Analyzing The 2011 Arizona Fall League Rosters
MESA SOLAR SOX
Mesa may be the thinnest team in the league when it comes to top prospects. Aaron Hicks
(Twins) and Brett Jackson
(Cubs) are arguably the team's top two prospects, but they play the same position (center field) so some job sharing and playing out of position will be necessary. For Jackson, the AFL could be a final tune-up for a big league job. For Hicks, it will be an attempt to fix some problems at the plate, particularly from the left side (.211/.349/.314). Overall, Hicks is hitting just .230/.345/.346 this year at high Class A Fort Myers.
Trying To Bounce Back:
Righthander Trey McNutt
(Cubs) was one of Chicago's breakout prospects in 2010. He lost a lot of that momentum in 2011, but it could be blamed partly on injuries. He missed time with a hip strain, but even when healthy he didn't show the same polish he exhibited during his excellent 2010 season. A trip to the AFL will allow him to catch up for some lost innings and try to regain his old form.
In addition to not being a roster with many top prospects, this is also one of the older rosters in the AFL. Cubs shortstop Junior Lake
is the team's youngest prospect, but even he has played in Double-A. Lake may have trouble finding a job in Chicago anytime soon with the success of Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney, but the departure of Hak-Ju Lee has made Lake the Cubs' top shortstop prospect, and he'll get a chance to show off one of the best infield arms in the AFL.
White Sox shortstop Tyler Saladino
doesn't run as well as scouts would like for a middle infielder, but he does have sure hands and a decent arm. And maybe more importantly, he has some line-drive pop in his bat. Saladino may not be a big league regular at shortstop, but he does have utilityman potential.
Time Is Running Out:
There aren't many 2005 draftees in the AFL, but 26-year-old Orioles righthander Chorye Spoone
has some extenuating circumstances. A shoulder injury derailed his career in 2009. Spoone bounced back to return to Double-A Bowie in 2010 (he first pitched there in 2008), but his first try at Triple-A quickly ended this year after he went 2-1, 5.50 in eight starts. Spoone has been treading water back in Bowie for most of the year. At this point, he might be auditioning for other teams as he will be eligible for minor league free agency unless the Orioles add him to their 40-man roster.
Mariners lefthander Danny Hultzen
has yet to throw a pro pitch, but he'll be one of the most anticipated prospects in the Fall League. Hultzen was the No. 2 pick in June's draft out of Virginia. The challenge of facing upper-level prospects should be a good first test for the advanced lefty, who went 12-3, 1.37 for the Cavaliers this spring with 165 strikeouts in 118 innings.
Trying To Bounce Back:
Mets second baseman Reese Havens
has played well whenever he's been in a lineup. He's just rarely in the lineup. The list of injuries Havens has endured since he signed with the Mets back in 2008 as a first-round pick is lengthy. Justin Turner and Ruben Tejada have been adequate this year, but there's still room for Havens to claim the big league job. A solid AFL season would help him become part of the spring training competition next year.
Young Gun: Oscar Taveras
has yet to play above low Class A, but the Cardinals' 19-year-old outfielder isn't likely to be in over his head. Taveras has a very advanced approach and great hand-eye coordination. He has collected three or more hits 16 times in just 72 games this season.
If Taveras or Zack Cox isn't the best hitting prospect in the Cardinals organization, that title may go to first baseman Matt Adams
. Adams has put together a dominating season for Double-A Springfield—he's hitting .321 with 31 home runs and a .585 slugging percentage. At the start of the season, many still viewed Adams as an org player. While there still may be questions about his overall ceiling, he's proven he's definitely a prospect.
Time Is Running Out:
Mariners catcher Adam Moore
ranked as Seattle's No. 6 prospect back in 2008, but his development has slowed since then. A knee injury sidelined him for almost the entire 2011 season (the injury happened during his second game of the season). Moore will need to prove he's healthy, but even then, he has an uphill battle now. He struggled defensively behind the plate in 2010 and he's yet to hit at the big league level.
PHOENIX DESERT DOGS
Top Prospect: Anthony Gose's
tools have generally been more apparent than his skills. But this year the Blue Jays' Double-A center fielder started to show signs that he's turning his tools into on-field production. His .252 batting average may be lower than one would like for a potential top of the order hitter, and his 147 strikeouts are still somewhat troubling, but Gose is drawing walks, playing excellent defense and running wild (66 steals in 81 attempts) while hitting 15 homers, almost twice his previous career high.
