Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Scouting Trip – Trent Clark, Isan Diaz, and Lucas Erceg

15
Aug

After writing numerous articles analyzing stats and players from behind a keyboard, I figured it was time to take a whack at the art of scouting. It is something I have wanted to do for quite some time now and I finally found the opportunity to test the waters. My first trip – a game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Oakland Athletics Class-A teams, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers versus the Beloit Snappers.

Beloit, WI is a small town relatively close to me, so I figured it would be the perfect place to catch a minor league baseball game. Unfortunately, the Snappers are not a particularly exciting team. The only player on their roster worth keeping an eye on is Skye Bolt, who ranks 26th on the A’s Top-30 prospects according to MLB.com. With that being said, my focus is more on the opposing team and the team that night was the Timber Rattlers.

The Timber Rattlers (or T-Rats) have three players in particular with some serious upside. This includes 2015 1st round draft pick OF Trent Clark, 2015 2nd round draft pick 2B/SS Isan Diaz, and 2016 2nd round draft pick Lucas Erceg.

Two things in particular went my way that night. One, all three of these hitters are left-handed so I did not have to move around the stadium to get the shots I wanted. And two, the game went 13 innings. Myself and the remaining 20 fans at the game were able to enjoy six at-bats from each one of these hitters. This allowed me to get a nice closeup on each one of these players.

OF Trent Clark

Scouting Report (Future Value)

Hit – 50 (60)

Power – 40 (45)

Run – 55 (65)

Arm – 50 (55)

Field – 50 (55)

Overall – 50 (60)

Trent Clark is certainly an intriguing prospect. The first thing that stuck out to me were the size of his legs. They are ginormous. Clark is listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds and I think 180 pounds are in his lower half. Outside of his legs, Clark looked like a short and stocky figure – probably not going to grow much more.

At the plate, the first thing I noticed was his patience. He took the first two pitches and then put the ball in play on the third pitch. The next at-bat, he took the first five pitches and then struck out swinging on the sixth. On the night, Clark saw 26. Of those 26 pitches, three were put in play, two were fouled off, two were swinging strikes, and the remaining 19 pitches were watched. There were quite a few pitches that even I would not have swung at, but regardless, lots of patience. While the outfielder is only batting .243 on the season, his walk rate is 14.8% and his OBP is an impressive .360.

However, the balls that he put into play that night were less than impressive. He flew out to center in his first at-bat, hit a weak groundball to short in his fourth at-bat, and flared a single to right field in his final at-bat.

That night, Clark played centerfield, a position that the Brewers would love for him to stay at. There have been questions whether or not he can stick at that position due to his arm strength, but I was able to witness him gun a guy at the plate. With a runner on second heading home on a single to center, Clark gathered himself and threw a one-bounce dart home to beat the runner by a couple of steps. I certainly did not see any issue with his arm.

On the other hand, he did not seem all that comfortable in centerfield. He took a bad step on a broken-bat single in the first inning, which could have been caught if he didn’t take one step back. I will be completely honest though – I’m not sure if your above-average defender would have made that play. I’m not sure what the “status quo” is when it comes to balls hit into the outfield with a broken bat. Anyway, there was another field ball hit to left-center a couple of innings later that Clark seemed to make a little more difficult than it looked. But late in the game, he made a wonderful running grab in the right-center gap that definitely would have gone for extra bases.

Overall, I saw a pretty mixed bag on the night. The plate discipline is certainly a strong suit and even though I did not get to witness it much that night, he has the knack to square up pitches. And unfortunately it seemed that Clark, who missed almost a month with a hamstring injury, did not have all of his speed back. That stat sheet says he had a stolen base, which was really a botched pickoff attempt that turned into Clark “stealing” second, followed by him over-sliding the bag, trying to advance to third, and then being thrown out. It was a mess. Regardless, I was definitely a fan of his and hopefully Trent Clark can finish the season strong.

2B/SS Isan Diaz

Scouting Report (Future Value)

Hit – 50 (60)

Power – 50 (60)

Run – 45 (50)

Arm – 45 (50)

Field – 45 (50)

Overall – 50 (60)

The player with the prettiest swing on the field that night had to be Isan Diaz. He’s the 2B/SS whom the Brewers acquired in the Jean Segura trade this past offseason. After mashing at the plate in Rookie ball last season (.360/.436/.640 in 68 games), Diaz has continued his success at the plate this season in A-ball, hitting .279/.364/.497 with 18 HR, 69 RBI, 31 2B, and 11 SB in 115 games.

In his first at-bat, Diaz hit a relatively lazy fly ball to center field, but he squared it up well. In his second at-bat, he hit a missile to right field. You can see in the video above, it looked like he felt he got a hold of it. You can hear a fan in the back shout as well. And that swing – so pretty. Lots of good things there. However, the ball was hit directly to the right fielder and that was the end of that.

In the third at-bat, it looked as if Diaz was just overpowered by some fastballs that he eventually struck out on. The next at-bat was a much different story though, as the 20-year-old inside-outed a pitch for a double up against the left field wall. It was certainly an impressive display of power and while it was not a bang-bang plate at second, he did show off solid base running skills.

After being extremely impressive in his first four at-bats, Diaz seemed to have a bit of a brain lapse (I think). It was the top of the 10th inning and after a Luis Aviles strikeout, Trent Clark was immediately hit with the next pitch. The next pitch – Carlos Belonis was drilled as well. Two pitches, two HBP. Now the go-ahead run is on second with one out in the 10th. Diaz strides to the plate and was first-pitch hacking. He hit a measly pop-out to third base and made a quick out. I’m not sure if Matt Erickson gave the green light to the second baseman, but it seemed like a strange place to be swinging first pitch. The pitcher had just plunked two batters on the previous two pitches. The thought process might have been that the pitcher HAD to throw a heater down the middle on his next pitch and why not swing at it, but it seemed a tad foolish to me. Anyways, the T-Rats rally was eventually squandered and they continued into extra innings. Diaz’s final at-bat was also uneventful, as he grounded out to the second baseman.

