Lincoln Hamilton and Steve Carter profile Mark Appel, Joey Gallo, Trey Williams and Stryker Trahan.
Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
A strapping young lad with a frontline arm, the 6-foot-6 Appel works with a 93-95 MPH fastball that has some natural arm-side run. While he has the arm strength of a power pitcher, his game is really more about polish. Appel's off-speed stuff is well developed, his changeup is outstanding and his slider should be, at least, above-average. Appel has excellent command -- he only walked 6.4% of batters he faced last year at Stanford.
Despit his outstanding raw stuff, Appel has yet to dominate the way most successful big league pitchers do in college. He only struck out 18.9% of batters faced last year, a year in which the college game swung in favor of the pitcher. Appel drew rave reviews as he impressed in the Cape Cod League and as a member of the College National Team, but we shouldn't let 29 summer innings outweigh the 110.1 innings he threw for the Cardinal. He's certainly capable of dominating Pac-12 hitters for the remainder of the spring, but his underclass production isn't what you'd expect out of a potential Top-5 pick.
You'll see Appel referred to as having "smooth motion". While there is some truth to that, 95%* of people who write that do so because it's an easy way to gloss over something complicated (*a totally made up number). I believe Project Prospect readers are handsome enough to deserve better.
Appel utilizes his lower half pretty darned well. He begins his motion in a deep knee bend like a basketball player defending someone on the perimeter. He generates solid leg drive easily through this athletic stance. He beings his motion on the far first base side of the rubber but his sweeping, pendulum style, stride ends with foot-plant centered, down-the-middle. This results in Appel throwing across his body.
While disruptive to a hitter's timing, throwing across your body can lead to many a pitcher's doom. Appel seems to avoid most of these pitfalls. He keeps his weight back well, allowing his back leg to drive forcefully off the rubber and fully loading his back hip. While landing closed, like Appel, often leads to poor hip rotation, Appel's back hip is strong enough to get the job done. Not a lot of guys can pull off this move, but Appel's balance, leg drive and core strength are special.
One of the few legit advantages tall pitchers have over their shorter brethren is the ability to generate a downhill plane on the ball with their higher release point. Coming from a very low 3/4 arm angle, Appel doesn't get the full benefit of his height. While his arm action is relatively "free and easy" his ball pickup, arm slot and timing combine to raise some flags.
Appel separates his hands low, near belt level, and his first move is lower still. He scap loads with the ball well below his elbow height, far out of the driveline. This downward move out of the glove and the ball being so low during scapular loading create timing problems. The timing problem is exacerbated by his arm slot. When Appel does get up into the vertical high-cocked "T" position (with his pitching forearm verical and the ball up above the shoulder), the ball has to go back down to near shoulder height to get into Appel's arm slot. The ball is too low early, then too high late. The end result is that the ball isn't in the driveline until very late in the motion.
Mark Appel does a lot of things well. He's a big, strong kid from a big-time program with classic starter's stuff. It's a familiar, comforting package with the potential to be excellent -- like a grilled cheese sandwich on fresh artisan bread with a few slices of ham, their salty, unctuous goodness turning a snack into a meal. Unfortunately there are a couple things that shouldn't be in there -- like someone took that delicious sandwich and added Brussels sprouts and skittles. Good news, there's still time to make improvements to the recipe.
Joey Gallo, 3B/1B Bishop Gorman High School, Las Vegas Nevada
If you like 6-foot-5, 205 pound lefthanded hitters with big-time raw power, then you'll probably like Joey Gallo. Gallo's main calling card is his raw power, as evidenced by a 442 foot home run he hit at the Perfect Game All-American Classic last August (at Petco Park in San Diego). Gallo's shot just happened to be the 10th longest home run in Petco history. That's including all Major League games, for those of you scoring at home.
The main question about Gallo isn't his power, it's how much of it is useable. Standing very tall and lanky, Gallo has long arms, which are great for extension, but not for having a tight, compact swing. Two obstacles Gallo will fight throughout his career are shortening his swing as a means to trim some length, as well as walking the fine line between extension toward the plate for power and extension too far over the plate, which is a great way to turn a wood bat into kindling. Gallo's swing isn't obscenely long, but it could stand to tighten up a bit on the back end. As he fills out and gains strength, he could be able to tighten his hand path up.
Unlike some big bodied sluggers, Gallo has smooth and loose actions. He has quick enough hands to cover plus velocity, how much he can take his arms out of the swing will determine how well he hits for average. Speaking of his arms -- more specifically the one he throws with -- Gallo has a plus arm and has run it up to 94 on the gun, both across the infield and from the mound.
