Before I get into my weekly AFL scouting reports for the week, I want to share how excited and pleased I am that the Short Hops podcast that I have been part of for five years has found a new home, right on this site. Short Hops will now be powered by ClubhouseCorner.com with Doug Hall as the new host. We will begin the podcast the second week of January 2019 when we can take advantage of a new calendar year and a new baseball season. We will have an emphasis on fantasy baseball and all the news and information in the baseball world.
We will remind you of the premiere of the new version of Short Hops as we get closer to our first podcast.
We are into the third week of the Arizona Fall League and I am going to share my next edition of Fall League player profiles.
Each week until the season ends just before Thanksgiving, I will share my thoughts on players I am watching in the beautiful fall weather in the Arizona desert.
You can always follow my game-day commentary on Twitter @BerniePleskoff.
JULIO PABLO MARTINEZ-OF-TEXAS RANGERS
AGE: 24 B/T: L/L HT: 5’9” WT: 174 pounds
Last Monday at Surprise, I asked those in the press box with me if anyone liked Julio-Pablo Martinez as much as me? Each of the three people adjacent to me gave me a resounding “”yes”. Then Martinez went out and hit a triple, a homer, a single and walked. He’s just a really exciting young prospect to watch. He’s one of those “electric” players that makes things happen. When he hit for the cycle, I wasn’t surprised.
Martinez came to the Rangers from Cuba as an international free agent in 2018. It may be possible this is the first you are hearing about this young, exciting outfielder. You wouldn’t be alone. I had no idea what to expect when I saw him among the Rangers fall contingent.
So far, Martinez has had scouts, analysts and fans buzzing with unconventional play and superb results.
Martinez can approach an at-bat and look as if he’s going to bunt. He may pull the bat back and smoke a pitch to the gap in right center. Or, he might hit the ball over the wall to center. Or, he may half-swing a pitch towards second base and beat it out with great speed. He did them all in Monday’s game. The defense had no clue where or how to play him. And he continually produces results.
Martinez may be small in frame, but he is plenty strong. He can barrel the ball out of any part of the park. However, it is his speed and bat control that will carry him to a solid career as a major league player. He has very good eye-hand coordination and good patience at the plate. His pitch recognition is well above average, and he knows the strike zone well. I have been impressed that Martinez is willing to accept a walk. It is not unusual for him to foul off pitches until he sees a pitch to his liking. It really is a very mature approach.
I have seen him playing center field or serving as a designated hitter. He is a good defender with an ability to read the ball well off the bat. Of course, he can make up for a misstep with that good closing speed.
If there is any issue with Martinez, it may well be his lack of a power arm. He has enough arm strength to play center field on a regular basis, but I think runners will try to take an extra base on him. His arm strength and throwing tool are probably a bit under average.
While he got some exposure in lower level leagues for the Rangers this year, the Fall League is Martinez’ first true exposure to higher quality stateside baseball. In essence, he is dealing with acclimation to a new country as well as learning his new teammates and an entire new league. It isn’t an easy task, but I feel Martinez is very, very capable of learning quickly.
I think there is little doubt Martinez can succeed by using his speed and solid hit tool, along with above average defense as a complete player capable of playing at the highest level. We can probably look to Martinez to build on his Cuban experience and spend the coming year learning baseball and life in the United States. Then in 2020, we should see the very energetic and exciting Julio Pablo Martinez patrolling the outfield in Texas.
Scouting summary: An exciting prospect from Cuba capable of changing a game with outstanding speed, surprising power and a full set of tools.
Scouting grade: 55
CARTER KIEBOOM-SS-WASHINGTON NATIONALS
AGE: 21 B/T: R/R HT: 6′-2” WT: 190 pounds
Kieboom was a 1st round selection of the Washington Nationals in 2016. He was drafted out of Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia.
The brother of Nationals catcher Spencer Kieboom, Carter has a good hitting tool. As an average defender at third base, his bat should keep him high on the prospect lists. I like Kieboom’s defense a bit better with each look. To me, he is a complete player capable of soaring through the Nationals development program. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Kieboom, only 21, could find himself in Washington as early as 2020.
Kieboom got off to a great start in professional baseball with a good rookie season in 2016 and an exciting 2017 when he was a .297 hitter before injuring his hamstring. He was shut down that year after only 255 plate appearances. This past season, Kieboom picked it up with a .280 year playing for Potomac in Class-A Advanced and Harrisburg in Double-A.
Kieboom makes excellent contact at the plate. In fact, this past season he had only 109 strikeouts in his 558 plate appearances. He walked 58 times showing he has patience at the plate. He uses his good eye-hand coordination and plate discipline to get the barrel of the bat to the ball. His good bat speed will help power his offensive game.
