My New York Penn League gig started last night and it was a doozy to say the least. Given my excitement and motivation for this style of baseball, I was quickly able to establish relationships with people involved and what not, even on the first night. Twas the first New York Penn League game I saw this season in person and I'll tell you, I saw some big time talent. I paid attention to each and every player who stepped foot on the field last night, but paid more attention to the higher regarded players than the opposite. Cito Culver, Mason Williams, Angelo Gumbs, and Evan DeLuca on the Yankees and Kes Carter and Juniel Querecuto on the Renegades classify as some of those guys. So what did I see? Let's do the Yankees today, and the Renegades another time, since I'll be seeing them all season and I want to get a closer look at them since there's no rush.
Cito Culver --
Culver looked much bigger than his listed height at 6'0 or 6'1. He also gained some more strength, which he definitely needed the last time I checked. Starting with the defensive side of things, Culver showed plenty of range, which isn't a surprise since he has plus speed. His hands are a little bit too aggressive when waiting for the ball or getting to it, but he made the plays that needed to be made. To his left, he's a much stronger defender than to his right, but many shortstops have a respective strong side.
Back to his speed, he was able to get out of the box fast, although his follow through seemed a bit exagerated. For instance, he seemed to just want to rush out of the box after he made contact instead of following through and squaring his feet, so he's set to run to first faster and easier. He's a fantastic baserunner but needs some refining on his slides. I thought he hesitated a bit when sliding, which was a reason he was caught stealing in the early going.
At the plate, I mentioned his lack of a fluent swing. That'll get worked out and shouldn't be a problem. From what I noticed, he has pretty good plate coverage. He was so much better looking at the plate than I previously heard, and I was impressed. He has good plate recognition and doesn't swing at bad inside pitches. Chasing outside the zone is a different story, but even the best hitters have trouble with that. He's able to drive the ball and hook the inside pitches, something that as a shortstop will get him relatively far.
I wrote an article recently suggesting Culver to be transformed in to a pitcher, his original position -- I couldn't have been more wrong, and I from what I've heard, read, and saw, I really like Culver at the plate.
Mason Williams --
Coming out of the draft last year, many were extremely high on a certain South Carolina commit. That same young guy fell to the Yankees a few rounds in, and he was still touted as a potential everyday player. That would be Mason Williams, and after seeing him in person, I completely agree with the scouting reports.
Mason Williams doesn't have the best plate discipline, but he swings at fastballs in the zone and gets hits. He has wheels, maybe moreso than Cito Culver, but his tools are similiarly raw to Culver's. He's a slasher, and while that's something he'll work on, his hits and balls in play are going to be singles to the right side and not home runs or balls driven until he fixes it.
His range in center is indespinsable for any pitcher on the mound. He has really nice range and he takes solid routes to balls. In baseball of this low a level, there are fewer balls hit to deep center and what not. Even so, Mason Williams was able to track everything down and get the ball back in fast.
Angelo Gumbs --
Gumbs has a terribly violent swing, but he is so toolsy and has more raw power than anyone on the Staten Island Yankees club. The last thing the Yankees want to have happen is for Gumbs to have his swing flatten out, so little if any refining is needed to that swing. His bat speed as well is a revelation, as he's advanced at the plate for someone just a year removed from high schol. He's able to drive the ball both ways, and hit for some nice power.
The Problem: he doesn't have a position. I honestly can't see him as an everyday player at any infield position, thus an outfield switch is eventually probable. Still, he has good tools all around and was impressive to see in person, especially with a projectable body and power that I could really see coming to life in the near future.
Evan DeLuca --
DeLuca had a decent night on the mound. He showed good fastball movement, a curveball with pretty good inward break, and a change up that gave him some trouble but got whiffs as well. The problem is his inability to maintain a consistent delivery. There were times where DeLuca would throw 4 or 5 sraight balls because he was stepping so far on the 1st base side of the 90 degree plain that a pitcher is supposed to land on. In other words, he was almost in pickoff mode while throwing to the plate, thus a prime reason for his walks and wildness. Even so, he was challenging each and every hitter and using all parts of the strike zone to get batters to swing. Continuing, he used all of his pitches as well, which definitely helped his cause.
It was a great night to watch baseball, and an even better one to watch talent. Staten Island doesn't lack prospects at all, but could have showed more plate discipline, especially against Andrew Bellatti, who was horribly wild. Next time, I'll explain what I saw out of the Renefades.