Hickory’s Loaded Outfield
The Rangers’ Single-A outfield of Jordan Akins, Nick Williams, Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara included more talent than most minor league teams have on an entire roster. From a scouting standpoint, the quartet represented a full spectrum of talents and abilities ranging from the lottery ticket with superstar upside to a high floor player without flashy tools. For somebody looking to learn more about prospect writing from a first hand perspective, consider the Hickory team a prerequisite 101 course.
Speaking of crazy upside with absolutely zero floor, Jordan Akins is repeating the South Atlantic League with a touch more success the second time around. With a .240/.262/.357 triple slash line including a 67/4 strikeout-to-walk ratio (not a typo), Akins leading off for Hickory was comedic. However, I’ve long supported the idea of batting prospects at the top of the batting order to maximize plate appearances.
Akins is a man-among-boys on the baseball field, reminding me of Giancarlo Stanton in Double-A. In game action, he flailed wildly at pitch-after-pitch before connecting on a double during the second game I watched him play. The ball was a screaming line drive to the left-center field gap that resembled a skipped rock after touching the ground, bouncing off the fence. It was a tantalizing glimpse, but not one seen often enough. For as easy as it is to become enamored with the tools, how does one rectify 67/4? Never have I seen an athlete make playing baseball so difficult.
Is Akins worth your final roster spot in a deep A.L. only dynasty league? Sure. I’d stash him. However, it would be with the understanding he’s more likely to play in the NFL than MLB.
Lewis Brinson just turned 19 and is producing at 15% better than league average. Good and good. However, his 38.9% strikeout rate is another ungodly number worthy of concern. If the Dexter Fowler/Cameron Maybin comps haven’t already started, they will. Brinson has big tools, an long, lean frame and plenty of athleticism to stick in center field. And with Baseball Prospectus full of Texas guys who love tools, Brinson will be pushed to the moon like Brock Lesnar when he debuted in WWE.
This isn’t to say it isn’t semi-deserved. Few prospects have as high a ceiling. I can even argue his floor much like I did Anthony Gose a few years back. even if Brinson doesn’t hit, his potential as a plus center fielder with speed equals a big leaguer. Plus, he has explosive power which he’s already tapping into. Brinson is a solid dynasty league own although I’d be awfully tempted to sell should he enter the top-20 of all prospects in baseball. While I don’t think it will happen in 2014, I suspect Brinson will have huge helium entering his Age-21 season.
As a side note, Brinson is considered a great makeup guy who is always looking for coaches willing to give him extra work — an excellent sign of maturity and professionalism at a young age.
5-million dollar man Nomar Mazara is another interesting prospects who impresses both on and off the baseball field. Over the weekend, I spoke with both a scouting contact and the media relations director for Hickory. They raved about Mazara’s work ethic and how great his makeup is. One thing readers at FanGraphs do not realize is that conversations with contacts about players range far beyond whether a guy is good at baseball or not. The fact Mazara is working hard on his English and baseball is a great sign.
In game action, Mazara plays a solid right field and flashes a strong hit tool with moderate power. Mazara’s swing has a double hitch at present which fouls up his timing. This, along with his being only 18 are responsible for a poor triple slash line. However, Mazara’s bat speed is impressive through the strike zone and are a sign of production to come. He’s another guy I’d be happy owning in dynasty formats, but the all-around tools are not as explosive as Akins or Brinson.
Finally, Nick Williams stole the show for me as a future above average player who combines both contact ability and power. In game action, he reminded me of Joc Pederson with average to above tools across the board. Together, the tools play up and what’s left is a dangerous hitter. Unlike other outfielders mentioned, Williams has a more compact frame allowing for repeatable swing mechanics. His hit tool is also far superior to any legit prospect on that team.
On Friday night, I was concerned about his outfield ability after watching him misplay a couple of balls in the corner. On Saturday, Williams appeared comfortable in center field and eased my mind.
In dynasty leagues, Williams is a sleeper who is probably undervalued at this point. Of any player on the Hickory team, he’s probably the best value considering the name value of other teammates.
25 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
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