How To Split Hairs On Hitting Prospects

Dominican 3B Gilbert Lara

Kiley shares some thoughts on how scouts break down hitting prospects, using two premium July 2nd bats as the example.

July 2nd Links

On The Ground in the DR: DR Day One Notebook, DR Day Two Notebook, Dermis Garcia Report, Hitter Update, Pitcher Update & More Hitters

Before The Trip: Yankees Int'l Plans, Game Theory In Int'l Market, 2013 July 2nd Coverage and My Twitter

I was recently talking with some fans on the premium message board on the Scout.com Yankees site Pinstripes Plus (a great site if you're looking to dive deep on the Bombers system). They are particularly interested in this year's July 2nd class for obvious reasons, so I've been dropping in there regularly to answer questions and share info, sometimes before it shows up here.

In the main July 2nd thread, some fans were asking why the Yankees would choose to sign Dermis Garcia (a rumored verbal deal covered in earlier articles, just click on his name to see them) and not Gilbert Lara (rumored in a previous article to be signing with Milwaukee). In the next article, a July 2nd info wrap-up, I'll cover some of the strategic reasons (as already outlined in that message board thread) but there are also baseball reasons.

Any fan can look at the swings of these two players and see some clear positives and negatives, but those core mechanical observations are less important with 15/16-year-olds than with upper minors prospects, and scouts look for different things at different levels/ages. I thought some of the general readers would like to read this breakdown, so here are videos of the two prospects and my post covering what a scout sees in each swing. Click on the players' names to see previous articles and read the full scouting reports.

Lara versus Garcia, hitting-wise, is projection versus now mechanics, as the raw power is about the same (I'd say 55 now, 60 future for 25 HRs at maturity) and they both likely end up at third base, same basic size, etc.

Lara is more fluid and looser, with arguably a little better bat speed, which are the raw hitting tools that are impossible to find and can't be taught. Further, when hitters beat expectations, it tends to be hitters with these kinds of tools. This is the type of physical ability that you see in Byron Buxton, Javier Baez, Justin Upton, etc. (though Lara isn't quite as good as those three) to hit for average and power. Also, Lara hit 2 bombs in 2 games and Dermis didn't get a hit (although in only 2 ABs).

I didn't include the whiffs in the videos (only in the behind plate angle vs Ynoa since he's a notable arm) but Lara swung and missed another 3-4 times in just a handful of ABs against mid 80's fastballs that were belt high. Dermis' whiffs were against legitimately tough pitches. The expectation is that Lara's can be fixed as he's likely just trying to hit bombs in an exhibition.

That said, Lara has a more aggressive and less repeatable swing with a stride and leg kick that need to be toned down/eliminated while Dermis' swing is very close to what it needs to look like in the upper minors, but isn't as loose and explosive (and still needs some slight tweaking as I mention in the scouting report).

So, both guys just turned 16 and won't look much like this in the bigs (if they make it) and an international scouting director's job is ultimately to sign players you can't find in the States...and Lara's unteachable skills are a little tougher to find, thus some scouts slightly preferring him and his bonus likely being $200,000-$500,000 higher.

I don't have details yet on the decision making process that led to the Yankees picking Garcia, but the perception from asking around is Lara's people were holding out to get the highest bonus in the class while Garcia was happy to get a top 5 bonus earlier in the process.

(Editor's Note: I have more details relating to this last paragraph in the July 2nd wrap-up, coming soon)

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