Sunday, April 14, 2013
Scouting Yankees and Giants propsects
By Keith Law
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- I caught the low Class A game between the Charleston RiverDogs and Augusta GreenJackets on Saturday night in Charleston, one of my favorite towns to visit for work. Charleston starter Jose Campos was the "other" guy the Yankees acquired in the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero deal, and like Pineda, Campos went down with an arm injury; his was an elbow injury that didn't require surgery, but forced him to miss most of the 2012 season. He's back, working on limited pitch counts, showing reduced stuff and an arm action that seems destined for further injuries or a role in the bullpen.
Campos started the game at 87-89 and then settled in at 89-92 for the rest of his three-inning outing, getting a little arm-side run on the pitch but showing below-average command. He showed a slurvy breaking ball at 76-80 with variable shape, also a below-average pitch primarily because it was so easy to pick up out of his hand. He flashed a hard changeup at 84-85 that was more like a fastball with something taken off it.
His arm is very quick, but he doesn't use his lower half to generate that arm speed and has no deceleration at all after release, so the visual effect is that of a pitcher who's just flinging the ball in the general direction of the plate. His slot is a little below three-quarters, but it's inconsistent as you'd expect given the arm action. I'm not shocked that he's had arm trouble, and I can't imagine him throwing like that 100 times a game without breaking down at some point, or just having too little command to make it as a starter.
This was far from an ideal look, just Campos' second outing back since he was shut down last spring and one in which he clearly didn't have his old velocity, but what I saw didn't give me a ton of hope.
•The rest of the Charleston club was pretty thin on prospects, as Rafael De Paula (who's been sitting 92-94, without command) and Gabe Encinas (94-95 in relief) didn't pitch on Saturday. Dante Bichette Jr. remains a mess on offense and defense. Cito Culver has finally stopped switch-hitting, but even putting a good swing on a ball down tonight didn't get the ball out of the infield, and he's running worse than I've ever seen from him.
Evan Rutckyj replaced Campos, and was 89-91 with a fringy changeup and a slider at 80-82 that might give him a chance in middle relief. Right fielder Yeicok Calderon looks kind of interesting, with bat speed and a strong arm, but his hands are all over the place at the plate and the Augusta pitchers blew him up with velocity. First baseman Greg Bird, who caught Orioles prospect Kevin Gausman in high school, had a good first week for Charleston but struck out three times and didn't seem to be able to pick up anything.
• Augusta, the Giants' Sally League affiliate, at least rolled out some interesting arms, led by right-hander Stephen Johnson, their sixth-round pick from last year, who was 92-95 with a sharp 80-81 mph curveball that appears to have a mind of its own, as Johnson doesn't seem to be telling it where to go. He's a max-effort guy with a very long arm action, but the fastball is very live and if he can ever command the curveball, he'll at least be a solid middle reliever.
Ian Gardeck, their 16th-rounder from last year, was 91-95 but didn't show a quality second pitch, using an uninspiring changeup at 83-84. Starter Kendry Flores was 88-90 with a fringe-average breaking ball at 75-77 with near 12-to-6 break; he looks like he's concentrating too much on his arm action, like it's very deliberate instead of natural and fluid, and might just need to air it out a little more. There seems to be something wrong with fourth-rounder Steven Okert; he was in the low to mid-90s when I saw him at the Big 12 tournament last May, but was 84-87 on Saturday night.
• Their lineup is old for the level; Jesus Galindo, the leadoff hitter and shortstop, is 22 and spent half of last season here, hitting just .252/.333/.308. He has bat speed, is a 65-70 grade runner, and could turn into a very good shortstop, but he has no hand or wrist strength to drive the ball to the outfield. Charles Jones is the best athlete on the team, and the second-youngest hitter on the club, but he looks like he's just trying not to strike out, with poor pitch recognition that overwhelms the other tools.
• I should also mention one of the most unusual concession items I've come across, now available at Charleston's Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park: beer shakes. The staff was kind enough to offer me a sample of their Guinness shake -- Guinness stout, ice cream and caramel syrup -- and it's a treat, sweet but not too much, so the flavor of the Guinness (my favorite mass-produced beer) comes through. They've also partnered with the "urban farm" at the Medical University of South Carolina to provide a vegetable taco made with ingredients grown at that facility. In a town known for one of the best food scenes in the country, the RiverDogs deserve credit for keeping up with the trend.