The Lexington Legends had been the Low-A affiliate for the Houston Astros for quite some time. Walking around Whitaker Bank Park, you would see images of Hunter Pence and that one time Roger Clemens pitched there. Those images aren’t there anymore after the Astros bolted and the Royals came in. This is a little sad because this would have been the year to see the Low-A Astros team as opposed to the years of yuck before that, but the Royals are a nice consolation prize. Here are some prospects of note from my four days in Lexington last week.
Prospects to Watch
Bubba Starling, CF – I saw Starling do a little bit of everything in four days, both good and bad. I saw him have some poor ABs, whiff a few mid-80s fastballs, and throw a ball 15 feet over the catcher’s head. I also saw him run down a ball in the gap, turn on a 91 mph fastball and hit it off the wall, and crush a 92 mph fastball way over the right field porch. Such is the life of the 20-year old former first-rounder. He oozes tools, but the skills are not there. Starling still has top-end speed as he ran a few 4.0s to first. He still has a strong arm that he unleashed a few times, though it’s not particularly accurate. And he has pop. The hit tool is his biggest issue, however. He starts with his hands in front of his right collarbone, and as the pitcher delivers the ball, he yanks them back into a deep load and thrusts them forward. That’s a lot of action in a small period of time, and it led to bad contact or no contact at all. He’s an aggressive hitter, and he has trouble even hitting fastballs and looked lost against off-speed stuff. I’m curious to see if and how much he improves when I go back later in the year.
Raul Mondesi, SS – Formerly called “Adalberto”, Mondesi has asked to be called “Raul” from now on. This Raul Mondesi has a few things going his way. The first is that he’ll just turn 18 this July, so he’s extremely young for the league. The second is what could be well-above average defense at short. He made two plays that he had no business making – fielding a grounder up the middle while spinning and firing to first and catching a flare over his shoulder in shallow left-center – and looked very smooth otherwise, though he booted a routine ball by being too casual with it. Offensively, Mondesi is as raw as you might expect a 17-year old to be. He starts in a slightly crouched position, and he doesn’t take a stride or have much of a load. The problem is his ability to recognize off-speed pitches as he instantly shifts his weight forward, and if the pitch isn’t a fastball, he ends up way out on his front foot and lunging at the ball. Mondesi, however, is a patient hitter and frequently worked the count, and he even showed a little pop on a few fly balls, including one off the right-center wall. There’s a lot to like here, but he needs some time.
Cam Gallagher, C – This was a surprise for me. I wasn’t expecting much from him, but I came away quite impressed. The first thing that strikes you is how he stands out physically. Listed at 6’2/220, Gallagher looks like a man among boys. Hitting clean-up, he showed a solid stroke and barreled the ball a few times a night, and he showed the ability to work the count as well. Gallagher also hit the farthest home run of the four games, clearing the bleachers in left. Behind the plate, Gallagher looked excellent as well. He received well and moved well to block pitches, and he nailed 4 of 6 base stealers with a strong, accurate arm. I really liked what I saw here and am curious to see what he looks like later in the season.
Miguel Almonte, SP – Listed at 6’2/180, I’d be shocked if Almonte was above 6’ tall or 180 pounds. Despite his slight frame, he brings the arm strength – sitting 91-92 while touching 93. Almonte adds a strong change-up with sink and tail that he turned over well at 81-82 and had batters flailing. His curveball is his third pitch, and it lags behind the change-up, though he did throw a couple solid ones at 76-77. The issue in his start was his command, possibly caused by a choppy delivery. He starts with several mini steps to turn his body and lift his leg, and he also has inconsistent hand movement – starting them at his belt, moving them up to his chest, back to his belt, and back up before taking his arm back. It was hard for him to repeat on Friday, but he’s only 20 and has the stuff to succeed.
Possible Role Players
Humberto Arteaga, INF – Arteaga played both 2B and SS in 4 games, and he played both very well, showing smooth actions and a strong arm. The issue is at the plate where he didn’t make much solid contact, and when he did, he doesn’t offer much power.
Bryan Brickhouse, SP – Brickhouse started the game by hitting 93-95 in the first inning, and he sat 90-92 the rest of the game. His secondaries, however, were nowhere near good enough to get hitters off his fastball. The fastball alone could make him a middle reliever, but he won’t be anything more than that without another pitch.
Aroni Nina, SP – Nina sat 88-91 for most of his outing, but he did uncork a few 93 and 94 mph fastballs in the first inning. Like Brickhouse, the secondaries were nothing special, and worse than Brickhouse, he’s already 23. But arms that throw 93-94 don’t grow on trees, and if he can do that in one-inning stints, there’s some value there.
Christian Binford, SP – Binford literally stands out at 6’6, and he uses that frame to throw a fastball that sat 88-91 and touched 92 a couple times along with a decent mid-70s curveball. The big draw is the frame as there’s room to add some muscle and maybe a few mph.