This is my fourth edition of my Arizona Fall League Notebook. I have included some of the more popular players in this edition as well as a few that readers may not know.
I will have another edition next week and then an AFL wrap up the following week.
I will be tweeting every day from a different AFL game @BerniePleskoff.
Javier Baez, SS, CHC - 1st-round draft pick in 2011
Baez was the ninth player taken in the 2011 first-year player draft. He's a slick fielding shortstop with a strong arm and a high degree of flash in his game.
Baez is extremely strong. His upper body strength is one source of his raw power. The other is his very quick bat. He uses fast hands and strong wrists to generate power beyond what one would think.
Baez also has a major flaw in his swing. He has a long, wide loop as his trigger. Ultimately, that will slow his bat against high velocity pitchers that know how to pitch inside. If he corrects that flaw he will have an awesome career. If he retains his swing as is, he'll still be very good.
With Starlin Castro at shortstop, the team can either be patient with Baez or look to move one or the other. They will have three choices - change one of their positions, trade one of them or keep them both at shortstop and play them both at that position. I don't see the third option materializing.
To date, Baez has a .293 minor league batting average over two seasons. He has hit 16 homers and stolen 26 bases. He has speed, power and good bat control. However, he has little, if any patience at the plate. He has walked only 14 times.
He left the AFL even before the Rising Stars Game due to a jammed thumb. It is not broken and he should be ready for spring training.
Didi Gregorious, SS, CIN - Signed as an international free agent from the Netherlands
For me, Gregorius is the best overall athlete in the Arizona Fall League.
He is extremely smooth and lithe at shortstop. His agility allows for outstanding range to both sides and coming in on the ball. A strong, although not always accurate arm, finishes his defensive qualities.
Offensively, Gregorius is a dangerous hitter. He has raw power as well as very good bat speed. As a left-handed hitter, I have seen Gregorius pull balls down the right field foul line with regularity. He will have to do a better job of using the entire field. He told me he is working on taking pitches where they are thrown. I've actually seen more of it lately.
Last season at Triple-A Louisville, he hit only .243 in 185 at-bats. That statistic is a concern. However, in the AFL he is hitting well against mediocre pitching.I am concerned that Gregorius does not use his speed to his advantage. He is fast and has a good first step, but his lack of stolen bases (0 at Louisville this past season) concern me.
The Reds will have a decision to make at shortstop. While he isn't quite ready, Gregorius will be knocking on the door following some more at-bats at Triple-A this coming season.
Billy Hamilton, OF, CIN - 2nd-round draft pick in 2009
Hamilton is going to force himself on to the Reds' major league roster sooner than he should. He makes that much impact on a game. Hamilton's speed must be seen to be believed. I clocked him at 3.50 from home to first base. That's Mickey Mantle and Ichiro territory. Rarified air. Hamilton told me he ran a 3.3 at the Futures Game. I didn't see that. I have to believe him.
Keep in mind, Hamilton still has to get on first in order to steal second. In fact, I have seen much more plate discipline recently. He is willing and eager to take a walk. If a pitcher walks him, it's the same as a double. However, I have also seen him take a careless lead and get picked off.
There isn't much power in Hamilton's bat. Those that draft him will initially reap the stolen bases as their reward. He won't drive in many runs at the top of the order.
Last season at Double-A he hit .286 and stole 51 bases. Of course, that was after he hit .323 at High-A and stole 70 bases.
Defensively, Hamilton has amazing “closing" speed. He can play fairly shallow and catch balls that would normally fall in. His speed allows him to track down balls hit over his head, although in one game this week, two balls got behind him.
Rymer Liriano, OF, SD - Signed as an international free agent
At this past season's Futures Game, I thought Liriano had the best raw power of any prospect player I saw at the time. I haven't changed my mind.
Liriano has a huge body. At only six-feet tall but carrying 210 pounds, Liriano gets both his strong legs and upper body into his swing. His weight shift could be better. For now, it is a little inconsistent. In fact, there are times I think he yields at-bats. He is vulnerable to sliders down and away and has little patience backing off that pitch. He has to recognize it sooner. He told me he is really concentrating on staying away from those breaking balls.
