I headed to Goodyear, Ariz., on Friday hoping to see Robert "The Lighthouse" Stephenson, but he's scheduled to pitch Saturday (which I'll see as well). Instead, I got to see a solid collection of prospects from the Cincinnati Reds' and Chicago White Sox's A-ball rosters, which was a pretty good consolation prize.
• The Reds' first pick from the 2012 draft, right-hander Nick Travieso, started and threw two innings for their low-A club, working from 91-94 with a slightly higher arm slot than he showed last summer right after he signed; it's closer to three-quarters now, with a slimmer, better-conditioned body. He threw mostly fastballs, mixing in a changeup at 81-83, and generally looking looser and more starter-like than he did last year.
• Drew Cisco was the Reds' sixth-round pick in 2010 and signed for second-round money away from a scholarship to Georgia, but he needed Tommy John surgery shortly after signing and didn't pitch in a professional game until last year. He is a command/control right-hander with a fringy fastball, sitting 88-89 on Friday with good two-seam life and an average curveball at 74-77. His arm isn't very quick, and he doesn't use his lower half as much as he should.
• Myles Jaye started for the White Sox's low-A club, working 90-94 from the windup and 89-91 from the stretch with a short, early-breaking slider that was average when he finished it out front but below that otherwise. He also flashed a hard changeup that wasn't separated enough from the fastball to be effective. Jaye struggled badly in the rotation in low-A last year, but the arm strength and the chance for an average (or maybe better) slider make him a good candidate for a move to the bullpen, where he might sit more in the 93-94 range.
• Two more of the Reds' top picks from last year played as well. Outfielder Jesse Winker and shortstop Tanner Rahier both hit several balls hard without much to show for it, with Winker mixing in a pair of four-pitch walks. I loved Rahier's swing when he was in high school, and it's still very sound, with good balance throughout and a simple, direct path to the ball. Winker's swing is a little less sound, as he bars his lead arm, but he has much better hand strength than I saw from him in high school and his overall approach is advanced. 2011 second-rounder Gabriel Rosa, who hit .179/.188/.256 in rookie-level Billings last year, looked as you might expect from that stat line.
• Courtney Hawkins probably wishes I hadn't come to Goodyear on Friday. The White Sox's first pick in the 2012 draft punched out three times, all in ugly fashion, with one walk his only positive note on the day. His timing was way off, swinging through fastballs up in the zone and chasing changeups down and even in the dirt before they reached the plate. He's a better player than that, but it was a poor showing. Fellow day-one selection from last year Keon Barnum didn't play, as he's out until early May after breaking his right hamate bone earlier this month.
• I mentioned on Twitter that there were a few surprises. The biggest one was Cincinnati pitcher Sean Lucas, its 25th-round pick last year as a senior sign out of SUNY-Albany. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound lefty was 90-93 with an average changeup, which he used to depants Hawkins, and an average to slightly above-average slider at 76-79. His arm works well enough that I could see him starting, although he could move very quickly if the Reds kept him in a relief role. For that point in the draft and I assume a modest signing bonus, that's a tremendous find by the Reds' northeast scouting supervisor, Lee Seras.
• The White Sox rolled out Braulio Ortiz, a 21-year-old Dominican right-hander who will make his U.S. debut this year. He showed an easy 92-94 mph fastball, without a ton of life to it but very little effort as well, coming from a low three-quarters slot that should be tough on right-handed hitters. His main off-speed pitch was a slider, although he kept getting on the side of it. Given the lack of sink or life on the fastball, it might help to raise his arm slot a tiny amount so he can get some tilt on the slider.
The other pleasant surprise for the White Sox was outfielder Jason Coats, drafted as a senior last year out of TCU. He was on my draft rankings heading into the spring of his junior year, but a poor showing that spring killed his stock and he ended up returning for his senior season. He's all bat -- maybe a 20-grade runner -- but he was squaring stuff up all day, and it sounded (from White Sox staffers) like he has been doing that all spring. He's already 23, so I hope they start him in high-A Winston-Salem, along with second baseman Joey DiMichele, one of my favorite non-top 100 guys from last year's draft.
• On Thursday, I saw Clayton Blackburn pitch for the San Francisco Giants' Double-A club in a generally uneventful game, and he did more or less what he usually does -- throw a ton of strikes with an average or fringe-average fastball, 87-91, and a solid-average or better curveball at 74-76. Blackburn looked like he was playing catch, using his lower half well in his delivery with just a moderate stride, although he was getting under the ball a little rather than using his 6-3 frame to get some downhill plane on the fastball. My only real concern is that he looked heavier this spring, although that could come off as the season goes on.