Kieboom makes the pitcher really work. He has a nice combination of power, good hitting skills and adequate defense. A lack of range may ultimately convert Kieboom to third base. He doesn’t have much speed to steal bases or easily take an extra base.
Kieboom brings good instincts and natural ability to his role. He plays with confidence and appears to know the game and he knows his own skills and limitations well. He has a bright future with a chance to hit homeruns and make an impact with the Nationals as soon as 2020.
Scouting summary: A solid offense-first shortstop with good baseball instincts who may be even better suited at third base.
Scouting grade: 55
JASARDO (JAZZ) CHISHOLM-SS-ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
AGE: 20 B/T: L/R HT: 5’11 WT: 165 pounds
Jazz Chisholm is an exciting, electric type player. He has an outstanding combination of power/speed/and a solid hitting tool to compliment his above average defense at shortstop.
Chisholm was an international free agent signing out of the Bahamas. He made his stateside debut in 2016 playing for Missoula in the Pioneer Rookie League. He hit .281 that first year.
This past season Chisholm played at Class-A Kane County and Class-A Advanced Visalia. He hit a combined 25 home runs while driving in 70 runs. He stole 17 bases in 31 attempts. A torn meniscus cost him playing time in 2017 so this past year was very important in what could be considered his first full, 112 game season of development.
Chisholm is the type of player that makes things happen. Ultimately, I think he will become a much tougher out as he learns to read pitchers and pitches better and gets more repetition against quality pitching. His work in the Fall League will help improve his plate discipline and his contact rate. This past season he struck out a total of 149 times in 501 plate appearances.
A multi-tooled player, Chisholm’s slight frame doesn’t come close to suggesting the power I have seen this fall. He has very quick hands and strong wrists and forearms. His bat speed and measured swing generate a strong and powerful ball off the bat. He incorporates his entire body into his swing. I believe his power will surprise those who don’t trust his slight frame to deliver home runs.
A good defender with range and a quick first step, I believe Chisholm can easily remain at shortstop. He has a strong arm with good carry.
He is now getting used to seeing better and better competition than he faced in the Bahamas. As he progresses and gains more depth to his frame, Chisholm could become a very powerful force in the middle of the infield. But he needs development time and it is unlikely we will see him on the major league roster until 2021.
Scouting summary: Athletic, powerful shortstop with a slight frame and good overall skills
Scouting grade: 55
PAVIN SMITH-1B-ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
AGE: 22 B/T: L/L HT: 6’2” WT: 210 pounds
The Diamondbacks chose Pavin Smith as the 7th player taken overall in the 2017 draft. It is possible they had a pending departure of All-Star Paul Goldschmidt in mind when they chose Smith out of the University of Virginia. It is ironic that Smith wears No.44 on his Salt River team, as that is Goldschmidt’s number with the Diamondbacks.
After beginning his career in 2017 at Short Season Hillsboro by hitting .318 in 222 plate appearances covering 51 games, Smith advanced to Class-A Advanced Visalia this past season. He hit .255 with 11 home runs and 54 RBI in 504 plate appearances. In his 120 games, Smith struck out only 65 times. His contact ability and his sweet swing are features of his offensive game. He has a very advanced hitting approach and advanced hitting mechanics.
Smith is patient at the plate, he recognizes pitches well and he knows the strike zone. Using a measured swing, Smith does not approach his at-bat looking to pound the ball over the fence. Instead, he takes pitchers deep in counts and approaches each at-bat with discipline.
From what I have seen so far, pitchers will have to work to retire Smith, as he will swing at his pitches as opposed to those of the pitcher.
In my evaluation Smith is an above average defender at first base, but his first step is slow. Other than his lack of speed, Smith brings a complete group of other skills to his game. He is slow enough to perhaps clog the bases. However, he makes up for a lack of speed by hitting the ball to the gap and making good line-drive contact.
I have been impressed this fall with Smith’s selectivity, his plate discipline and his professional approach as a hitter. He will blend well in a lineup and provide his share of offense to a team effort. But as of now, his team won’t be able to count on him to end the game with a towering home run. He is the type of guy to move the lineup along with a good on-base percentage and enough hitting skill to move the line to the home run hitters. Eventually, however, it is likely Smith could reach 20 home seasons. Maybe more.
I look for Smith to be on the big league roster by late 2020 or 2021 at the latest.
