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Pleskoff's AFL Notebook: Week 2 Standouts

Bernie Pleskoff

Bernie Pleskoff

Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.

This is the second AFL Notebook entry for this season. In the first edition, I mentioned players I felt were flying a bit Under The Radar.

Some of the players I will list every week won't be household names. They won't find their way on anyone's Top-10 Prospect list. However, they are worthy of noting because of their potential.

This week I look at some players that are better known or have a bit of a higher profile with their own fans base.

Here are this week's profiles:

LUIS SARDINAS, SS, TEXAS RANGERS - International free agent from Venezuela

Here's another Rangers shortstop to watch. And another wonderful defensive shortstop from Venezuela.

Sardinas has the ability to play tremendous shortstop. He is extremely fluid with a very quick first step in both directions. His footwork and his body movements are almost acrobatic.

Defensively, he reminds me of Alcides Escobar - a player I touted on this site the first day I saw him several years ago. Escobar was “raw" and inexperienced at the time. So is Sardinas.

Sardinas can fly. His speed is his second-best tool following his defense, so he can bunt his way on base and then steal. He can smack the ball to the outfield and then steal. He can accept a walk and then steal.

Sardinas is not a big guy, he's only 6-foot-1 and 150 pounds. He's slightly built and he could benefit from additional muscle and weight.

He's not as advanced as Dee Gordon was at the beginning of this season. We saw what happened to Gordon. He couldn't hit major league pitching with any consistency. While Sardinas doesn't have Gordon's speed, I make the comparison because Gordon moved quickly in the Dodgers' system then scuffled. The Rangers have the luxury of fully developing Sardinas.

Sardinas is a few years away, but remember his name. Those were my words with Escobar. After two weeks in the AFL, he's hitting .364 with a homer, four RBI and a stolen base.

NICK AHMED, SS, ATLANTA BRAVES - second-round selection in 2011

Ahmed is a name for the future. He is in a system that has players such as Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons clearly ahead of him as prospects. I believe he may be moved to second base, although he is playing shortstop here this fall.

Ahmed is the type of player that will challenge for a roster spot. He struck out 102 times this past season at High-A Lynchburg, so he is just learning how to read pitches and pitchers. He also has a strong arm, quick feet and soft hands. That's a winning combination for a shortstop.

He hit .269 with six homers and 28 RBI at Lynchburg. The number that surprised me is the six home runs. It shows he has some pop. I've also seen a bit of noise in his bat this fall. The other number that pops is his 40-for-50 mark as a basestealer.

Don't think of him as a fantasy option for 2013, he's a long way from a big league job. Just remember he is being groomed by Atlanta - an organization that doesn't make monumental mistakes.

Through two weeks in the AFL, Ahmed is hitting .370 with six RBI while going 1-for-2 on the basepaths.

HAK-JU LEE, SS, TAMPA BAY RAYS (L) – signed as an international free agent from Korea

Lee was an International free agent from Korea. He began his career in the States in 2009, and is a “defense first" shortstop. He has soft hands and very quick feet to go with a strong and accurate arm.

If the Rays want to go defense-only at shortstop, Lee has a chance. If they want a bat, they have to wait for Lee to improve through further development.

Lee is a slap hitter with speed. He isn't anywhere nearly as pronounced in slapping the ball as Ichiro. He has something between a swing and a slap, and he hit .261 at Double-A last season. The problem I see is his lack of experience hitting breaking balls and quality pitching. The better the pitching, the more he scuffles.

Lee knows how to bunt his way on base and he can also take an occasional walk, but he also strikes out. Fortunately, he will steal bases in bunches. Lee stole 37 this past season and was caught only nine times, and speed will be your primary reason for drafting him.

I wouldn't be surprised to see him stick around if the Rays want an inexpensive option at shortstop this coming season. More likely, however, I think he is headed for Triple-A after hitting .287 in parts of our four minor league seasons.

After two weeks, Lee is hitting .229 with four RBI and a 2-for-6 mark on the basepaths.

TIM BECKHAM, SS/2B, TAMPA BAY RAYS - first-round selection in 2008

When I have seen Beckham this fall, he was playing second base. Frankly, I think that's where he belongs. His range to both sides there is extremely good, and I think he can find success at that position.

Offensively, he has been a .250 hitter since turning professional. I don't think he'll ever hit above that. His career minor league average is actually .264.

Beckham does not get loft on his swing. His swing plane is relatively flat and he will have to settle for being a solid gap hitter if he is to get his share of RBI and extra-base hits.He has been around so long we forget he's only 22 years old. Frankly, I see improvement. I think he's close to a job with Tampa Bay. It may be as a utility player, but he's looking better.

