In a new feature this year, I am going to have a scouting notebook post each Saturday with notes from the previous week. With the minor league season beginning just this past Thursday, there is only so much to talk about, but there are still plenty of things to note.

Robert Stephenson

The right hander started for Dayton in the opener. His fastball ranged from 92-99 MPH, mostly sitting 95-97, though he would go below that from time to time with good movement. He didn’t go to his change up much in the game, relying more on his curveball. It was inconsistent on the night where it dipped into the 20’s before the game was over. When it was on, it was a plus pitch. His control of the pitch was off a bit, often missing just outside of the strikezone.

Tony Cingrani

From a results standpoint, you would be hard pressed to find a better game from anyone. 1 walk in 6 hitless innings and 14 strikeouts is flat out getting it done. From a scouting perspective though, it was both good and bad. Let’s start off with the good. Cingrani threw the best breaking balls I have ever seen him throw in this game and it wasn’t particularly close. They weren’t all good ones, but there were more good ones than bad ones and the good ones were really good. After the game, Cingrani was quoted as saying they were sliders, but they looked a lot more like curveballs to me and they were coming in around 75 MPH. You can be the judge for yourself though. Do note that the image below is not in real time, but probably about 85% of real speed.

That was the best one of the night, but there were several other pretty good ones too. The pitch was in the mid 70’s and was not a pitch Cingrani was throwing last season. That is the good. The bad was that despite racking up a lot of strikeouts with his fastball, Cingrani wasn’t commanding the pitch well. He was up in the zone with it most of the night, but guys weren’t able to touch it. It was coming in 91-92 most of the night, but touched mid 90’s in the first inning. Fastball command hasn’t been an issue in the past, so it isn’t a real issue but warranted mentioning.

Billy Hamilton

Last season Billy Hamilton came a long way from the left side of the plate. He had a better swing and his balance was so much better that it wasn’t remotely comparable to what he showed in 2011. In the opener Hamilton didn’t look good, making a few poor swings from the left side. That will happen on some nights, and isn’t really what I wanted to talk about. What did stand out though was the change in his batting stance. If you watch him from the left side from 2012 (below), you can see that pre-swing he has a lot of bat movement going on before setting his hands.

This season, all of that bat movement is gone. Hamilton now sets up in the box and has his bat resting over his shoulder and pointing slightly downward toward the ground (imagine the bat angle as a hand on the clock…. it would be around 8 o’clock) before he leans in a little bit and sets his hands and bat at an angle that is more around 10 o’clock to reach back to that reference point. It is too early to say what this change will  do for him, but it will be worth following. Defensively, he hasn’t had many chances yet, but he made a nice sliding catch in shallow center.

Joe Hudson

Hudson was injured prior to the start of last season with Billings and never made his debut in 2012. He started during the 2013 opener for the Dayton Dragons behind the plate. While it was just one game, he impressed me behind the plate. He was real quiet and still behind the plate.

Ryan LaMarre

After offseason surgery to fix a plantar fasciitis injury that he played through, LaMarre also worked on his swing and early on you can really see a difference. Last season when I saw him, he was basically using an all arms swing that simply was not going to generate any power at all. Perhaps it was a result of playing with the foot injury because in the Reds Futures game in April of 2012, his swing was much different and more geared to produce power. The 2013 version of his swing is more like the April 2012 version, though his bat angle at the start of his swing is a little different. The swing looks much better than what it had evolved to late last season though.