Prospect Stock Watch: Winkler, Garvin tossing up zeros
By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com
Once a week this season, we’re going to break down the prospects who have done the most to move the needle on their prospect stock, mostly highlighting players on the rise, but also pointing out a few who are struggling against expectations. Note: All stats are through games played on Sunday.
Rockies RHP Daniel Winkler, Double-A Tulsa: Winkler, a 6-foot-1 right-hander out of Central Florida, was a 20th-round selection by Colorado in the 2011 Draft. His first year and a half in the Rockies’ system was mostly unremarkable — he posted decent strikeout numbers with Asheville in 2012, but mostly managed mediocre results with fringe velocity and stuff.
In 2013, he ventured to the California League with mostly the same stuff, but his outstanding command of a low-90s fastball helped him dominate the hitter-friendly league. So good was his ability to spot his stuff that touted Rockies prospect Eddie Butler actually credited Winkler as a source of inspiration for helping him improve his own fastball command.
But succeeding mostly on fastball command is easier to do in the lower levels of the Minor Leagues. Many pitchers with Winkler’s profile have thrived up until reaching Double-A, then been undone by hitters capable of punishing fringy stuff. Winkler, though, slimmed his ERA to 1.06 in three Texas League starts last week, with 17 strikeouts and seven walks over 17 innings.
As the video below shows, Winkler’s delivery is a little unorthodox, with a loopy, slinging arm action. The delivery seems to keep the ball hidden from hitters. In the embedded video, Winkler blows his average fastball past hitters in San Antonio’s lineup. He also shows a well-controlled breaking ball, particularly in the second at-bat. In the final at-bat against Travis Jankowski, he spots three straight pitches on the outside corner, showcasing how sharp his command can be.
Winkler’s going to need that command to continue succeeding at Tulsa and beyond. The margin for error will never be great, considering his stuff. But he’s shown thus far he’s capable of making it work.
Rays LHP Grayson Garvin, Double-A Montgomery:
I wrote this spring about Garvin’s unique Tommy John surgery and recovery and noted that the Rays were very pleased with how he’d recovered. The left-hander was at one point a top Draft prospect, but his stock took a tumble prior to the 2011 Draft over concerns about elbow issues he’d had in the past. Tampa Bay selected him in the first round anyway but signed him for just $70,000 after reportedly expressing concerns over his medical records.
What bothered Tampa Bay was a bone growth in his throwing elbow that was fraying his UCL, and that concern was validated when Garvin’s UCL gave way in 2012. Dr. James Andrews repaired his UCL and removed the bone growth, meaning Garvin has returned not just with a healthy UCL, but also without the abnormality causing the problems pre-surgery.
Garvin pitched well in the Arizona Fall League, touching 95 on radar guns and managing a 25-to-8 K/BB over 26 innings. His success has carried into 2014 with Double-A Montgomery, where he’s allowed just one earned run over three three-inning outings. The Rays are taking it slow with Garvin, and it’ll be a bigger test for him to stretch out and work through lineups more than once per start. But his 13-to-2 K/BB and .188 average against are encouraging signs.
Dodgers CF Jacob Scavuzzo, Class A Great Lakes:
Scavuzzo was a four-sport star in high school but came into pro ball especially raw for a high school product. His athleticism makes for an outstanding baseball starter kit — he’s an excellent runner and has solid power potential. The big question was how quickly and efficiently the 2012 21st-rounder and the Dodgers could sculpt those talents into usable baseball skills.
The 20-year-old appears to have caught up to his peers on the polish side. He’s slashing .339/.453/.484 with a 16-percent walk rate and 21.3-percent strikeout rate. He’s 7-for-7 on stolen base attempts, too. The only thing missing is the power — he has just one homer and six doubles through 16 games — but the bat speed and strength are there, evidenced by the lined shot off the wall embedded below.
Scavuzzo’s swing is efficient and he has a good plan at the plate, showing a desire to to drive pitches early in the count and the ability to track balls on the outer half if he falls behind. Some batted-ball luck (a .444 BABIP) has helped, but Scavuzzo also looks like a legitimate breakout player in the Midwest League.
Astros 1B Jon Singleton, Triple-A Oklahoma City:
The 2013 season was a forgettable one for Singleton, as he returned from a suspension and slumped to a .230 average and .753 OPS in 90 MiLB games, mostly with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Singleton’s always been prone to strikeouts, but like many sluggers before him, he’s made up for it with prodigious power and a willingness to draw walks. Last year, the power never appeared. This year, it’s back, and it could have Singleton in the Majors by the end of April.
After hitting six homers in 73 Triple-A contests last year, Singleton has already collected seven through 17 games this season. His strikeout rate is down (from 30.3 percent last year to 28 percent this year) while his walk rate is still hovering around 15 percent. If his strikeout rate ventures any higher in the Majors, it may be too much for him to offset with his power, but if he can keep that rate around the 26-28 percent mark, his production level could be something like Carlos Pena’s in his prime.
Yankees 2B Gosuke Katoh, Class A Charleston: Katoh, a 2013 second-round pick, had perhaps the best offensive performance of any Gulf Coast League participant last summer, slashing .310/.402/.522. At 6-foot-2 and 180-pounds, the infielder also earned rave reviews for his defensive work at second — if it weren’t for a below-average arm, he’d be a fine candidate to develop at shortstop instead.
Full-season ball has proved a tough test for Katoh so far, though, as he’s struck out in 43.4 percent of his at-bats to date with the RiverDogs through 13 games, slashing .146/.321/.540. The lone bright spot offensively has been a 17-percent walk rate, but for a player with minimal power potential, Katoh’s going to need to drastically sharpen his contact abilities to have value going forward. There’s still a ton of time for the 19-year-old, but it’s just not a promising start at Class A.
Giants RHP Kyle Crick, Double-A Richmond: The 21-year-old right-hander has always struggled with his command, walking 5.11 batters per nine innings in the California League in 2013. Those control issues have continued to plague him in 2014, as he’s totaled 11 walks in as many innings through three starts with the Flying Squirrels. The Fort Worth, Texas, native struggled mightily with his fastball command while walking six in 3 1/3 innings Saturday against Altoona.
Phillies 3B Maikel Franco, Triple-A Lehigh Valley:
I wrote up the bulk of this Franco review over the weekend, before he went off with a 3-for-5 performances at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday. It’s possible Franco’s made some adjustments since I watched tape of him last week — a thing to keep in mind while proceeding — but since I wrote these things and they were at one point true, I’ll leave them here for the internet to enjoy:
After dominating Double-A pitchers in his upper-Minors debut last summer, Franco has scuffled thus far in Triple-A. The 21-year-old is hitting .153 with 15 strikeouts in 16 games, bopping just one extra-base hit before Sunday.
Franco’s struggles were on display in a doubleheader against Syracuse last week when he went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. In his first at-bat, he struck out swinging at an 0-2 breaking ball from Ryan Tatusko, the second breaking pitch he swung through that at-bat. He began his second at-bat by swinging through another nearly identical offering before taking a fastball off the shoulder, then popped up another slider in his third plate appearance in Game 1.
He struck out twice more in Game 2, including a three-pitch putaway in his final at-bat. Even when he did make contact, it was weak, and he also struggled to catch up to inside fastballs from Game 2 Chiefs starter Aaron Laffey, who despite positive results this season, is still Aaron Laffey. Franco’s always had a long swing, and he got away with it easily in the lower levels. The length of that swing, as well as still-developing pitch recognition, seem to be holding him back through 14 games at Triple-A. No time to hit the panic button, but there are adjustments for the Dominican infielder to make.