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Trenton Thunder scouting report 5/29 - 5/31: Thunder vs. Portland Sea Dogs

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The latest in a series of scouting reports on the Yankees' best farm team and the prospects they face.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Here's another slough of brief scouting reports on some of the Yankees prospects at Double-A Trenton, and on some of the visiting players from the Portland Sea Dogs

The Sea Dogs, the Red Sox Double-A affiliate, do not have the most impressive roster in the minor leagues. Many of Boston's top prospects were here last year, but of course now they're all in Triple-A Pawtucket. A couple of their players caught my eye and I've detailed them below, but the series did offer me my first look at a fully healthy Aaron Judge, as well as a second look at hidden gem Eric Ruth. Last week's report on Luis Severino was the only you'll get for me for awhile, as he's been promoted to Triple-A Scranton. Al Pedrique, the Trenton manager, said that he wouldn't be surprised if Severino cracked the big league roster before the All-Star break. That may be embellishment, so take it with a grain of salt.

However, I did get to see Brady Lail, who should be on your radar. Overall it was a good series for the Thunder and their main players continue to look impressive. Eric Jagielo (along with Low-A Charleston's Jorge Mateo) made Baseball America's prospect Hot Sheet last week, so if you subscribe to BA give that a read.

The Thunder dropped the first game through a series of defensive miscues and awful pitching. The normally brilliant Cito Culver made awful plays on two consecutive balls and Jake Cave had two balls fall out of his glove on what would have been diving catches. They scored ten runs, but also managed to strand 22 runners. So there's that. Trenton also used three pitchers named Smith, only one of whom was effective.

Game two was all Eric Ruth, all the time. I go into further detail on his outing below but it was nothing short of remarkable, and it's the latest in a string of wonderful starts. Ruth is the biggest sleeper in the system. The offense went to town on Portland for eight runs.

Game three saw Lail and Kyle Haynes shut out the Sea Dogs in a 2-0 victory. Neither side was hitting much, but Lail and Haynes went to town.

Yankees Impressions

Aaron Judge - Something to keep an eye on with the Yankees top hitting prospect: Judge walked at a 17.5% rate in High-A ball last year. He's lost nearly ten points off that percentage at Double-A. The good news is that he's hitting for higher average and his ISO is above .200, so the drop in walks may be purely by virtue of him making more contact, as his strikeout rate is basically the same. He hit homer number eight in his 45th game on Saturday. It took him 55 games to reach eight bombs last year. He didn't even make great contact with the ball he hit out; he's just so strong that it rocketed over the left field wall. He doesn't sell out for power so he'll run into 25 bombs by accident purely because of his natural strength. That's a winning approach at the plate. Judge is still whiffing badly on breaking balls, however, and that could be exploited mightily in the big leagues if he's not careful.

Eric Jagielo - Jag was in a bit of a rut at the plate this series. He only got one hit, and that was initially ruled an error because the center fielder badly misplayed the ball and had to attempt a shoestring catch. Jagielo looked like he was swinging at a lot of junk, and the reasons for his shaky reputation at third base were on full display. On one play, Jagielo watched a hard-hit grounder go by that I felt he could have at least attempted a dive on to save a run. In terms of the poor results at the plate, you can chalk that up to just an unlucky series and look to the future. The defensive concerns, however, are a different matter. Jagielo's power will play anywhere, and if he keeps mashing someone will find room for him on a roster. It may just not be at third base.

Gary Sanchez - The natural tools that made Sanchez a top prospect for so long still seep through sometimes. When Sanchez is on, his effortless swing lets him get textbook hits and hit for power. There are games where Sanchez has multiple hits and it's very, very easy to start dreaming on him again. Especially when he throws out three runners in a single game like he did against Bowie in the last homestand. Then he does something like overrun second base twice in one game and nearly get thrown out both times. Sanchez was signed out of Latin America at sixteen, and he's 22 now. One would think something like baserunning instincts would have been drilled into him by now. If he keeps hitting like he is this season (.269/.323/.434) he'll get a shot at some point, be it as a catcher, corner outfielder, first baseman or DH. But the spectre of Jesus Montero is far too easy to see hovering over Sanchez's shoulder. He did steal a base in two consecutive games, so he's got that going for him.

Mark Payton - 2014's seventh round pick seemed to be in a bit of a daze over his unexpected promotion to Double-A. He's a small (5'7" is generous) guy who plays good outfield defense and uses his small strikezone to his advantage. Payton had a .374 OBP in High-A Tampa while hitting .280. However, his size eats into his power potential and he only slugged .357. If Payton can maximize his contact and spray the ball all over the field, he could turn into a future bench piece.

