Monday, June 7, 2010

Scouting Trip #6: Charlotte Knights (White Sox AAA) at Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies AAA)

Yes, I am once again an IronPigs game day employee. My initial blog-related thought upon my hiring was, "Scouting trips will be few and far between." I did not think I'd be able to catch enough of the games to thouroughly scout the top prospects that ventured into Coca-Cola park. However, my strategically timed "breaks" combined with an entire series worth of looks at the players I was interested in gave me enough to write on.

The Charlotte Knights visited the IronPigs. Many of the top prospects in the White Sox system reside in AAA. Here is what my eyes told me about them:

Tyler Flowers -Cather- Age:24 From: Chipola Junior College

Flowers was a 33rd round draft and follow pick by the Braves in 2005 and was traded after the 2008 season in the deal that brought Javier Vasquez to Atlanta. The list of legit Braves prospects that were traded away in recent years and look to turn into stars is ever growing and Flowers' name can now be added to that list.

Flowers' Defense

Though Flowers' aptitude behind the plate has been maligned by scouts, he was named the Southern League's (AA) Best defensive Catcher last season by the league's managers. His game calling skills are fine from what I saw. Pitchers and coaches compliment his leadership ability and communication skills, and he works hard on understanding opposing hitters. His arm is average. He is rather large for a catcher (6'4", 245 lbs) which makes it difficult for him to block balls in the dirt since it takes a long time to move a frame that large. As such, he may have to move to first base down the line.

Flowers' Offense

Flowers' stats from the current campaign are rather pedestrian, and while it is a small sample size, some of the numbers are very discouraging. Flowers has a career OBP% over .400 and this season is sitting at an Abraham Nunez-esque .323 (actually, its not THAT bad). His .450 SLG% is almost 50 points lower than his career average. Like I said though, small sample size.

Flowers numbers are poor so far this year but watching him over the weekend convinced me they would turn around. He has plus power, clocking a HR in each of the first two games he played during the series. His history of plate discipline is encouraging, since that is a skill that isn't likely to erode over time. Those two traits alone are likely enough to land him in the middle of a Major League batting order. He also recognizes pitches quickly. It seems to me that Flowers is already better than AJ Pierzynski, and the aggressive nature of White Sox GM Kenny Williams may force Pierzynski out of town and Flowers into the White Sox lineup.

Dayan Viciedo -First Base- Age: 21 Es de: Cuba

Viciedo is in just his second year of pro ball after defecting from Cuba and is already in AAA at age 21. He inked a 4 year, $10 million major league contract in December of 2008 and was immediately shipped to AA for his fist year. The WHite Sox have had success in the past with Cubans, as Alexei Ramirez is a fine regular and Jose Contreras improved once he arrived in Chi-town.

Viciedo's Defense

Yuck. Originally a 3rd baseman, Viciedo has eaten his way over to first. At 5'11" and 240 lbs, the newly christened 21 year old will likely venture into Kirstie Alley territory now that he has access to alcohol. I fully expect him to move to DH. His only viable major league defensive tool is his arm, whih is wasted at first base anyway.

Viciedo's Offense

I'm lukewarm on Viciedo's bat. He has tremendous bat speed and hits the ball very hard henever he makes contact, but he barely walks (just 30 times in 700 career atbats) and is detrimental on the basepaths. He destroys lefties (1.107 OPS against left handers this year) and is rather pedestrian against righties. With Paul Konerko's contract expiring and a youth movement on the horizon in Chicago, Viciedo may be plugged into the Sox lineup next season. In my opinion, he won't be the stud some expect him to be, but rather is on track for an offensive career that compares to someone like, say, Jose Guillen.

Brent Morel -3rd baseman- Age: 23 College: Cal Poly

Morel was a 3rd round pick in 2008 and wasted no time signing and getting his pro career underway, as he made it out of the rookie league and up to Low-A ball later that year. He spent last season at High-A ball where he hit .281 wtih a .335 OnBase% and reallt surprised everyone by stealing 25 bases in just 128 games. He started this year off at AA where his OnBase% spiked to .375 and was promoted to AAA as a result. Morel is a scrapper, he ran out every grounder/popup during the series vs. the Pigs.

Morel's Defense

Morel has a terrific arm, well above average even for a third baseman. His range and reactions are also above average. While I don't see him becoming elite (Scott Rolen, Adrian Beltre), Morel will be a true defensive asset at third (Nick Punto, Brandon Inge) and is probably ready to play defense in the majors right now.

Morel's offense

His bat does not impress. Morel has struggled mightily since his promotion to AAA and has never shown he has any power (even at 6-1, 220lbs). He has a nice line-drive swing and might hit .300 in the majors during his prime, but is no more than a bottom of the order hitter on a contender. Maybe Morel can be moved to second base (thoough Gordon Beckham is entrenched there right now) where his bat would be more acceptable. I'm thinking Morel has a career like that of Placido Polanco.

These are the players I got enough of a look at to feel comfortable judging. I did not get to see enough of Jordan Danks and Dan Hudson did not pitch during the series.

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