Scouting summary: An average player with a disciplined hit tool and solid baseball mechanics on both offense and defense
Scouting grade: 50
LUIS ALEXANDER BASABE-OF-CHICAGO WHITE SOX
AGE: 22 B/T: S/R HT: 6′-0” WT: 160 pounds
The slightly built Luis Alexander Basabe, is an international free agent signed by the Boston Red Sox out of Venezuela. The Red Sox also signed his twin brother Luis Alejandro Basabe. Both Basabe twins have since been traded. Luis Alexander to the White Sox in the Chris Sale to Boston deal, and Luis Alejandro to the Diamondbacks in a 2016 trade for Brad Ziegler.
Luis Alexander has now played parts of six seasons in the minor leagues. He has compiled a .248 batting average in 2255 plate appearances. He has stolen 106 bases while being caught stealing 38 times. His speed is probably his most refined tool, although he is an excellent defensive center fielder as well.
Meniscus surgery cost Basabe time with the White Sox. However, he completed 438 plate appearances this past season between Class-A Advanced Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. He had a composite average of .258 with 15 home runs and 56 RBI. It was an excellent campaign for the switch-hitting center fielder. The only hiccup was being caught stealing 12 times in 28 attempts.
As a fast runner and potential base stealer, Basabe has to use more discipline at the plate. He has a high strikeout rate , but his walk rate is solid. If he gets on base, he is clearly a threat to steal. Recognizing pitches quicker and being more selective should help him improve at the plate. He still has lots of work to do in his overall approach to hitting.
Basabe appears to hit left-handed pitching better as a right-handed hitter than he does hitting righties while he is batting left-handed.
Defensively, Basabe is a very good outfielder. Along with highly rated prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, there may well be a place in the future outfield picture for Basabe.
Perhaps however, he will have to fight another prospect, Blake Rutherford for a big league roster spot. In short, Basabe still has work to do on his overall game. At this point, I would classify him as an average major league quality player with a chance to make a big league roster if he improves his overall hitting. It would seem the White Sox outfield depth includes players that can handle any of the three outfield positions. However, in my evaluation, Basabe best fits in center.
A member of the 40-man White Sox roster, Basabe will be watched closely this fall and spring to determine if he can help the big league club, and when that help will be required.
Scouting summary: A speedy center fielder with a good defensive skill and enough of a hit tool to contribute
Scouting grade: 50
CRISTIAN PACHE-OF-ATLANTA BRAVES
AGE: 19 B/T: R/R HT: 6’-2” WT: 185 pounds
Cristian Pache was a very highly rated international prospect signed by the Atlanta Braves in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. Pache played at two levels in his rookie season, playing rookie ball the Gulf Coast League Braves and for the Danville Braves in the Appalachian League. He hit a combined .309 in 236 plate appearances. He struck out only 24 times. He stole 11 bases in 16 attempts and he had four doubles and seven triples among his 68 hits. Pache did not hit a home run.
After that great start, Pache played at Class-A Rome in 2017. He hit .281, but he again showed the extra base power and speed. He hit 13 doubles and had eight triples. Once again, Pache did not hit a home run. This time he stole 32 bases, but he was caught 14 times.
Last season, only his third in professional baseball stateside, Pache played at two levels. He hit .285 at Class-A Advanced Florida with eight home runs, 20 doubles and five triples. So his power began to blossom a bat, but he remained a consistent doubles/triples hitter. He stole seven bases and was caught six times.
Advancing to Double-A Mississippi during the season, Pache hit .260 with one homer, three doubles and one triple in his 109 plate appearances. He stole no bases and was caught stealing twice.
I illustrate his entire career to make that point that Pache has superb speed, a nice gap hit tool and good contact skills. But as the competition gets better and tougher, his numbers show he has work to do to improve in all of his game.
Even after playing at several levels in a short span of time, we must remember that Cristian Pache is still a teenager. He is a superb center fielder. He is fast enough to close on balls quickly and make up for any hiccups taking a bad route. But bad routes are rare for him. I am watching him show his defensive skill almost every game.
Without home run power yet, things may change as Pache fills out a bit more. Some of the gap doubles may find the other side of the fence in due time. He isn’t quite sold on the popular form of baseball swing that hunts home runs. Not Pache. At least not yet.
Pache has little work to do defensively. He does play shallow and he challenges hitters to hit the ball over his head. I think his coaches will tweak his positioning as he goes forward. But it is his combination of speed and defense that should assure Pache of a place on the Braves roster by 2021 at the latest. By that time, his power may have developed.
On offense, Pache has very quick hands, a short, sweet swing and an ability to center the ball off the barrel of the bat. He is consistently driving line-drives to all parts of the field. I think some power may come, but for now, his advanced hitting mechanics are leading to the gaps.
Scouting summary: An athletic center fielder with outstanding defense and enough speed to change games
Scouting grade: 55
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