On my first scouting trip to Stockton for 2014, I got some footage on Daniel Roberstson and Chad Pinder while nearly freezing to death on a cold, windy night. My second scouting trip was a tad warmer on the weather front, and I was able to get some footage on some of Oakland's top prospects. My goal was to capture swings from Matt Olson and Billy McKinney. Olson didn't cooperate with a 0-3 night (two walks, two strike-outs). McKinney didn't do much until his last at-bat when he roped a double down the line. A pleasant surprise was seeing Addison Russell make a rehab start with the Ports. So let's start with him.
The crowds that came out for AN Day in Stockton were treated with a start from Addison Russell, Oakland's top prospect. Russell was on rehab assignment working back from a torn hamstring. He looked great, going 2-3 with a walk and a stolen base while also making smooth plays at short.
In regards to his swing, most of you know I am not blown away by the technical precision of his swing. When I first scouted Russell, I was impressed overall but had concerns about aspects of his swing, mainly his stride. Russell is an early strider, meaning he gets his lead foot down early and shifts into a weighted front leg. Early striding is a really popular method currently in hitting instruction, but I dislike it quite a bit. I feel it simplifies the swing, but at a cost of adjustability - particularly with off-speed pitching. Looking at the MLB All-Stars from the last 5 years or so only two early striders come to mind: David Wright and Paul Goldschmidt. This doesn't mean Addison Russell is doomed, I am just of the opinion his swing mechanics are less than optimal.
Following Russell from last year in Stockton through AFL, into this year in Spring Training and then in Stockton, I can say his swing hasn't changed a lot. Though his swing may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, if you "look under the hood" there is a lot of to like, especially with the rotation of the hips and torso. You can tell this is an athletic guy. One thing I will point out that watching him he does have a tendency to leave too much weight on his back leg (I say because of his early stride). This results in getting the front leg open and locked too early and some bad looking swings on pitches he was fooled, like the one below. (For an article on how hitters adjust to off-speed, read this. Hint: it's the front leg.)
I believe this contributes heavily to the 22% strike-out rate Russell has posted in his minor league career. This is also part of the reason I am not so eager to rush him to The Show. Guys up there have pretty good off-speed stuff (so I've heard). I think he would have a little steeper learning curve then some of the other wonder-kids like Machado or Bogaerts.
Still, I am very high on Russell. I look forward to the day I can tell my kids that I saw this guy at an A ball game and that everyone knew he was going to be a star.
I did a swing analysis on McKinney last year based off his high school footage. To recap, I was a little disappointed considering the rave reviews we hear from scouts. Like Russell last year, McKinney got an aggressive assignment to Stockton in his first full year in pro ball. While his season has been a bit bumpy, the assignment did allow me to get some swing footage, so let's take a look.
Like Russell, McKinney hasn't changed much (if anything) in his swing since last year. Again like Russell, McKinney is an early strider, but McKinney's footwork is really unique. Most early striders get the foot down then lift the heel to get some coiling of the lower body. McKinney doesn't do that, instead just shifting into the front side. The result is that his upper half turns his lower half, instead of the other way. I believe the lower half is more important the upper half, so I tend to not be has high on McKinney's swing as others.
Of course, when scouting players most people just pay attention to the upper body and arms. And for this, McKinney does have really nice upper body function. One thing I would like to see him do is move the bat into a more aggressive launch position to start his swing. From behind, at the end of his stride his bat is already on the plane of the pitch, but I would like to see him work the bat into a more vertical position (for more on this, check out this article).
The knock on McKinney is power. Watching him swing I can see why. He doesn't use the lower body very well and loses out on some free power during the stride with his bat position. Watching him play on AN Day left something to be desired. He seemed a little tired and his bat a little slow. He didn't give you the impression of "First Rounder, regular corner outfielder in 3 years."
McKinney's season in Stockton has been so-so with a .228/.375/.375 for a 92 wRC+. The walks have been nice but the 19% K rate has been an unwelcome surprise (again I suggest his stride as a culprit). Still, he is one of the youngest guys in A+ ball and the A's certainly think highly of him. My guess is he would be a candidate to repeat at Stockton before heading to Midland. Considering McKinney isn't an essential piece in the A's short- term plan, that probably isn't a bad thing for all parties involved. My lukewarm opinion hasn't changed much on McKinney.
I already did a full swing analysis on Robertson a little while back, but I thought I would just check in on him.
Even before he took the time to talk and take a picture with me, I was high on Daniel Robertson. Even though this is his second season of full season ball, Robertson is still one of the younger guys in the Cal League (only five months older than McKinney). Robertson is posting a solid wRC+ of 119 and by all reports looking to stick at shortstop. On AN Day, we saw a middle infield of Russell and Robertson and it wasn't hard to imagine them trading the Ports' blue and red for Oakland green and gold in a few years. I think Oakland deserves a lot of credit for picking Robertson in the supplemental first round. Great pick.
For some reason Nunez has never really been that interesting of a prospect for me. The book on him is lots of swing-and-miss but some power. I didn't get a lot of footage on him, but the little I did represented the swing-and-miss portion of the scouting report.
I didn't see a lot in his swing to suggest super high strike-out totals, so the problem might be pitch recognition or approach. This could be a good or a bad thing (sometimes swing issues are easier to fix than other problems). Still, I didn't see near enough to really form an opinion. The .193 ISO is intriguing though.
Olson is a huge guy. Like 6'4" 235 lbs. huge. The first time I saw Olson play he smashed a no-doubt home run. Of course I didn't get it on video and the at-bats I shot on AN Day he didn't do much. Olson is earning a reputation as a three true outcomes hitter with a TTO% of 45 percent this year in Stockton (that's nearing Adam Dunn territory).
Watching Olson swing is very intriguing. The bat gets through the zone pretty easily. One knock I have is that he seems to swing tall with very little bend in his hips or knees. In the words of some guy from Athletics Nation Day, I would like to see Olson "channel his inner J Lo" and involve is lower body more. If nothing else it would help him handle the low pitches better like the one below. See how he basically has to throw the bat at the low pitch. I am guessing he is going to see a lot of low pitches as he progresses. Maybe he should take a look at how Brandon Moss handles the low pitches.
I would like to get some more footage on Olson. He definitely has perked my interest.
Wrapping this up, I will say Stockton is definitely the place to go to see Oakland prospects this year. And after being disappointed in scouting Grant Green and Michael Choice last year, I am now more hopeful of what is in the Oakland farm system.
On a different note, this is my last "regular" post at Athletics Nation. I am stepping down from my weekly slot, but will still post from time-to-time when I can think of something that might be of interest. It has been over a year since my first FanPost on Addison Russell, and I have been pleasantly surprised at the interest my perspective on hitting has received. It has been a pleasure talking baseball with you and look forward to continuing that, just in the comments of other people's articles.
I always found it very annoying that athletes bring their kids to press conferences. Since this is about as close as I am going to get to a press conference, here is a picture of me with my kids. My wife and I are hoping our son has a future in baseball and our daughter has a future in badge-eating.