Inbox: Is Cards' Reyes as good as advertised?
Jonathan Mayo responds to fans' questions about baseball's future stars
We're into Week 2 of the Arizona Fall League. Will Jeimer Candelario really hit .667? Will Brooks Pounders continue to put up zeroes?
Chances are, the answer is no to both of those questions. But it sure is fun tracking the performances of all the prospects competing in the AFL. After spending the week in Arizona, it seemed fitting to make this week's Inbox all AFL-related, even if one takes us back into the 2014 vault.
Is Alex Reyes as good as he's been advertised? With electric stuff, could he be at the top end of the rotation?
-- Jake N., St. Louis, MO
Pretty much, yes. Ranked No. 16 on our Top 100, Reyes is easily the best pitching prospect in the AFL (He's the only one in the Top 100).
I was fortunate enough to be at his first start of the Fall League season on Oct. 15. The big right-hander went 3 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out five. The Cubs' Willson Contreras is the only one who made solid contact off of Reyes, with a single back up the middle in the first inning, but Reyes also struck out the side in that opening frame.
Reyes was locating his fastball well overall, consistently hitting 97-98 mph with it. He maintained that throughout his outing, which clearly was cut short because of a strict pitch count (he did have some shoulder soreness during the year). He coupled the fastball with an unhittable power curve, thrown around 79 mph. He threw it for strikes and he buried it in the dirt to get swings and misses.
After the game, Reyes credited catcher Gary Sanchez for calling a good game. That made me chuckle: How hard would it be to get it right with two such overpowering offerings. All Reyes needs is some refinement of his command and some improvement with his changeup and he'll be ready to contribute. I'd look for that to happen at some point in 2016, and he does indeed have frontline starter potential.
What have you seen of Lewis Brinson?
-- Russell M., Nashville, Tenn.
I saw Brinson play twice in the opening week of action in Arizona. While the numbers aren't impressive -- he's gone 3-for-15 so far -- his tools and improvements he's made in terms of his approach at the plate are undeniable.
The Rangers' No. 4 prospect (and No. 65 overall) is coming off of a huge 2015 season, one of the best overall campaigns in the Minor Leagues this year. Brinson finished with a combined .332/.403/.601 line with 20 home runs and 18 stolen bases. Keep in mind, this is a player who struck out 191 times in 122 games during his first full season of pro ball in 2013. In 2015, that strikeout total was just 98.
While he didn't have much to show for it in the first week of the AFL, Brinson has carried that approach over. He drew five walks and struck out four times. He only has three hits, but two of them were for extra bases, with a double and a triple to his credit. He also has three steals as he is clearly working on his baserunning acumen.
Finally, Brinson has clearly filled out and matured. When I first saw him in high school, he reminded me more of a Dexter Fowler type. But he's bigger, in a good way, and as his approach continues to approve, look for more power to come to an already exciting set of tools.
What are your thoughts on Harrison Cooney? I like the move to bullpen for him.
-- Mike F. Palm City, Fla.
The Angels do, too. Cooney, the club's sixth-round pick out of Gulf Coast University in 2013, has been starting for most of his two full seasons of pro ball (He pitched out of the bullpen during his pro debut in '13.). Los Angeles believes his future is in the 'pen. The Angels actually wanted to move him to a relief role full-time at the midway point of the 2015 season, which he largely spent in the Class A Advanced California League. But they felt the 6-foot-2 right-hander needed the innings and the ability to develop all of his pitches, so they kept him stretched out.
They're now using the AFL to help him transition to life as a reliever. He has a sinking fastball with some power to it, one that he throws in the 91-95 mph range. That should tick up in shorter stints. His slider still needs work but he's matured as a pitcher and the Angels feel he's thrown better than his numbers indicate. If he can take hold of his new gig, he could be a good seventh-inning type of reliever in the future.
Not Fall League related, but what are your thoughts on Dan Vogelbach as a first baseman? Is his bat good enough to outweigh his defense?
-- Bradley B., San Diego
Well, it might not be AFL related for 2015, but Vogelbach did participate in the league in 2014, hitting .261 with a .398 on-base percentage in 69 at-bats. The Cubs' No. 13 prospect moved up to Double-A in 2015, but had his season twice interrupted by injuries. As a result, he played in just 81 games total. He finished with a .279/.415/.434 line in 265 total at-bats.
In the time he played, he continued to show his extremely advanced approach at the plate, drawing more walks than strikeouts. The time on the shelf undoubtedly made it more difficult for him to get in a rhythm, though his power numbers haven't been great the last two years (.429 SLG in 2014, .434 this past year).
At this point, I'm not exactly sure what to make of his bat. I think he's going to hit. I think he is going to tap into his power more consistently as he learns how to use that great approach to better advantage at the plate. He is just 22, after all. Will it be enough to counter his below-average defense? I'm not sure about that. We gave him a 30 grade for his fielding on the 20-80 scouting scale. That, plus the very large roadblock that is Anthony Rizzo in Chicago, means to me that Vogelbach needs to be dealt to an American League team, where he can primarily become a designated hitter.