These are prospect notes from Brendan Gawlowski, who will write on Daily Prospect Notes once a week. Read previous episodes of the DPN here.
Today we’re going to review some looks live, watch a little video, and think outside the box. It should be fun, and I apologize in advance for highlighting a few performances from the start of the week. Forward!
CJ Van Eyk, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Level and affiliation: High-A Vancouver Age: 22 Organization rank: ten VF: 40+
Line: IP, 4H, 7R, 1 SO, 3 BB
It was a night he would like to forget. The line probably exaggerates how rough he looked – a few single gorks extended the inning – but Van Eyk’s main development focus this season is hammering the zone, and only 17 of his 33 shots were taken on Tuesday. evening. He was often missing his side of the arm a lot with his fastball and curve, and a lack of competitive grounds limited him to just one true swing and miss.
Mechanically, Van Eyk has a loose arm, crisp arm movement, and a still head, which should help him throw some strikes. His landing point is very inconsistent, however, and this seems to affect his ability to throw strikes. Sometimes he lands in a clean defensive position; on other occasions his left foot lands so awkwardly that it practically falls off the mound towards the first base canoe (you can see footage of this in action in Tess Taruskin’s notes a few weeks ago). Up to 94 with an extra blinking curve, there’s some good stuff here if he can find a delivery that makes more hits easier.
Juan then, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Level and affiliation: High-A Everett Age: 21 Organization rank: 11 VF: 45
Line: 4 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 6 SO, 3 BB, 2 HR
A full stat sheet for Then, who managed to pull it all together in 85 shots over his four innings of work. He will show you two more throws in his fastball and a long, mostly horizontal slider. Even his change flashed more than once, a dandy of a fader in the mid-80s among a dozen hard and straight ones who uncompetively sulked away from the plate.
A lack of consistency explains Then’s disappointing figures. It can hit 95 without sweating, but it doesn’t always localize well. He can steal left-handed people with a slider and cause right-handed people to swing at the same height in the dirt, but he’s also likely to snag one in the middle of the plate. Considering how often he’s used it, change seems like a development goal. There are reasons for optimism here, but also a long way to go.
The likely outcome is probably a relief, but considering Then’s age, athleticism, and arm strength, he’s a prime example of a guy who should be given the opportunity to start for a few years to see if all goes well. If so, it has plenty of benefits.
Tyler phillips, RHP, Texas Rangers
Level and affiliation: Triple A round rock Age: 23 Organization rank: 29 VF: 40
Line: 3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 SO, 3 BB
It has been a strange season for Phillips. A sleeper in the Rangers’ system best known for his change and control, Phillips was hit in five Double-A outings before a surprise promotion to Round Rock. During the year, he walked over 13% of the hitters he faced, up from his career rate of 4.5% through 2021.
With the usual caveat of correlation! = Causation, it appears that Phillips’ higher walking rate was accompanied by a change in the swing of his arms. Before 2021, his arm action was quite long: fairly clean, not particularly sharp, but a bit long in the back. This year he’s using a much tighter arm swing, one that’s all the rage in baseball right now. Here’s what it looked like in Spring 2020:
And now since the start of the week:
It also looks like something in the new delivery is causing him to drop more towards first base, which may be contributing to his hitting issue recently.
At the same time, Phillips missed a lot of bats on Tuesday, especially with his slider (one of which can be seen above). Eric rated his slider at just 40 over the winter, and any long-term improvement in the pitch would be a boon to his chances of starting in the big leagues. Ultimately, there are a lot of moving parts here right now. Although he only pitched a few dozen innings in 2021, for better or worse, Phllips looks like a different pitcher than he did a year ago. It will be interesting to see how the dust settles for him over the remainder of the season.
Baek-ho Kang, 1B, KT Wiz
Level and affiliation: KBO Age: 21 The organization rank: N / D
Line: .400 / .498 / .576, 9 HR, 52 BB, 38 SO in 305 PA
For those who didn’t board the KBO train last May, Kang is the most entertaining player you’ve ever seen. Just look at this hack:
I don’t know if Kang’s explosive swing, turned into a 12 amp, will play against elite velocity. Stress often sends it spinning like a top out of the box, to say nothing of the times it literally drops from stress. It works against KBO weapons, but there aren’t many that can reach 95, let alone triple digits.
I am more confident in saying that if he ends up being a productive hitter in the United States, he will be quite the phenomenon that Yoenis Cespedes was back in 2012. While the swing makes Kang look like a modern arrow hitter or bust, he actually has a lot of hitting skills. It starts with incredible hand-eye coordination, as well as the strength and athleticism to adjust the trajectory of his fearsome cut to react to the effects of spin and speed. He doesn’t swing or miss much – check that SO rating – and when he does, it’s usually because he’s selling power and guessing dead red in hitting count. He hits the ball all over the field and he’s even able to put one down if opposing coaches try to move on him.
When and if Kang chooses to come to the United States is a question for another day. As it stands, he’s an incredibly convincing player, one that I encourage everyone to try and watch during the Olympics next month.