2014 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects: The 25th Edition
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Arizona Fall League Notebook
By Chris Kline
PEORIA, Ariz.—Four years ago, Pirates outfielder Jeremy Harts was at low Class A Hickory, hanging out with his teammates after batting practice. A few players decided to see who had the strongest arm of the bunch by attempting to throw a ball from the right-field foul line over the scoreboard in left.
Harts not only cleared the board, but threw the ball into the parking lot. And he was the only one who could do it.
After hitting just .239 in 1,711 at-bats in the minors and wearing the tool-tag of having the strongest outfield arm, the Pirates slowly implemented a move to the mound for the fireballing lefthander.
He started throwing bullpens at Class A Lynchburg in 2003 and simulated games in instructional league last year. In his first full season as a reliever this season, Harts went 0-3. 5.80 in 45 innings this year spread across three levels—Hickory, high Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona, where he finished the year.
He was wild to say the least. Harts walked 50, struck out 36, threw 13 wild pitches and hit nine batters.
That had not changed in the Arizona Fall League. Harts is carrying a 6.48 ERA through eight innings of work. He had walked eight, hit two batters and uncorked a pair of wild pitches for the Peoria Saguaros.
In short, Harts is a project, but a project with potential worth pursuing.
The 24-year-old lefty’s fastball sits in the 93-95 mph range, touching 98. He has the makings of a deadly 87 mph slider and also throws a changeup that he obviously needs to slow down in order to make it an effective pitch.
“He’s a long-term deal as a pitcher,” one NL scout said. “I’m not really sure why they waited so long (to convert him). He’s very raw. The potential is there, sure, but at this point and with his age being a factor, there is also potential of him breaking down with how hard he throws and how raw his mechanics are.”
One example of Harts' raw mechanics is how he lands when he delivers. He consistently falls off to the third base side of the mound simply because he throws so hard. But he’s athletic enough to make plays and field his position well. And at least Harts knows that he needs to learn to harness his raw ability.
“They told me I was raw as an outfielder and now, five years later, I’m raw in a totally new position that is one of the most difficult to learn,” Harts said. “I have a lot to learn. I’m still learning how to get under control, how to be smooth and still throw hard.”
His mechanics and delivery also contribute to Harts' poor command of his wicked stuff.
“When I’m pumping it good it’s up to 97-98, but when I’m throwing strikes and it’s got good movement, I’m like 93-94,” Harts said. “That’s when it’s quality strikes down in the zone. Now if I want to hump up and blow it down there it’s 97-98, but until I can really learn to paint that real good, I just have to try not to overthrow and understand my adrenaline. If I can sit at 93 and get guys out, it’s all good.”
Harts started the year in Lynchburg, but there wasn’t room for him to work coming out of the pen so the Pirates sent him to Hickory to get some innings in and get a feel for live pitching. They then sent him to Altoona to end the season. After the Pirates had five players selected in the major league Rule 5 draft at last year's Winter Meetings, they might have been trying to hide Harts from other teams' scouts.
“I don’t know about that,” Harts said. “I’m just going out there and trying to learn. I know the history and I know I could get Rule 5’d, but the Pirates gave me this new opportunity and that’s what I’m focused on. Right now I’m just focused on what I need to do to get better on the mound.
“I just want to get to the point where I’m a guy who can show you something 85 (mph) and then pump it up to 98 and blow it right past you.”
• Saguaros second baseman Freddy Sanchez (Pirates) is having a banner fall after fully recovering from foot and leg injuries that hampered him all season at Triple-A Nashville. Sanchez is hitting .353 in 85 at-bats and has shown some pop with three homers and 16 RBIs. “This is the best I’ve felt probably in two years,” Sanchez said. “I feel better at the plate with using my lower half again and that’s allowing me to drive balls better. And that’s giving me more confidence in the field. Honestly, I’m just feeling great about the way things are coming together after being frustrated for so long. In a way, it’s just this feeling of relief—like finally things are falling into place again.”• Saguaros righthander Francisco Rosario (Blue Jays) sat at 94 mph over the weekend, but struggled with location and got hit hard. “I think he’s out of bullets at this point,” one AL scout said. The only contact Rosario was able to avoid was a collision between first baseman Stefan Bailie (Red Sox) and catcher Alberto Concepcion (Red Sox) as the three players converged on a pop up hit between first base and home plate by David Wallace (Indians). Bailie and Concepcion hit each other running at full speed, while Rosario backed off at the last second. Peoria outfielder Jason Cooper (Indians) was on third base, tagged up and scored after Bailie made the play in foul ground. Wallace was credited with a sacrifice fly and both players were shaken, but stayed in the game.
• Phoenix shortstop Omar Quintanilla (Athletics) is also showing off his game and wowing scouts with his quick bat. “He’s got great range and footwork to either side,” an NL farm director said. “He’ll probably have to move to second, but he’s a good little player. He sprays the ball well and has shown better patience that what we had seen in the past.” Quintanilla, who was leading the league in batting at .413, has been batting leadoff for the Desert Dogs over the last two weeks.