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Opening Day in Surprise PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 00:00

­­­It was a gorgeous if slightly overcast day at Surprise Stadium Tuesday as the two teams headquartered at the Rangers/Royals complex met in the first game of the 2014 Arizona Fall League.

And both teams have some very good players, as noted in my preview columns, and others who announced themselves in the first game.

Both starting pitchers – Kyle Zimmer (KC) and Taijuan Walker (SEA) gave glimpses of the stuff they will bring to the major leagues. Walker, a late addition to the Mariners prospects here this year and who will likely be limited to 30 innings pitched, won today’s battle while Zimmer didn’t have his good command, and pitching up in the strike zone is not a formula for success. But throwing easily at 95/96 with a good curve in the 80s bodes well for future outings.

Peoria hitters that impressed were third baseman Hunter Dozier (KC) who went 2-for-4 with a two run double, catcher Justin O’Conner (TB) who went 3-for-5 and made a nice throw to pick off a Saguaro runner at first base and outfielder C.J. McElroy (STL) who went 3-for-4 and showed good speed on the bases and in left field. On the Surprise side, 17-year-old shortstop Michael De Leon did not shine on opening day, going 0-for-3 at the plate with a bad bunt that was a popup to the pitcher in addition to making two errors in the field.

On offense for the home team Saguaros, first baseman Patrick Kivlehan (SEA) had a home run into the left field bullpen while outfielder Hunter Renfroe (SD) went 2-for-4 and scored a run.

The closer for the Javelinas in the first game was a pitcher we didn’t know much about, but Samuel Tuivailala (STL) introduced himself by throwing a very easy 97 in a 1-2-3 ninth.

We are supposed to get rain Tuesday night – hopefully not enough to bother the opening day assignment of Diamondbacks prospect Archie Bradley, but perhaps enough overnight to give us some soggy grounds on Wednesday when these same two teams will battle.

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 October 2014 08:03
 
Surprise Saguaros – AFL Preview PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Perry Van Hook   
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 00:00
This is the final team preview for the Arizona Fall league teams who start play today.

The Surprise Saguaros, featuring prospects from the Mariners, Padres, Rangers, Red Sox and Reds, will play their home games in Surprise Stadium, the spring training home of both the Rangers and Royals.

The Saguaros will be managed by Delino DeShields (CIN) with hitting coach Jody Davis (SD) and pitching coaches Jeff Andrews (TEX) and Andrew Lorraine (SEA).

Leading the Seattle contingent will be their #2 prospect, third baseman D.J. Peterson out of Gilbert, AZ who the Mariners originally drafted out of high school in the 33rd round in 2010. But Peterson elected to go to college at the University of New Mexico where he was a 1st team All American in both his sophomore and junior years, so Seattle drafted him 12th in the first round in the 2013 draft. He signed right away and in 208 at-bats between Low-A Everett and Class-A Clinton hit .303 with 13 home runs. Peterson more than doubled his at-bats between High- A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, hitting a combined .297/.360/.552 with 31 HR and 111 RBI and was named the Mariners’ co-Minor League Player of the Year.

His teammate at both stops, first baseman Patrick Kivlehan, the Mariners #6 prospect, had a fine year himself, hitting 20 HR with 103 RBI and was given the Unsung Hero Award for Mariner minor leaguers.

The Padres are sending two of their top five prospects on MLB.com lists with second year outfielder Hunter Renfroe at #4 and first year shortstop Trea Turner who is #5. Renfroe, an All American out of Mississippi State, was drafted 13th in the first round in 2013, signed early and got in 170 at-bats between short season Eugene and Low-A Fort Wayne, hitting .271/.305/.459 with six home runs and 14 doubles. He started 2014 at High-A Lake Elsinore where a blazing .295/.370/.565 line with 16 HR, 40 extra-base hits and nine stolen bases earned him Mid-Season All Star honors and a trip to the Futures game. Renfroe then moved up to Double-A San Antonio in just his second professional season.

Trea Turner (SS), who along with fellow first round pick Carlos Rodon led North Carolina State to the College World Series, followed Renfroe’s path exactly being the 13th pick this year, starting at Eugene and then being promoted to Fort Wayne. Turner hit a combined .323/.406/.448 and had both 23 extra-base hits and stolen bases – not a huge surprise on the swipes as Turner was graded at 80/80 on his speed.

