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 third AFL hot sheet takes a look at the top performers over the past week. Statistics reflect performance through Thursday, November 8.
Last month, Liriano was named the #6 prospect in the California League (High-A) and the #10 prospect in the Texas League (Double-A) after batting a combined .280/.350/.417 this summer. Fast forward to this fall, the 21-year-old outfielder has been one of the top hitters in the AFL, ranking among the top five in both batting average (.353) and slugging percentage (.559).
Liriano, who registered a pair of doubles in Saturday's Rising Stars Game, displays an impressive tool-kit — good bat speed, power potential, speed and arm strength — but many scouts question his overall makeup.
"His focus can get away from what makes him successful," explains one evaluator. "One day you will see him hit everything on the screws, the next you'll wonder how he made it through class A ball. He definitely has everyday player potential though."
After shining in the Rising Stars Game [link to article], the electric Hamilton continued to impress this week both at the plate and in the field. On Saturday, Hamilton opened eyes with a drag-bunt down the first base line that allowed him to end up on third base after an errant throw. For many scouts, Hamilton's home-to-first (3.40 seconds) on the bunt was the fastest they had ever timed. Hamilton followed it up with a pair of multi-hit games this week, stealing three bases in the process.
Equally notable however are the improvements the 22-year-old speedster has shown defensively this fall. Hamilton, who was sent to the AFL to work on his transition from shortstop to centerfield, has shown great progress. In Saturday's game, he showed off his 80-grade speed, tracking down a well-hit flyball to deep centerfield by Nationals outfielder Brian Goodwin and followed it up with an similarly impressive play on Wednesday to rob Braves infielder Nick Ahmed of extra bases.
"He's got the ability to be an above-average centerfielder out there," said one evaluator. "That speed is elite. He just needs more reps."
3. Anthony Rendon, 3b, Salt River Rafters (Nationals)
After claiming the fifth spot in last week's Hot Sheet, Rendon slugged his way two spots higher this week with three multi-hit games. After splitting time across four levels this summer, rehabbing from a 2011 shoulder injury and 2012 ankle fracture, a healthy Rendon has looked great this fall, batting .328/.416/.484 with eight doubles, second in the AFL. Overall, scouts have been impressed by his patient approach, strength and contact ability.
4. Nick Franklin, ss/2b, Peoria Javelinas (Mariners)
Coming off a solid season between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma, the switch-hitting Franklin has been a steady performer this fall batting .328/.417/.541 for the Javelinas. On Tuesday, the 2009 first rounder broke out with one of the top single-game performances of the fall, going 4-for-5 with 2 2B and 6 RBI versus Phoenix. Offensively, Franklin shows excellent line-drive ability and above-average power potential. Scouts express concerns over his ability to hit from the right side but agree that he has the potential to be a solid offensive-minded middle infielder.
5. Robbie Erlin, lhp, Peoria Javelinas (Padres)
Statistics: 1-0, 0.00, 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
In a week dominated by bats, Erlin turned in his best outing of the fall on Monday, tossing four scoreless frames, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out four. Erlin, who was acquired from the Texas Rangers last July, missed three months this summer with elbow tendinitis and was sent to the Fall League to log some missed innings. Despite the injury, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound lefthander faired well this summer, posting a 3-1, 2.92 with 12.38 K/9 and 2.41 BB/9 over 52.1 innings (11 starts) at Double-A San Antonio.
This fall, Erlin has shown excellent command and control of his three-pitch arsenal. Erlin sits 88-90 with his fastball, mixing in a loopy 72-75 mph curveball that he lands for strikes and a 77-79 mph changeup with good deception. He's confident with all three offerings and shows excellent pitchability. He profiles as a future back-end of the rotation starter.
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.
Victor Black, rhp, Pittsburgh Pirates
Black, 24, was selected by the Pirates in the supplemental first round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Dallas Baptist. After missing most of the 2010 season with shoulder and elbow trouble, the Pirates transitioned the 6-foot-3, 185-pound righthander to the bullpen last May, where he has impressed. This summer, Black 2-3, 1.65 with 13 saves, a 12.75 K/9 and 4.35 BB/9 over 60 innings at Double-A Altoona.
This fall, Black has sat 94-96, touching 97 mph with his fastball, while mixing in a sharp 82-84 mph slider with good tilt. However while he has continued to show the impressive stuff (8.31 K/9), control concerns have continued to rise (11.42 BB/9).
"You don't want to walk away from that kind of arm," says one American League executive. "It's a violent delivery but a really uncomfortable at bat for a right-handed hitter. The stuff is really good — it's just a matter of whether he can harness it."