Special to A’s Farm by Jason Pennini / @JasonPennini / baseballbellcurve.com
Jason Pennini of baseballcurve.com has been busy in Arizona this fall getting looks at a number of A’s prospects, along with other young players, in the Instructional League as well as in the Arizona Fall League. And we’re happy to share some of his impressions and videos of numerous A’s prospects here, so that you can get a better look at them too…
3B Sheldon Neuse (10/17 AFL) – Neuse has shown me a lot this fall. He makes frequent loud contact and tends to shoot baseballs opposite field into the right/center gap. He is capable of using all fields though. He has a good feel to hit and awareness of the zone. I think the power will play to average because the approach seems more contact-oriented than power-oriented. I have yet to see him in BP, but I suspect there is more raw in the bat than he has shown in games. Defensively, he lacks some agility and quickness of his peers. However, I think the industry consensus is he has enough to get the job done. I was thinking he has an above-average arm. Then, a scout informed me Neuse used to touch mid 90s as a pitcher, so it’s probably plus. This is a guy I am in on as a possible everyday regular. On 10/25, Neuse played shortstop and looked good there. He made a good play on a tough grounder and showed quick hands getting it to first. The athleticism is better than I originally thought.
RHP Nolan Blackwood (10/20 AFL) – There is a lot to like about Blackwood. The 6’5” righty uses his frame to his advantage to achieve deception. He caught my eye in a previous outing when he made Francisco Mejia look ugly in a three-pitch strikeout. The fastball sits low 90s and is thrown from a sidearm angle. Hitters appear to struggle picking up the ball out of his hand, which helps everything play up. His change is in the low 80s, and both of the aforementioned pitches have quality sink. Today, Blackwood also busted out a 75-77 mph curveball. It is a pitch he reserves for right-handed hitters. It was not used in his previous outing when he faced three lefties. I was muttering aloud trying to figure out who Blackwood reminds me of delivery-wise. A scout offered up Dan Otero as a comp.
2B Marcos Brito (10/2 Instructs) – The 17-year-old has quick hands. At the plate, he will spit on breaking pitches out of the zone and wait for “his pitch”. He has an advanced approach for his age. There is room for growth on his slender frame, which could lead to more power down the line.
RHP Rafael Kelly (10/2 Instructs) – Hitters had a difficult time laying off his mid-70s curve. It induced a swing and miss from Chris Owings (who was on rehab assignment) and two other batters. The fastball was 90-91.
RHP Norge Ruiz (10/2 Instructs) – 23-year-old Cuban signee. The stuff is not overpowering. As a result, a high percentage of pitches were off-speed, moving in various directions.
RHP Dakota Chalmers (9/30 Instructs) – Chalmers has a pretty impressive arsenal. His curveball featured sharp, tight spin and RPMs in the 2900-3000 range. To put this into perspective, there were 236 major league pitchers who threw over 100 curveballs or knucklecurves this season (source Baseball Savant). Chalmers would have had the sixth-highest spin rate in this group, putting him in the top 2.5%. The importance of spin rate has been well-documented. Chalmers also sat 93-95 with his fastball and was able to touch 96. His change was in the 85-88 range. Chalmers strikes me as a fiery guy. He shouted an expletive (at himself) after throwing a curve in the dirt a foot or two in front of the plate.
RHP Brett Graves (9/30 Instructs) – Another interesting Oakland arm was Brett Graves. He kept a fast tempo and pounded the zone. The four-seamer was his primary offering. It sat 94-95 and touched 96. A cutter was his most-used secondary pitch. He threw some nasty ones in the 91-93 range with late movement. This pitch should help him generate weak contact against LHHs. Graves rounded out his repertoire with a low-80s curve and a high-80s change. Each were thrown more sparingly. The curve moved 12 to 6 and was located below the zone as a chase pitch. Graves was a fun guy to watch. I loved how he challenged hitters. It wasn’t surprising to see he is 24 and pitched in Double-A Midland this past season. He looked more advanced than his competition this fall.
* * *