Wednesday, August 29, 2012

MLB Prospect Scouting Report: Tyler Cloyd (Phillies)

Tyler Cloyd is now set to make his first career big league start tonight so why don't you read this hastily written scouting report so you know what you're watching?

Just named International League Pitcher of the Year, Cloyd has been fantastic for the IronPigs this year but the scouting reports are underwhelming in comparison. My thoughts are no different.  I've got notes on Cloyd from two periods of his development (from some relief appearances he made in last year's Arizona Fall League and two starts with the 'Pigs this year, including one last week) and they're identical both in my subjective evaluation and all sorts of objective measures like his times home from the stretch (about 1.35 seconds).  I'll make this short and sweet since I'm at work charting Justin Verlander, who diarrhea'd in the tub last night.

Cloyd is a 6'3", 190lb righty with a comfy, athletic delivery which he repeats very well. His arm comes through a little late but his mechanics are otherwise effortlessly smooth.  It's allowed him, for the most part,  to consistently throw strikes.  However, be forewarned that I've seen him have multiple batter lapses where he just can't find the zone and, contrary to how most pitchers respond to these swoons, Cloyd starts to work faster and faster until the catcher needs to come out just to calm him down.  Most of his listed weight is located in his ass and thighs and he uses his lower half well to generate "velocity" which I have in Bennett Brauer quotes because there just isn't very much of it.

Cloyd's fastball sits in the upper 80s (86-89mph, might touch 92 tonight with the adrenaline pumping) and is mostly straight, though it does exhibit some natural cut when he locates it to his glove side. He'll throw a two-seamer on occasion.  It's not a good major league pitch and I expect it'll take a back seat to his best offering, a cutter, which he tosses in anywhere from 83-86mph.  Cloyd's cutter moves quite a bit and he uses it as a multi-tasker even Alton Brown would be proud of.  To left handed hitters, he'll back door it for strikes or run it in on hands to induce weak contact.  He'll run it away from righties to garner swings and misses or throw it early in counts for called strikes. I'm comfortable putting a 50 on it despite the lack of velocity just because Cloyd has harnessed it so well.

Cloyd's secondary stuff in underwhelming.  His curve, which has 11-5 movement and sits in the mid 70s, will flash average but it's mostly a liability.  He didn't work with his changeup enough for me to slap a grade on it. To me, that's telling.  From the scout seats at Coca Cola Park it was easy to pick up release variation on the curveball but I have no idea what it looks like 60 feet away.

Folks, we're looking at a back end starter/bullpen guy here. Someone who'll provide value for the big club by virtue of the fact that he's not awful and probably won't get hurt. Spot start him, get mop up innings out of him on his day to throw, send him down, call him up, long man....Cloyd's going to have a major league career as a swiss army knife as long as being jerked around doesn't negatively impact his performance.  That's great, and guys like this are useful to have around on the cheap.  But don't look at his Triple-A ERA and expect a savior. He's not one. He's just a reason to watch tonight's game.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

MLB Prospect Scouting Report: Adam Morgan (Phillies)

Adam Morgan has made impressive strides

It’s been a pretty upsetting year for Phillies fans on all fronts.  Not only has an aging Major League roster provided the fan base with perhaps 2012’s most disappointing season in all of sports but a farm system bereft of elite talent doesn’t inspire much optimism for the future. A small ray of light, peering out through the morass of injuries, IronPigs and subtle radio caller racism, was recently brought up to Reading.  This faint but legitimate photon, poking his head out from an obscure corner of an all time dumpster fire, is young lefthanded pitcher, Adam Morgan. 

Adam Morgan didn’t come into the season with much heat on him at all. He wasn’t on Keith Law’s organizational top ten, he wasn’t on Kevin Goldstein’s Future Shock top twenty and he barely made it on to Baseball America’s top thirty, sneaking onto the Phillies’ list at number twenty nine, seven spots behind his Crimson Tide rotation mate, Austin Hyatt. Something has changed. No longer is Morgan, a third rounder from the 2011 draft, being described as a “soft tossing, command and control guy.” He’s started missing bats, more than one per inning, and forced his way up from Clearwater into a really fun, prospect laden rotation at Double-A Reading.  With the fan base’s silver lining forty five minutes away from me, you know I made the drive with my stopwatch and notebook.

What was cool about this scouting trip was the clean slate on which I could conduct my analysis. I didn’t accidentally stumble upon any opinions or reports on him because there just aren’t any yet, and I didn’t actively seek any out before I saw him because I wanted to be surprised and uncontaminated by anyone else’s ideas. I hopped in the car not knowing if Adam Morgan was right handed, short, fat, black, handsome, blonde or cross eyed. It made me all the more excited to see him and drink everything in.  If you’re not into dry, vanilla, missionary position type scouting reports then I’ll just tell you now that I like this kid quite a bit and I think he’s going to be a useful big leaguer. Here are those sentiments expressed in more detail….

The twenty two year old Morgan is not a jaw dropping physical specimen. He’s in fine shape, but his 6’1” frame offers no positive projection. What you see is what you’re going to get.  If Morgan’s physique is going to change, it will change horizontally. Let’s hope it doesn’t because sometimes guys who gain weight have a hard time maintain the athleticism in their delivery, which right now for Morgan is just fine. Morgan lands hard on a stiff front leg and there’s a little bit of effort as he fires but nothing is so violent that I’m concerned about repeatability or sustainable health. These sound mechanics help produce above average control and average command of a slightly above average fastball (I’ll put a 55 on it, 89-92mph) that plays up thanks to terrific movement.  That movement, however, is inconsistent and Morgan’s heater will get flat and straight at times.  His somewhat diminutive stature prevents him from getting natural downhill plane on his fastball which he left up in the zone a handful of times on Tuesday. He got away with it because, hey, it’s Double-A and Trenton’s lineup is pretty bad but that won’t fly in the big leagues and Morgan will have to continue to hone in on the lower third of the zone to avoid becoming homer prone.

The fastball is complimented by a plus changeup (60 but flashed better three or four times), a true swing and miss pitch which consistently made Thunder hitters look both uncomfortable and ridiculous.  It is clear this is where Morgan has made strides this year as his changeup was previously just a footnote on his scouting report. The pitch sits in the upper 70s with lots of fade and action and, most importantly, Morgan maintains his fastball’s arm speed when he throws it. I see this as a weapon that will miss some bats in the big leagues one day.

Morgan has two breaking balls, a slider and a curve.  The two can overlap a little but the hook (30) will usually sit mid to upper 70s while the slider (45), which I like much better, hangs out in the low 80s.  Further development of one of these pitches is crucial to Morgan’s future.  He has an idea what to do with the slider, getting a swing and miss or two at some back foot work against righties, but it needs refining and I’d like to see him pitch backwards with it later in his starts to get ahead of hitters with something new. 

I’d love to get another look at Morgan before the season’s out to better grasp the nuances of his craft.  After one look, I think the Phillies have stumbled upon a nice backend starter who has a chance to be a solid mid-rotation guy if he improves even just one or two of his current deficiencies.  Stick a feather in the cap of the Phillies’ player development staff.