While the Texas Rangers have promoted or traded a lot of prospects from one of the top minor league systems, they still have plenty of talent on the Farm. Their AFL contingent this year is led by their #4 prospect according to MLB.com, outfielder Nick Williams, who played a few games on rehab in the AZL rookie league and was promoted late to Double-A Frisco but saw the majority of the 2014 season at Low-A Hickory in the South Atlantic league. At Hickory, Williams hit .292/.343/.491 in 377 at-bats with 13 home runs and 68 RBI and stole five bases. Williams just turned 21 last month, so while he would be expected to start 2015 at Double-A Frisco, he might see some at-bats in Arlington by the end of the year and defensively can handle any of the outfield spots.

The Cincinnati Reds have two high profile prospects on the Surprise squad, #2 prospect outfielder Jesse Winker and #5 prospect RHP Nick Howard. Winker has a smooth left-handed swing that will add more power but between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola this year hit .287/.399/.518 with 15 home runs and 20 doubles. He also swiped five bags.

Howard, 21 this season, was drafted in June out of the University of Virginia where he was the Cavaliers’ closer when he wasn’t in the lineup, profiles as an MLB starter with a fastball in the mid-90s (can touch 98) and a sometimes good slider (can become flat at times). He will need to develop his changeup to be successful but the Reds have confidence he can be successful in the big leagues eventually.

rusney-castilloLast but not least is the $72 million former Cuban outfielder who isn’t even listed as a Red Sawks prospect having been promoted through several stops to arrive in Fenway in September. Rusney Castillo, who just turned 20 last month, showed more than enough in those 36 at-bats to convince Boston that he will be in their outfield next spring. The left-handed batter had two home runs, six RBI, and three stolen bases in those ten games, hitting .333/.400/.528 and putting fantasy players on notice. It will be interesting to see how he does in the desert this fall.

Thanks for reading the AFL previews. Starting next week, I will have my first hand observations and thoughts in the AFL Blog along with news, notes, and quotes several times each week. Remember that if you can’t make it down here (and really all fantasy devotees should), the Fall Stars game on November 1 and the League Championship game on November 15 will both be carried live on the MLB Network.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 October 2014 08:22
 
Peoria Javelinas – AFL Preview PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Perry Van Hook   
Sunday, 05 October 2014 00:00

This is the fifth in a six-part series reviewing each starting roster for the six Arizona Fall League teams.

Peoria Stadium is the spring training home of the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners. It also used to be the home of two Arizona Fall League teams, one of which was the Peoria Javelinas. Last year, the clubhouses for both the Mariners and Padres were under renovation so the Javelinas moved to Surprise complex and Stadium but retained the name. This year, the stadium itself is being renovated so the Javelinas will play their home games in Surprise Stadium sharing that with the Surprise Saguaros and next year will be back in Peoria and the team name won’t confuse anyone.

Managing the Javelinas will be Vance Wilson (KC), assisted by Dave Wallace (CLE, presumably the bench coach), pitching coaches R.C. Lichtenstein (TB) and Jason Simontacchi (STL) and hitting coach Garey Ingram (ATL).

The host team for the Javelinas in Surprise is the Royals and in a strange quirk, neither the Mariners nor Padres prospects are Javelinas this year as they play for the Saguaros. In addition to the Royals, the Javelinas come from the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, and Cleveland Indians.

Kansas City arguably has the best set of prospects in the league this year with four of their top five prospects (as rated on MLB.com) on the Javelinas.

Adalberto Raul Mondesi, the 19- year-old son of former major leaguer Raul Mondesi, is now listed as just Raul Mondesi. The 6’1”, 165 pound switch-hitting shortstop might be viewed as light-hitting, but was the second youngest player in the Sally league in 2013 at 17/18, and still fared above average at 18/19 in the Carolina league, and had eight homers and 17 steals but didn’t  get on base enough. Still, he doesn’t look overmatched and will continue to develop. MLB.com lists Mondesi as the top Royals prospect.

Kyle Zimmer was the fifth pick in the 2012 draft but has been severely limited by injuries, including this year where he pitched a scant 4.1 innings because of tendonitis and then a lat injury once he tried to return. But Zimmer has terrific stuff – a fastball that sits in the mid-90s (and can reach 100) and a very good 12-6 curveball and he has and will improve his slider and changeup. Zimmer is the #2 Royal on the Top 20 prospects at MLB.com.

