Here are some notes from some SAL games that I have attended recently at FirstEnergy Park, the home of the Lakewood BlueClaws.
RHP Francisco Morales, Lakewood BlueClaws – 6’4” 185 lbs
Morales is a tall, imposing right handed pitcher with explosive stuff. At 19 years old he still has some room to fill out his body and possibly add some more strength. Morales sat 95-96 with his fastball, inducing lots of swings and misses. He pairs his heater with a nasty biting slider that also flashes plus. His feel for this pitch tailed off toward the end of his outing as he started missing the zone by a bit too much to get chases. Morales threw a few changeups that seemed to be pretty effective, even to right-handed hitters. Overall this was a good first look and I’m excited to hopefully see him again. Next time I want to see him be able to throw strikes deeper into his outing. Morales’ upside is matched by very few pitchers in the entire Phillies organization. He seems to be on the right track in his first season of affiliated ball.
CF Jarred Kelenic, West Virginia Power – 6’1″ 196 lbs
Kelenic is a guy I’ve been excited to see for a couple years now since his days as a prep OF in Wisconsin. He was drafted by the Mets with the 6th overall pick last year and traded to Seattle in December. Coming out of the draft Kelenic was seen as likely the most advanced bat in the high school class, and while he has some competition in Nolan Gorman, he certainly hasn’t disappointed the lofty expectations given by fans and evaluators. In fact, he’s likely exceeding them. Kelenic, in the time since I saw him as a member of the West Virginia Power, has been promoted to the High-A California League.
Among many things, Kelenic is known for his big league body. He’s absolutely ripped, and this strength has translated to the baseball field very well. He has an all fields approach and barrels balls up consistently. He can also lift balls for over the fence, with plenty of power coming from his aforementioned strength. While I didn’t see him let one loose in center, Kelenic often gets glowing reports on his arm strength. He’s playing in center field now, and many believe he has a chance to stick there in the big leagues. But if for whatever reason he can’t handle it, right field would fit him just fine.
2B/SS Luis Garcia, Lakewood BlueClaws – 5’11” 170 lbs
Garcia has been increasingly selective in the box during my most recent looks. It appears that he has been working on seeing more pitches in his AB’s, which should assist him going forward. It’s taken him a little while to adjust to A-ball pitching, which makes sense as he’s still one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League. The Phillies knew going into this season that full-season ball would be a test for Garcia, and although he occasionally struggles, he’s certainly shown flashes of his loud tools. While the numbers haven’t really showed up yet, Garcia is highly skilled at the plate. He has really good hands and solid bat speed. Garcia is able to expect a fastball and quickly adjust to slower pitches with success. Luis’ bat skills are advanced for an 18 year old. That along with a good glove and a very strong arm from SS, he’s fun to watch, and Phillies fans should be excited.
SS Lenyn Sosa, Kannapolis Intimidators – 6’0″ 180 lbs
Sosa impressed me with his smooth actions at SS. He also showed quick hands with the bat. He swung at a couple of bad pitches, one low and away, and one in on the hands, both resulting in soft contact to the infield. So while Sosa may be able to turn on almost anything, he’s likely going to have to improve his pitch selection, as he has consistently posts some of the lowest walk rates in the minors. Power has also been slow to arrive and I’m not sure if it will. Lenyn Sosa’s glove in the infield will likely be the tool that carries him up the ladder, and I’m sure the White Sox wouldn’t mind some bat to go along with it.
OF Julio Rodriguez, West Virginia Power – 6’3″ 180 lbs (listed)
I wrote “listed” in parentheses above because I’m pretty sure Rodriguez is not 6’3″ 180 lbs. He’s likely both taller and heavier. Rodriguez is a large, physical presence with a chance to be a middle of the order bat in the major leagues. I have questions about there being too much movement going on in his swing causing him to be late on fastballs, but this is something I think he will be able to sort out with the help of good coaching. He’s really strong and he hits a lot of balls hard, so the upside is certainly there. Rodriguez is patient at the plate, which is sometimes a hard thing to be when teams are constantly trying to pitch around you, but he will wait for his pitch. I didn’t get the best look at him in my two games that I saw, but I could tell what all the hype is about. He’s big, strong, he has plenty of pop, and he’s performing in full season ball at 18 years old. (Also if he was born 3 days later than he was, he would have been born in 2001.) Off the field, J-Rod is known for being a great kid with plus makeup.
— Owen (@CountryRoads277) June 20, 2019
RHP James McArthur, Lakewood BlueClaws – 6’7″ 230 lbs
McArthur was up to 94 with his fastball, along with an impressive breaking ball at 78-82 that he showed good feel for. He wasn’t able to consistently hit targets, but he threw enough strikes to limit free passes. I believe that the former Ole Miss Rebel has a chance to move quickly to the upper levels of the system, but most likely as a relief pitcher in my opinion.
RHP Kevin Gowdy, Lakewood BlueClaws – 6’4″ 170 lbs
Gowdy is tall and thin with a good delivery, getting plenty of extension, and generating lots of momentum toward home, but there definitely is some effort. He also has quality arm speed. Gowdy sat 91-93 with the fastball, and he may be able to add a couple ticks moving forward as he grows stronger. His 83-84 slider with tight, horizontal break has potential to be a very effective pitch for him. He could get some swings and misses with this offering, but he wasn’t able to throw it for a strike in my look. I don’t know if he will be able to handle long outings as he rises through the organization, unless he can take steps forward in command as well as regularly being able to throw an adequate third pitch.
Other prospect notes around the South Atlantic League:
- Corner infielder Triston Casas has performed well for Greenville. Casas was the Red Sox first round pick in 2018. He’s slashing .267/.344/.526 in 247 AB’s with 14 homeruns.
- OF Trey Harris destroyed the SAL for the Rome Braves (.366/.437/.594) before getting promoted to High-A.
- 18 year old Mets SS prospect Ronny Mauricio is getting plenty of talk as of late. He’s batting .284 as one of the youngest players in the league. The future is bright for Mauricio.
- 1B Mason Martin is destroying baseballs for Greensboro (PIT). He has 18 bombs in 261 AB’s.
- Yankees prospect Luis Gil has cruised through 65.2 innings with a 2.06 ERA and 90 strikeouts for Charleston
- Lakewood (PHI) LHP Ethan Lindow has had some success with a 2.67 ERA.
- There probably aren’t any SAL arms with more prospect hype than Orioles RHP Grayson Rodriguez, their first rounder in 2018. He’s had a solid season and I’ll hopefully catch him later this summer.
Owen Surett covers the South Atlantic League for Prospects1500. Owen is an enthusiast of baseball at all competition levels from college/MLB Draft, to all levels of the minor leagues and MLB. He is an avid fan of the New York Mets and West Virginia Mountaineers. His springs and summers revolve around going to as many baseball games as possible, seeing prospects, and writing scouting reports. He is from New Jersey and regularly attends minor league games in Lakewood (Phillies A) and Trenton (Yankees AA). You can follow him on Twitter @CountryRoads277.