Digging for Diamonds: Scouting the Cape League
It’s never too early to get a jump on planning for your dynasty squad’s future, particularly in the middle of August if you happen to be at the helm of a team whose ship has already sailed in the current season. And one of the best opportunities for longer-term planning presents itself annually out on Cape Cod, where a solid majority of the nation’s best and brightest soon-to-be-draft-eligible collegiate players congregate for their first taste of wood bat baseball. I made my annual pilgrimage out to the land of mackerel bones and sand last week and caught home-and-home series of Brewster-Harwich and Chatham-Orleans. In the process I managed to squeeze in looks at a handful of players that should be high on your deep league follow lists heading into the spring college season and next year’s draft. Below are my scouting reports on some of the more intriguing fantasy prospects I was able to put eyes on, along with some notes about their future potential fantasy value.
Gio Brusa, RF Pacific University (Brewster)
Listed 6’3″ 210 looks about right. Strong, athletic frame with room to add another 10-15 pounds without compromising mobility. Switch-hitter; left side stance is tall with lots of noise in the load. Hands begin high, slightly above shoulders, pronounced dip and high leg kick. Lots of moving parts. Bat flows through the zone, long with prominent uppercut, loses top hand on contact. Generates strong hip rotation, drops bat head, handles low pitches very well but present vulnerability up and in. Solid approach, good command of the zone, uses middle of the field well. Took one out to left-center through Cape drizzle and gusts. Right side: Similar base mechanics, narrow spread, stands tall with back elbow perpendicular and hands higher. Even more pre-swing noise. Pronounced pendulum of weight and drop of hands at pitch delivery, recipe for timing issues and vulnerability against advanced breaking stuff. Below average runner; three clocks at 4.39 to 4.50 from right side, one at 4.32 from left.
Fantasy profile: Classic bat-first right field profile. Brusa’s current swing mechanics will need some significant clean-up as he graduates into the professional ranks, but he demonstrated a solid starter tool kit for eventually bringing plus power into games at the highest levels.
Joe McCarthy, RF University of Virginia (Harwich)
Tall left-handed hitter, long torso, already chiseled, very modest physical projection remaining. Quiet setup. Hands start slightly in front of shoulders with minimal drift at load. Quick double toe tap, no stride, torque very limited at hip rotation. Lack of consistent lower half may limit power utility. Upper half is mechanically sound, arms and wrists work well together. Advanced command of the zone. Works into hitting counts but lacks aggressiveness in swing at present to consistently punish balls in the zone. Ability to spoil and stay in at-bats when behind. Strong hand-eye and barrel delivery limits swing-and-miss. Impressive reads and direct routes in right field. Laid out and secured sprawling grab on the line. Not a quick first step, long strides in run. Solid-average once he gets up to speed. Arm flashed adequate for right, accurate, moderate carry. Very impressive approach/hit tool combination but lacks present power utility for a corner.
Fantasy Profile: McCarthy had the best pure hitting skills I saw on the Cape, and unlike most college players with a right field profile he should bring defensive value into the equation as well, which will afford him that much more developmental rope as he climbs through the minor leagues. The raw material is there for McCarthy to become a premium fantasy outfielder, but his current swing mechanics aren’t geared to take full enough advantage of his raw strength and generate the kind of over-the-fence power that fantasy owners need to see. He should be tracked closely next spring. Barring a major power binge he’s unlikely to be drafted at the top of next summer’s draft, but he could represent a sneaky target for savvy owners if the team that drafts him is subsequently able to unlock his power potential.
Cavan Biggio, 2B Notre Dame (Harwich)
Awkward pre-pitch setup with wide, open squat of a stance. Hands at head, wrists at 55 degree angle with back elbow cocked high. Violent bat waggle above head. Transitions from that mess into an impressive swing. Hands halt to attention at wrist cock. Quick path to the ball, plus bat speed. Delivers barrel with authority and attacks the ball, can square pitches in all quadrants. Hips whip through the zone, tremendous torque. Confident in barreling ability to a fault; displayed inconsistent approach in chasing pitches he shouldn’t at times despite strong pitch recognition. More present swing-and-miss than there should be.
