Arizona Fall League Notebook

PEORIA, Ariz.—After catching all season, some of the catchers in the Arizona Fall League are starting to show some wear and tear.

The Astros have already sent catcher Jason Castro home, while some scouts have said Giants catcher Buster Posey looks worn down as well. 

While it’s been a struggle for the 2008 first-round picks after the grind of their first full professional seasons, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy has been a standout for the Peoria Javelinas.

“He’s pretty impressive as a catcher,” said an American League scout. “He’s been one of the better—if not the best—catchers here. He plays good defense, has just enough power and throws well at times.”

One of Lucroy’s strengths is his ability to control the strike zone. He stays balanced throughout his swing, his head stays locked in and he has good pitch recognition, which is why he walked (78) more often that he struck out (66) this season with Double-A Huntsville, where he hit .267/.380/.418 in 125 games.

Yet Lucroy has walked just once in 44 trips to the plate in the AFL for the Peoria Javelinas. No worries, as he’s still been aggressive within the strike zone, working the count and making plenty of contact with only six strikeouts and a .366/.364/.585 batting line thanks to a short, compact swing that helps him stay inside the ball.

On Tuesday night Lucroy went 1-for-4 with a double and a sacrifice fly, a rocket that clocked in at 105 mph off the bat and took a laser-like route right to Padres center fielder Cedric Hunter. Another one of Lucroy’s outs came on a deep fly ball that Hunter tracked down in the right-center field warning track.

“He was pretty steady defensively,” said another AL scout. “I wouldn’t say anything about his defense was well above-average, but he was just steady and showed me some quickness. The only knock on him I thought has been his power, but he makes consistent contact. The swing is good, he’ll show a little pull power—not very much—but he’s mostly a doubles guy who works gap to gap.”

• A couple of scouts have called Marlins 23-year-old outfielder Bryan Petersen a likely fourth outfielder in the big leagues. His speed limits him to a corner outfield position and the 6-foot-200-pound lefthanded hitter hasn’t shown much power, but he has shown feel for hitting while batting .419/.443/.622 in 79 trips to the plate for Mesa. Still, the 2007 fourth-round pick from UC Irvine has progressed fairly quickly.

“None of the tools are better than average across the board,” said one scout. “He throws well enough to maybe play right field, but it’s a question of whether he has the strength and size to hit for enough power to be more than a fourth outfielder.”

• Reds outfielder Chris Heisey has gone from a 17th-round pick in 2006 to knocking on the big league door. He’s played all three outfield spots for the Peoria Saguaros and hit .320/.400/.667 with five home runs in 85 plate appearances.

“I think he’s just gaining confidence and I think he believes he’s a major league player," said Saguaros manager David Bell, who also managed Heisey this year at Double-A Carolina. "I think he’s going to create that opportunity for himself.

“He can do so many things—he’s such a well-rounded player. There’s not anything that he can’t do, and he does a lot of things very well. I think this league has been good for him. It’s given him a little more time to just gain that confidence.”

Heisey, 24, is also one of the smartest baserunners in the minors. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he was successful on 21 of 24 stolen base attempts during the regular season, and he’s swiped five more in seven attempts in the AFL.

“He gets out a little on his front side, but he has such good hands, especially on the inner half,” said one scout. “He’s got solid-average tools across the board. I don’t see any major weaknesses and or any great pluses. For me, he might be a fourth outfielder who plays as an occasional starter. He’s really surprised me.”

• Astros 27-year-old righthand reliever Evan Englebrook is older than most prospects in the AFL, but he’s also one of the league’s hardest throwers. Englebrook, who pitches exclusively out of the stretch, threw 94-96 mph yesterday for the Saguaros, creating extreme downhill angle from a high three-quarters arm slot out of a 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame.

“With that kind of height and that angle, and with that kind of power arm, everything he throws is hard,” Bell said. “I think he definitely has a future. I see him as a late-inning reliever.”