Bernie on the Scene: Final Fall League Profiles (Guys Who Can Play)

Bernie on the Scene: Final Fall League Profiles (Guys Who Can Play)

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

This will be my final Arizona Fall League prospect profile report. Next week, I will share my All Arizona Fall League team.

These final five prospects have made tremendous progress in the Fall League and are among some of the best prospects I have scouted in Arizona this fall. All Fall League statistics are from the final day of play before the Nov. 13 Fall Stars Game.

Gabriel Moreno, C, Toronto Blue Jays
5-11, 160 
Bats: Right
Age: 21
Moreno was an international free agent from Venezuela. The Blue Jays gave him a $25,000 bonus, which looks like it could be a steal.

Moreno is one of the best pure hitters I've seen in the Fall League and is the highest ranked player in the Blue Jays system. He played for three teams this past season, including Rookie, Double-A and Triple-A. He hit .367/.434/.426/.1.06 in 159 plate appearances. He hit eight homers and drove in 45.

So far this fall, Moreno is hitting a robust .361/442/.542/.984 with one home run and 18 RBIs in 82 plate appearances. He has walked 12 times and struck out 12 times.

What I like best about Moreno is his plate coverage. He can handle any pitch thrown his way with quick wrists and a very powerful lower half. I think Moreno is just beginning to get comfortable both on offense and on defense.

A solid catcher with good mechanics and a very strong arm, Moreno is better at blocking balls in the dirt than

This will be my final Arizona Fall League prospect profile report. Next week, I will share my All Arizona Fall League team.

These final five prospects have made tremendous progress in the Fall League and are among some of the best prospects I have scouted in Arizona this fall. All Fall League statistics are from the final day of play before the Nov. 13 Fall Stars Game.

Gabriel Moreno, C, Toronto Blue Jays
5-11, 160 
Bats: Right
Age: 21
Moreno was an international free agent from Venezuela. The Blue Jays gave him a $25,000 bonus, which looks like it could be a steal.

Moreno is one of the best pure hitters I've seen in the Fall League and is the highest ranked player in the Blue Jays system. He played for three teams this past season, including Rookie, Double-A and Triple-A. He hit .367/.434/.426/.1.06 in 159 plate appearances. He hit eight homers and drove in 45.

So far this fall, Moreno is hitting a robust .361/442/.542/.984 with one home run and 18 RBIs in 82 plate appearances. He has walked 12 times and struck out 12 times.

What I like best about Moreno is his plate coverage. He can handle any pitch thrown his way with quick wrists and a very powerful lower half. I think Moreno is just beginning to get comfortable both on offense and on defense.

A solid catcher with good mechanics and a very strong arm, Moreno is better at blocking balls in the dirt than I had expected. He is probably better behind the plate than his press clippings and reviews indicate. And unlike most catchers today, Moreno does not keep one knee on the ground.

I think the Blue Jays will be getting a complete player with an ability to hit both for average and for power. His power will improve with age and experience, as he's far from a finished product at this early stage of his career.

Slow afoot, Moreno won't offer any stolen bases and he may, indeed, clog the bases. But he'll be able to power the ball to the gaps to get his share of doubles. Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: I don't see Moreno graduating until 2023, but the Blue Jays have signed themselves a fine baseball player. I see him helping our fantasy teams after about one year on the Blue Jays roster. Then, probably at the age of 24 or 25, he should shine.

Jose Tena, 2B, Cleveland Guardians
5-10-160 
Bats: Left
Age: 20
When they were still the Cleveland Indians, the club signed Tena out of the Dominican Republic  for $400,000.

Tena isn't Jose Altuve Light, or even Light, Light, but I see some of the same qualities of Altuve in Tena. Tena has a very quick bat, with a slight uppercut left-handed swing. He has more power in his small frame than one might imagine. And I project an increase in power as he fill out his slight frame.

Like Altuve, Tena is fast and very athletic on the bases. I see him becoming a stolen-base threat from the top of the order or from the nine hole. He can get on base, steal and score. A good fielder, Tena fits well at second base but could probably play short in a pinch. He has a strong and accurate arm, and defense will be a plus. An impatient hitter, Tena won't walk very much, and that's an issue for me. He's up at the plate swinging.

Tena spent the entire season at Class-A Advanced, where he hit .281/.331/.467/.798 with 16 home runs and 58 RBIs. He showed that power, but it probably surprised some people due to his slight frame. Tena stole 10 bases in 15 attempts.

This fall, Tena is hitting an incredible .415/.500/.509/1.009 with no homers and seven RBIs in 64 plate appearances. He has walked nine times and struck out nine times. He has stolen two bases in three attempts. Tena is an intriguing prospect, and I think he's a guy on whom the Indians/Guardians are very high and one who will continue to find his patience at the minor league level. Scouting Grade: 55

Fantasy Relevance: He's only 20, so it will be a long wait, as Tena works his way through the Guardians' system. But he's worth stashing now.

Jose Rodriguez, SS/2B, Chicago White Sox
5-11, 175 
Bats: Right
Age: 20
Jose Rodriguez was a 2017-18 international free agent signing by the White Sox. The team signed him for $50,000, so their investment in him is not huge.