Fantasy profile: The son of soon-to-be-Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio, Cavan’s stance and general demeanor could not be farther removed from his dad’s quiet approach in the box. And his lack of a true defensive position at this stage of the game may be enough of a ding on him next year to knock him out of the top of the draft. But there’s no denying his offensive potential despite what can be charitably described as an ugly stance. If he’s able to stick in the infield, and particularly if he can show enough defensive prowess at second base, he’ll make for a strong target in dynasty leagues. The ingredients are there for a strong average, moderate power bat down the line, and it’s a profile that’ll play in even shallow leagues at the keystone.
Chris Shaw, RF/1B Boston College (Chatham)
Gorilla of a man, every bit of listed 6’4” 235. Thick lower half. Hands start off the ear, back elbow migrates a bit but generally parallel, slight front shoulder tuck. Wide base and slightly open, short stride. Generates tremendous loft and backspin with highly leveraged swing. Plus bat speed, great extension. Handles velocity up and away. Likes to extend arms. Tough to stop swing once he starts, can lose back leg. Vulnerable to spin, particularly from same-handed pitching. Lacks two-strike approach at present, swing-and-miss may limit power utility. Power is impressive. Hit an absolute bomb out to dead center in Orleans down 0-2, lefty-on-lefty after two swinging strikes where he was badly beaten. Lumbering runner. Poor breaks, lacks instincts and speed for outfield. First base profile all the way.
Fantasy Profile: Shaw has been one of the consensus best power bats to hit the Cape this summer, and it was quite evident why in my viewings. He profiles as a quintessential slugger, with the kind of big boy strength to hit bombs in bunches in his prime. It’s an open question whether he’ll ever develop the pure hitting skills to bring all of his power into games, but when he gets a hold of one it’s awful fun to watch. Dynasty league owners should be all over this guy next spring and summer, as the power tool should be among the best of the collegiate ranks.
Garrett Williams, LHP Oklahoma State (Chatham)
Classic left-handed frame, clean and easy arm action from true ¾ arm slot. Frame can support additional bulk and will need it to start. Stays balanced and compact behind high leg kick, back leg stays true. Creates leverage and plane with long stride. Slight hesitation before plant. Can lose release when he comes around front leg instead of over it. Fastball sits 89-91, humped a couple to 93 early. When properly executed flashes as a plus potential pitch with arm side run. Tough to square, no hard contact in this outing. Challenged lefties inside with it. Comfortable throwing to arm side. Command is present average. Curveball presents as potential knockout pitch. Two-plane bite, will change speeds between 72 and 77. Confidence in pitch shows. Consistent ability to bury it, will throw in any count. Missed down when he missed. Did not show a third pitch. Wheels fell off in the 5th. Allowed two soft hits, badly overthrew to first on a sac bunt, allowed another soft single, then a four-pitch walk. Velo dropped to 87-89, lacked focus to final batters. Highly projectable lefty, showed an intriguing two-pitch mix and feel for his craft.
Fantasy profile: While Williams is perhaps my favorite kind of real-life prospect profile, it can be a frustrating type in dynasty leagues because pitchers of Williams’ ilk can tend to be slower in their development path. It’s not the kind of sexy front-of-the-rotation profile that makes for a good gamble on draft day, but he’ll be a guy to keep an eye on as he climbs through the minors as a potential late-bloomer type to target down the line.
Cody Ponce, RHP Cal-Poly Pomona (Brewster)
Ponce has been the pop-up prospect of the Cape League this year, as he’s come seemingly out of nowhere to wow scouts with his size and four-pitch arsenal. I didn’t have the good fortune to catch him on the mound, but I did have the rather unique opportunity to see him play a full game in left field on the Cape League’s final regular season day after half his team split for Logan Airport. And I can confirm that Ponce does indeed have just about the exact prototype of a workhorse body you want in a starting pitcher. He’s every bit his listed 6’6” 240, with a thick lower half and broad, imposing shoulders. And he left little doubt about his arm strength after uncorking an absolutely laser from the left field corner to home on the fly. He’ll be one of the hotter helium prospects entering the spring season, and he’s a name that should be on the radar of all dynasty leaguers as well.