Hatchlings: Mr. Bean, Super Tools, and the Bugs Bunny Curve

Hatchlings is a Future Redbirds series profiling the top prospects in the Cardinals minor league system. The series will conclude with a community vote to rank the pre-season top 20 Future Redbirds. Today we look at last year's Appy League up-and-comers.

Steve Bean
Age:
20
Position: C
Acquired: Draft, 2012: 1st round, 59th overall
Bats: L
Throws: R



Player Profile & Career Summary:
Steve Bean was taken by the Cardinals at the end of the first compensation round of the 2012 draft, after Edwin Jackson left as a free agent. He was their fifth pick in the draft, and their first high school player drafted, following the selections of Michael Wacha, James Ramsey, Stephen Piscotty, and Patrick Wisdom. He gave up the opportunity to play at the University of Texas to sign with the Cardinals and was assigned to the Johnson City Cardinals in the Rookie Appalachian League, where he mostly struggled for 24 games (.125/.263/.213), before being demoted to the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, where he found some success (.320/.424/.400 in 15 games). It should be noted that his GCL numbers are boosted by a .410 BABIP and that all these numbers involve small sample sizes.
Last year he returned to Johnson City, and, well, struggled again to the tune of .229/.303/.314. He showed decent patience at the plate by walking 8.2% of the time, but he also struck out 32.8% of the time and showed no signs of power with an ISO of .085. The Appalachian League is a short season league, so Bean only played 32 games there in 2013.

Profile:
At the time of the draft, MLB's draft database reported that Bean:

"makes consistent hard contact and should have some future power. He has a strong arm behind the dish and should have the receiving skills to stay there long term."


Two years later, Bean is still considered a solid defender at C, with a notable arm, throwing out 37% of would-be base stealers. However, he has shown little of the contact skills or power potential described in the scouting report. He manages to see enough pitches to draw a solid amount of walks, but has had issues putting the ball in play, posting K-rates over 30% in both stints at Johnson City while failing to hit for significant power.

2014 Outlook:
Players can succeed with high K-rates, but they generally do it by hitting for above average power and getting on base, the former of which is something Bean has shown no signs of ever doing. That said, Bean's greatest strength is the ability to play behind the dish, so he'll continue to get chances as long as he gets good reports there. At this point though, he's probably the Cardinals' third or fourth most interesting minor league backstop, depending on what you think of Casey Rasmus, Cody Stanley, and catcher-to-be Carson Kelly. At 20 years old, Bean is young enough that he might still be able to restore his prospect status, but if he doesn't start to hit soon he's never going to be more than minor league catching depth.


Projection:
It's hard to imagine the Cardinals starting Bean out in a full season league without having had any success at the lowest minor league levels, barring an incredible showing at Spring Training. I expect he'll work on his swing in Jupiter until the short season leagues start up, and will hopefully have progressed enough to play against some tougher competition in the New York-Pennsylvania League for the State College Spikes.

--Cardinals645

*********

Kenneth Peoples-Walls
Age:
20
Position: SS/2B
Acquired: Draft 2011: 4th Round, #140 overall
Bats: R
Throws: R

This is the third profile I've written for this series, and I'm 3 for 3 in profiling high school SS -- I'm slipping into either Keith Law or clank territory and I can't decide which path I'd rather go down...

Player Profile:

Realistically, Peoples-Walls is the player that Malik Collymore (profiled in the first Hatchlings post on Wednesday) is most similar to, in ways both good and bad. He's a great athlete (that's good!), one of the best in the entire Penn league last year according to Baseball America, and his stock is further up after he made considerable progress with the bat in 2013, putting up a solid .300/.352/.468 line for Johnson City (also good!).


The tools are still incredibly raw. Despite showing flashes of defensive brilliance and a cannon arm, he's far too inconsistent to be considered a true prospect at the SS position -- he's as likely to make a great play from behind second base as he is to fling a ball into the first row on a routine ground ball (that's bad! Ok, I'm done doing that, sorry). The same goes for his bat: He shows solid power at the plate and hits the ball hard to all fields, but struggles to make contact at times, striking out 73 times to just 71 hits in 257 PA a year ago. It's really hard to project anything much from a player without a 60-70 power tool when they're striking out that much in Rookie ball.