Trying To Bounce Back:
Ever since he signed as a Cuban defector, Blue Jays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria
has lived up to expectations in the field. He's one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors, and he has the kind of glove that will get him to the majors in some kind of role even if he doesn't hit. But his chances of being a big league regular depend on him improving at the plate. Hechavarria has hit well since a late-season promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, but his .235/.275/.347 batting line at Double-A New Hampshire in 464 at-bats is a pretty strong sign he has more work to do.
Young Gun: Michael Choice's
29 home runs ranks among the best in the minors. One caveat: the Athletics center fielder has spent the entire season in the California League, so some may wonder how much of his power is a product of some very good hitter's parks. But a .547 slugging percentage is never a bad thing. Choice has shown plus raw power and athleticism, but he'll need to continue showing that he can make adjustments against good breaking balls.
Indians righthander Austin Adams
hasn't gotten a lot of publicity, but his stuff will get him noticed eventually. Adams' 93-96 mph fastball will probably be enough to get him to the big leagues on its own, but his changeup and curveball have potential as well.
Time Is Running Out For:
This was supposed to be the year that Yankees righthander David Phelps
made it to the big leagues to at least help out in the bullpen. But Phelps ended up missing two months with a shoulder problem and is now trying to make up for lost time. His stuff should get him to the big leagues, but the next wave of Yankees pitching prospects is catching up to him, which means that the AFL and spring training might help determine if Phelps' future is with the Yankees or with another club.
SALT RIVER RAFTERS
Top Prospect: Tim Wheeler
has a rough introduction to full-season ball last year in the California League, but the Rockies' 2009 first-rounder made the adjustments in Double-A in 2011. He broke BA legend Bubba Smith's Tulsa single-season home run record, showing lift and leverage in his swing as well as good bat speed. He has plenty of swing and miss, but he also has the athleticism to fill the holes in his swing, as well as enough speed and arm strength to play all three outfield spots.
Trying To Bounce Back: Charles Brewer
never quite lived up to expectations at UCLA but has had a nice pro career until this year, when a concussion and then hand injury sidelined him for most of his Double-A season. He's thrown well of late at Mobile since returning in mid-August, and his 5-1, 2.58 numbers there in 52 innings hint at his back-of-the-rotation potential. The Arizona prep product returns home to get needed AFL innings.
Just 20, third baseman Nolan Arenado
has improved each year in the Rockies system. He's still learning to pull the ball with power but has excellent plate coverage, striking out just 49 times in 559 plate appearances. He's also advanced from below-average defender at third to one who might be good enough to stick there long-term. That helps him take advantage of his plus arm. Arenado will be tested by AFL power arms but will get a bigger test in Double-A in 2012.
He's not a sleeper to BA readers who saw Rob Brantly
at No. 19 on our Top 50 sophomores list entering 2010—one spot behind Danny Hultzen, 13 spots ahead of Trevor Bauer. Brantly was the No. 1 prospect in the Northwoods League in the summer of 2009 and has had a solid first full pro season, throwing out 37 percent of basestealers overall while batting .278/.329/.410 with 10 home runs in 410 at-bats at the Class A level. He's a lefthanded-hitting catcher with pop and arm strength, a fine recipe for a long big league career.
Time Is Running Out On: Will Rhymes
hasn't stopped tweeting (@WillRhymes), but the 5-foot-9, 155-pound overachiever is now 28 and spent most of 2011 in the minors after posting a .763 OPS in Detroit last season. He always will be more about skills and attitude than tools, but one scout said Rhymes didn't play with a ton of energy for Triple-A Toledo this season, as he had in the past.