Hunter Dozier was the eighth pick in the 2013 draft by the Royals. Although most draft analysts and scouts say that he was drafted much higher than his skills ranking, Kansas City signed him to a below the slot deal because of that and was then able to offer Sean Manaea, who slid to #34 in the compensation round because of a hip issue, a much higher contract. Dozier signed right away and hit the ground swinging – .303/.403/.509 with 32 extra-base hits at short season Idaho Falls, and then .327/.373/.436 at Low-A Lexington. His total for his first (short – 273 at-bats) year was seven homers and 52 RBI. This year, he started well at High-A Wilmington – .295/.397/.429 but struggled some when promoted halfway through the year to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Dozier was a shortstop in college (Stephen F. Austin State) but the Royals moved him to third base and he has adapted very well to the change and will play third in the AFL.

Miguel Emilio Almonte, a 6’2” righty, was signed in the Dominican in 2010 and started in the DSL in 2011. In 2012, he had progressed so much there he was brought to the states and pitched 27 innings for the Rookie league Royals where he struck out 28 batters and had a 2.33 ERA at the age of 19. He moved to the Sally league in 2013 and finished seventh in the league in ERA and was selected for the Futures game. Moved up to High-A Wilmington this year, Almonte, whose fastball is in the mid-90s with an above average changeup, needs work on his breaking pitch but still struck out 101 batters in 110 innings.

Quite a group of young Royals.

The other top prospect on the Javelinas is Francisco Lindor, a shortstop in the Cleveland organization and their #1 prospect who was the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft out of high school. The 5’11”, 175 pound switch-hitter has been regarded very high defensively – many scouts saying he could have held his own in the field last year. This year, splitting time at Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, Lindor hit .276/.338/.387 with 11 home runs and 28 stolen bases.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 October 2014 08:22
 
Glendale Desert Dogs – AFL Preview PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Perry Van Hook   
Thursday, 02 October 2014 00:00

The Desert Dogs will play their home games at Camelback Ranch Stadium, which is the spring training home of the Dodgers and White Sox. So, the prospects in the Arizona Fall League from those teams will be very familiar with the clubhouse, practice fields, and is some cases the stadium.

They will be joined this year by prospects from the Brewers, Orioles and Tigers with former major leaguer Lance Parrish, now with the Tigers, as the manager. Parrish has Andy Tomberlin (CHW) as his hitting coach and Chris Hook (MIL) and Mike Griffin (BAL) as the pitching coaches.

The premier prospect in the Desert Dogs lineup this fall will be Corey Seager, who also appeared in the AFL in 2013. That may seem like the Dodgers are pushing him but given the lack of clarity about their 2015 shortstop, it makes sense. Seager, the younger brother of Mariners third baseman Kyle, had a good first year, reaching high A, but had an even better season in 2014, starting again at Rancho Cucomonga but then being promoted to Double-A Tulsa. Seager, who turned 20 in April, is still at shortstop although many scouts have said he should move to third base, so we will see where he plays in Arizona. All he did this year was hit 20 homers and drive in 97 runs while hitting .349/.402/.602. If that didn’t get your attention, Seager had 75 extra-base hits; five triples and 50 doubles along with the 20 homers.

The Dodgers are also sending outfielder Scott Schebler, who dollar wise, was one of the best draftees they have had recently, signing for just $300,000 after being drafted in the 26th round in the 2010 draft. He worked his way up to high A Rancho Cucomonga in 2013, breaking out with 27 homers amongst 69 extra-base hits. He also stole 16 bases and was named the Dodgers 2013 minor league player of the year. Schebler followed that up with 28 homers, 14 triples and 23 doubles this year at Double-A Tulsa with a slash line of .280/.365/.556 – and yes, for fantasy players, ten stolen bases.

Outfielder Steven Moya, currently the #7 Detroit prospect on the MLB.com rankings, was a great signing by the organization and a good inspiration for younger players as he started by signing as an undrafted free agent in 2008. Injuries slowed him as he had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and a strained left (non-throwing) shoulder in 2013 at high A Lakeland. But Moya exploded this year when promoted to Double-A Erie, earning every Eastern League award in the regular season and postseason by hitting 35 home runs with 105 RBI and adding 16 stolen bases with a slash line of .276/.306/.555.

