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Scouting Review: Collin McHugh, Jordany Valdespin, Graham Stoneburner



By Joseph Delgrippo ~ August 12th, 2011. Filed under: Mets Minors, Yanks Minors.

Earlier this week I attended games between the locals Double A affiliates, with the Binghamton Mets visiting the Yankees’ Trenton Thunder.

I saw the Thunder a few games early in the season, then one game a few weeks ago. I like to see teams in different parts of the season to ascertain whether kids have made adjustments to become better players. Also, kids at this level have been promoted and new players have been brought up to replace them.

Seeing teams before and after the all-star breaks  hit on both of the above situations as most teams make the standard promotions after kids have played in their all-star games, like relatively new Thunder player Rob Lyerly.

In addition, I wanted to finally see the New York Mets top prospect, RHP Matt Harvey, who will be profiled in my next piece.

Taking the hill for the B-Mets was Collin McHugh, coming into the game with a 4-2, 3.75 record with two saves, including a three-inning save in his last appearance. His delivery is similar to Jake Peavy’s of the Chicago White Sox, but without the Peavy velocity. McHugh sat 88-90 and hit 91 on a couple occasions when it appeared he needed “a boost.” His fastball had good movement, often down and away to a RHH.

McHugh worked the fastball in and out, showing good command. When he missed, he usually missed off the plate, especially when working inside. He showed a nice moving cutter which broke in nicely on lefties, with slider action but thrown harder in the 84-86 range. One Thunder player commented that this was a new pitch for McHugh, having previously faced him in the NY-Penn, Sally and Florida State Leagues.

But the pitch that garnered the most swings and misses was a slow, downward breaking curve ball, thrown at 72-74 and used primarily with two strikes. He did not throw it that often, and you sometimes forgot he had the pitch in his arsenal until he broke it out for a key whiff.

McHugh does not have that superb “upside” that so many analysts and scouts love and thrive on, but McHugh does know how to pitch, has good command and does strike guys out, averaging 9.2 K/9 for his pro career. He has started and relieved in most seasons and could make a decent back end of the rotation type pitcher, throwing the ball like a Dillon Gee.

The first night saw Graham Stoneburner on the mound for the Thunder. Two starts ago I reported reduced velocity for Stoner, something which I attributed to possible shoulder issues based upon his delivery.

This game saw Stoneburner sit at 88-90 again with a few pumps at 92, similar to what I saw last time out. He was victimized by the tightest strike zone in the entire world by home plate umpire Scott Mahoney, culminating in a conversation between the two as the pitcher left the mound after the fifth inning.

Stoneburner left his slider up on occasion, with several hard hit balls the result, including a towering two-run home run by B-Mets RF Raul Reyes to straight away center. Reyes showed good range playing right field, tracking balls deep into the corner near the fence and also coming in well on a right center field bloop.

Men were on base all night against Stoneburner but when he needed to make a pitch, he usually did with key strikeouts against Jordany Valdespin and Allan Dykstra on wicked sliders down and in.

I found out that Stoneburner does not have any shoulder issues and through most of his career he has pitched in the 88-92 range, sometimes ratcheting up to 95 when he needed to. While I have seen him hit 95 consistently in Staten Island, Charleston and Tampa, I must have been extremely lucky to see those games.

***

I saw Jordany Valdespin play in the AFL last season. You can read about my 2010 AFL thoughts here:

In this piece, I was pretty high on Jason Kipnis, who showed great bat speed and surprising power for a guy of his stature. Since being brought up by Cleveland a few weeks ago, he has hit .295/.358/.656/1.018 OPS with six HRs, but has also whiffed in nearly a third of his plate appearances.

To quote: “Valdespin showed great tools, but little in the way of how to play. He turned on a Jeremy Jeffress 99 MPH fastball like it wasn’t even an issue and showed good range and throwing arm on several plays. But he is inconsistent from play-to-play, showing a lack of concentration. He also swings at nearly everything and has poor hitting mechanics.”

With those poor mechanics, Valdespin usually moved his upper body toward the pitcher, taking his legs out of the swing. What a difference a year makes. Valdespin showed better hitting mechanics, staying back and using his legs more. His upper body stayed on top of his legs and allowed his hands to get through the zone better. His quick bat, and now the use of his legs, has allowed him to hit 15 HRs so far and slug .483, the highest of his pro career.

