After catching wind that Jiovanni Mier was having his shoulder examined, we weren't sure if we were going to see him at Astros camp. But he was there -- just wasn't making any throws.
Mier's defensive reputation played a large roll in our decision to rank him as a top 100 prospect last month. At that point, we'd only seen video of him and heard a few reports. Naturally, we gravitated toward him during infield, wanting to get a closer look.
We were able to watch Mier take grounders for about 15 minutes.
It's easy to gain confidence in his ability to glide to the ball, glove it and get into a position to fire off a good throw. He's very smooth and shows a wealth of defensive creativity. Mier's going to turn some amazing double-plays and make them look routine. Though he didn't throw the ball when we saw him, heading into the draft, Mier's arm was universally praised as being above-average.
Still, we have two concerns with his defense:
1. While his hands are soft, he failed to cleanly glove a lot of balls. Yes, the dirt was rough and it's still early but the shortstop he was sharing time with (Oscar Figueroa) didn't have the same problem.
2. Mier's no more than an average runner -- we had him at 4.45 and 4.60 seconds from home to first on two groundouts during an intrasquad game. Though he does have good footwork and instincts, if he slows down any more, he may be a better fit for third -- where he could be above-average defender -- than shortstop.
At the plate, Mier quickly plants his front toe and maintains rhythm before dropping his front heal to kick start his hips. His swing is largely driven by his strong, quick wrists and hips. But it's a quick line-drive swing once he gets going. He also has very little head movement, stays balanced and rotates his hips through the ball well. He showed impressive patience during his stint in rookie ball last season.
A few things to keep an eye on: Mier generates a good giddyup with his hands and gets ready to whip the barrel, but he isn't in a very strong position at launch. His quick, almost no-stride, limits his head movement but also limits his momentum and weight transfer. Both of these movements could hurt his power. The approach we saw was pretty pull-happy.
For him to pull the hand movement at the start of his swing off, he has to have good pitch recognition and bat speed. If he starts too fire too early, he'll be way out in front against anything that spins. But if he's recognizing well, it shouldn't hinder his timing.
Steve Carter also contributed to this piece. Order our Digital Prospect Guide to see more scouting video of 2010's top prospects.