Notes from watching two minor league games

kyle rollerHey everyone, here is another column I have decided to start about the Yankees minor league players. I have been watching games on milb.tv for quite some time now, and recently I have been writing down some of my observations. I figure people might be interested in some of the observations I have been able to make by watching some of the games.

It is important to emphasize that again I am not a scout, and I am in no way an authority on this matter, but I played the game for a long time and there are certain things that I can pick up on that I feel to be important and I think would be helpful in evaluating these players.

Here are a couple of the observations I have made with some analysis of what it could mean for the player going forward.

I was able to watch one of the Trenton Thunder games, and I came away impressed with several players, and have some notes about several others.

First off, I watched a couple of at bats by Mason Williams. I noticed that he has great speed down the first base line. In addition he appears to have the ability to make contact and avoid strikeouts. One thing I noticed about him was that his swing has a tendency to get a bit long sometimes, which cause him to be late on a couple of pitches and in one case led to a lazy fly ball to left field. Given that his long swing doesn’t lead to a decreased contact rate, I don’t see it being a huge problem for him. It may become more of an issue at higher levels when he is consistently facing pitchers with higher velocity. He also does have the ability to shorten up the swing a bit. In the second at bat I saw him do just that and he had a better at bat and hit a nice line drive. Overall I am impressed with his athletic ability, and I can tell just from watching him a short time he oozes with potential.

Tyler Austin, who was recently placed on the DL for an unknown lower body injury, has a picture perfect swing. He is also more athletic than I think most people give him credit for. He puts together great at bats and I think his main issue going forward will be remaining healthy. If he does then I could definitely see him playing a big role in the majors someday.

Kyle Roller has a violent, max effort, uppercut swing. It is no surprise to me that he has been hitting with such power this season (five homeruns). It is also no surprise to me that he has a lot of swing and misses. To me, this is okay because of the amount of power he is able to generate. He has really quick hands though which I think is important. He has an explosive bat. Given the current situation at first base, it will be difficult for him to break in as long as Tex is healthy, but if there is an injury I could see him with the major league team and being a formidable bat in their lineup if he ever gets an opportunity.

Gary Sanchez is another guy with a really good swing. It’s smooth and quick, and he does a nice job of taking balls back up the middle. In his second at bat, he took a swing that looked like he placed no effort into it, took the ball the other way to right field, and hit what looked like a lazy fly ball off the bat. The ball ended up landing just in front of the warning track in the right fielders glove. To me this showed the kind of power he has, and I would love to see what it looks like when he really connects with a ball.

Robert Refsnyder is another guy who seems to put together great at bats. In one of the at bats I saw he worked the count 3-2 and then fouled off a pitch. In this at bat he let several close pitches which were balls go by. He appears to have a really discerning eye. He ended up drawing a walk in that at bat. He has a quick and direct bat path. I came away really impressed with him. I also was able to see him get some action in the field. He had two balls hit to him. The first was a ground ball up the middle on the slower side, he was able to get to it and tried to make a jump-turn throw which two bounced to the first baseman and was not in time. It would have taken a great play to get the guy. The second was a hard ground ball to his glove side which he made a spectacular play on. He made a full extension diving stop and stood up to make the throw and get the leadoff hitter just in time. His fielding is really coming along and I feel he has the potential to be a plus second baseman once he becomes more polished with experience.

Ben Gamel got on base in both at bats I watched. One at bat he hit a hard grounder up the middle for a single. He has superior bat control and a good inside out swing. Power will continue to be an important aspect of his game which he will hopefully develop, but with his approach he will always hit for average in my opinion.

For Charleston I got a really good look at Caleb Smith’s last outing. There are several things I noticed about him. He is a big guy, and he stands tall on the mound which compounds his height. He has some definite pop in his arm. There was no radar gun at this game but the other team was not seeing his pitches well and were often behind him. His pitches get a lot of movement, both left and right. He throws a pitch that looks like a cutter that moves in on righties, and he got several outs on that pitch. He does seem to have a bit of difficulty controlling that pitch though. One thing of concern that I noted was that he really spent most of his time up in the zone. He missed a lot up in the zone and many of his strikes were up in the zone as well. In this game he got away with it because the opposing team was not able to make good contact on those pitches. He got a ton of swings and misses up there, and in general. My main concern is that as he gets to the higher levels those pitches will start leaving the park more frequently. The broadcaster did mention that coaches had been working with him on trying to keep the ball down, so hopefully he will improve this aspect of his game. For now though I think Low-A hitters are going to continue to really struggle against him, because his stuff overall is too good for this level. He didn’t face a single left hander in the game I saw, which speaks to his ability to get righties out.

Michael O’Neil has a lot of swing and miss in his swing, but much like Kyle Roller he has a big swing. When he makes contact he really smashes the ball, as is evidenced by his five homeruns, which is currently second in the SAL. He is also a lot faster than I expected, and if he can cut down on the strikeouts a bit his average will soar. He is the type who could leg out a lot of infield hits if he put the ball in play more.

That’s all I have for today. I will be watching more games in the near future and hopefully will have more observations for you in the coming weeks.

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One Response to Notes from watching two minor league games

  1. Michael R says:

    Good analysis. Thanks.