If, indeed, the Arizona Fall League is supposed to be “finishing school” for top organizational prospects, then we must have had some players who can be classified as “ready for prime time” playing in the season that ended Saturday. These guys are set to graduate. They are just biding their time this winter waiting for spring training to prove their career to date has not been a fluke. 60 percent of players assigned to the Arizona Fall League have made it to the major leagues. Over 1,800 former fall league players have at least chewed big league bubble gum. Some of course lasted longer than others, but still, six out of 10 isn’t bad for a developmental league that plays games after a full season of professional baseball has concluded.
In this final article of my Arizona Fall League Notebook, I want to forecast the players I think have the best chance of making it to the major leagues either this coming spring or sometime during the season.
Of course, there are more that will see big league action, but these players are mentioned because of their potential to help our fantasy teams. That is, after all, what it’s all about.
Players are not listed in any particular order or preference, so please don’t interpret anything from the player’s position in the listing. I really don’t believe in ranking players. For me, it’s splitting hairs. Frankly, one prospect may be ranked higher than another in national publications, but I don’t think it means that much. Often there is not a professional track record against similar pitching or hitting at similar levels of play to evaluate. I find rankings of prospects fairly arbitrary. I will give you my thoughts from a scout’s perspective without a ranking of the player.
Marc Rzepczynski, LHP, TOR (6’1” 205 pounds)
4-0 / 1.16 ERA /31 IP-24 H/ 27:9 K:BB / .214 average against
Has pitched at the big league level but was injured in 2010. Looked very sharp in his outings in AFL and threw pain free. Smooth mechanics.
Manny Banuelos, LHP, NYY (5’10” 155 pounds)
0-2/ 3.60ERA/ 25 IP-31 H/ 16:10 K:BB / .298 average against
Velocity has increased following in-season appendectomy. Don’t be turned off by stats above. Crafty lefty has a chance to see action by end of season if somehow the Yankees fail to improve their staff.
Kam Mickolio, RHP, BAL (6’9” 255 pounds)
0-0/ 0.75 ERA / 12IP-9 H/ 18:2 K:BB / .205 average against
Monster size with pitches that work. Should pitch at back end of pen. Has potential to close. Arm angle makes him tough to hit.
Mike Montgomery, LHP, KC (6’5” 180 pounds)
2-1/ 6.10 ERA / 10.1 IP-13 H/ 11:2 K:BB / .310 average against
Had been injured, but a top pitching prospect with quality repertoire. Royals may want to give him more development time, but he’s a stud.
Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, MIL (6’0” 195 pounds) ---potential closer candidate
0-0/ 3.09 ERA / 11.2 IP-9 H/ 14:12 K:BB / .200 average against
Power arm at back end of pen. Can throw 101 MPH. Has command issues. Showed improvement throwing strikes as season progressed.
Dan Runzler, LHP, SF (6’4” 230 pounds)
1-0/ 0.00 ERA / 3 IP-0 H/ 3:1 K:BB / .000 average against
Pitched for Giants in 2010. Should pitch in setup role with Giants in 2011. Sound mechanics with good repertoire. Mid-90’s velocity.
Scott Elbert, LHP, LAD (6’1” 215 pounds)
1-0/ 3.09 ERA / 11.2 IP-8 H/ 15:4 K:BB / .195 average against
Has had arm issues. Looks healthy and should help someone in the bullpen. Dodgers would be foolish not to give him the ball as situational lefty.
Dustin Ackley, 2B, SEA (6’1” 185 pounds)
.424/4/19 with 26:11 BB:K / .581 OBP/.758 SLG/ 1.338 OPS
I believe he starts the season as Seattle’s second baseman. Hits gaps. Much improved. Having some difficulty adjusting defensively to playing second, but he’s working hard.
Brandon Belt, 1B, SF (6’5” 195 pounds)
.372/1/16 with 9:24 BB:K / 1SB/ .427 OBP/ .616 SLG/ 1.043 OPS
Big, strong force at the plate. Power will develop. Could win first base job and could be Giants' first baseman for years to come once they give him the position.
Eduardo Escobar, SS, CWS (5’8” 160 pounds)
.300/4/15 with 9:14 BB:K / 2SB/ .353 OBP/ .536 SLG/ .889 OPS
Could surprise. Great defense. Has pop- shouldn’t swing from his heels. Defense gets him to the bigs, but he can hit .250 or better.