He also showed better selectivity at the plate. For example, after getting ahead of Stoneburner 2-0 in the count, he took a slider on the inside corner for a called strike, and then got a fastball on the outer third he fouled back. The Valdespin of the 2010 AFL would have gone after that 2-0 pitchers pitch, likely getting himself out. Facing the left handed Josh Romanski in his fourth PA, Valdy calmly went with the pitch to line a single to left field.

His play-to-play concentration in the field appeared improved, with Valdy being in proper ready position before each pitch. He showed the good range and throwing arm I saw last fall, fielding balls in the 5.5 hole and up the middle. On the latter, on the run he fielded the ball near the bag, and with a strong throw across his body he nailed the runner at first base. Valdespin also moved his feet well on the routine ground ball, getting in front and wasn’t content to simply play the ball off to the side.

It appears that new Binghamton manager, former major league second baseman Wally Backman, a gamer if there ever was one, has had an effect on the 24-year-old Jordany. Also, don’t underestimate the development capabilities of the new Mets regime in this transformation.

I expected to see him again Wednesday night, but Valdespin was promoted to Triple A Buffalo, where he was 2-4, with a double.

With the uncertainty of Jose Reyes after this season, the Mets would benefit greatly if Valdespin continued his improvement.

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Joseph Delgrippo is an aspiring sportswriter and TV baseball analyst. He played NCAA baseball, at tiny Marietta (OH) College, participating in the Division 3 World Series. In addition, he's coached baseball at the high school level. His knowledge of this game goes far beyond what is shown on television.

5 Responses to Scouting Review: Collin McHugh, Jordany Valdespin, Graham Stoneburner

  1. Chuck Johnson

    Good article, Joe.

    So, I guess the second base experiment we saw with Valdespin in Arizona kinda went out the window, huh?

    Or do you think it’s more of a losing Reyes insurance policy?

    Just a fastball and slider for Stoney?

    Explains why he’s struggling.

  2. LongTimeFan

    He reminds me a lot of Reyes-Lite and is someone I want to see far more than Tejada who isn’t close to the same natural gifts. Jordany is a dynamic player with athleticism, speed and pop and someone Mets ought to call up come Sept. Collins is way overhyping Tejada, someone I think is better suited for a utility role who needs much more time in the minors to hone his defense and strengthen his body.

  3. LongTimeFan

    Joseph Delgrippo, nice content and scouting report in your article. The work you put into making this article possible, is much appreciated.

    You did, however, repeat yourself in your opening paragraphs making me wonder whether the rest would be more of same and drain to read.

    You also wrote that “teams at this level have been promoted,” which clearly doesn’t happen. Though it’s understood what you meant, it shouldn’t be written as posted.

    Good writing is concise, to the point, should be grammatically accurate and proofread from the reader’s point of view. Even though this is a baseball blog, and not a graded essay, there’s also room for improvement, much the way you talk about the progress of these youngsters up the minor league food chain. Hope to read more of your work in the future.

  4. Joseph DelGrippo

    Chuck,

    Yes, I don’t think the second base thing is in the future for Valdespin. Also, many times an AFL team has a couple shortstops and one takes precedence.

    Someone on this site about a week ago made the point that Valdespin would be good in CF if Reyes stays. Not a bad idea as it appears that Ruben Tejada is better a second or utility role than he is a straight short stop.

    If Valdespin plays well this last month of the season in Buffalo, the Mets could probably limit what they offer Reyes, maybe stick to five years and have Jordany as that insurance policy. He would struggle early but most kids do at first.

    Stoneburner threw about 12 changeups the other night, a few which were decent. He had command issues most of the night and probably was working to correct those rather than mix in the change up more.

    It is good he says his shoulder is fine, and we discussed the Bumgarner comparison I mentioned in the last piece. Stoneburner said that Bumgarner is even further deeper in back, which is true, and I was pretty impressed he knew that.

    I believe he still is a good starter candidate, but feel the Yankees might move him to a power relief role, where his fastball probably improves a few MPH in shorter stints.

  5. Joseph DelGrippo

    LTF,

    Thanks for the comments. You are correct, the word “team” should have been “kids” or “players,” although I do not beleive I repeated myself early on, but was informing people of how I prefer to analyze talent.

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