AFL Notebook: D’Arnaud Does It All

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—There isn’t anything too flashy about Chase D’Arnaud.

While the Pirates infielder won’t hit 460-foot home runs, show off a rocket arm or fly down the line in four seconds flat, he’s a very good athlete with a well-rounded skill set.

"He does everything well enough," said an American League scout. "He doesn’t have a standout tool, but he has some bat speed and he can square it up. He’s got gap power, but he can turn on one and hit it out."

D’Arnaud, 22, has routinely showed the ability to work deep counts and get on base for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League and throughout the minor league season, when he hit .293/.398/.454 in 116 games split between low Class A West Virginia and high Class A Lynchburg.

Playing against the Peoria Saguaros on Friday night, D’Arnaud led off the bottom of the first inning by working a six-pitch walk against Reds first rounder Mike Leake, who didn’t issue another free pass the rest of the game in four scoreless innings.

In the seventh, D’Arnaud got behind hard-throwing Braves righthander Craig Kimbrel 0-2, then fought off a series of 96-97 mph fastballs and mid-80s sliders before singling to right field on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, with D’Arnaud showing a good two-strike approach and the ability to stay inside the baseball and use the opposite field.

"Initially when he first signed, he was a guy that showed you some strike-zone awareness, but he would chase some pitches out of the zone," said Scottsdale manager Jeff Banister, who also has worked with D’Arnaud as the Pirates’ minor league field coordinator. "He’s gotten much better at that. He doesn’t give in to pitchers’ pitches much—he sits and waits and he’s patient. But his ball-bat contact ratio is fairly high, which gives you a good indication that he does have some good hand-eye coordination."

Added another AL scout: "He has to not get out on his front side so much, but he’s strong for his size. He drifts out on his front side but he has such good hands that he can make up for it."

D’Arnaud has good baserunning instincts as well. He’s a solid-average average runner, yet he stole 31 bases in 39 attempts (79 percent) during the regular season and is 8-for-9 stealing bases in the AFL. He’s been solid in the field playing mostly second base and third base for the Scorpions, but Banister said D’Arnaud’s skill set is more ideally suited for shortstop.

One thing D’Arnaud hasn’t done much of is hitting for power. He hit seven home runs during the minor league season—all to the pull side—and has yet to hit one in the AFL. Yet Banister said he thinks there is more pop in the tank for the 6-foot-1, 175-pound D’Arnaud.

"I think the one tool that gets overshadowed a little bit with him because it doesn’t show up all the time is the power," D’Arnaud said. "He does have some raw power. I think in time that will show up but right now the ability to hit is probably the big key for him.

Notes From The Hot Corner

• White Sox third baseman Brent Morel wasn’t originally ticketed for the AFL, but the White Sox sent him to the Peoria Javelinas when Dayan Viciedo left the league due to injury.

Morel only has one extra-base hit in 17 AFL games, but he put on an impressive power display in batting practice on Saturday. He’s also a good defensive third baseman with an above-average arm. During the minor league season, several Carolina League managers praised Morel for his solid all-around tools and approach to the game.

"Man, I can see why everybody likes him," said Javelinas manager Kevin Bradshaw, the Tigers’ roving infield coordinator. "He can do it all. I can see him hitting for a high average, he’ll have some power and the best thing I like is, you put him at third and you hit a ground ball down there, you’re out. He’ll show you range both ways and a good arm, so he’s a fun player to watch."

While Morel could stand to show a little more patience at the plate, he also doesn’t strike out much.

"He’s an everyday player, a solid big league player," said a National League scout. "He has a compact swing and he connects for power. He’s got good gap power and he’s a solid line-drive type hitter that’s going to develop into a guy with better than big league average power."

• Though Cubs third baseman Josh Vitters has drawn just two walks in 67 trips to the plate, and hasn’t shown much ability to work the count after drawing just 12 walks in 484 plate appearances between low Class A Peoria and high Class A Daytona. Yet he doesn’t swing and miss much, and scouts still praise Vitters’ bat speed and fluid swing. 

"Vitters has got a quick bat," Mesa manager Brandon Hyde said. "It’s a direct, to-the-ball swing—he’s going to hit. He’s got confidence at the plate and he can really drive the ball."

Vitters, 20, is already a below-average runner and some are concerned that he might not be able to stay at third base. He’s already made four errors in 10 games at third base in the AFL.

"He’s shown improvement," Hyde said. "He’s getting better defensively, he’s got a good arm, he just needs experience defensively."

• As a member of the team’s taxi squad, Orioles third baseman/first baseman Brandon Waring can only play two days per week for Phoenix, but it’s been enough to make an impression on his manager.

"Watching him hit, he reminded me a lot of Scott Rolen," Phoenix manager Gary Cathcart said. "A real quiet approach, real big guy, didn’t have a lot of movement, just really worked his hands real good."