He has already completed parts of five seasons in the minors. The Rays may want to see what he can accomplish in the big leagues after having played at Triple-A Durham for parts of two seasons.

Beckham is hitting .250 with four RBI and has been caught stealing in his only attempt through two weeks.

CHRISTIAN YELICH, OF, MIAMI MARLINS (L) - first-round selection in 2010

Unless something changes dramatically, Yelich will become a solid major league player. With his sweet line-drive swing, I don't see how it's possible he will miss.

Yelich just completed High-A ball, hitting .330 in 447 plate appearances at Jupiter in the Florida State League. He had 12 homers and drove in 48 runs. Basically, Yelich hits darts. He can center the ball extremely well and get the barrel of the bat out front.

While I think he is pretty much a pull-hitter, I do think he can hold his own against left-handed pitching and drive the ball to center on occasion.

Yelich may have the most advanced hitting mechanics of any of the AFL players I've seen. At only 20 years old, he is completely dialed in at the plate. His body shift and his hand speed are refined beyond his years and experience. He still has more development to complete, but from what I've seen, he might be hanging around a major league batting cage at some point in late 2013 or early 2014.

Through two weeks, Yelich is hitting .351 with three RBI in the fall league.

AUSTIN ROMINE, C, NEW YORK YANKEES - second-round selection in 2007

Romine has appeared before in the AFL. I believe he has a good chance to be on the major league roster of the Yankees this coming season.

If Russell Martin returns, I'm not sure Romine wouldn't be a very good backup catcher for him. His defense is getting better; Romine's footwork behind the plate has really improved. He is athletic and agile. He just has to coordinate the brain and the body.. His offense isn't bad.

The Yankees also have Gary Sanchez, a hitter-first catcher waiting in their organizational wings, but Romine is further advanced than Sanchez.

Offensively, Romine hit only .213 at Triple-A last season. He won't do much for your fantasy team. He didn't hit with much power, and I have concern that when he does play in New York, he could be an automatic out.

I mention Romine because he's in the AFL again - that means the Yankees want to take a long look or let other teams take a long look.

I won't rush to draft him for my fantasy team, but I want to know what he's capable of doing if he makes a major league roster. Basically, that might be hitting .225 to .240 with little power.

Through two weeks, Romine is hitting .227 with no homers or RBI.

JOSH PRINCE, OF, BREWERS – third-round selection in 2012

Prince is in the midst of a conversion from shortstop to the outfield. There is a lot to like about this guy. He's one of the players very few people know much about.

Here in the AFL, Prince has been making much more contact than he did this past season for Double-A Huntsville. During the season he struck out 107 times in 596 plate appearances. That's far from horrible but enough to get my attention.

This fall, he is hitting the ball with authority. He can drive the ball to the gaps. He gets out of the box in a hurry. And he can steal a base.

I like his bat, his glove, his legs and his competitive spirit.

He's already 24. I'm not sure if he can ever break through the Brewers; outfield logjam-especially when his position conversion may take at least another season. I think he's a player to watch, especially in spring training.

Prince is hitting .462 with seven RBI and a 6-for-8 mark as a basestealer this fall.

JOE PANIK, 2B/SS, GIANTS - first-round selection in 2011

I have written about Panik before. When I've seen him, I have always questioned why he was drafted with the Giants' first pick in 2011.

Panik now seems to have been shifted to shortstop from second base. His first professional exposure was pretty exclusively as a second baseman. My question-what does that say about the team's confidence in Brandon Crawford? Also, where are they going with second base beyond the Marco Scutaro era?

I was under the impression San Francisco was gaining tremendous confidence in Crawford. True, he made errors this past season, but he corrected that. He's also hitting much better. He has a gun for an arm. I really like Crawford and the Panik move to short has me stumped.

Here are Panik's first two seasons in professional baseball:

2011 in short-season Northwest League: .341 with six homers and 54 RBI with 13 steals.
2012 in High-A San Jose: .297, seven homers and 76 RBI with 10 steals

He has a total of 921 plate appearances. That alone is not enough minor league at-bats for him to be considered for a promotion to San Francisco. Panik still has to play in Double-A or Triple-A to prove that his first two years are good indicators. I think he is at least two years away from being a viable shortstop or second-base candidate on a major league roster.

I'm not totally sold yet on Panik. I have no confidence in his ability to hit quality pitching. He will face Double-A pitching in the AFL. I will update his progress as the season moves along.

Through two weeks, he's hitting .250 with a pair of RBI.

I will be tweeting from a Fall League game every day in the season. Follow me @BerniePleskoff.