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2019 Draft Preview No. 11: Two-Way Players

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A trio of doubles, as it were.

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Hey, everybody. I was planning on just putting up an open thread for everyone to use on Memorial Day before I headed off to my own holiday activities, but country stuff brought up a player in the comments I hadn’t gotten around to yet, and since I’m running out of days before the draft actually arrives, I’m going to put a few guys together here and write them up. It’s going to be a bit of a rush job, but I hope you don’t mind. At least this way I can cram a few more scouting reports in before we actually start hearing names called.

So what we have today is three players, all of whom are really intriguing as potential two-way prospects. Obviously, they will probably all three end up falling one way or the other, simply because that’s what usually happens. But, these guys have the sort of talents that make those decisions tough, and given we’ve seen teams at least giving this a try here and there the last couple years, it’s worth considering whether you could find players who really can both pitch and hit.

Spencer Jones, 1B/LHP, La Costa Canyon HS (CA)

6’7”, 205 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 14 May 2001

So, what’s so great about this guy?

The first name that comes to mind for me when I look at Spencer Jones is one that’s very familiar to Cardinal fans: Mark Mulder. Now, I don’t think he’s quite as out and out dreamy as old Muldoo was back when he was acquired by El Birdos, but I’m sure the kid does just fine for himself.

My comparison to Mulder really rests more on Jones’s game and physical stature, where he stands tall and willowy, shows a surprisingly sound swing for a player so tall, and flashes above-average raw power when he connects. Oh, and he also throws 92-93 with excellent sink, and employs this big overhand curve that’s a bit of a lollipop at times, but has really good size and depth when he commits.

As of now, he’s also a slightly above-average runner, which would give him a shot in the outfield, though it’s an open question whether a players who’s pitching would be a good choice for the outfield on his days off given the throwing demands. The logistics of the two-way player are still very much in question at this point, admittedly.

If forced to choose, I prefer Jones as a pitcher, where I think he could be a 55 sinker/55 curve/50 changeup sort of pitcher fairly easily. There’s a lot of arm talent here, and he’s already got a sound delivery. I like him a lot on the hitting side, as well, but to me the arm is going to be the breadwinner. However, that’s only if forced to choose; if I were in charge of drafting and developing the kid I would stick him at first on days he’s not pitching through the minors and let him do both. At the big league level he would obviously be more of a bench bat or reserve player, since the logistics of having a starting position player also be a pitcher are complicated, but I think the payoff of letting him develop as both a hitter and pitcher could be huge.

Maybe the biggest question for now is whether any team will be able to buy him away from a Vanderbilt commitment. Vandy tends to get their kids to campus, and the two-way developmental track isn’t an issue in college, which would give Jones more time to sort out what he wants to do.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

Gage Singer, 3B/RHP, Aurora High School (MO)

6’1”, 200 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: February 2001

so, what’s so great about this guy?

Whereas Spencer Jones has the build and presence of a Mark Mulder, tall and regal and pitcher-y, Gage Singer has the build of a young cruiserweight boxer, compact and strong. Jones looks like a pitcher, Singer looks like an infielder.

Which isn’t to say, necessarily, that the choice between hitting and pitching is any easier for Singer than in the case of Jones. If you put the question to me, I would say I prefer Singer as a hitter, simply because I think his swing is really good, very compact, very powerful. However, what he can do on the mound is exciting enough I wouldn’t blink for a moment if someone suggested to me down the road he could be working in middle relief in addition to playing third or first base for some organisation. I will say that I think the logistics of the position player who pitches is maybe even more complicated than the pitcher who pinch hits and plays in the field a bit, simply because swapping a starting player into a pitching role in the middle of the game creates a couple moving parts, and requires a decision on whether it’s okay to leave a guy in to hit and play the field after he pitches, etc.

Anyhow, enough of the technical stuff, let’s talk about Singer. On the mound he can hit 94 mph with his fastball, sitting around 92, and he complements that fastball with a surprisingly well-developed slider that boasts above-average rotation and power, if not a ton of depth. It’s almost a cutter at times, and would probably serve better as either a relief offering or as a third pitch of a fastball/curve/cutter combination. The pitch is good, but Singer’s overall pitching repertoire right now is fairly limited, and reflects the fact he’s simply overpowered age-appropriate competition for the most part to date.

