Friday, April 20, 2012

MLB Draft Prospect Scouting Report: Matt Bowman

Princeton two-way player Matt Bowman had a little bit of heat on him when I caught the Tigers double header against Harvard a little while ago. Scouts from Toronto, Cleveland and San Diego were in attendance and two-thirds of them left after Bowman pitched, neglecting to see him play shortstop, at least on this afternoon. It makes sense since it seems clear Bowman's best chance to make an impact at the professional level is on the mound rather than at short.

At just 6'1", 175lb, Bowman will have the "short righty" stigma working against him in draft war rooms. He's quite skinny, skinny enough that he could put on weight without his stuff/tools going backwards and maybe even add a little velocity if he gets stronger in the right places (his legs). Bowman's diminutive stature means he needs to incorporate his entire body in his delivery to generate the velocity he'll need to compete in the pros. For the most part he does it, utilizing his lower half (It's clear when you watch Bowman's mechanics that he's doing his best Tim Lincecum impression) to launch himself off the mound . After watching video from 2011 you can tell Bowman has lengthened his stride and continuing that trend while adding muscle in his thighs and ass might yield a bit more heat. He has the athleticism to repeat a delivery of this type. The top half of Bowman's over-the-top delivery is fine. There's no extreme violence that would raise concerns about his ability to throw strikes or indicate a heightened risk of injury.

Bowman's stuff doesn't blow you away but it's nothing to scoff at. His fastball sits 88-89mph touching as high as 91mph. That's average velocity but the pitch plays down a bit due to how straight it is both vertically and horizontally. Bowman is already at a disadvantage due to his height. He's not going to get natural downhill plane on his fastball. At the next level he's going to have to find a way to make the heater wiggle or sink.

Bowman features three secondary offerings; a changeup, curveball and slider. Of the three, he worked most often with a low-70s curve which suited him just fine against Ivy League hitters but likely won't garner swings and misses from professionals. It has decent depth but its break isn't sharp. The slider shows much more potential. It was inconsistent but flashed nasty, two-plane movement here and there. Scouts nearby mentioned their desire for him to use it more often. Bowman's most consistent offspeed pitch was his changeup which sat in the upper 70s. It showed promising fade and run but Bowman noticeably decelerates his arm.

Other ancillary stuff you might want to know about Bowman:

He obviously fields his position well since, when he's not pitching, he's playing shortstop.

He holds runners well. I timed him in the 1.25-1.35 second range from the stretch. He varies the height of his leg kick from the stretch as well, to screw with baserunners and the timing of the hitter.

Bowman is a slightly below average runner, timed at 4.35 seconds from the right side from home to first.
He is adequate at shortstop, not spectacular, and I'm bearish on his ability to hit at the next level.

Other note: Bowman's teammate Sam Mulroy is a pretty interesting prospect in his own right. He's an above average runner who plays center field, third base and catches. It takes a few trips to properly scout a swiss army knife like Mulroy. I'd like to see him again if I can, but the drive may prevent me from doing so.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

MLB Draft Prospect Scouting Report: Chris Burke

“The hardest thing about this is figuring out who the hell is going to hit.”

Almost every scout I’ve pestered over the past two years has expounded some version of that statement.  It’s true.  Understanding swing mechanics is the most difficult task I’ve undertaken since deciding to try my hand at this scouting thing.  It gets harder as you venture down to A-ball and harder still when you’re looking at amateurs.  Thankfully when I went to scout Iona 3B Chris Burke I had a double header’s worth of at-bats to look at.  I made the most of them, and so did Burke.

At a listed 6’1”, 195lbs, Burke has little projection left in his body.  He could get bigger, sure, but he’s not presently the most limber and agile individual so I’d advise against it.  A bigger, slower Burke means a move to an outfield corner or across the diamond to first base and his value would suffer.  I already have questions about Burke at third base.  He has slightly above average arm strength, enough to play the position, but he struggled with accuracy.  His reactions and hands are both unexceptional.  Of course whichever team drafts Burke needs to let him play third base where he’ll simply sink or swim.  His best chance to make noise in the big leagues is at the hot corner.  He’ll need to sort out his deficiencies there to make it, mechanical, mental, whatever.

Unfortunately I was unable to arrive early enough to evaluate Burke in the cage.  While certainly regrettable, I still managed to get several looks from the appropriate perpendicular angle that is optimal for evaluating swing mechanics.  Burke’s motions are fluid and fast, but what impressed me most was how quiet everything was.  Shoulders between the knees, knees between the feet, barely a stride, clean, simple and fast.  Burke keeps his hands inside the ball allowing him to drive balls to all fields.  He absolutely wrecked Lehigh pitching when I saw him.  He didn’t see a ton of pitches but you can’t blame him since the pitches he decided to swing at were obliterated. 

Burke has a bat, but is it enough bat to profile at a corner? I can’t help but be concerned about the level of competition he’s facing.  If he cleans up the defense he has a shot.