2012 Arizona Fall League Roster Analysis
MESA SOLAR SOX
The Solar Sox have the most prospect-laden roster in
the AFL, though that could change as organizations such as the Yankees,
Blue Jays and Giants fill out their TBA slots. The Sox boast 2011 Cubs
first-rounder Javier Baez
, an offensive wunderkind with 13 homers in his first 290 pro at-bats, as well as Detroit's Nick Castellanos
who's listed as an outfielder as he continues his Miguel
Cabrera-inspired move off third base. A case also could be made for
Astros first baseman Jonathan Singleton
, posting a crisp .894 OPS with 20 homers as a 20-year-old in Double-A.
Bounce-Back Candidate: Matt Szczur
was hitting just .202 in his first 30 games at Double-A Tennessee, and
the former Villanova football star has a ways to go at 23 to become the
Cubs' leadoff man of the future. The AFL at-bats will bring him needed
: Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig
isn't the youngest player on this team, but he's the newest to North
American professional baseball. He's also the richest after signing a
$42 million major league deal in July, and he'll be one of the most
scrutinized as he gets his first extended look at advanced pro pitching.
all the high-profile bats on the Solar Sox, the sleeper figures to be a
pitcher that breaks out. With the Dodgers' thinned system, lefthander
Steve "Paco" Rodriguez
has a chance to move up their prospect list. The 2012
draftee out of Florida, already in Double-A, should zoom to the majors if he maintains his
low-90s stuff and wipeout slider from his days closing for the Gators.
Time Is Running Out For:
The Astros liked Jio Mier's progress this
spring as he quieted his approach at the plate and incorporated a new
load to his swing. But an ankle injury short-circuited his most
productive season since the 2009 first-rounder's debut in the
Appalachian League. With all the changes in Houston, Mier
will have to
impress to earn a spot on the 40-man roster.
: Puig is the more famous Cuban thanks to his $42 million contract, but he'll be teamed with Rubi Silva
, the Cubs infielder and fellow Cuban emigre. Both are veterans of Cuba's 18U national team, with Silva playing on the '07 team (with Adeiny Hechevarria, Jose Iglesias and Dayan Viciedo, among others), while Puig played on the '08 model.
Mariners catcher Mike Zunino
gets the slight edge over Reds shortstop Billy Hamilton
who is listed on the roster as an outfielder. The 2012 College Player
of the Year, Zunino was the No. 3 pick in the draft, signed for $4
million and didn't skip a beat with the bat. Over his first 150 pro
at-bats, he is hitting .367/.458/.720 with 13 home runs between
short-season Everett and Double-A Jackson. Zunino may arrive in Arizona a
little late, however, as he's set to be married on Oct. 6. Hamilton was
the biggest story in the minor leagues this year after breaking Vince
Coleman's single-season stolen base record. His defense has always been a
question, however. The Reds are getting a solid rookie season out of Zack Cozart
at shortstop and Hamilton has made 31 errors this season, so he'll
spend his time in Peoria covering some serious ground in center field.
Trying To Bounce Back:
Twins righthander Kyle Gibson
had Tommy John surgery last September. For an operation that usually
keeps pitchers off the mound for 12 months, Gibson recovered quickly and
was back on the mound in a game July 10. He's pitched well in his
return over 25 innings, already has 22 career Triple-A starts and could
see the big leagues in 2013 depending on how things go from here.
The youngest player on the roster is catcher Tommy Joseph
, who was traded to the Phillies this summer along with righthander Seth Rosin
for Hunter Pence
Joseph slugged 22 home runs last year in the California League, but has
found Double-A to be more of a challenge. Padres outfielder Rymer Liriano
has been promoted aggressively this season after a monster year
(.319/.383/.499 with 65 stolen bases) in the Midwest League as a
20-year-old. Liriano spent half a season in the California League (where
he finished in 2011) before being promoted to Double-A San Antonio.
Mariners shortstop Nick Franklin
is the fourth-youngest player on the team (Zunino is third), but is already in Triple-A.
While Reds lefthander Tony Cingrani
has gotten more ink this summer, the pitcher with the lowest ERA in the California League has been Padres righthander Kevin Quackenbush
An eighth-round pick who signed for just $5,000 last year (the lowest
signing bonus in the top 10 rounds) out of South Florida, Quackenbush is
3-2, 0.94 with 27 saves, 70 strikeouts and 22 walks over 58 innings.