When he does get the fastball he likes, he drives the pitch a long way.
Liriano has spent parts of five seasons in the Padres' system. His most advanced appearance was late last season at Double-A San Antonio where he hit .251 with three homers. Last season, he hit only eight home runs in total.
I like him, but he has work to do. We'll see how he responds this season in the minor leagues against better quality pitching than he's seen so far in his career. A work in progress.
Stefen Romero, 3B, SEA - 12th-round draft pick in 2010
Romero is a sleeper. This guy can hit. He hits loud line drives to left field in particular. Romero made it all the way to Double-A last season and had 216 at-bats. He hit .347 with 12 home runs and 50 RBI. He isn't a fluke. At High-A earlier in the season he had 258 at-bats. He hit .357 with 11 homers and 51 RBI. Quite a season.
I've seen the bat in the AFL. I've watched his mechanics. He can hit and he can play.
Will he make the Mariners this season? I doubt it. He went to Oregon State and has that experience as well as his minor league at-bats going in his favor. Look for him to hit himself into the mix on the Mariners. I just don't know when.
Cory Spangenberg, 2B, SD - 1st-round draft pick in 2011
I'm a big Spangenberg fan. He's a complete player. He can hit for average and he can play defense. He can also run. Spagenberg plays a position of weakness for the Padres. They don't have a tremendous surplus of middle infielders.
This past season at High-A Lake Elsinore, Spangenberg hit .271 with only one home run. He stole 27 bases in 36 attempts. Drafted out of high school, Spangenberg is making good progress in the Padres' system. This season, he may be promoted to Double-A.
While he won't provide power, he will provide good contact and hard-nosed play. I think he's at least two years away and perhaps even more from completing his development.
Trey Haley, RHRP, CLE - 2nd-round draft pick in 2008
Haley is another sleeper. He's got an amazing arm. I've seen him throw 100 mph, but for now, he's fairly straight and gets hurt by quality hitting.
If he can somehow get more movement on his pitches (slight tweak of his arm angle, lower the velocity, etc.) he will be a much better pitcher. I don't want to say he's a “thrower" as opposed to being a pitcher, but he's a “thrower."
In lower classifications, a thrower can look dominant. As that pitcher climbs the organizational ladder and faces more sophisticated hitters, the going gets tougher.
Haley pitched at three classifications this past season. Here are the results:
Rookie League - 6 IP, 8 H, 5ER, 7.50 ERA, 10:2 K:BB
High-A - 17.1 IP, 8 H, 2ER, 1.04 ERA 16:6 K:BB
Double-A - 15.1 IP, 10 H, 3ER, 1.76 ERA 23:11 K:BB
Haley is a closer in waiting and he is someone for us to watch. If the Indians trade Chris Perez and turn the closer's job over to Vinnie Pestano, Haley becomes more important.
He is probably two years from his big opportunity. Watch him.
Heath Hembree, RHRP, SFG - fifth-round draft pick in 2010
Hembree has been a closer in the Giants' system. Last season he had 15 saves. He threw 38 innings at Triple-A Fresno. Command is the problem for Hembree. He struck out 36 hitters, but walked 20. He has to work on both his command and his control.
I still like him as a potential back end of the bullpen guy. I don't know if he can close. I'm not sure he has the mound presence, the fortitude and the mechanics to be relied upon in that role. Opposing hitters only batted .207 against him last season, but the walks hurt and his ERA was 4.74.
Chase Anderson, RHSP, ARI - 9th-round draft pick in 2009
Anderson is another in a long line of Diamondbacks pitching prospects. He is one that could be a subject in trade or he could get a chance with the D-Backs. He can pitch.
Last season at Double-A Mobile, he was in the shadow of the team's higher profile pitchers. He had a very fine 2.86 ERA in 104 innings pitched while starting 21 games. That isn't too shabby. The numbers got me to take a look. I like what I've seen.
Most importantly to me, Anderson walked only 25 and struck out 97. The opposition hit .238 off him. Believe me, the scouts have noticed him. His arm is live and loose.
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