See also: Arizona Fall League rosters
MLB.com released rosters for the Arizona Fall League on Tuesday. Rather than just give you raw names, here's a look inside the rosters for the premier prospect showcase in professional baseball:
MESA SOLAR SOX
Pitchers To Watch: Cubs RHP Chris Carpenter, 24, has one of the biggest arms in the AFL, with a fastball that reaches 96 mph at times and sits in the low-to-mid-90s. He also flashes a solid-average slider and changeup with promise. Physical Mets LHP Rob Carson, 21, lights up radar guns in the 92-95 mph range and is still raw, but he's had a disastrous stint in Double-A (1-6, 8.74). RHP Justin DeFratus could fit into the Phillies bullpen next season thanks to a 94-96 mph heater and a strong 2010 campaign, including a stint at Double-A.
Hitters To Watch: OF Brett Jackson has had a strong first full season, reaching Double-A and holding his own there after being a first-rounder in 2009. Pirates C Tony Sanchez was the No. 4 overall pick in 2009 and was taking off as a prospect before a broken jaw sidelined him after 59 games at high Class A Bradenton, where he had an .870 OPS. The Angles are hoping to revive the career of 3B Brandon Wood, who first played in the AFL in 2005 and hit a league-record 14 homers that year. He's still just 25 but has been putrid as a big leaguer—.180/.208/.271 through 406 at-bats with 128 strikeouts. Cubs 3B Josh Vitters continues to flash the power and hitting ability that made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2007, but his modest pitch recognition and plate discipline are keeping him from unlocking his potential.
Pitchers To Watch: Mariners RHPs Maikel Cleto and Joshua Fields give the Javelinas two rarities, fresh arms with power, with Cleto back to flashing the 98 mph heat that got him included in the J.J. Putz trade in December 2008 from the Mets. LHP Pat Urckfitz has gone from non-drafted free agent to the Fall League in just over a year. Sure, part of it is the thin Astros system, but he also is a lefty with an average fastball coming off a solid year in the gusting winds of high Class A Lancaster. Fellow Astros farmhand RHP Kyle Greenwalt hasn't had as much success at Lancaster but flashes average-to-plus secondary stuff to go with a decent sinker.
Hitters To Watch: This roster isn't full yet but already is loaded, with 2009 No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley continuing his transition to second base. He's steadily improved after a rough April and has a solid .264/.366/.398 line overall between Double-A West Tenn and Triple-A Tacoma in his first pro season. Cuban SSs Jose Iglesias (Red Sox) and Adeiny Hechevarria (Blue Jays) will be his double-play partners, and both have big defensive tools, while Ackley will share time at 2B with impressive Indians 2009 second-rounder Jason Kipnis. Someone in this group, or perhaps fellow Tribe 2B Cord Phelps, will probably play some 3B or 1B. Toronto OF Eric Thames has put up numbers in Double-A and should have a chance to do it again in the AFL's thin air.
Pitchers To Watch: The Saguaros' top two starters are command guys with solid stuff who missed time early in the season with oblique injuries. RHP Alex Cobb has put together a fine Double-A season, averaging 9.3 K/9 IP using a plus changeup, three other average pitches and excellent control. Padres LHP Cory Luebke has a similar approach from the left side, and neither hurler surpassed more than 120 IP this season, though Luebke is set to make his big league debut this week. Reds LHP Philippe Valiquette will be fun to watch on the AFL's Pitch f/X data, with reports of his fastball sitting in the 95-98 mph range. White Sox RHP Johnnie Lowe remains a tease with his hard, low-90s sinker, which may play better in the bullpen. The same could be said of Twins RHP Carlos Gutierrez, a 2008 first-rounder.
Hitters To Watch: The White Sox are anxious to get OF Jared Mitchell back from the ankle injury, suffered in spring training, that sidelined him all season, and the 2009 first-rounder has to be too. He's part of a toolsy outfield that includes Twins farmhands Ben Revere, who is currently sidelined by a broken jaw, and the power-speed combo of Joe Benson. A former Coastal Carolina star, Reds OF David Sappelt is set to win a Southern League batting title despite a promotion to Triple-A. Fellow Red C Devin Mesoraco has hit 26 homers in a breakout season while reaching Triple-A, where he's embroiled in the International League pennant race.
PHOENIX DESERT DOGS
Pitchers To Watch: The Braves have had a strong minor league season and send two of their upper-level power arms in RHPs Brandon Beachy and Erik Cordier. While Cordier, coming back from Tommy John surgery, touches 97 mph and sits 94-95, Beachy has similar velocity, better command and a fine changeup. Both are rotation prospects. It's a mark of the poor season in the Athletics farm system that Oakland has sent RHP Justin James, a former high draft pick out of Missouri who'll be 29 by the start of the AFL season. He does touch 94 mph using a slingy arm action. Oakland's also sending ex-indy leaguer Mike Benacka.
Hitters To Watch: The Desert Dogs infield is loaded with prospects. The Dodgers list Jerry Sands, who also plays the outfield, at 1B, and his 33 homers reflect positive scouting reports. Oakland's top prospect is likely SS Grant Green, who's had a big offensive season in the Cal League but hasn't assuaged doubts about his ability to stay at short. Fellow SoCal product 1B Freddie Freeman earned IL top rookie honors with a huge second half and will head to the AFL after his big league callup in September. The Yankees have high hopes for the bats of 1B/3B Brandon Laird, who dominated the Eastern League for much of the season, and sweet-swinging 2B Corban Joseph.
Pitchers To Watch: The Scorpions' pitchers have varied backgrounds. The Orioles are sending former Navy RHP Oliver Drake, who has a solid low-90s fastball, as well as newly acquired RHP Wynn Pelzer (from San Diego for Miguel Tejada) and big league "veteran" Kam Mickolio. The Nationals sent a 2010 draftee, but it's not Bryce Harper; instead, LHP Sammy Solis will make his pro debut in the AFL. Rockies RHP Greg Reynolds has had multiple injury issues since being the No. 2 overall pick in 2006.
Hitters To Watch: The Nationals are looking for a bounce-back from C Derek Norris, as the 21-year-old hit just .237 with 86 strikeouts in 279 at-bats before getting hurt at high Class A Potomac. On the flip side, he did draw 83 walks and had an .847 OPS despite wrist and head injuries that have led to two disabled list stints. The Giants send a pair of hot prospects in 1B Brandon Belt, who finally hit an obstacle in Triple-A after obliterating two levels in his first full pro season, and 2B/SS Charlie Culberson, a 21-year-old showing power (15 homers) and speed (23 steals) in the Cal League to go with solid-average to above-average defensive tools. A thin Diamondbacks system needs production from 2009 draftees OFs Marc Krauss and A.J. Pollock.
Pitchers To Watch: The Royals have tried hard to develop lefties and send two talented southpaws to Surprise in Danny Duffy, who missed the first half after walking out of camp to ponder his baseball future, and Mike Montgomery, who had tendinitis interrupt a season that started in dazzling fashion. The Tigers put former Texas closer RHP Chance Ruffin on the fast track, sending the big league progeny to the AFL. The Brewers hope hard-throwing RHP Jeremy Jeffress, a three-time suspendee for marijuana use, will get more experience in Arizona after making his big league debut this month.
Hitters To Watch: The Royals' deep farm system contributes 1B Eric Hosmer and toolsy C Salvador Perez, and Brewers 2B Brett Lawrie remains an intriguing power/speed talent with plenty of Double-A experience. But the biggest tools on the club belong to Rangers OF Engel Beltre. His speed, defense and arm all rate ahead of his bat right now, but Beltre has flashed raw power at times.
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