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Scouting Stankiewicz, Smith and Denney

3/20/2013

Notes about some prominent draft prospects I've seen over the last three days.

• Seminole State College right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz was selected in the second round by the New York Mets last year, 75th overall, but the team passed on signing him and he headed to junior college, where he's probably set himself up to be selected higher this year.

Stankiewicz pitched in a scrimmage against a lineup of Texas Rangers A-ball kids that included prospects Jorge Alfaro and Jairo Beras, throwing well despite getting zero help from his defense. Stankiewicz pitched from 91-96 mph with fringy command, mostly 92-94 in the first with the range expanding as the outing went on. He showed a curve, slider and change, nothing above-average, with good depth on the slow curveball (70-73 mph) and slight fade on the change, plus what I believe was an attempted cutter at 89.

Stankiewicz stands 6-foot-4 and has a very high leg kick, getting his knee up near his shoulder while extending his leg outward, but then he sacrifices his height as he drops down to drive forward. He takes a long stride toward the plate, although his arm is late relative to his front leg and he doesn't turn his pitching hand over until pretty late in the delivery. There's also some head violence in the delivery after the release, not severe but enough that some teams will downgrade him for it. His arm is quick and he's athletic enough that a good development team could probably tidy up the arm swing enough to send him out as a starter.

• Yukon (Okla.) High School and catcher Jonathan Denney are here in Arizona for a few days, playing in one of the area's many large spring break tournaments, and I saw him play Monday; he had two at-bats before the opposing coach decided to start walking him intentionally. (I will gleefully note here that both intentional walks came back to bite the opponent, as Denney scored the first time, and the second time led to a walk-off walk with the bases loaded.)

I'd seen Denney previously this spring in a scrimmage, and the look here was the same -- he homered in his first at-bat, and his receiving was fringy but acceptable. Behind the plate, he has a tendency to slap at the ball when it's below the zone, rather than catching it firmly without moving as he typically does when the ball is above the hitter's knees. Denney's swing is simple and direct, balanced throughout, with power from his hands and his hips, and I think he's going to hit for both power and average. His future will be determined by how much he can improve his receiving, but I don't see a reason why he can't at least be a fringy defender back there who becomes an above-average or better regular thanks to his bat.

Dominic Smith, the standout from Junipero Serra High School (Gardena, Calif.), pitched against Santa Monica High School on Tuesday, hitting 92 mph in the one inning I was behind the plate. He displayed a rough delivery that had some head violence, but that's largely immaterial because he's going to be drafted in the first round as a hitter.

His best swing of the day came in his last at-bat, on a first-pitch double high up the chain-link fence in right field, although he admired the hit long enough that he might have lost a chance to end up on third base. He stayed back on the ball, was balanced through contact, and rotated his hips to help generate that power -- the ball would have been out if the fence there wasn't two stories high.

Prior to that, Smith did have another base hit, but he was transferring his weight on to his front side too early and had a hard time controlling the bat head to generate any kind of loft or power. The positive spin is that you can correct a player's weight transfer by shortening and delaying his stride, much more easily than you can overhaul a swing or improve a kid's wrist strength. The swing is sound, and if he can stay back more consistently, he'll have one of the top future hit grades in this draft, even as a pure first baseman (albeit one with a 70-grade arm).

• Smith faced Santa Monica right-hander Connor Greene, a 6-foot-3, projectable right-hander with a stiff delivery who is already at 88-90 mph even though it looks as though he has a ton of room to fill out. His curveball was better than his show-me changeup, but he's mostly a velocity-projection guy right now. He's committed to the two-year College of Southern Nevada (where Bryce Harper played for a year) and, if he doesn't sign now, is worth keeping an eye on to see if his fastball improves as he grows.

• Smith's teammate, outfielder Denz'l Chapman, showed plus speed, getting down the line in about four seconds flat on two grounders he hit while batting left-handed. He's a junior, so he's not eligible until the 2014 draft, and given how short and slappy the swing is, I'd like to see him strengthen his hands and forearms so he improves his bat control and can at least start driving the ball to the gaps.

• Finally, a follow-up to my piece on Friday on Sean Manaea. I heard more reports this weekend that Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray was sitting 96-98 mph, hitting 100, and is now showing four pitches, and if I were to revise my Future 50 right now, I'd move Manaea down a few spots, still in the top 10 but absolutely below Austin Meadows and Jonathan Gray, and there are several other candidates, including Kohl Stewart (who won't pitch again until April due to a suspension left over from last spring), Clint Frazier, and Braden Shipley, who could move ahead of Manaea if the latter's velocity and slider don't improve.