Andrew Lambo, OF, PIT (6’3” 190 pounds)
.274/4/23/ with 7:22 BB:K/ 325 OBP/ .462 SLG/ .787 OPS
Pirates perfect fit for Lambo. Should play (perhaps 1B). Scouts are divided on him. Has some power and flashes some quality at-bats.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, KC (6’4” 215 pounds)
.203/0/14 with 9:10 BB:K / 0SB/ .284 OBP/ .291 SLG/ .575 OPS
Hit in bad luck. Stats poor for AFL. Sweet swing. Should rebound.Had monster season in A and AA. May be ready for Kansas City.
Ben Revere, CF, MIN (5’ 9” 175 pounds)
.295/0/9 with 11:12 BB:K / 13SB/ .358 OBP/ .330 SLG/ .688 OPS
I like everything about him. Speed, gap hitter, excellent defender. No power. Twins should find a place for him. So should you.
Jordan Pacheco, C, COL (6’1” 190 pounds)
.317/ 0/ 11 with 2 SB/ 9:14 BB:K / .416 OBP/ .460 SLG/ .876 OPS
Solid catcher with pop in his bat. Good defense, good arm. Should hit. Plays a position of need for Rocks. Projects well for Coors.
Jose Iglesias, SS, BOS (5’ 11” 175 pounds)
.269/0/8 with 2:7 BB:K / 4SB/ .292 OBP/ .284 SLG/ .575 OPS
Wizard with glove but needs at-bats to improve offensively. Spray hitter won’t offer much fantasy offense until he proves he can hit quality pitching. A work in progress, but Red Sox need his defense.
Austin Romine, C, NYY (6’1” 195 pounds)
.279/ 0/ 7 with 3:13 BB:K / 1SB/ .313/ .328/ 640 OPS
Has a chance to stick with Yanks unless the get a veteran C. Hits enough to play. Good mechanical catcher with strong arm.
Jason Kipnis, 2B, CLE (5’10” 175 pounds)
.295/3/19 with 5:9 BB:K / 2SB/ .337 OBP/ .628 SLG/ .966 OPS
I trust his bat. Converted OF still learning 2B. Could be late season callup. Makes things happen. Hustles and centers ball well.
Cord Phelps, 2B/3B, CLE (6’2” 200 pounds)
.367/3/10 with 16:14 BB:K / 4SB/ .474 OBP/ .557 SLG/ 1.031 OPS
Monster fall opened many eyes. Could force himself into mix at third base for Tribe. Can also play second, but may need more seasoning defensively.
Juan Carlos Linares, OF, BOS (5’11” 190 pounds)
.397/3/14 with 1:7 BB:K /.423OBP/ .662 SLG/ 1.084 OPS
Cuban defector has outstanding bat control with excellent mechanics. Could be sleeper. Watch closely. Can hit with power. Not on many lists.
Leslie Anderson, OF, TAM (6’1” 205 pounds)
.255/2/15 with 4:14 BB:K / 1SB/ .294 OBP/ .362 SLG/ .656 OPS
Cuban defector. Not as smooth and refined as Linares. May also be sleeper. Good hitting mechanics, but not as much pop as Linares either.
These are guys worth mentioning listed by organization. This is just a list of players that could have major league impact at some point and should be monitored for fantasy value. Players marked with a * are players I really liked in the AFL.:
Xavier Avery, OF: speed to burn, must learn how to get on base
Caleb Joseph, C: has some tools and should continue to improve
Kam Mickolio, RHP: power arm out of pen*
Greg Miclat, INF: has some speed but still raw-no power
Boston Red Sox
Jose Iglesias, SS: magician with glove, learning how to hit*
Casey Kelly, RHP: it won’t be long if he starts missing center of plate*
Ryan Lavarnway, C: big bat-needs work on catching mechanics*
Juan Carlos Linares, OF: sleeper bat should be big leaguer before long*
Chicago White Sox
Eduardo Escobar, SS: close to Iglesias with glove-some pop in bat*
Jared Mitchell, OF: didn’t have great fall league but has tools*
Brian Barnes, LHP: not far from being back of rotation starter*
Eric Berger, LHP: could become situational lefty-needs more work*
Jason Kipnis, 2B/3B: could be in the Tribe’s infield mix*
Cord Phelps, 2B/3B: see Kipnis*
Cale Iorg, SS: wonderful glove, with very weak bat. Adam Everett type
Chance Ruffin, RHP: some flashes of potential
Kansas City Royals
Danny Duffy, LHP: not a strong fall, but much is expected.
Johnny Giavotella, 2B: a fireplug type guy with a bat and legs
Eric Hosmer, 1B: chance to play in ’11 with power and average*
Mike Montgomery, LHP: could be a top of rotation pitcher. Close*
Patrick Keating, RHP: under the radar. Live arm at back end of bullpen
Salvador Perez, C: watch out for this guy. Young and raw but has tools*
Los Angeles Angels
Jeremy Moore, OF: hits, can play CF, has speed and more speed
Andrew Romine, SS: good player with speed and a bat*
Brandon Wood, 3B: still struggles with breaking balls-change of scenery?
