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Behind the Backstop: Kris Crush

Tory Hernandez

Tory Hernandez

Tory's experience in the baseball industry includes a four-year stint as the Manager of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where his responsibilities were comprised of contract negotiation, advance scouting, and the development and implementation of the organization's statistical research methods and use of analytics. Most recently, Tory served as the Director of Pro Scouting & Recruiting for Boras Corporation.

The Arizona Fall League is two-and-a-half weeks into its 2013 season. The Mesa Solar Sox and Surprise Saguaros lead their respective divisions but among the players, I thought we'd check in on a "Who's Hot, Who's Not" list this week.

We've all seen the daily numbers Cubs 2013 first-round pick Kris Bryant is putting up. He leads the league in hitting at .422 and with five home runs and 16 RBI -- leading all three Triple Crown categories. If Bryant weren't a Scott Boras client, we might see him early in 2014, but because the Cubs are unlikely to contend next year, Bryant probably will spend most if not all of next year in the minor leagues. Bryant is the type of talent who would garner an Evan Longoria-type deal, even from a large market team like the Cubbies. However, Boras won't go for that and because of this fact, it will delay Bryant's arrival to the North Side. The San Diego native has the talent to probably hold his own out of spring training next year with the parent club, but Theo and the gang will strategically line him up to maximize his service time for their contending years.

Texas catcher Jorge Alfaro made big strides this year in the Sally League and even got a late season promotion to the Florida State League (High-A) as a 20-year-old. He's an outstanding defensive catcher with plus power potential. He's hitting .415 in 41 at-bats this fall, but has yet to homer. The power is real and while he won't hit for a high average, he's a future All-Star in the American League.

Milwaukee outfielder Mitch Haniger is hitting .316 with a couple of home runs for the Saguaros. Haniger, who was drafted in the supplemental first round in 2012 out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is a premium athlete with a plus arm, fit for right field, but he's a tick below average runner. Haniger is probably a .250-.260 hitter in the major leagues with the chance to hit at least 20-25 homers. I see him as a nice complement to a good lineup, batting in the fifth spot. He's probably exposed a bit too much hitting third and fourth spots but he looks like a sure-fire, solid major league hitter.

Stanford alum and Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty was drafted two spots ahead of Haniger. Piscotty is another solid college hitter that looks like he'll emerge in the big leagues as a run producer. The Birds' player development system just keeps churning them out and Piscotty is part of that funnel. Piscotty hit .295 with 15 homers in his second season in the minor leagues and has continued to hit at a .347 clip this fall. He's a hitting machine, having led the Cape in batting in 2011 and finishing his career at Stanford hitting .340. A lot of scouts don't think he'll hit for power, but he has an amazing approach at the plate, is very disciplined and hits balls with authority. He's more gap-to-gap right now, but a lot of those doubles could find the seats once he gets to St. Louis. Piscotty will approach hitting .300 in the bigs and could rack up 30-40 doubles a year, while dropping 12-17 homers. He doesn't move particularly well, but he has a great arm and could solidify a role in right field. He's a better hitter than Haniger with a bit less raw power, but I'll take Piscotty because he has a better chance to hit at the major league level. He could hit third in some lineups, but is best suited as a complement in the fifth spot.

Braves second baseman Tommy La Stella is going nuts this fall with a .351 average and seven extra-base hits in just 37 at-bats. La Stella can flat out rake, but he's not more of a prospect because he might not have a position in the infield, and he doesn't hit for much power. He has a sweet, left-handed stroke and he has such a good idea in the batter's box that he may win a batting title someday. He's not much of a runner and doesn't have a lot of quickness or good hands. His defense has improved in the last year and it's an area that if he can continue to improve upon, he'll become a top-five second baseman someday. If he can play second base, he would be a nice replacement for Dan Uggla, but chances are he won't ever be an average defender. The Braves are going to find a spot for him though because of his stick. He won't hit for much power or steal many bases but he'll hit and rack up a lot of doubles. He won't need to be platooned either as he hits very well against lefties. You can count on La Stella getting to the big leagues in the next two years and he may arrive in 2014. He's a hard nosed, gritty baseball rat who can hit second in a championship caliber lineup. La Stella is definitely a guy to keep on your radar.

San Francisco catcher Andrew Susac is having a great AFL as well, batting .379 with 10 walks and just six punchouts. The Oregon State alum is the best catcher in the Giants system and could very well allow San Francisco to move incumbent Buster Posey to a corner-infield spot in two years. Susac is a plus defender behind the plate and stepped up his game in 2013 after a poor debut in 2012. He could slot in nicely as a No. 6 hitter in a championship caliber lineup. He's probably a .240-.250 hitter with double-digit home runs, perhaps even approaching the 20-homer level later in his career.

First rounder's Corey Seager and Colin Moran are really struggling so far. Seager is just 19 playing against competition that is mostly two or three years older than him, however. He'll return to the California League next year as a 20-year-old and get back on track. Seager has the chance to put up years like the 2013 version of Matt Carpenter. As for Moran, chalk his struggles up to a long college season combined with his first exposure to pro ball.

Two guys I wrote up in an earlier column, Ryan Brett and Marcus Semien are having tough goes of it. As I am writing this, however, Semien just cranked his second home run in his game Tuesday. Matt Skole only had five at-bats this year after tearing a ligament in his right elbow. The Nats are just happy that he's back on the field, despite him only hitting .179 in Arizona.

One guy who I thought was on his way to a good offensive career in the bigs is Stefen Romero with the Mariners. He took a step back in Triple-A this year and has continued to struggle in the Fall League.

Next week, I'll touch on the pitchers. Please let me know if there are any specific players you want me to write up, or any position players I didn't get to in this column that you are looking for information on.