This is a breakdown of the players being sent to Arizona for the fall league. These highlight the player, their strengths, and my thoughts on what they need to improve upon to take their game to the next level.
He is a power pitcher with a heavy fastball that ranges 93-96 mph with nice movement and good deception. Clayton flashes a nasty slider with 10/5 tilt, showing solid bite. The pitch gets a bit too much spin and has a life of its own at times. He takes a little off and reaches back with everything, so the slight little deception keeps hitters honest; his angle and quirks in the delivery make it tough to pick up at times. He has a stand tall delivery and leaves the ball riding high at times. His next step is continuing to extend the follow through and allow the ball to sit lower in the zone. His pitches are ready and he has a good enough two pitch combination to sit in the 7th or 8th inning right now. He simply needs to work to improve his control and command. If he can refine the release point and work downhill, he could be a name in the cards for the Orioles in 2013.
Mike is a LHP with the slot and stuff that should be able to get out both sides of the plate, but really tough on left handed hitters. His fastball is from a higher 3/4 slot and really dances in on the hands with late lateral action glove side. He sits mainly 90-92 mph, but can rear back hitting 93-94 mph with a little less movement and feel to locate. The slider works well as a sweep pitch against the lefties, and he tends to back door it to the right handed guys. I would like to see him use that above average offering to work the right side of the plate a bit better. His change up is good enough to play and should be used as another offering that could continue to wreak havoc with left handed hitters. His next hurdle is to tighten the command of the fastball and change up, as he can get out of synchronization and the result is a bit flat and a touch north of where I think the Orioles want to see it. At worst, he could be a solid LOOGY next season, but a touch improvement in the offering and location could see him be a solid inning eater out of the bullpen, expanding his versatility to the parent club.
I touched on Mike Wright earlier this season (Scouting Report) and his arsenal has taken a huge step in the right direction. I think the slider will be a solid swing and miss offering, just he is deemphasizing the offering to build upon his change up and improving the command on the fastball. I saw the curve progression in his first full season of using the pitch. It has moments where it flashes, but re-enforcement of the offering must continue to show the plus potential down the road. His arsenal and command are pretty much set, although both can always show marked improvements as no one is perfect. I think the biggest hurdle is consistency. I think continuing to blend efficiency and knockout ability will allow him to have an easier workload for 6/7 innings. I do feel he has No. 2 – No. 3 type of potential and is transitioning into a pitcher. This fall will be a good test for him, as there are a handful of solid hitters on each team. It is a chance to increase his workload against some of the best competition he has seen to date.
I have touched several times about his above average ability behind the dish. He has the makeup to be a sound defensive backstop; I rarely run across a pitcher that fails to say a bad thing about how he calls a game. His setup and footwork is sound and his adjustments make life easy on a pitcher. He has a solid transition and quick release to consistently pop 1.79 – 1.82, which is something to hold your hat on as a catcher. After watching him a few times this summer, his timing is just slightly off, his numbers should be a bit better. He is seeing the ball well, but that 50 game suspension put him behind the development 8-ball this summer. He has a decent stick and enough so to be a serviceable backup catcher. This is the area of the game where any improvements will help his chances being considered for the Orioles. If he can simply maintain serviceable contact, he has the surprising pop that could help it play up. He is set as the Taxi Squad player, limiting his game action, but being at the park everyday and working on his craft can only help seeing the time he missed this spring. He is subjected to the rule 5 and a solid fall showing to a new set of eyes could get him claimed as a backup catcher option for many teams, as teams can always use catchers and pitchers finding them under every rock.
The kid simply has power in bunches. It comes off in a hurry, routinely displaying over 100 mph off the bat, which easily rates 6/7. His arm is one of the best in the system. I once watched him take a relay with the runner 3/4 to third base and still shoot a frozen rope beating him by two steps. The arm grades out to a clean 7. He has been aggressively pushed by the Orioles and is always one of the youngest hitters in his league. This aggression has constantly placed him against a better class of pitchers, who have improved command and secondary offerings. Jon has seen ups and downs, riding hot hands at times. It is not a question of bat speed for his contact, it is plate awareness and pitch recognition. He is getting fed a heaping dose of change ups from right handed hitters and there is a hole in the swing that will have to be ironed out. He also can get a bit pull happy, leaving him susceptible to low/away. He has that power, and there is no reason to think his contact can’t at least be average. I think it can be better. He must use this time to work on staying back; he is a dead fastball hitter with good barrel awareness at times, but he must improve his ability to ride with the offerings and go with the pitch. The extra work and extra at bat against a solid class of pitching should continue to allow his offensive game to blossom.
Having touched on Hoes earlier in the week, I will simply say that he has improved his contact a great deal over the last two years. Clearly it has the ability to be above average, with the natural fast twitch ability to push plus. He is a jack of all trades defender that needs to improve his craft in LF. This is a bit of a litmus test for Hoes in October. He is on the edge of the 40 man roster and the Orioles could be on the fence about adding him. He could display some surprising power in Arizona because the ball jumps off the bats in some of those stadiums in the fall. Either way, he has to build on his baseline skill set and show the Orioles they should add him into their long term plans. I think he could have a surprising eye popping showcase. If the Orioles do not add him, there will be a few teams that will and these few weeks will solidify that statement.
Chris is a guy that has had his share of problems staying healthy. In 2007 he had a UCL tear that required Tommy John Surgery and in 2010 he tore a ligament in his foot. Ultimately, it left him as an UDFA and a pitcher that has always sat under the radar. Two years removed from any injury and he has shed a good deal of weight. He has a solid two mix pitch with a upper 80s fastball that can sneak north from time to time, but has a good deal of movement hand side that makes it tough for left handed hitters to square up. He can get right-handed hitters chasing at times. He has a nice bread and butter change up that ranges upper 70s, and even flashes lower readings at times. The pitch shows solid deception playing well of the FB, and has good fade that plays up well off the lateral moving FB. He has a curve in his pocket, but it is not really a factor on a major league level than just a show me grade. What I really like is that he is strictly about balance, and takes a bit off here and there. He works well at setting hitters up, allowing the fringe arsenal play up. He is getting some great exposure, and you never know if he could factor as a LOOGY in some way down the road.