Ben Revere, OF: hits, runs, plays defense, bunts but has no power. Ready.*
Chris Parmalee,1B: hits in Arizona but not athletic. DH type.
New York Yankees
Manny Banuelos, LHP: velocity improving after missing time. Possible.*
Brandon Laird, OF: tailed off, but I like his bat. Has pop.*
Travis Banwart, RHP: pitched well, but I’m not sold
Michael Taylor, OF: played lazy outfield. I’m not sold yet about bat
Dustin Ackley, 2B: should open season as team’s 2B. Much improved.*
Nate Tenbrink, OF: flashed some bat, but still very raw
Josh Fields, RHP: young pitcher looked very good in AFL. Bullpen in AFL.
Tampa Bay Rays
Leslie Anderson, OF: Has tools including strong bat with some pop*
Jose Felix, C: young loud bat in limited playing time. Developing
Eric Hurley, RHP: outstanding potential with good stuff as starter*
Toronto Blue Jays
Mike McDade,1B: wide bodied, non-athletic 1B can flat out hit.*
Adam Loewen, OF: former pitcher’s hitting improving greatly. Power.*
Dan Farquhar, RHP: traded to A’s for Davis-didn’t show that much in AFL
Marc Rzepczynski, LHP: solid fall with good mechanics. Starter in bigs.*
A.J. Pollock, OF: good athlete didn’t show any particular tools
Mark Krauss, OF: could be utility OF with more experience and at-bats
Cory Harrilchak, OF: hit well, raised some eyebrows with power, average
Tyler Pastornicky, SS: looked smooth and capable with average bat
Chris Carpenter, RHP: power arm needs more innings, but close to bigs*
Josh Vitters, 3B: Still seen as heir apparent to Aramis Ramirez.
Devin Mesoraco, C: brings big bat- trouble receiving, blocking. Close.*
Kris Negron, INF: multiple tools, plays hard. Hits. Also close.*
Dave Sappelt, OF: made me take multiple looks. Has some tools.
Charlie Blackmon, OF: Power bat that will play at Coors. Runs. Young. *
Rex Brothers, LHP: quality arm out of pen. Liked what I saw.*
Jordan Pacheco, C: best overall catcher I saw in AFL. Soon.*
Kyle Skipworth, C: looked sharp at times but needs lots of work, at-bats
Brandon Barnes, OF: big power bat, but swing is long. Needs time.*
Kyle Greenwalt, RHP: Work in progress. Learning. Needs lots of work
Los Angeles Dodgers
Ivan De Jesus, SS: hitting now and playing good defense. Utility in bigs.
Scott Elbert, LHP: best chance is out of pen. Injury history but ready.*
Trayvon Robinson, OF: speedy OF takes lots of pitches. Soon.
Jeremy Jeffress, RHP: could close for soon. Must improve command.*
New York Mets
Matt Rizzotti, 1B: big body, big bat. Power is late in coming.*
Justin De Fratus, RHP: Very young but showed some good stuff in pen*
Andrew Lambo, OF: has pop in his bat-should play at Pittsburgh
Tony Sanchez, C: recovering from injury, but has tools. Needs work.
St. Louis Cardinals
Adam Chambers, OF: has hit everywhere but without power. Can run
Tony Cruz C- showed a good bat, not bad behind the plate
Zack Cox-3B loud, powerful bat from a big bodied guy. Watch him!*
San Diego Padres
Brad Brach, RHP: lots of work out of pen in AFL and showed good stuff
Colt Hynes, LHP: early inning reliever started well and faded some*
San Francisco Giants
Brandon Belt, 1B: could claim job soon. Big, strong body. Power later.*
Charlie Culberson, 2B: hit from day one but never showed a glove at 2B*
Conor Gillaspie, 3B: showed he can hit and hit with power. Good fall.*
Dan Runzler, LHP: works out of pen for Giants. Solid. *
Bryce Harper, OF: rookie showed five tools as a game-breaking player*
Cole Kimball, RHP: could be a closer or setup man. Work horse.*
Steve Lombardozzi, INF: hit for average with good bat control*
Derek Norris, C: won’t be long for him to become Nationals C*
Brad Peacock, RHP: really like his arm, has to keep working hard*
Sammy Solis, LHP: had a good fall, started Championship game. Solid.*
If you’re interested in AFL players, I’ll have a blog on the league next week. Until then, have a very happy, safe, and great Thanksgiving.