In the field, Singer has good hands and an obviously strong arm at third base, more than enough to stay at the position. There are a couple issues with him in the field, though. One, he’s not fleet of foot, which isn’t a huge concern at third base, but in general limits his defensive choices, and two, he throws like a pitcher even when he’s playing third base. Rather than the quick cock and release motion you see in the Scott Rolens of the world, Singer throws like an outfielder or a pitcher, which makes for a slower release. His arm strength is enough to make up for it, but it’s worth noting the throwing motion in the field may need some work.

It’s with a bat in his hands that Singer may actually be the most exciting to me. He’s got plus bat speed which should translate to plus raw power down the road, and he works with a step and load in his swing I really like. Good rhythm, good balance.

As I said, the logistics of a hitting-first player also working off the mound are a little hazy and complicated, even moreso than the pitcher who does other things on his days between mound work. However, Singer projects best to me as a power-hitting corner infielder, and the arm could make him an intriguing extra option for a bullpen. He’s currently committed to Crowder College, a Junior College way down in the Southwest corner of the state (Neosho, to be exact), and so could be eligible to reenter the draft even next year if he wanted to. Springer is a really tough player for me to figure out, simply because it’s so tough to decide which side of the ball he’s more promising on, and whether it would be possible for him to do both.

via SkillShow Videos:

Tristin English, 1B/RHP, Georgia Tech

6’3”, 215 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 14 May 1997

So, what’s so great about this guy?

The only college player on our list today, English is also the least two-way of these two-way players, which perhaps isn’t surprising given that he’s got three years of college ball under his belt, meaning he’s had more time to define himself as a player. English is primarily a hitter, and potentially a good one, though he’s also currently serving as the closer for the Yellow Jackets and shows enough stuff that hey, maybe you might want to not have him stop doing that?

I scouted English coming out of high school, and at the time he was a big-time power prospect, but a bit of an all-or-nothing hitter. It seems, if my memory serves me correctly, that his particular draft class had a large number of those sorts of hitters, guys who had bought into the launch angle/flyball thing as early as high school, and were swinging for the fences without much care for what their strikeout numbers looked like. I honestly don’t remember what I thought of him as a pitcher back then, and am not going to go digging around looking for the report. This laptop doesn’t have 2015 stuff on it, which means I would have to go to my big external hard drive, and that’s just more work than I’m looking to do right this moment.

That’s right, I said 2015; Tristin English is technically a college senior, though he’s classified as a redshirt junior due to missing a year of ball already due to Tommy John surgery. That put a crimp in his plans to both pitch and hit, obviously, but even after he’s continued to work off the mound, simply because the arm is too good not to take advantage of if you’re a college coach. He works in the 92-95 range, with decent movement, and employs a solid-average overhand curve that gets plenty of swings and misses.

Okay, so I pulled up the PG All-American from 2014, and now I remember what I thought of him as a pitcher. Good fastball, plus or even plus-plus curve at the time, but a funny short-armed delivery that I didn’t like. Now I’m also sad, because I hadn’t heard Darryl Hamilton call a game in a while, and it sucks that he’s no longer with us.

As a hitter, English is still more all-or-nothing than I would prefer. I don’t mind the strikeouts, because he has big-time power and does tons of damage when he hits the ball. My problem is the lack of patience. As he is now, English is never going to be much of an on-base threat, and given he’s limited to some of the lesser defensive positions (though he’s a fine defender at first and should be an okay left fielder), he needs to bring a lot of value with his bat to make up for that.

English is a tough call for me, because he’s already had an arm surgery and is really only suited to be a reliever to my eye in pro ball, but is also a guy who plays only non-premium defensive positions and I’m not sold on him being anything more than a Randal Grichuk type hitter, only without the exciting defensive chops to help round out the game a bit. He’s still a project even at 22, and I would really only be interested in him in, say, rounds 6-10, where I could maybe save a bit of money and get him into my development program and see if he can improve some facet of his game enough that it becomes an obvious choice what he should be doing.

via ACC Digital Network:

Well, as usual, that didn’t turn out as quick or short as I meant it to. I still managed to turn it around in just about an hour, so that’s alright. Oh well. Happy Memorial Day, everyone. See you soon.