In the Cincinnati Reds Minor League Scouting Notebook this week we are going to look at RHP Jeremy Kivel, infielder Cory Thompson and infielder KJ Franklin.
Last year in Billings, Jeremy Kivel was absolutely bringing the heat. He was sitting in the mid 90’s and touching higher on a regular basis. And that was mostly as a starting pitcher. This season the Reds moved him into a bullpen role with the Dayton Dragons. The velocity simply wasn’t there in the first half of the season, at least by comparison. Most nights Kivel would top out around 94 or 95 and sit in the 91-93 MPH range. Then this past week or so happened and seemingly out of nowhere the elite velocity returned for the right hander. On Saturday night he was sitting at 95-96 MPH and hit 97 a few times in his outing that last two innings. In his next outing it was more of the same for the right hander, though he topped out at 98 MPH on Monday. Over his last 10.0 innings he’s allowed just two hits, walked four batters and he’s struck out 12 without allowing a run.
KJ Franklin returned to Billings in 2015 after spending all of his 2014 season there. The 20-year-old corner infielder is off to a slow start in 2015, but he looks like a different hitter both on the stat sheet and when you get to watch him play. On the stat sheet we can see two big changes from 2014 despite the slow start. In 2014, over the course of 249 plate appearances, Franklin walked a total of seven times. In 2015 he’s already matched that total in just 56 plate appearances. He’s also cut his strikeout rate down some. The other difference early on is that his power output is up. Last season he posted a 114 isolated power (SLG-AVG). This year it’s up to 153. The average still hasn’t come around, but if he continues doing what he’s been doing it should rise throughout the season.
That’s just looking at the stats, but let’s jump into how he looks when you watch him. The first thing that jumps out is a change in the mechanics at the plate.
The first change mechanically is rather noticeable. Franklin has gone away from an open stance that he used in 2014. He’s eliminated some of the pre-swing hand movement that he had before getting his hands set. He used to keep his hands pulled in at his chest until the pitcher began to come forward, then he’s move his hands into his hitting position. That’s been eliminated and his hands are in the start position from the very beginning. He’s also starting to lift his leg later in his set up. Last season he got it started pretty early.
Last season there were a lot of moving parts and they were all moving at weird times. While there’s still some movement there, things have been calmed down quite a bit and there are a lot less moving parts. In 2014, with an open stance his lower half was moving toward the plate and his hands would be moving up and out as he began to load. Now it’s simply some bat waggle and a normal step forward. Less movement, more time to focus on the pitch coming in, less things to possibly go wrong. The early results have been promising. The bat speed is still there and he’s clearly seeing the ball much better.
Saturday night I was able to get a first look at infielder Cory Thompson. With just one in person look, it’s obviously a very limited viewing, but there were some things that I was able to see that I liked. His bat was quick and he was pretty direct to the ball with his bat. On a groundout later in the game I was able to pull a slightly-above average time down to first base on him. While that isn’t much to note, he didn’t get out of the box quickly before kicking it into gear. That would put him as an above-average runner at the very least. Looking forward to getting another in-person look.