The Reds have decided to bring left-hander Aroldis Chapman to the desert before he pitches in the Dominican Republic. Chapman is slated to start a couple games at most. He will also work out of the bullpen while he's here for a brief period.
I saw him out of the bullpen this past Monday. He threw 94 mph and he was wild. It looked like he was just getting loose and getting some work in. The Reds want him in the rotation for 2012, not closing games, but that could change. Chapman arrived in Goodyear later than had been expected. He hadn't thrown in a few weeks and he really wasn't ready to stretch out his arm. That's why he began in the bullpen here in Arizona. He should be starting here in Phoenix next week at some point. Probably Monday.
One of the players I am most interested in watching is Jedd Gyorko, a third base prospect for the Padres. Gyorko was a second-round selection in 2010. He isn't big, standing 5-foot-10, but he can hit. As of this writing he's hitting .409/3/13. Remember, this is a very, very hitter-friendly league.
Gyorko has not cooled off since the day he started here in the AFL. Last season at Double-A San Antonio in the Texas League, Gyorko hit .288/7/40. He really hit well at High-A Lake Elsinore in the California League (365/18/74 with 11 stolen bases). So in total this past season, Gyorko hit 25 homers and drove in 114 runs.
He's absolutely pounding the ball in Arizona. I think he'll be able to play third base in the big leagues, but he needs time to work on his footwork and agility at the hot corner. His range isn't the best I've seen, but he's a defensive work in progress. A former shortstop, it appears the stocky 195-pound Gyorko should be a bright spot at the position in the future for San Diego.
Outfielder Jaff Decker (the German spelling for Jeff according to Decker) is another Padres player that has raised some eyebrows in Arizona with a solid bat. Decker is hitting .370 with a homer and 11 RBI. Decker makes contact, and he's a solid hitter with good plate discipline and good pitch recognition.
Decker has been criticized for his rather large, un-athletic looking build. He's short and stocky at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. but he has some power. He has some talent to hit fastballs and he is driven to prove critics wrong.
Decker was injured for a good part of the 2011 season and he didn't really get his offense going. He's a better hitter than he showed in Double-A San Antonio. He hit only in the .230s, which does not reflect his ability. Look for Decker to continue his hot hitting in the desert and keep his lofty position as a highly touted Padres prospect.
White Sox right-handed pitching prospect Terry Doyle is one of the few starting pitchers (other than those with major league pitching experience) that have impressed me with their command and repertoire. Doyle was a 37th round selection of the White Sox in 2008. Last season he pitched at High-A Winston-Salem in the Carolina League but he really came into his own at Double-A Birmingham in the Southern League. Doyle threw 100 innings at Birmingham with a 3.24 ERA over 15 starts. The opposition hit .241 off Doyle. You probably won't find him listed among the top White Sox prospects, but his delivery and his repertoire seem to play. I want to see more of him, but for now, I like what I see of Doyle. He's a guy for you to remember when you think of future White Sox pitchers. He's a couple years away, but he's making good progress.
Joe Mahoney is a tall, thin first baseman from the Orioles' organization. After fighting the injury bug early in the AFL, Mahoney has begun playing and playing well. He is hitting .370/1/7 so far in 27 AFL at-bats. Mahoney is a guy I think will make the Orioles' roster at some point in the coming season. He has too much to offer offensively to a weak hitting club to be ignored. Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds are currently on the books as the third- and first-base combination, but Mahoney is going to be making his presence known at first base. The power hasn't totally emerged, but the guy can hit. He's long and lean at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds. As a lefty hitter, Mahoney really likes the ball down in the zone. He smokes line drives with the barrel of the bat. I like his approach at the plate, his overall hitting mechanics and his knowledge of the strike zone.
Mahoney has a great deal of work to do on defense. As he plays now, he won't be able to sustain a major league position. He needs to take constant ground balls this coming spring and improve his first step and agility around the bag. His defense is one factor that could keep him from advancing.
Rangers prospect Leonys Martin has arrived in the AFL and has been assigned to the Surprise taxi squad. That means he can only play on Wednesday and Saturday. His first time up, Martin homered to center. He hasn't had another hit and is 1-for-11.
I've been surprised at the rate of solid contact being made by Diamondbacks outfield prospect Adam Eaton. At 5-foot-10, Eaton isn't a big guy but he certainly knows how to play the game with passion and energy. I think Eaton will continue to impress the D-Backs in the same way Collin Cowgill has done. I like what I've seen so far of Eaton.
Red Sox outfielder Juan Carlos Linares has returned to the AFL. He played last year and I really liked his all around play. I'll keep you posted on his progress, because the Red Sox really like this guy. He can be a solid sleeper.
The Week 3 Players of the Week as determined by the AFL staff:
Chicago Cubs – IF Junior Lake
White Sox – RHP Terry Doyle
BERNIE'S PLAYER OF THE WEEK - KEVIN MATTISON - OF - FLORIDA MARLINS
Marlins outfielder Kevin Mattison has outstanding baseball instincts. In the games I've watched, he makes things happen from the top of the order. He has flashed speed and gap power, hitting .340/2/12 so far with four triples. He has five stolen bases and has been caught once.
Mattison has a .419 on-base percentage so far over 12 games and 53 at-bats. His OPS is a very solid 1.023. Very good numbers.
I like the way Mattison takes charge at the plate, on the bases and in the field. He plays the game with energy and enthusiasm. He seems to be here to make a statement and show the world of baseball that he can play.
I think the Marlins are the perfect fit for Mattison's bat, speed and glove. I think he's someone to keep an eye on in the coming season. At Double-A Jacksonville, he hit .260/8/49 with 38 stolen bases. I sense we'll see him in Florida this coming season. Remember the name. He may start slowly in the big leagues, but he has outstanding potential to score runs, steal bases and hit for average. The power will come. Good, good player.
Some Surprising Numbers
Keeping in mind that there is no doubt the AFL is a hitter's league these numbers are more than surprising:
Bryce Harper - OF Nationals /214/1/6
Mike Trout - OF Angels .245/0/1
Tyson Gillies - OF Phillies .235/1/4
Aaron Hicks - OF Twins .188/2/6
Adam Moore - C Mariners .115/0/4
Nick Franklin - SS Mariners .216/1/5
Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff. I provide updates before every AFL game. Follow me on MLB.com in the opinions section or search Bernie Pleskoff.