The following scouting reports were written up by MLB Prospect Watch founder Jeff Moore based on the Southern League game between the Montgomery Biscuits (TB) and the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN) on 8/21/12.
In my first time seeing Tony Cingrani, I came away impressed but skeptical at the same time, if that's possible. Cingrani dominated hitters with his fastball, retiring the first 15 batters he faced without breaking a sweat.
He has electric natural arm speed and action, making his mid-90's fastball seem effortless. He threw almost exclusively two-seam fastballs that demonstrated good run into left-handed hitters, but not a lot of natural sink. On the mound, he works extremely quick, and on this night, most of the hitters' at-bats were over before they knew what hit them.
Cingrani demonstrated plus command of his fastball, not only throwing strikes, but spotting his fastball on the corners and repeatedly hitting his catcher's target. He worked to both sides of the plate, which allowed him to dominate primarily with his fastball and without having to work his secondary pitches in nearly as often as I would have hoped.
His slider looked more like a downward power curve and he threw it to both left and right-handed hitters. At first, I was impressed that he didn't automatically throw too many breaking pitches to left-handed hitters, as many young pitchers do, but in hindsight, he should have thrown more. He reportedly has a good change-up, but on this night, he didn't throw enough of them to give me a good feel for the pitch, which is a problem in and of itself.
Cingrani dominated primarily with his fastball, but that won't work in the majors. Even in Double-A, by the third time through the lineup, the Biscuits were getting more comfortable in the box and got to Cingrani. He still didn't give up many hard hit balls, but by the sixth inning, they had clearly figured out that he was throwing primarily fastballs and definitely got better looks at him, finding some holes and putting two runs on the board.
While the outing was impressive, without developing his off-speed pitches further, Cingrani is still destined for a late-inning relief role. At this point, he looks like his ceiling is as an 8th inning reliever, albeit a very good one. If the Reds want to see him remain in the rotation, they need to limit his fastball or enforce a certain amount of off-speed pitches he needs to throw each inning to further his development.
While Lobstein was far less impressive on this night than CIngrani, he probably has a better chance of becoming a starter in the majors because of his changeup. Lobstein's ceiling is much lower, however, and he has difficulty repeating his delivery, causing erratic command, so he's far from a finished product.
Lobstein will never be anything more than a back-end starter for the Rays because of his high-80s fastball. Lobstein is a great example of the difference between control and command. He doesn't walk a lot of batters, demonstrating good control, but his command is erratic and he routinely misses his spots, often times within the strike zone. This is caused by his inability to repeat his delivery.
Because he has a long-arm action after he breaks his hands, he fails to get his left arm to the same spot in its motion at the time of his landing foot hitting the ground on each pitch. When he gets his arm up and moving forward as the landing foot hits, he has better control. But on many occasions, his arm is still dragging through its motion, causing it to have to work to get "up and over" his front side, which has already landed. The result is erratic command, especially up and down in the zone.
What Lobstein did show, however, was a plus change-up, getting off-balance swings-and-misses from a number of right-handed hitters. This pitch alone gives him a puncher's chance of being a back-end starter or swingman in the majors, if he improves his fastball command and cleans up his mechanics. He doesn't profile as an effective left-handed reliever, however, because his curveball was just average and he would need to add a few MPH to his fastball.
This night, of course, belonged to Hamilton, who broke the single-season minor league stolen base record. As impressive as that was, however, Hamilton is more than just steals.
He still has a long way to go as a hitter, but he has a legitimate chance to have more than a Vince Coleman-like career because of his approach at the plate. Hamilton has fully embraced the leadoff role and, unlike so many young hitters, has no desire to try to hit home runs. He understands his game better than perhaps any hitter in the minors, and understands his limitations as a hitter.
On the bases, the biggest reason for his success this year is his transformation from a runner to a true base stealer. He is willing to wait to get a read on the pitcher before just trying to outrun the throw, which had been his approach in the past. He knows how to draw pickoff throws to see a move, get his timing down, then exploit the pitcher.
On second base, Hamilton is virtually unstoppable stealing third, and with a left-handed pitcher on the mound and a right-handed batter, I'd venture to say that he is unstoppable. With the size lead he can get on second and the walking momentum, there's really no amount of pickoff attempts that can hold him back.
The Rays right-fielder on this night looks like he has already begun to fill out his athletic frame. He has massive shoulders and a broad back, looking like a slightly-smaller Carlos Quentin. He shows a similar stance and swing to Quentin as well, but without the power just yet. He doesn't crouch in his stance as much as he used to, but there's still a hint of it there, and he explodes out of it with a slight uppercut in his swing.
In the outfield, he's much more athletic than Quentin, running better and showing better body control. He's not quite as muscle-bound as Quentin, although I could see it getting to that point if he continues to fill out. He was playing right field on this night, but doesn't quite have the arm for it, making him a probable left fielder and tying his value primarily to his bat. That being the case, he'll need his power to continue to develop.