The last time a pitcher posted an ERA below 1.00 with as many innings in
the hitter-friendly California League was Dennis Tankersley
with his 0.52 ERA over 52 innings with Lake Elsinore in 2001.
Quackenbush doesn't overpower hitters. He sits in the low-90s and relies
mostly on spotting up his fastball to all parts of the zone. His
secondary stuff is below-average—his best offering is a short slider,
but he also mixes in a changeup—and he also has some funk and deception
to his delivery. There's no arguing with his numbers, though. Over his
first 100 innings since signing, Quackenbush is 5-3, 0.81 with 45 saves,
67 hits allowed, 141 strikeouts and 34 walks.
Time Is Running Out:
Phillies outfielder Zach Collier
signed for a little over $1 million as the 34th overall player picked
in 2008 out of Chino Hills (Calif.) High. He's amassed more than 1,200
minor league at-bats since then, but his performance has lagged behind
his potential, as he's a career .247/.314/.352 hitter, and he has a
50-game PED suspension on his ledger. Collier has a lean, athletic frame
at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, shows above-average speed and can cover a
lot of ground in center field with a strong arm. At the plate, Collier
has bat speed and shows flashes of power.
: Lefthanders Logan Darnell
(Twins) and James Paxton
(Mariners) both pitched for Kentucky in 2008 and 2009.
PHOENIX DESERT DOGS
Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich
impressed managers and scouts around the Florida State League with his
all-around game. He's a solid center fielder who can run, field, hit for
power and hit for average. On a team without a lot of star power,
Yelich stands out.
Brewers righthander Santo Manzanillo
stats in 2012 are pretty unimpressive until you remember that he was
pitching just months after he was seriously injured in a car accident in
the Dominican Republic. Manzanillo made it back onto the mound ahead of
schedule. Now he needs to show that his stuff he's regained the mid-90s
power stuff that made him one of the Brewers' best pitching prospects
before the injury.
He'll only play twice a week because he's on the taxi squad, but Rays third baseman Richie Shaffer
a 2012 first-round pick, will get to make a significant jump in caliber
of competition. He's spent a solid, but not spectacular, pro debut at
short-season Hudson Valley (New York-Penn), so the jump to facing
Double-A and Triple-A pitchers should be a very eye-opening experience.
A year ago, Andrelton Simmons
established his prospect credentials with an excellent season the Carolina League. Fellow Braves shortstop Nick Ahmed
didn't match Simmons' Carolina League production, but he did show
plenty of potential at the plate and on the basepaths to go with solid
defense at shortstop. He doesn't have Simmons' range, but he does have
the chance to develop into a solid big league shortstop.
Time Is Running Out For:
Rays infielder Tim Beckham
is trying to catch up for lost time after he was suspended for 50 games
for violating Minor League Baseball's recreational drug rules.
Beckham's power flashes are tempered by inconsistent pitch recognition
and a modest feel for hitting. The Fall League will give him another
chance to try to tap into the power scouts expect to see him produce.
: Rays third baseman Richie Shaffer
and Athletics catcher Max Stassi
both played for USA Baseball's 16-and-under team in 2007. The team also featured Mariners shortstop Nick Franklin (Peoria), Diamondbacks third baseman Matt Davidson (Salt River), Angels outfielder Randal Grichuk (Scottsdale) and Dodgers lefthander Paco Rodriguez (Mesa).
SALT RIVER RAFTERS
Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon
needs plenty of at-bats after an ankle injury wiped out most of his
first pro season. As long as he stays healthy—a problem each of the last
three years for the 2010 College Player of the Year—he'll get the
chance to play almost every day in Salt River. He has just 114 at-bats
this season after getting none in 2011.
With Stephen Drew
traded, shortstop is open in Arizona for Chris Owings
The 21-year-old stumbled in the second half after a promotion to
Double-A Mobile and continues to be struggle with pitch recognition at
times, leading to a 24-128 walk-strikeout ratio. His power (17 homers
overall) and solid defense at short make the strikeouts worth it.
Young Gun: Carlos Sanchez
has had one of the minors' best breakout seasons, another good story in
the White Sox' feel-good season. The speedy second baseman zoomed to
Triple-A as a 20-year-old during a .323 season that included a Futures
Sleeper: Kevin Pillar
is a Reed Johnson
starter kit. Like Johnson, he's a Southern California college product
with lots of average tools, slightly above-average speed, a surprising
feel for hitting and a grinder's mentality. With a .328.374/.471 minor
league line, Pillar is likely the best pure hitter in the Blue Jays'
loaded farm system.
