This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
Arizona Fall League Review
Here is a look at some of the most interesting players in the 2009 Arizona Fall League. The focus is on players who came to Arizona seeking to answer a particular question. This isn't a "top prospect" ranking list in the classic sense, though by nature most of the players here are top prospects. Players are listed alphabetically.
Corey Brown, OF, Oakland Athletics
Brown hit .268/.349/.488 this year for Double-A Midland, but was limited to 66 games by injuries. He needed to prove he was healthy in Arizona, and he did this by playing 25 games with 105 at-bats, hitting .333/.397/.619. Scouts praise his tools and power potential, but worry about his high strikeout rate and wonder if he'll hit for average against better pitching. Ticketed for Triple-A in '10, he could appear in Oakland in the second half.
Andrew Cashner, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Cashner posted a 3.39 ERA with a 41:27 K:BB in 58 innings for Double-A Tennessee. In Arizona, he posted a 4.58 ERA with a 19:5 K:BB in 20 innings, 22 hits allowed, showing better command than expected along with very strong stuff. It is still unclear if he's a starter or reliever long-term, but he did well enough in Arizona to remain in the rotation for now.
Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
Castro had a solid season in the Florida State and Southern Leagues, combining to hit .299/.342/.392 with 28 steals and great defense at age 19. He hit .376/.396/.475 in Arizona with nine steals in 26 games. He's still fairly raw, but scouts love his tools and he could be similar to Elvis Andrus, perhaps even better. He's now the class of the Cubs system.
Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets
Davis hit .298/.381/.524 with 20 homers between the Florida State and Eastern Leagues this year, easing concerns about his poor '08 pro debut. He followed this up with a .341/.394/.565 mark in Arizona. Some scouts still worry about his reads on breaking balls and his strikeout rate is rather high, but overall it was a good coda to a strong campaign and might speed up his path to New York.
Grant Desme, OF, Oakland
Desme hit .288/.365/.568 with 31 homers and 40 steals between the Midwest and California Leagues. He came to Arizona needing to show that this wasn't just a fluke from an older prospect. He hit .315/.413/.667 with 11 homers, certainly proving that the power was no illusion, though concerns remain about his high strikeout rat (34 in 108 at-bats in Arizona, 148 in 486 at-bats on the season).
Chris Heisey, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Heisey hit .314/.379/.521 between the Southern and International Leagues, then followed that with a .297/.379/.593 Arizona campaign. He got off to a very hot start, but slumped late with a .19 4mark in his last 10 games with deteriorating plate discipline. Nonetheless, most scouts are convinced that his step forward this year was for real, and that he'll be a solid player for the Reds. Perhaps not a star, but very solid.
Ian Kennedy, RHP, New York Yankees
After missing almost the entire season with an aneurism, Kennedy came to Arizona needing to show he was healthy and positioned to contribute in 2010. He did this, posting a 4.25 ERA with a 28:5 K:BB in 30 innings, very credible performance considering the unfriendly pitching environment. It remains to be seen if the Yankees will give him a chance to pitch in '10, but this certainly doesn't hurt, and other teams could be interested in him on the spring trade market. He has too much experience to rate as a rookie, but it's also too soon to give up on him given his pedigree and command.
Mike Leake, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
The first round pick out of Arizona State signed too late to pitch in the minors in '09, so the Arizona Fall League represented his pro debut. He did extremely well, posting a 1.37 ERA with a 15:3 K:BB in 20 innings, allowing 20 hits, demonstrating his trademark superb command of multiple pitches. Leake changes speeds like a master and could move to Cincinnati very rapidly if his fall performance is any indication.
Jenry Mejia, RHP, New York Mets
Mejia was just 19 years old when promoted to Double-A this summer, where he went 0-5, 4.47 with a 47:23 K:BB in 44 innings over 10 starts. It looked like he was rushed, and he needed to come to Arizona and improve his command. Instead he went backwards, posting a 12.56 ERA with a 16:13 K:BB in 14 innings, with 25 hits. He did post a 3.50 GO/AO ratio, demonstrating his excellent sinker, but his control obviously needs a great deal of work, pushing his timetable back.
Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants
Posey hit .325/.416/.531 between the California and Pacific Coast Leagues, then hit .118 in seven games (17 at-bats) for the Giants in September. He came to Arizona looking to polish up his skills to prepare him to take over the regular Major League job in '10. He hit just .225/.345/.338 in 19 games, though scouts say he looked tired from the long season and his performance didn't hurt his stock with the organization or with outside observers. He drew 13 walks against 71 at-bats, so his plate discipline was certainly intact.
Brandon Snyder, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
Snyder hit a disappointing .248/.316/.355 after being promoted to Triple-A Norfolk at mid-season; the trip to Arizona was intended to get his bat back on track. He hit a sharp .354/.456/.600 and showed the ability to go to the opposite field, which was a problem during the regular season. If he maintains that in '10 his bat could prove useful, though as a first baseman he faces an uphill battle: right-handed hitting first sackers with decent-but-not-great bats are a dime a dozen.
Drew Storen, RHP, Washington Nationals
Storen pitched great at three levels after signing out of Stanford, posting a 1.95 ERA with a 49:8 K:BB ratio in 37 innings, collecting 11 saves. He continued dominating hitters in Arizona, with a 0.66 ERA and a 13:3 K:BB in 14 innings and four saves, convincing many scouts that he could help out in the Major League bullpen as soon as 2010. He'll go to spring training with a shot at the Nationals roster and is certainly the closer of the future.
Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals
Enormous hype followed Strasburg to Arizona, and he lived up to billing, hitting 100 MPH several times and demonstrating a devastating breaking ball. One bad outing inflated his ERA to 4.26, but his 23:7 K:BB ratio in 19 innings and 4.67 GO:AO ratio were very strong. His Arizona performance convinced any wavering scouts that Strasburg is special indeed. The only concern is durability: he was scratched from two games due to a sore neck and a knee injury, so his health will have to be monitored closely as we move forward.
Jose Tabata, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
The question for Tabata has always been power. He hit .293/.357/.406 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2009, then hit .392/.448/.517 in Arizona. The slugging percentage is deceiving: his Isolated Power went up to .125 from .113 on the season, not a large enough increase to project a legitimate power bust. He did show intriguing contact hitting ability, but scouts still aren't sure he'll show enough pop to be a regular left fielder for a good Major League team.
Donald Veal, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Veal pitched poorly after coming over from the Cubs in the 2008 Rule 5 draft, posting a 7.16 ERA with a 16:20 K:BB in 16 innings for the Pirates, and a 31:26 K:BB in 27 minor league innings. The Pirates completely rebuilt his mechanics, however, and the result in Arizona was stunning: 2.14 ERA, 22:7 K:BB ratio in 21 innings, with improvements in both velocity and command. If he keeps his new delivery in line, Veal could end up being a big surprise in '10.
Casper Wells, OF, Detroit Tigers
Injuries limited Wells to 86 games for Double-A Erie, where he hit .260/.369/.489 with 15 homers, but with 103 strikeouts in 311 at-bats. His Arizona performance was excellent: .351/.433/.662, though his strikeout rate remained high with 26 in 21 games. Wells doesn't have great tools, but he's not a bad athlete and has hit well when healthy. He could sneak into some at-bats with the Tigers in 2010, and his Arizona numbers give him some momentum going into spring training.
Article first appeared 11/29/09