Eric Ruth - I can't heap enough praise on this arm. Ruth is smallish for a starter and lacks velocity. He makes up for it with Mark Buehrle-esque control of all his pitches and Mark Buehrle-esque pace. The Double-A level is testing out the 20 second pitch clock, and Ruth is usually delivering before ten seconds have elapsed. He currently struggles ever so slightly from the stretch but it's not an issue because baserunners are few and far between. Ruth doesn't strike out many but the whiffs he gets are cartoonish. He'll be like Buehrle in that he constantly outpitches his peripherals, but if he sticks it could be very fun. What a hidden gem.

Brady Lail - Lail shows a lot of polish in his easy delivery. None of his stuff is overwhelming and his fastball sits the stereotypical 89-92 that you've seen on the scouting reports of thousands of prospects. What sets Lail apart is good enough secondary stuff to keep batters off balance and a bulldog, pedal-to-the-metal approach in hammering the zone. He doesn't work as quickly as Ruth but they display a similar aggression. Lail worked five shutout innings on Sunday, only allowing two baserunners without striking anybody out. Strikeouts aren't a big part of Lail's game, and we'll see if that comes back to bite him if and when he gets the call to Scranton. He's a good-looking arm.

Kyle Haynes - Haynes employs a delivery that's a near mirror image of Lail's. Unlike Brady, however, Haynes works in relief. He threw four shutout innings on Sunday after Lail left the game (Lail was pitching on short rest and wanted to come out for the sixth). He's got a live fastball that he can control well and a slider with deceptive bite. The four innings were his longest outing of the year and Al Pedrique said that was by design. He wants to be able to employ Haynes in longer stints and on consecutive days. That's a good sign of endorsement for the reliever and he may find himself in Scranton before the year is out.

James Pazos - The lefty has excellent deception in his delivery but struggled with his command in his second outing after coming off the DL (shoulder injury). There's movement on the secondary pitches and hopefully when the rust is fully shaken off he'll be okay and his velocity will be fully back to where it was last year.

Red Sox Impressions

Marco Hernandez - Hernandez came to the Boston system as the player to be named later in the Felix Doubront trade. He's an interesting-looking shortstop with leadoff capacity. After three straight season of struggling in A-ball the Cubs weren't all that broken up about parting with him but he's putting together a nice little campaign with Portland. Yet it's a little easy to see why he was PTBNL material. On a couple high fastballs from soft-tossing Eric Ruth, he nearly swung out of his shoes and came up with dinky little foul balls. When he does make contact, Hernandez can go the other way and has decent speed on the basepaths. This might be a bench piece for a big league club at some point.

Pat Light - The man with the 70-grade name is a flamethrowing right-handed reliever with a fastball in the upper 90's and a hard splitter. He'll also mix in the occasional slider. Light has big league reliever written all over him if he can maximize his command. His ridiculous 11.22 K/9 is offset a bit by a 3.86 BB/9 and a bit of a home run bugaboo. A source familiar with Portland and the Red Sox system told me that he wouldn't be shocked if Light moves very quickly from here on out, so keep an ear out for this one.

Robby Scott - Scott is a lefty reliever who doesn't throw all that hard. However, all of his pitches move. Scott says his repertoire consists of a fastball, slider, changeup and curve. The curve flashed a 60-grade in his outing on Saturday. With Jake Cave at the plate he threw a big looping hook that moved from behind Cave to the inside corner. The change also plays, and he can spot his fastball. He's oscillated between Triple-A Pawtucket and Portland all season (probably to fill in for whoever had gone up at the time to take a spot in the tumultuous Red Sox bullpen). He's putting up good numbers at both levels in small samples after a 1.96 ERA showing in the Arizona Fall League last year. Portland manager Billy McMillon doesn't seem afraid to use him against righty hitters either.  Color me impressed.

Simon Mercedes - Mercedes looks like a smaller version of Michael Pineda on the mount, from a physical standpoint. He was sitting in the low 90's in his sole appearance of the series (Sunday) and pretty much lived up to the billing. The book on Mercedes is that his heat will only take him as far as his inconsistent-yet-great curveball (flashed well above average in his outing), changeup (also good) and control will take him. Mercedes was all over the place with his fastball but I can see the appeal here. His long stride and big arms let him release the ball closer to the plate than most and improved command will go a long way for him. Whether or not that happens is something else entirely. He walked three in his inning but also got two strikeouts. Looks like par for the course at this juncture.

The next Trenton scouting report will come following the home series with the Harrisburg Senators that runs from June 5th-7th. The Senators are a Nationals affiliate so it coincides nicely with Bryce Harper and co. rolling into the Bronx that week. Anthony Rendon is currently on a rehab assignment with them and while it's doubtful he's still there when I see the team, we can hope. Notable prospects there include pitcher Joe Ross (Tyson's brother) and catcher Pedro Severino. Until next time, sports fans.

Nicolas Stellini is a contributor at Pinstripe Alley, where he writes about the Yankees and covers the Double-A Trenton Thunder. His national coverage can be found at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.