This was the second time that I was in Lansing and I had a chance to see some players again as well as check out some of the new players who arrived recently in addition to a couple of guys who were injured the first time I was there (particularly Santiago Nessy). Without further ado, here are my (somewhat simplified) reports on what I saw.
Emilio Guerrero has really emerged as the team’s every day shortstop since the promotions of Jorge Flores and Shane Opitz. The almost-21-year-old Dominican has been just okay on defense (making a team-leading 32 errors so far) but I wasn’t really watching his defense when I was watching the games. Nothing really stands out for me (aside from the errors) and I didn’t really see him tested range-wise.
I noticed that the right-handed hitter has fairly quiet hands at the plate and was able to get around well on inside pitches. He really turned on a pitch and hit it hard down the left field line showing great reactions and quick wrists. While his overall numbers are not that impressive, he has been on a tear lately (including a monstrous 6 for 6 game last week) with an active 13-game hitting streak. Guerrero has made huge strides this season, his first in full-season ball and last year he only hit a combined .221/.294/.353 between the GCL and Bluefield. It could very well be that this hot streak (he’s got an incredible .985 OPS in August) is a sign that he’s figuring things out and adjusting the better competition level.
I didn’t see Santiago Nessy the first time I was in Lansing (he had been recovering from a concussion sustained while sliding into second base) and a lot of people have been really souring on this catching prospect. “Loch” Nessy is still 20 years old and has had a struggle in adjusting to full-season ball in the Midwest League. The power that he showed in the Appalachian League last year (8 HRs in 160 ABs) is nowhere to be found (only 4 HRs in 186 ABs in Lansing) and his defense has been weak.
Watching Nessy catch, I noticed that he doesn’t block balls in the dirt well. He has 18 passed balls already this year and this is definitely a part of his game he’s going to have to work on in the off-season/spring training. He did throw out one runner in the game I saw but I can tell you that it was an unusually perfect throw to beat the runner. The guys that you love to watch are the guys that can make those perfect throws every time with great pop from the crouch. I saw Red Sox prospect Christian Vasquez catch in New Hampshire and his pop-times and throws made scouts and media drool over him. Nessy is not in that category. His 22% caught stealing percentage really shows that teams have been running quite successfully on him.
To me, Nessy’s bat looked slow. He did show some opposite field power but overall, I think Nessy’s going to have trouble. In his defense, he has been posting better numbers of late, with a .318/.340/.409 triple slash line in August. He still strikes out around once per game and doesn’t walk nearly enough.
Jordan Leyland is a big (6’4″) 23 year old who recently got a promotion from Vancouver after dominating that league. He struggled to start his time in Lansing but has been coming around, although after seeing him in person, I’m not sure if he’ll be able to overcome some mechanical issues this season. Since his promotion, Leyland has been hitting .212/.299/.294. He’s showing good patience but the drop in batting average (and especially the slugging percentage) could be due to the fact that pitchers in the Midwest League seem to be working him very effectively away.
Leyland has a fairly quiet stance and doesn’t have a particularly wide base. What really caught my eye is the fact that he seemed to striding away from the pitcher with his lower half, leaving only his upper half (especially his hands) to hit pitches on the outside part of the plate which seriously saps his power. If pitchers keep exploiting this weakness (at least that I’ve noticed), Leyland is going to have some serious difficulties moving up through the organization.
Finally, catcher Daniel Klein is another new face in Lansing that I saw play. Defensively superior to Nessy, Klein has also been a quiet contributor to the Lugnuts in his limited playing time. He’ll be 23 at the end of August and he has been in the Jays system since last year and has played only in Vancouver before his callup to Lansing. In fact, Klein is probably seen as backup catcher material although his recent success in Lansing may help his case in getting out of that stereotype.
Klein is a shorter player (listed at 5’10” but that might be generous) and he has a quiet batting stance with his hands held high. He lifts his leg high up (see photo) and has a big stride, maybe to make the most of his small frame. I noticed that, at one point, he got fooled by an off-speed pitch, getting his foot down early but not being able to adjust to the unexpected pitch. Otherwise, Klein seems to be very solid at the plate, getting a hit (pulled through the 5-6 hole) in his four at bats in the game I saw. He’s hitting .306/.350/.583 (with 2 home runs) in a small sample size of 36 at bats in Lansing but his BABIP isn’t unusually high (.310) which means that it might be sustainable for him.