The White Sox are sending their #2 and #3 prospects to the AFL this year. Tim Anderson was selected 17th overall in the 2013 draft out of East Central Community College in Mississippi and played right away at low A Kannapolis with 267 at-bats and 24 stolen bases. The 6’1”, 180 lb. shortstop played at three levels in 2014, earning Carolina League mid-season All-Star honors, hitting six homers with ten steals. He was promoted later to Double-A Birmingham and was even better on ratios with a .364 AVG and .500 SLG in just 44 at-bats.

RHP Francellis Montas, from the Dominican Republic, came to Chicago via the Red Sox in the Jake Peavy trade. Across three minor league levels in 2014, Montas moved up to the #3 White Sox prospect with a 1.44 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 80 strikeouts in 81 innings pitched and was a Futures Game selection.

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 October 2014 08:04
 
Scottsdale Scorpions – AFL Preview PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Perry Van Hook   
Tuesday, 30 September 2014 00:00

This is the third of six roster previews for the 2014 Arizona Fall League which begins play on Tuesday, October 7.

This year’s Scorpions come from the Giants, Mets, Phillies, Pirates and Yankees and will play their home games at Scottsdale Stadium (in downtown Scottsdale), the spring training home of the San Francisco Giants.

Managing the Scorpions will be Jeff Bannister of the Pirates with pitching coaches Ray Burris (PHI) and Mike Couchee (SF) along with hitting coaches P.J. Pilittere (NYY) and Val Pascucci (NYM).

While there are several good pitching prospects on this team, the one you want to watch is Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh, who in addition to being the Pirates #1 prospect on MLB.com was recently named MLB Pipeline’s Pitching Prospect of the Year. Glasnow was drafted in the fifth round in 2012 and as a 19-year-old at Class A West Virginia led all Bucs pitching prospects with 164 strikeouts in 111.3 innings. A back injury delayed his start this season but he did get 23 starts at High A Bradenton and had a 1.74 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 157 strikeouts in 124.3 innings pitched.

Another Pirate to watch is their #3 prospect, outfielder Josh Bell, who had a slash line of .325/.375/.459 with nine home runs and nine stolen bases in 425 minor league at-bats across two levels. The switch-hitting Bell also had 22 doubles and four triples, a nice 35 extra-base hits, which should result in more home runs as he gains more experience. And yes, the Pirates have a lot of really good outfielders, but if Bell continues to improve, he will find a spot in the lineup in Pittsburgh or via a trade in another city.

Brandon Nimmo leads a group of young Metropolitans (including the MZs – RHP Corry Massoni and 2B L.J. Mazzili (yes, Lee Jr. but he prefers L.J.). Nimmo, the Mets #3 prospect, is a 21-year-old outfielder (currently CF but likely to shift to a corner as he moves up) who throws right-handed but bats from the left side. At Class-A St. Lucie and then Double-A Binghamton, Nimmo had 40 extra-base hits and hit .278/.394/.426 in his fourth minor league season.

The Yankees are sending a trio of interesting fantasy prospects. Third baseman Eric Jagielo, who was only the fifth Notre Dame University player drafted in the first round (1.26 in 2013), had 18 home runs and 14 doubles in just 332 at-bats between rookie league and then High-A Tampa. Jagielo’s slash line was .256/.351/.461 in just his second professional season.

Outfielder Aaron Judge, another first round pick by the Yankees (32nd in 2013), will likely grow into more power given his 6’7” frame. He did win the Ameritrade College Home Run Derby while at Fresno State University, where in three years he hit .346 with 17 home runs and 35 stolen bases. Judge also hit two home runs in one game against Mark Appel. In his first year, he played at Class-A and Double-A stops and had 17 home runs amongst 45 extra-base hits with a slash line of .308/.419/.460.

Tyler Austin was a 13th round pick in 2010 that had a terrific entry in just 178 at-bats between the rookie Gulf Coast league and Low-A Staten Island, hitting .418/.579/.997 in 2011. Austin exploded in 2012 at Class-A Charleston, hitting .405 with 14 home runs, 54 RBI and 17 stolen bases in 266 at-bats in the first half of the year and was a Sally League mid-season All Star and selected for the Futures Game. He hasn’t progressed from there (especially with the stolen bases), partly due to a thumb injury in 2013, but he did continue to hit for a good average and had a .336/.419/.756 line this year with 34 extra-base hits at Double-A Trenton.

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 October 2014 08:18
 
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