Top Prospect: Bryce Harper
and Mike Trout
are on the same AFL roster. If this happens for the entire AFL season—and it's unlikely with Trout starting to find his footing in the major leagues—it will be one of the biggest treats in AFL history. The combo of Harper in right field and Trout in center would make this the team to go see, even if they filled out the rest of the roster with independent league players. The Scottsdale infield also includes intriguing Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks
and Angels shortstop/second baseman Jean Segura
Trying To Bounce Back:
In 2009, Tyson Gillies
broke out as one of the minors' fastest players, impressing scouts at the Futures Game
and batting .341/.430/.486—albeit at high Class A High Desert's launching pad. Included in the December 2009 trade that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle, Gillies has played just 31 regular-season games the last two years for the Phillies. He's dealt with nagging hamstring and foot injuries as well as an August 2010 cocaine arrest, a charge that was dropped two months later. The Phillies need Gillies to get back on the field so they can evaluate him and see if he's worth protecting on their 40-man roster.
Harper (18) and Trout (20) are the youngest players on the current roster, which features 10 players who are still TBA. Angels righthander Daniel Tillman
, 22, reports to the AFL to end his first full pro season. The 2010 second-rounder out of Florida Southern rang up 76 strikeouts in 72 innings between two Class A levels and could position himself for a big league promotion in 2012 if his 92-95 mph fastball and plus slider can handle the AFL.
The Phillies have long liked righthander Tyler Cloyd's
pitchability, and the 24-year-old put together his best season in 2011, including a strong 100-inning stint at Double-A Reading. Overall, Cloyd walked just 21 and struck out 133 in 139 innings using a four-pitch mix. His fastball's fringy at 86-89 mph, so he has to be fine, but his changeup, curveball and slider all have their moments, with his slider at times touching 87 mph. He's thrown a bit harder in the past, and could be a back-of-the-rotation option if he puts all the pieces together.
Time Is Running Out On:
Righty B.J. Rosenberg
, 25, has defined himself as a power reliever. The Phillies tried him in the Reading rotation this year, where he went 4-4, 5.62. In 40 relief innings, his ERA's 2.48, and his fastball (albeit straight) has more power, reaching 95 mph. Rosenberg's secondary stuff is just OK, and with Mike Stutes and Michael Schwimmer beating him to the big leagues, he needs to show the Phillies that he's still making progress to be part of their plans.
Top Prospect: Wil Myers
entered the 2011 season ranked 10th on BA's Top 100 Prospects list, but little went right for the 20-year-old Royals farmhand. He has moved from catcher to the outfield (even playing some center), battled a back injury and lost some of his pop, slugging below .400 for the season. Myers finished strong for Double-A Northwest Arkansas (.294/.375/.518 in August with four of his seven home runs), and the Royals hope he can continue to rediscover the pop that made him an elite prospect in 2010.
Trying To Bounce Back:
The Marlins got 72 solid innings (with a 5-3, 3.73 mark) out of Alex Sanabia
in 2010—not bad for a 32nd-round pick in his rookie season. Sanabia couldn't get right in 2011, though, with an elbow injury sapping most of his season. the 22-year-old San Diegan had pitched just 36 innings this season and was struggling at Triple-A New Orleans (0-2, 7.56 in 17 innings). He'll need the innings the AFL can provide to set himself up for a return to the big leagues in 2012.
Young Gun: Sean Gilmartin
will have a long, long season. The Braves' first-rounder started pitching games that counted in February as Florida State's ace (he pitched seven scoreless against Virginia Military Institute on Feb. 18) and threw 120 innings for the Seminoles. He's thrown 18 more for the Braves, mostly at low Class A Rome. If he has his usual average velocity, he should have the command and feel for pitching to survive in the AFL despite his inexperience.
With Elvis Andrus in Texas and Jurickson Profar behind him at low Class A Hickory, Leury Garcia
may not have a true path to becoming the Rangers' starting shortstop. But just in terms of pure defense, he's the best of the lot, and he might be the minors' best defensive shortstop. The 5-foot-7, 153-pound Dominican also is a top-of-the-line speedster but needs to work on getting on base more consistently and using his speed, as his .257/.308/.342 season at high Class A Myrtle Beach suggests.
Time Is Running Out:
It's not Kyle Skipworth's
fault that he was drafted sixth overall in 2008. The Marlins catcher has not lived up to his draft status or high school hype, and his first exposure above A-ball in 2011 proved humbling (.202/.269/.332). But, he's a catcher who bats lefthanded, he's a solid receiver, and he still has power that comes out when he makes contact (which is too rarely, with 141 strikeouts in 376 at-bats).