Defensively, Diaz was playing second base, a position he has occasionally been playing this season. He typically has been at shortstop, but many scouts believe he will eventually be a full-fledged second baseman. With that being said, I was not particularly impressed with him at second base. The majority of the game he seemed disinterested and zoned out at the position. While the rest of the infielders were talkative and moving around the infield, Diaz seemed to stay at home and do his own thing. There was one ground ball in particular that he backhanded and one-hopped over to first base. The backhand stop was not an easy one, but the throw looked pretty lackluster. They got the runner on a nice scoop by the first baseman however.

Now, I hate to admit this, but I left the game early. Yes, the cardinal sin of attending a baseball game and something I have rarely done. I left after the top of the 13th inning concluded, once I was able to watch Clark, Diaz, and Erceg each bat six times. It was getting close to midnight and a wicked storm was rolling through that I did not want to drive though. Enough with the excuses.

I point this out because the game ended in the bottom half of the 13th and had a lot to do with Mr. Isan Diaz. With two outs and a man on first, Diaz made an error on a throw to first base to end the inning. Two batters later, the Snappers walk-off on the T-Rats. Unfortunately, I did not see the play and there is no video out there of the play. All we know is it was a “throwing error”. So be it.

What I saw that night was a guy who has a ton of upside at the plate and someone who needs to work on his defense and mental game. The swing was there and the power was there. No doubt about it. However, I think he could make some improvements with mentally keeping himself in the game and maintaining focus.

3B Lucas Erceg

Scouting Report (Future Value)

Hit – 45 (55)

Power – 55 (65)

Run – 40 (45)

Arm – 55 (60)

Field – 55 (60)

Overall – 50 (60)

I have to be honest with you. I initially went to the game to check out Clark and Diaz – that’s it. It was only until I arrived at the game that I totally remembered Lucas Erceg was the Brewers’ 2nd round draft pick this year. I took a look at his stat line and saw he had been pretty successful since joining the organization. He was also a left-hander, which made my job a lot easier, so I figured I would watch him too. Let’s just say he was my favorite player of the night.

I did not get to see him bat in the first inning, so my first impression of Erceg came on the field. I noticed right away he was a talker. Talk to the pitcher. Talk to the shortstop. Talk to the third base coach. Talk to the runner on third. Talk to everyone. I’m pretty sure everyone in the stadium heard the guy talking. He seemed like a likable character. He encouraged the pitcher when he was down in the count and praised him after a good pitch or a strikeout. It was like I was watching the Little League World Series. I enjoyed it.

Not only was he talking, he seemed completely dialed in on the field. He moved around quite a bit in the infield, prepared himself well before pitches were thrown, and made a few quality plays at the hot corner. His arm was fantastic. Plenty of life on the throws over to first. He looked like someone extremely comfortable at the position. His only slip up was he was a tad slow on his transition on a double play ball (he and Diaz still turned two). If it weren’t for the fact that it was the Snappers’ first baseman running down the line, that probably wouldn’t have been the result. Regardless, I definitely liked him at third.

At the plate, I didn’t see too much in the first few at-bats. He walked his first time up, hit a hard groundball to first in his second at-bat, and had an ugly looking strikeout his third time around. However, with one out in the ninth and down three runs, Erceg drove a home run to left-center field to tie the game. At the time, I felt like he didn’t get all of it. It looked and sounded like he muscled it off the bat and there was no chance of it going out. The swing Diaz showed off in his second at-bat looked and sounded much more impressive. But with absolutely zero wind, the ball found its way out of the stadium. Pretty awesome. The guy definitely has some power. And what I found even more intriguing is that this guy could definitely put on some weight. He currently stands at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and I think he could put on another 15-20 pounds of muscle. There is a lot of room to grow in his power potential.

As for a quick tidbit on his running skills, he was taking a very aggressive lead at first base after he walked in the second inning. I found that somewhat surprising. He also got a very good jump on a base hit to left field later that inning. He didn’t advance to third, but he did recognize right away the ball was going to drop in for a hit.

Erceg blew past Rookie ball this year, only playing in 26 games and slashing .400/.452/.552. So far with the Timber Rattlers, he’s hitting .290/.340/.500 with six doubles, two triples, and three home runs in 23 games. He has been mightily impressive in his brief career. I think he has the chance to move quickly through the system. Erecg is definitely a guy to keep your eye on.

OTHER NOTES: 

  • Domingo Santana was still doing his minor league rehab stint with the T-Rats and he looked like that kid that hit puberty way before everyone else in middle school. What a large and intimidating individual.
  • Defensively, he took a very bad step on a baseball hit towards him in right field in the ninth. The ball eventually dropped right in front of him. It was not a Trent Clark broken bat scenario from earlier. It was just a pretty bad read.
  • T-Rats first baseman Alan Sharkey made a wonderful diving play in the ninth inning to keep the game alive.
  • T-Rats third base coach (not sure of his name) was tossed in the 12th inning when Trent Clark was called out on his way to third base after over sliding second. The argument was pretty engaging. It took about 5-10 minutes to get him off the field. Was he correct to argue? Yes. I had a perfect view and the third baseman missed the tag on Clark. The umpire, who was running over from his position at first base, had an awful angle. I did find out that these minor league games only have two umpires. You learn something new everyday.
About the author: Jack Conness

Graduate of UW-Milwaukee. Baseball nerd. Follow him on Twitter! @JackConness