Scouts' Favorites: Eight More AFL Prospects To Watch
The following eight players didn't rank among the AFL's Top 20 Prospects
, but scouts saw something to like in each of them.
Luis Sardinas, ss, Rangers
At just a few months past his 19th birthday, Sardinas was the youngest player in the AFL this year. The Venezuela native only got into 11 games this fall as a member of the Surprise Saguaros taxi squad, but the limited playing time was enough to show off his plus defense, steady hands and strong arm at shortstop, as well as his above-average speed. Sardinas still needs to get stronger, but the lean switch-hitter hit well (.318/.375/.455) and demonstrated surprising pop when he hit an impressive home run to center field at Surprise Stadium early in the Fall League season. Sardinas' biggest problem to date has been an inability to stay on the field. After surgeries to both shoulders limited him to partial seasons in the Rookie-level Arizona League in his first two pro seasons, Sardinas was able to get into 96 games with low Class A Hickory in 2012. Texas has a very deep pool of shortstop prospects throughout the organization, and Sardinas is one of the best with all the tools to be a starting shortstop in the big leagues.
Alex Monsalve, c, Indians
Monsalve, 20, was regarded as a defense first catcher in his first three years in the Indians organization until the bat started coming around in his second time through low Class A in 2012. He continued that progress in the AFL, although he'll have to continue to prove to scouts that he's a big league caliber hitter as he progresses through the system. Monsalve batted .340/.360/.447 in Arizona, hitting safely in his last seven games with a 13-for-25 run. Behind the plate, the native Venezuelan has solid arm strength and handles himself well behind the plate. One scout covering the AFL also saw major league catcher Victor Martinez when he was 20, and said that Monsalve is ahead of Martinez defensively at the same stage in their careers. Monsalve showed the ability to accelerate the bat and has good use of his hands going through the ball. He's also firmed up his body and looks more athletic than in the past.
Corey Dickerson, of, Rockies
This 23-year-old outfielder quickly became a favorite of scouts covering the AFL for his grinder mentality and ability to regularly square up the baseball from the left side of the plate. After a strong regular season split between high Class A and Double-A, Dickerson hit .364/.368/.515 in Arizona, with a pair of four-hit games during the last two weeks. He has a quick bat and, according to one scout, "He can pull for power but can also go the opposite way." Dickerson played mostly in left field this year and opinions are mixed as to whether he has the arm strength to handle right field. He has a fourth outfielder profile, but Dickerson projects to be a guy who will always play above his tools and provide value to his team.
Donald Lutz, of/1b, Reds
The lefthanded hitting Lutz only got to stay around for a little more than two weeks before he suffered a broken finger tip, but the native of Germany impressed scouts during his time in Arizona. His AFL stint came after Lutz saw action for Germany's team that lost out to Canada in one of the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournaments in September. Lutz was named AFL Player of the Week just before he had to be shut down for the year, and he batted .395/.422/.581 in 43 at-bats in his 11 games, putting himself on the Reds prospect map. Originally a first baseman, Lutz spent more time this year in left field, where he's at least a marginal defender. At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Lutz comes across as a little ungainly but he's trimmed his body this year. He's a below-average runner but moves just well enough to make the routine plays in left field. The bat is expected to play either at first or in the outfield. Lutz has solid raw power, and while his swing isn't pretty, one scout commented, "He just seemed to swing the bat (with) consistent hard contact every time I was in the ballpark."
Stefen Romero, 3b/2b, Mariners & Adalberto Santos, 2b/of, Pirates
A pair of Oregon State alum impressed with the bat this fall and may project as future utility players in the big leagues.
Romero, who just turned 24, is coming off a strong season at high Class and Double-A. Seattle's 2012 Minor League Player of the Year hit .333/.375/.511 in the AFL, showing good bat speed with some extension and fluidity in his swing. The Tucson, Ariz., native projects to be an average hitter with average power, and shows some semblance of being able to make contact although he's also very aggressive in the batter's box. While he spent more time at the infield corners in college, Romero has primarily played second base as a pro and also saw action in the outfield in his first pro season. Scouts say he has a chance to be an average defender with a good arm.
Santos, 25, was Romero's teammate on the 2010 Oregon State team, playing mostly in the outfield after being an infielder at New Mexico Junior College. He's moved between outfield and second base as a pro, and spent time at both positions in the AFL. Santos' strength is his ability to get on base, with a career minor league OBP of around .400. He had a strong year at Double-A Altoona in which he hit .340/.425/.433 despite missing time with a knee injury. He continued his solid season in the fall, batting .299/.413/.455. Santos has a solid approach at the plate with enough bat speed and balance, doesn't chase pitches, and consistently gets the bat on the ball. His speed is a tick above average. While he isn't real smooth at second base, he can make the routine plays. He doesn't have enough power to project as a regular, but if the bat plays at higher levels Santos should have a career as a utility player.
Kevin Pillar, of, Blue Jays
Pillar was a 32nd-round pick in 2011 as a senior from Cal State-Dominguez Hills. While not profiling as a front-line prospect, he's hit over .300 at every stop since turning pro, including at .371/.409/.435 line in the AFL. The 2012 Midwest League MVP is a hard-nosed grinder who plays the game the right way. At 6-feet, 200 pounds, he has a strong physique and runs well. Pillar's game is a bit one-dimensional, but as one scout commented, "He's got a really, really good bat." He doesn't hit with a lot of power but his excellent bat control and good hand/eye coordination are standout tools. Pillar's ceiling is as an extra outfielder but he has a good chance to get there.
Ryan Tepera, rhp, Blue Jays
Tepera is a real under-the-radar guy, more of a deep sleeper who some scouts don't see as a major league arm or possessing enough of an out pitch. His AFL numbers weren't pretty, nor was his output from the regular season split between high Class A and Double-A. But the 25-year-old righthander from Sam Houston State had two AFL starts in which he pitched effectively, and that was enough to convince at least one scout that Tepera may be able to fill the role of a third or fourth starter in the big leagues. He has a clean, smooth delivery with good arm action and repeats his delivery. His fastball is 89-94 mph with some sink, and all three of his pitches (fastball, slider, changeup) could project to be slightly-above-average offerings if everything comes together for him and he shows more consistency with his pitches. Tepera is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year.