2014 Outlook:

As Cardinals645 says above, players can survive with high-K rates, but most that make it do so with a power tool in 60-70 range, and while KPW has good gap-to-gap power, he's not a guy you'd expect to hit 20+ homers in the show. He's got good speed, but isn't an above average baserunner and his defense is suspect enough that most scouts feel that he's more suited to move to 2B, especially since this bat has enough upside to play there -- which is too bad for a system void of any talent that projects as an MLB regular at the SS position.

Projection:
Probably kicking the year off in Peoria as the everyday SS, with a focus towards building on last years offensive improvement. Needs to continue to improve his approach, striking out less than once a game, while continuing to spray line drives all over the place. Defensively, KPW just needs to be more consistent: Make all the routine plays as well as flashing the leather in spectacular fashion. There's not much ahead of him within the farm system, so there's no reason to think he can't move three levels this year and finish up in Springfield.

--fourstick
*********

Alexander Reyes
Age:
19
Position: RHP
Acquired: International Free Agent, Dominican Republic, 2012
Throws: R
Bats: R

Player Profile:
Reyes is one of the more exciting players in the farm system this year. Some are familiar with his story, but here's an outline in case you aren't: Born and raised in the U.S., Reyes moved to the Dominican Republic to live with extended family after his sophomore year of high school to avoid the first year player draft and become an international free agent instead. Lucky for the Cardinals, I suppose, as it seems clear that a pitcher with this kind of stuff would likely would have been off the board before the Cardinals would have selected. As it is, Reyes signed for a $950,000 bonus, the top bonus award out of the D-R in 2012.

To my semi-trained eye: Reyes simply has the best curveball in the entire farm system. It's a thing of beauty, a Bugs Bunny pitch with two plane break that comes out of the exact same arm-slot as his 92-95 mph fastball. His ability to command it is also impressive, as you can see in this clip from last year, a game in which he struck out 8 in dominant fashion:


I mean, whew. Good luck standing in there as a right handed hitter with that curve coming at your head and then dropping into the middle of the strike zone. Notice that the fastball also has pretty good life: Most of the hitters are fouling it off the opposite way (meaning they're late on it) and Reyes shows good ability to spot the pitch on the corners, although the amount of them left up in the zone is a bit worrying. A guy who throws an easy 95 and touches 97 can get away with that in the Appy League -- but that will be a struggle as he faces better hitters, as Shelby Miller found out in 2012 at Memphis. Reyes also sports a change-up that's solid average, a 45-55 on the 20-80 scale, but at least one scout thinks it has a chance to be a plus pitch. Count them up -- that's a chance at three plus pitches for a 19 year old with a 6'3", 185 pound frame that could still fill out some in the next year or two. I don't have any issues with his mechanics -- he throws from a 3/4 arm slot and is very free and easy with his delivery.

2014 Outlook

There's a ton to like about this young man, and it remains to be seen whether he can command the fastball down in the zone and develop consistent control with his change-up. Reyes might also benefit from developing a good two-seam fastball, as his four-seamer doesn't have the late life you'd like to see from a guy who throws the ball up in the zone as much as he does. Regardless, the velocity coupled with that hammer curve gives Reyes an incredibly high ceiling. At the very least, he'll be an excellent bullpen candidate. At best? He's probably a top of the rotation starter, but the walks (11.1%) will have to come down considerably before we can start having that conversation in earnest.

Projection:

Starts the year in the Peoria rotation, dominates, and moves up to Palm Beach at mid-season. Reyes is a player to watch, especially if he can harness his fastball and continue to develop his change-up.

--fourstick

*********

Look for Joe's Alexander Reyes interview coming up soon to shed more light on what he feels the 2014 season holds for him. Until Monday, adios Los Birdos!

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