BA intern Peter Wardell is spending the fall in the Arizona Fall League, where he will take a weekly look at which players are hot. The fifth and final AFL hot sheet takes a look at the top performers over the past week. Statistics reflect performance through Thursday, November 15.
1. George Springer, of, Mesa Solar Sox (Astros)
Statistics: .450/.500/1.150 (9-for-20), 6 R, 1 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K, 1-for-1 SB
Coming off an impressive full-season debut at High-A Lancaster, Springer struggled for much of the fall season before finally breaking out this past week. As of last Thursday, the 2011 first rounder was batting just .222 on the season with five extra base hits. This week, Springer registered hits in all five games including a 3-for-3, two home run showing last Friday at Salt River to raise his season line to .286/.412/.600.
This fall, Springer continued to show off his five-tool ability and impressive athleticism. The 23-year-old shows explosive bat speed and flashes elite power potential rivaling Mesa teammates Javier Baez and Jonathan Singleton for tops in the league. Scouts continue to raise concerns over his high strikeout totals though (20 K in 70 AB), noting a poor approach and his tendency to collapse his backside for power as reasons for his high strikeout totals. Defensively, he shows excellent range in centerfield and profiles there or in right field with his above-average arm strength.
2. Slade Heathcott, of, Scottsdale Scorpions (Yankees)
Statistics: .625/.632/1.00 (10-for-16), 6 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 2-for-2 SB, 1 Error
Heathcott, who checked in third on the AFL Hot Sheet two weeks ago, wrapped up his fall season with an impressive eight-game hit streak, six of which were multi-hit showings. He finished the season second in on-base percentage (.494) and slugging percentage (.612) and fourth in batting average (.388).
Recently named the second best prospect in the Yankees system, the 22-year-old Heathcott was easily one of the most exciting players to watch this fall, even receiving a top AFL prospect nod from one evaluator. He shows all five tools but an extensive injury history (including two shoulder surgeries) and his max-effort style cause others to question whether he will reach his all-star potential.
3. Robbie Erlin, lhp, Peoria Javelinas (Padres)
Statistics: 1-0, 1.00, 2 GS, 9 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 14 K
After claiming the fifth spot in last week’s Hot Sheet, Erlin became the first pitcher to make two lists this fall with a pair of dominant outings this week. On Saturday, the 22-year-old lefthander struck out eight over four innings against Mesa. He followed it up with five shutout innings Thursday, striking out six and allowing just two hits and one walk to punch the Javelinas’ ticket to this weekend’s Championship.
Erlin, who finished second in the league in strikeouts (31) and third among starters in ERA (2.28), showed an impressive command and control of his four-pitch mix this fall. He does well to get ahead of hitters with his 88-91 mph fastball with late life, mixing in a 77-79 mph slider, 72-75 mph curveball and 79-81 mph changeup. All three offspeed offerings project to be at least big-league average offerings according to evaluators. Sent to the AFL after missing three months this summer with elbow tendinitis, Erlin could have an outside shot at a rotation spot with the Padres in 2013 after fairing well in the Texas League the past two seasons.
4. Nate Roberts, of, Peoria Javelinas (Twins)
Statistics: .400/.478/.850 (8-for-20), 7 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, 1-for-1 SB
Coming off a follow-up season at low Class A Beloit where he posted a .299/.433/.427 line, the 23-year-old Roberts looked dominant against advanced competition this fall, displaying excellent strike zone discipline and contact ability.
A 2010 fifth-round selection out of High Point (N.C.), Roberts reached base safely in all 19 of his games this fall. He led led the Arizona Fall League in batting average (.446), on-base percentage (.565) and slugging percentage (.662).
5. Mike Zunino, c, Peoria Javelinas (Mariners)
Statistics: .389/.389/.444 (7-for-18), 2 R, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 4 K
In previous years, the Arizona Fall League has been utilized as a place for organizations to send recent draftees to get extra work. However, with the moving up of the signing deadlines, just two first round selections were added to rosters this fall: Zunino and Tampa Bay’s Richie Shaffer. Whereas Shaffer was a member of Phoenix’s “taxi-squad”, playing just two games per week, Zunino quickly became the Javelinas’ everyday catcher.
It’s been a long season for the 21-year-old Zunino. He started 62 games behind the dish this spring at Florida en route to earning BA’s College Player of the Year award. He would then go on to catch 31 more this summer between Short-Season Everett and Double-A Jackson before squatting 15 more time with Peoria.
On the fall, Zunino batted .288/.337/.463 over 80 at bats with eight extra base hits (two home runs), displaying excellent barrel ability and above-average power. Defensively, he’s an average-solid defender but shows excellent leadership and communication skills working with pitchers.
Earlier this week, the Toronto Blue Jays traded Salt River outfielder Jake Marisnick and a package of prospects to the Miami Marlins for Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and others. Coming off a summer split between High-A Duedin and Double-A New Hampshire, Marisnick posted a .314/.380/.457 line over 70 at bats this fall for the Rafters. The 21-year-old displays good athleticism, above-average raw power and defensive ability (range, arm strength) but scouts still have concerns over his hit tool.
RULE 5 WATCH
In addition to giving recent draftees, injured and suspended players an opportunity to log innings and at bats, the AFL also gives organizations a chance to evaluate players with regards to filling out 40-man rosters. This year, 76 players in the Arizona Fall League will be Rule 5 draft-eligible unless they are added to their 40-man rosters. Each week, we will preview one of these players.
Rafael Ynoa, 2b/ss, Los Angeles Dodgers
While power bats and power arms tend to be the biggest draws in the Rule 5 draft, every year a handful of middle infielders are selected—for instance Ryan Flaherty
Ynoa, 25, signed with the Dodgers in 2005 out of Santiago, Dominican Republic. He spent four years in Rookie ball before progressing through the Dodgers’ system the past three seasons. This summer, the 6-foot, 180-pounder batted .278/.364/.352 over 421 at bats with just 27 extra base hits at Double-A Chattanooga.
Ynoa is a capable switch-hitter with a good approach and plate coverage. Defensively, he’s an average-solid defender with soft hands and good arm strength.
“He’s a good sleeper,” said one evaluator. “He’s not much of an impact player but he could help a club as a backup middle infielder for sure.”