Maintaining flexibility and keeping his upper body proportions down will be very important for Gallo as he ages. The old 'you can't get too musclebound as a baseball player' adage is slightly overblown, but very true in the case of large athletes with long limbs. Should Gallo fill out and still maintain his loose actions, his raw power would come through. On the same token, if he can shorten up and maintain proper angles with his hands through the zone, his power would play into the range of 30 home runs or more. Of course if he fails to do either, well, Russel Branyan types can be fun to watch at times too.
Trey Williams, 3B/OF Valencia High School, Valencia, California
If tall and lanky isn't your cup of tea, but strong bodied and athletic is, then Trey Williams might be your honey chamomile. Much like Nick Williams, Trey isn't lacking for tools, but the comparison between the two ends there. This Williams' game is predicated largely on his strength, which is already quite good. Thick legged (but not fat), Williams has a good base to work from at the plate or in the field. While his leg size prevents him from being a true burner, Williams moves well in the outfield and has at least average speed for a corner position. He is still getting time at third base, and his arm is fringe average there. His hands are a bit too stiff to stick there long term, and his athleticism would be better utilized in the outfield.
At the plate, Williams isn't shy about going up there with a little style, and it also shows in his loose actions. A rhythm hitter, Williams has varied the height of his leg kick, and was going all out with it at the Perfect Game Classic. Whether it's medium or full on Ralph Macchio Crane Pose, Williams never really seems to get his foot down on time to give him a balanced launch position. Over time, smoothing out his leg kick will surely be addressed. Up top, Williams takes 'hands back' to a literal application, having his arms fully extended behind him after his load. This benefits his bat speed and raw power, but it also makes his swing long and leaves him vulnerable on the inner half. As a strong kid with large hands, he could probably already be a bit more compact, but some wood bat experience should help him tighten up.
Speaking of his hands, Williams does do a good job of uncoiling forcefully with his writs and gets very good whip through the zone. The first time I saw his barrel action, 'George Foster' flew out of my mouth. Now, to be clear, that is to no way comp Williams to Foster as a player or best case scenario, but much like Rasheed Wallace's 'Ball don't lie' quote being a fact of life,' 'Barrel action don't lie' is another truism.
While Williams' frame isn't very projectible, his present strength should help him in the short term, and he looks to have the body type that will improve strength wise very easily. As he matures and gets stronger, his swing plane should get tighter and allow him to take full advantage of his strong and whippy wrists. If he can come up with a consistent timing mechanism in his leg lift, his strength and bat speed make him a viable power threat.
Stryker Trahan, C Acandia High School, Lafayette, LA
The 'name' tool is one of the more underrated tools a player can have, and in Trahan's case, you've got an easy 70 grade name. Come to find out he was named after a character played by the mustachioed Greek God Burt Reynolds, and the grade gets pushed into borderline 80 territory. Top it off with a bit of plus pull side raw power, and Trahan becomes an instant personal favorite.
At the plate, Trahan has a compact swing and a penchant for very loud contact thanks to his outstanding strength and bear paws in place of normal human hands. Large hands and hand strength are very important for a catcher in regards to framing as well as withstanding the beating that a catcher's hand takes over a season, and in Trahan's case, they also partly explain his actions and short stroke. Simply put, without pure mechanical efficiency that few hitters ever achieve, the weaker the hands, the more the arms and shoulders will take a role in the swing. The stronger the hands are, the body's reliance on bigger upper body muscle groups will lessen greatly. When you have the hand size and strength that Trahan does, you basically eliminate everything except the big three: hips, core and hands.
Trahan's hands also help explain how he's able to create his excellent bat speed with an extremely small trigger. From rhythm to trigger to launch; Trahan's hands barely move. Usually this would be a red flag as only few hitters can get away with keeping the hands relatively static in relation to the rear shoulder. But when you hit from a great frame of strength with the previously mentioned bear paws like Trahan does, you can still be strong and quick through the zone. Ideally, it would be nice to see him get a little more dynamic with his trigger over time, but that type of style adjustment tends to happen after some time against continuous advanced pitching. There's a hint of push in his swing right now, but that could lessen as he expands his trigger and improves his sequencing.
Speaking of style adjustments, Trahan has used a toe-tap and glide timing method, and has used several others throughout the past few years. In order to get the most consistent base, he'll need to learn to do a better job of staying centered and behind his front leg. Thi, again, is something that will come with consistent exposure to pro level pitching and daily swinging of a wood bat.
Trahan's body offers very little projection as it's already very well built at a rock solid 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, but he has a body built for durability behind the plate and excellent present strength. His other tools, you ask? He's merely a 6.5 runner in the 60 yard dash with 1.8 pop times and 85 on the gun down to second base. Let us not forget plus pull side raw power, which I assume is just for giggles. Trahan's swing plane isn't built for batting titles, but his high exit velocities, raw power, and everything else listed above make him some kind of entertaining prospect to watch come draft time this year. Suggestion: try not to sit too close if you have sensitive ears.
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