NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida vs Texas Tech

Notes from the Field: Short Season / Got No Reason

In my Twitter bio I used to include the line, “Watches too many short-season bullpens.” Well I have been at it again. So here are some more notes from the land of 1-6-2-5-2 double plays, and dudes shoving with 69 mph curveballs.

Desmond Lindsay, OF (Brooklyn Cyclones)

Lindsay has been battling leg injuries this year that limited him during Spring Training proper and kept him on the shelf even after short-season started. You might recall that he also missed most of his Senior season of high school due to a hamstring issue, which is one of the reasons he was still on the board for the Mets first pick in the second round. Multiple lower body issues for a player whose profile is a bit speed-dependent is concerning (Mets fans will no doubt remember a young Jose Reyes’s balky hamstrings), and even now Lindsay appears to be playing a bit compromised. He was moving at about 75 percent, and ran upright and stiffly. He was 4.7 down the line on a groundball you’d expect to get a good dig off of, and looked uncomfortable chasing down flyballs in the outfield. Unsurprisingly, he DH’d on the second of back-to-back looks.

The good news is the underlying profile here hasn’t changed. Lindsay still looks good at the plate. The bat speed grades out as plus, and he dropped the barrel on a low-inside pitch and parked major league fastball velocity. That’s power potential he didn’t really show last year. The approach is still more advanced than you’d expect given the swing-and-miss issues. And while more lost game reps in centerfield (a new position for him) are concerning, he still looks like a potential good regular, albeit one whose risk profile has gotten even murkier.

Peter Alonso, 1B (Brooklyn Cyclones)

Alonso, the Mets second-round pick out of Florida, is the guy that is going to get over-ranked on team lists this offseason. That’s not to say he is a non-prospect or anything, but people will get seduced by his stat line in a league that isn’t appreciably better than the SEC. The Mets like to load up their Brooklyn roster, and Alonso, among others there, could easily be at a full-season level right now. Would he have as much success there? Alonso’s stance is wide open and he stands well off the plate. He uses a medium leg lift to close, but he starts the whole process early and lets the leg hang a bit before getting it down. The timing here is inconsistent and often leaves his upper half trying to catch up. The swing itself has some length to the ball, the bat speed doesn’t jump out at you, and Alonso struggles with balls below his waist and spin generally. It’s a long-and-strong power profile, and those tend to struggle the first time they see higher-quality stuff. Even short-season arms have occasionally been able to exploit the holes (though they have many more times given him balls up in the zone he can both catch up to and get extended on).  

Those concerns aside, dude is strong. I wouldn’t blanch at the suggestion that there is 70 raw power here.  Alonso launched an F6 with almost seven seconds of hang time, and the next day casually poked a change-up into the right field bleachers. I thought it was a medium-depth pop-up off the bat. Here I will drop in the usual caveats about the pressure on the offensive tools for first-base-only college guys, though Alonso’s a better athlete than you’d expect, given that he is a very large man, and projects as at least an average defender at first. I half-suspect he shows up next April in full-season ball with a markedly different swing after a full spring of pro instruction, so perhaps I will be the one who “under-ranks” him.

Merandy Gonzalez, RHP (Brooklyn Cyclones)

It’s always nice to get a second in-season look at a pitcher. One start can show you what is possible, but subsequent ones help shade in some of the sparser outlines. When I saw Merandy in late June, I saw a shorter righty with a big arm, some command, and an advanced, if inconsistent, curve for the level. I liked Gonzalez as a prospect, but he wasn’t a hard scout. He reminded me a bit of 2012 Hansel Robles. Gonzalez is younger at the same level, and the raw stuff is a couple ticks better, but he is also rawer generally and lacks Robles’ feel for pitching.

In my second look Gonzalez struggled a bit. He lacked command of both the fastball and the curve in this outing and the issues got worse when he gassed in the fifth and sixth innings. However the change-up, which had been a total non-entity in the first start, at least flashed below-average a couple times. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but given what I saw in June (and the general state of offspeed in the Penn League), there is at least a bit of developmental potential peaking through. Early in this start, there were a lot more 95s on my gun than my previous look, and overall the four-seamer had a bit more life. The overall profile and projection hasn’t really changed, but the developmental path and potential pitfalls for Gonzalez are a bit clearer now.

Jordan Humphreys, RHP (Kingsport Mets)

The elevator pitch for Humphreys, the Mets 18th round pick in 2015, is something along the lines of: “He’s the version of Merandy Gonzalez you send to the Appalachian League.” He’s also a shorter, physically mature (almost stocky) righthander that works off a fastball/curve combo. His fastball only gets up to 94, and the curve is rougher around the edges, so you are going to need to squint and project a bit more to get the same end result out of the profile. On the plus side, the fastball has some life down in the zone, and the command wasn’t bad for rookie ball (although that and the velocity wavered some as he tired). The curveball (77-80) lacked a consistent shape, although his feel improved later in the start. Even the better ones showed a bit early, and were more of a lazy slurve. Humphreys did break off one good one, a downer 11-5 type. The changeup is firm (82-86), but functional enough for Kingsport. He maintains his armspeed well, but has trouble turning it over. In addition to the lack of projection, the arm action is a bit stiff, and he was working only out of the stretch, so the present-day screams ‘pen arm’ even more than Gonzalez. Still, I will always be a sucker for a pitcher with a bit of the ol’ Chad Billingsley ass.

Joseph Zanghi, RHP (Brooklyn Cyclones)

I was feeling lousy the last day of my  Brooklyn look. Too much sun and not enough water over the first two games, combined with two 11 PM manhattans on an empty stomach Saturday night made for an unplesany ninety-minute subway ride to Coney Island on Sunday. I wasn’t going to miss Szapucki’s start, but I talked myself into bolting after he got pulled. I still had a two-hour drive home (after the subway ride back), and enough notes on the position players to fill out these blurbs. Inevitably though, I stayed in my seat for a parade of short-season relievers, as a low-scoring affair trundled along at a three-hour pace. Zanghi, the Mets 24th round pick out of a junior college in 2015, finished things off.

I hadn’t seen Zanghi yet, so I threw a gun on him. 91, then 92. Okay, that is better than most relievers at this level, but hardly special. Then a few 93s and 94s, a hard slider that flashed plus. There is some effort in the delivery, and yes, I’ve joked about the 91-94 with a slider relief arm before, but those guys do pitch in Double-A. So I am sure #MetsTwitter will be asking me about Zanghi when he is striking out a batter an inning in Bingo in a couple years. Good thing I stuck around long enough to have an answer.

Nabil Crismatt, RHP (Brooklyn Cyclones)

I enjoy watching Nabil Crismatt pitch.

The stuff isn’t going to leap out at you, although Crismatt has made tidy work of New-York-Penn-League lineups this year. It’s a fun profile though. He stays closed and gets low. There’s an aesthetically pleasing lollipop curve in the high-60s that befuddles hitters and good feel for the change-up. His fastball doesn’t light up the gun, topping out at 90, but Crismatt knows how to mix his pitches and is comfortable throwing anything in any count. He’s in better shape this year too, and I suspect he will continue to outperform his profile as he moves forward.

But that isn’t why I enjoy watching Nabil Crismatt pitch.

As you may have gathered, watching lower-level baseball can be a bit of a slog. Crismatt works fast and throws strikes. In a league where pitchers look utterly confused about to what to do with runners on base, slowing the game’s pace to that of a Superflex film, his half-innings just hum along, getting me back to Sunnyside on a Saturday night before the kitchens close.

He can’t really be held responsible for my decision-making while there of course.

Photo Credit: Steven Branscombe- USA Today Sports

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