Time Is Running Out For: Christian Garcia
just turned 27 and the former Yankees prospect is just coming into his
own as a reliever in the Nationals system, reaching 49 innings, his most
since 2008. Garcia still hits 96 mph with his fastball, his curve
remains a weapon and he has some feel for pitching. If he can stay
healthy, this AFL stint could springboard him to Washington in 2013.
: Outfielders Brian Goodwin
(Nationals) and Jake Marisnick
(Blue Jays) were teammates on the Baseball Factory team in the 2008 Under Armour All-America Game. That game also featured Franklin, Astros first baseman Bobby Borchering (Mesa), Stassi and Rodriguez.
The 2010 High School Player of the Year, Kaleb Cowart
wanted to hit, not pitch, and the Angels gave him that chance. After a
slow start to his pro career, Cowart has started to play more like his
idol, Chipper Jones
Like Jones, Cowart is a switch-hitting athletic third baseman with
strong hands and power. He's hit his way through two Class A stops this
Bounce-Back Candidate: Austin Romine
has missed much of the season with lower back problems, playing just 26 games. Just when Jesus Montero
got traded, Romine's star dimmed, and J.R. Murph
and Gary Sanchez
are rising fast behind him in the Yankees farm system. Romine still has
power and catch-and-throw skills; they need to show up in the Fall
League for him to get to New York in 2013.
Cowart is the team's youngest player, but the Indians have assigned two 20-year-olds as well in catcher Alex Monsalve
and middle infielder Ronny Rodriguez
While Rodriguez flashes plus power and defensive ability, his game
lacks consistency and will be tested in the AFL. Monsalve has even
better hitting feel and similar power potential, though some scouts
question if he'll outgrow catcher.
Sleeper: Gift Ngoepe
has shown enough flashes with the glove to project a potential big
league future for the South African. But he still needs to show
significant improvement at the plate after a solid but unspectacular
season in the Florida State League. He'll head to the AFL after playing
for South Africa in a World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament in
Jupiter, Fla., in September.
Time Is Running Out For: David Adams
missed most of 2010 and 2011 after a severe ankle injury and
complications in his recovery, but came back to rake for Double-A
Trenton. At 25, he's moved to third base in August to give him another
option with Robinson Cano
manning second in New York.
: Giants outfielder Gary Brown
and Indians lefthander Matt Packer
were teammates on the Orleans Firebirds in the Cape Cod League in 2009.
Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong
didn't wait til the signing deadline to agree to a deal like most of
his fellow 2011 first-round picks. As a result, he got enough at-bats to
jump to Double-A this year. The second baseman has to supplant Skip Schumaker
in St. Louis, and a strong Fall League season could be a further indicator that he'll be ready for the big leagues in 2013.
Mets outfielder Cesar Puello
still has plenty of tools, but he's shown no progress in turning those
tools into production. Puello missed significant time this year with a
fractured hamate bone so he gets somewhat of a pass for struggling while
repeating the Florida State League, but he needs to work on recognizing
breaking balls. Playing in the Fall League will give him another chance
to stop chasing pitches out of the zone.
Yet another in the long line of Rangers' shortstop prospects, 19-year-old Luis Sardinas
is one of the younger players in the Fall League. Amazingly, he may
feel like he's on the slow track after a solid season at low Class A
Hickory, because he signed with the Rangers the same year as Jurickson Profar
, who is now ahead of him both developmentally and on the organizational depth chart.
Cardinals outfielder Mike O'Neill
has yet to meet a pitcher who he
can't work into a long at-bat that often ends with him jogging to first
on a walk. O'Neill will bring the minors' best strikeout-to-walk rate to
the Fall League to see if he can work the same mojo on more advanced
Time Is Running Out For:
Cardinals righthander Seth Blair
pro career has been nothing like he would have hoped. A 2010
supplemental first-round pick out of Arizona State, Blair missed time in
2011 when he was suspended by the club for unspecified violations of
team rules. This year, he missed almost the entire season because of
surgery to remove a benign tumor in a finger on his pitching hand. His
career is still young, but Blair has to show improved control if he's
ever going to reach his considerable ceiling.
: Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong
and Red Sox outfielder Bryce Brentz
were both members of USA Baseball's 2009 Collegiate National Team. Cubs righthander Tony Zych (Mesa) was also on the team.