Rodriguez has impressed me with his athletic ability both in the field and at the plate. With quick hands and a fairly good sense of what he wants to do at the plate, Rodriguez should hit for average as well as add some pop. He is an average fielder with a good arm. I do like the way Rodriguez uses his good footwork and quick hands to provide range in the field.

Right now, Rodriguez is a bit too aggressive at the plate. His free swinging style has to be tempered a bit. He also has to learn how to wait back on breaking balls and get his footwork correct at the plate, as he has a tendency to "step in the bucket."

I think we will see some raw power emerge from Rodriguez as he matures physically and alters his aggressive approach to one of a more consistent and measured style.

This past season Rodriguez hit a combined .301/.338/.469/.807 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs while playing at Class-A, Class-A Advanced and Double-A. This fall, Rodriguez is hitting .232/.283/.339/.623 with one homer and 13 RBIs in 60 plate appearances. He has walked four times and struck out seven times. I like Rodriguez, and I think he has a chance to succeed. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: I wouldn't take a flyer on Rodriguez until he has seen more time in the White Sox minor league system.

Nelson Velazquez, OF, Chicago Cubs
6-0, 190 
Bats: Right
Age 22
Nelson Velazquez was selected by the Cubs in the fifth round of the 2017 draft out of PJ Education School in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He signed for $400,000.

Velazquez has been one of the brightest lights of this edition of the Arizona Fall League. He has been remarkably consistent in his hitting and has opened plenty of eyes. When the league concludes, Velazquez could be the batting champion.

This past season, Velazquez played at Class-A Advanced and Double-A. The Cubs have seen the same thing in Valazquez that scouts have viewed this fall. He hit .270/.333/.496/.829 with 20 homers and 73 RBIs. He stole 17 bases in 19 attempts.

This fall, Velazuez is hitting .371/.481/.742/1.223 with nine homers and 20 RBIs in 108 plate appearances. He has struck out 28 times while walking 17 times. Velazquez offers a complete package of speed, power and a good hitting tool. He has a compact and strong build that lends itself to power. He isn't very tall, but he gets every bit of strength into his swing. And he's capable of using the entire field, taking the pitch where it is thrown.

Velazquez is an aggressive hitter. He isn't at the plate to walk. He struck out 132 times in 425 plate appearances this past season. So without a doubt, making contact is an issue for the free swinger. Velazquez has a strong arm, and he's very capable of playing right field. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: I think Velazquez put himself on the prospect map this fall with tremendous power. He's still very raw, but he's a nice stash in a keeper league. He's on a team that has plenty of future opportunity for a guy who can hit the ball out of the park. He can do that.

Richie Palacios, INF/OF, Cleveland Guardians
5-10, 180
Bats: Left
Age: 24
Palacios was a third round selection in the 2918 draft out of Towson State University in Maryland. He signed with the Indians for an under slot $475,000.

Palacios may well be on the Guardians' radar. He has played the outfield exclusively in Arizona this fall, but he was signed as an infielder. I have seen him play center field most of the time. Palacios is a good athlete with an advanced and refined approach at the plate.

This past season he played at both Double-A and Triple-A, so he is advancing in the system. He hit .297/.404/.471/.874 with seven homers and 48 RBIs. This fall, Palacios is hitting .264/.369/.500/869 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 84 plate appearances. He has walked 10 times and has 14 strikeouts.

I have seen Palacios play a great deal this fall. My concern is that other than his speed, I don't find another overwhelming tool. He isn't a big guy and he doesn't crush the ball. For me, he's a good player, but every team has that type of player hanging around in the organization. I do like his professional approach at the plate. He gives his team a solid at-bat, makes contact, hustles and does everything one would ask in a player. But nothing jumps out at me.

Clearly Palacios' best tool is his speed. He can run well, can steal bases and can chase down fly balls. However, with Myles Straw playing center for Cleveland, where does Palacios fit? The team is loaded with middle infielders and many have more raw power.

I think Palacios fits as a leadoff hitter who is capable of getting on base and stealing. But again, with Straw in center, he doesn't really have a place to play. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: Palacios can run well and steal bases. I'm not sure he can win a regular job on a contending team. But maybe a trade is in the offing. He did play well this fall in Arizona. For now, other than for his stolen-base ability, I'm not that interested in Palacios.

Heading Home:

It is very possible that by the time I write next week's article, several high-priced, top-shelf free agents will have signed contracts with new clubs. The thinking is to get a contract done before the new basic agreement messes up their plans.

If a player has a target team and is ready to roll, it is unlikely his agent will talk him out of signing before the Collective Bargaining Agreement in signed.

————

One of the more important components of this offseason is which players are added to a team's 40-man roster?

Several clubs have some very tough decisions to make regarding who to protect from the Rule-5 draft, which will be held at the Winter Meetings in December. You can bet that second-level clubs will pounce on unprotected players and keep them on their rosters for an entire season. Those clubs have nothing to lose. The rewards outweigh the risks.

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Look for the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers to spend money this winter. I just have a feeling those two franchises are ready to open the check books and spend what I call "real" money.

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Thank you for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and reading my work at Forbes.

If there is a prospect you wish for me to profile, please ask me in the comment section below. I hope I can get to them.

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