More realistic projection for average levels in both areas, still making him a strong player. Good instincts at the plate; very natural. Tools play in games right now and additional refinement could really make them stand out. Solid defensive projection at shortstop and could stick there. Average range, good hands/feet, plus arm. Plus projection at 3B. Heady defensive player. As a shortstop, offensive projection lends to a perennial All-Star ceiling. As a third baseman, could still be an above-average player and occasional All-Star. Could be a big mover in the prospect world.

Relative Risk: High. Long way from maturity and the big leagues.

Future: Seager’s full-season debut demonstrated his excellent polish for his age and showed he should be ready for full-season ball as a 19-year old in 2013. Even if he moves a level at a time, he could be on the big league radar late in the 2016 season. If he maximizes his tools, he’s an All-Star talent.

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Unfortunately there aren’t a massive number of Corey Seager cards available right now.

He has the above Prospect auto from Bowman Draft (and accompanying refractor parallels) but I’ve confirmed with Topps that he never had a Prospect base card in that particular release due to his rights deal not being ready before the base cards were produced. He also has an autographed card in 2012 Bowman Sterling, but unfortunately it’s in the form of a redemption when pulled straight out of a pack.

Hopefully 2013 will be more fruitful for all you prospective Corey Seager collectors out there!

On a personal level I’ll be keeping an eye out for Corey Seager cards over the coming years, charting his progression through college and into the minors. This will be the first time I’ve followed a young player like this and it will be interesting to so how the scout’s predictions play out!

So… there we go!! The first ‘Prospect Watch’ is done and dusted! Hopefully you liked it and found it of some use. As usual all comments and feedback are welcome!

Coming up on the next ‘Prospect Watch’ – a treat for all you Pirates fans!!