Last night, the Staten Island Yankees hosted the Hudson Valley Renegades for the fifth time this season. After playing three games in Hudson Valley, one of which, a double header that lasted until the wee hours of the morning, the Yanks were sure glad to be back at home. In a long, hot, and sweltering three-hour game the Yanks won 8-7, but it wasn't pretty.
I arrived at the ballpark having seen each team a good amount of times this year -- the SI Yanks six times and the Renegades twelve times -- so I knew which players I wanted to keep an eye on the most. One important thing I learned from a scout once was something called a "follow." Basically, you go to the park with a short list of players who your team wants you to scout and as the game progresses you will inevitably see other players who impress you. You put them on a list called the "follow list" and eventually keep an eye on them as much as you can.
So while I had Cito Culver, Mason Williams, Angelo Gumbs, Jeff Malm and Jason McEachern in mind, I was open to a few others who single-handedly impressed me. One of which was Brandon Pinder, a relief pitcher for the SI Yanks. Here are my reports...
Staten Island Yankees
Mason Williams --
When the Yankees selected Mason Williams in the fourth round of last year's draft, they envisioned a potential leadoff hitter and tablesetter to make his way throughout the system. Williams is already proving the Yankee scouts right for touting him and aside from that, he's simply playing outstanding baseball. Let alone his average that currently sits well in to the .300's, he's already at a very young age turning what were instincts and tools in to Major League assets.
Advanced for a 19-year old, Williams has already shown glimpses of stardom. Mainly with his speed, but again, he's quite raw. He has a simple load and reads pitches pretty well, although at times he's really quick to the ball. Meaning, quite often he won't even read the pitch but simply swing at it without recognizing it's break or location. However, he makes contact really well and when he does, he can drive the ball more than most his age can.
From what I've seen, he's been better off against "stab" pitchers rather than "W" ones, but he'll get better and more acclimated to professional pitching as he makes way through the organization. His best tool as of yet is his outstanding speed, which you obviously cannot teach. Scouts at the park used their stopwatch only once, and for Williams. He's fun to watch run. More to the point, he takes solid routes in the outfield and he's a decent baserunner. He gets caught stealing more times than he should and makes the last out of the inning on the bases sometimes too, but this is the New York Penn League and if he was perfect, he wouldn't be here.
His approach at the plate is what I suggest is his biggest issue. He doesn't walk that much and swings early in the count, even at the first pitch at many times. He has a real good eye at the plate but needs to stay calmer which will eventually help his pitch recognition. Continuing, he has a real lanky frame, although he's strong and projects to put on some muscle. The Yankees have a real special talent in Williams, and I expect him to continue to progress at a normal rate.
Here's an interview I did with Williams: Download Williams Interview
Cito Culver --
Cito Culver might possibly be the most talked about player in the New York Penn League. He's a real special player, and somewhat underrated I think. Most of the people I've spoken to like him at the plate, and the ones who don't have their own opinion, but probably haven't done much scouting on the shortstop this season.
The bat is really underrated. He has tons of bat speed from each side of the plate and he's vastly improved this season alone, especially from the left side which he's been known to have the most difficulties. Unlike Williams, Culver has a calm and simple approach at the plate. He has an easy backload and he gets his front foot down in time from both sides. He has a two-handed swing and has driven the ball a lot this season, even the opposite way from each side of the plate.
He hasn't shown much power yet but there's no rush. He's extremely raw although he's definitely shown that he can hit. There are some questions about his defense at short, since he really doesn't have great range. However, he has a great arm and makes accurate throws, which is what you'd expect from a guy who threw 95 off his high school mound.
I'm excited for him, but expected him to show more power in the early going rather than just ground the ball to center field which he's done quite often. He'll develop better hitting tecniques which should be interesting and scary at the same time given his feel at the plate which has looked fantastic already. Many I've spoken to believe in him, but he's got a long way to go.
Here's an interview I did with Cito Culver: Culver Interview
Branden Pinder --
Pinder was really impressive when I saw him. He kind of reminded me of what Tommy Kahnle was to the SI Yanks last year. Great arm action, lots of arm strength, fastball sitting 94-95 with plus movement, gets lots of swings and misses, but no real secondary pitch.
He was consistently blowing fastballs by hitters sitting consistently at 94-95 and he even got four strikeouts on the first four batters he's faced. Eventually, batters will catch up to his fastball despite the movement considering he really throws nothing else. His arm action was most impressive though as he was real free and easy and able to throw at a consisteny over the top arm slot.
In addition, he has excellent command of that fastball and hit the glove several times exactly where the catcher wanted it. I could see him moving fast through the system, but he needs to develop a change up or slider or something of that sort. If he does, opposing batters better beware.
Hudson Valley Renegades
Jeff Malm --
Jeff Malm home run from last night
Malm is an extremely impressive hitter. The bat is there, and he's very advanced. He's shown that he can hit for power (leading the league with ten home runs) as well as average and if that's not enough, he hits to all fields. However, he's a lousy defender and is basically all bat.
Although he's played better at first base of late, it's going to be interesting to see how he plays out through the system. Again though, the bat is there and he's been real fun to watch hit. He gets the bat head out real quick and has great balance at the plate. He has a quick swing, but it's very flat and at times causes him to strike out too much. Nevertheless, the power is there and it should continue to develop for the former Nevada high school standout.