I got back yesterday from the First Pitch Arizona conference. I got to visit with many friends, talked with baseball folk, and took in some good information regarding Arizona Fall League players, many that I had not seen before. Much of this information will be incorporated into other posts here on the blog, including the Top 20 lists, along with the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book, and two more articles I am working on for Rotowire.
Here are a few observations which may interest you.
Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals: Just saw one game, but he looked great to me. He was badly fooled by a curveball in one at-bat, but when the pitcher used the same pitch later in the plate appearance,Harper adjusted to it rapidly and made contact. I've seen Triple-A hitters who can't adjust that quickly. He's got some issues with contact to work out, but he makes a solid attempt to work the count and is extremely advanced for his age. He runs pretty well for a big guy and appears to have a good arm. Buzz is that he's adjusting quickly to pro conditions.
Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants: Hitting .365/.414/.571 in Arizona. I think he's completely legitimate...he's surprisingly fast and agile for a big player, and his swing is totally reworked since he was in college. Likely getting a Grade A- for me, and possibly the best first base prospect not named Hosmer.
Dustin Ackley, 2B, Mariners: Really locked in right now, hitting .442/.577/.808 with 18 walks and just eight strikeouts in 52 at-bats. Extremely polished, makes few mistakes at the plate, driving the ball very well right now, although I still expect him to be more of a doubles/triples guy than a big home run output. I personally did not get much of a read on his defense, but opinion seems mixed about it; he's OK, but he'll really need to hit to stick at second.
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Royals: Saw him in the All Star game. I thought his delivery was less smooth and more high-effort than the last time I saw him. I gave him a B+ on the Royals list and will likely stick with that. Scouts seem to like him better than Danny Duffy.
Danny Duffy, LHP, Royals: Struggling in the AFL; stuff quality has been inconsistent and he looks rather tired, which may be a bit weird since he threw just 62 innings this year. Am considering a downgrade from an A- to a B+, but am undecided since I don't want to overreact to a small number of games.
Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees: The main thing I noticed about him was how smooth and easy his delivery is; he puts a lot less physical effort into it than Montgomery or Duffy yet generates very quality stuff. I am now a huge Banuelos fan.
Zach Cox, 3B, Cardinals: Honestly he didn't look that special to me; just a guy on the field, kind of blah. Swing looks pretty but is there a lot of power to come? I'm not sure.
Leslie Anderson, OF, Rays: Cuban defector seems to excite some people with his tools, and he did hit .302/.359/.442 this year at three levels, including .328/.359/.418 in Triple-A. I think he can hit for some average but at age 29 entering 2011, his upside is limited unless his power spikes more than I expect.
Eric Thames, OF, Blue Jays: Hitting .257/.366/.443, not great for the league context but granted sample is small. He hit a home run and a double in the game I saw him play, and showed a terrific approach at the plate, including power to all fields and good plate discipline. Opinion seems mixed; some scouts who have seen him more than I have say his swing is too long, but others say it looks fine and he's a sleeper for 2011/2012. In the game I saw it looked good to me, but I've liked him since he was at Pepperdine so maybe I'm biased.