Two players make a major climb up the ladder in the month of May, where most prospects held serve on their standing in the organization.
Jose De Leon Un-Rankable No Longer
In the span of one month, we went from little video and inconsistent reports on Jose De Leon to several tools to analyze the player plus a promotion to Tulsa where I could see him in person. While I can attest that the hype is warranted, De Leon has accomplished this rise in a manner not quite how he has be advertised.
While he looks a little more filled out than his listed 6'2, 185 lbs. frame, De Leon has a fairly typical starter's build, with a sturdy lower half and a loose athleticism in his upper body that allows him to repeat his delivery and hold his stuff later in games. He's very sound mechanically, with a rock-and-fire type delivery that hides the ball a long time before coming to the plate. His delivery is highly repeatable and efficient, and all three (four if you count the speed change in the breaking ball) pitches come from the same arm slot.
In the outing I watched, Jose De Leon primarily sat at 92 mph, but could reach for as high as 95 mph when he wanted. His fastball gets on hitters quickly because of the tempo in his delivery and how much he hides the ball. The pitch has some late run and sink, but often times in this start it looked a little true, and hitters could square it up when he left the pitch on the upper half of the zone.
De Leon's primary breaking ball is a solid average slider that he can command and throw in the zone for strikes. Hitters can pick up the break on the pitch and square it up, and it's not the swing-and-miss pitch that has been advertised. De Leon can throw a get-me-over breaking ball that is a variation off the slider with bigger break and slower velocity that he will throw early in the count.
De Leon's bread-and-butter pitch is his change-up that features solid fade and is thrown with tremendous arm speed. It has about a 7-9 mph difference from the fastball and he commands the pitch quite well. It elicited the most swing and misses on the night and has the appearance of a major league quality strikeout pitch.
I was impressed with how quickly De Leon made adjustments on the evening, and hitters that beat him early in the game were held at bay as the game went on. Following a recent trend, De Leon got stronger the deeper he got in his outing, and his command improved the deeper into the game he pitched.
While I didn't quite see the electric arm that he was advertised to be, I saw an extremely polished future number three starter with strikeout potential in his change-up. If the rankings were re-done today, I'd likely put De Leon right behind Grant Holmes and include him in my top tier of Dodger prospects.
Cody Bellinger Taps into his Game Power
Bellinger had been one of the more impressive early season performers, but exploded in May, hitting .314/.371/.640 with seven home runs. He's taken full advantage of his home park to improve his hitting numbers, but has carried his power on the road with him.
While I haven't seen enough of Bellinger on film this season to suggest that he's doing much different, the home run videos you can see show Bellinger getting the most out of his 6'4 frame to generate loft in a high torque swing. The approach is entirely pull side, and he will need to continue to add muscle to his thin frame to generate power to all parts of the park.
There's enough evidence in his spray chart to preach caution with Bellinger as a top prospect. His line drive rate could stand to be higher and at some point he'll need to use more of the left side of the field to avoid the shift heavy defenses of the upper minors and majors leagues.
Still, there's plenty to like in a 19 year old showing game power in High A and an athletic skill-set to project a move to an outfield corner if need be. While he ranked just outside the Top 10 this off-season, he's making a strong case to rank in the 6-10 range going forward.
The Follow List
Nothing new to report on pop-up names, but a few updates to the profiles of some current guys previously mentioned here:
Yadir Drake- Looks like a catcher playing right field. All-out effort style wins fans, and he flashes a plus arm, but Drake is a below average runner that doesn't profile as an everyday right fielder. Crank-and-yank offensive approach can be exposed with off-speed away.
Zack Bird- He was bound to take his lumps in High A coming out of the pitcher friendly Great Lakes environment, but the walk rate is spiking and from what I've seen, the delivery is still a little stiff. A future role as a reliever is looking more likely.
Adam Law- A little underexposed after hitting the disabled list at the start of the month, I was still able to see Law recently and was intrigued by the on base skills and up the middle approach offensively. He turned in a 4.19 on home to first from the right side and his speed plays in left field. Fringe prospect, but starting to show the skills to reach the majors at some point.
Scott Schebler- Too soon to worry about Schebler's slow start. His walks are up, his strikeouts are slightly below his career percentage, and his average and isolated power are being hampered by a low BABIP. Wait to cast judgement on his 2015 until we see how he performs during the warmer months.
Expect a much larger follow list next month, when the Dodgers bring in a number of new talents into the organization via the Amateur Draft, plus the impending arrival of talent from the July 2nd international signing window.