The third installment in our AFL preview takes us to the Mesa Solar Sox and players from the Cubs, Orioles, Pirates, Twins and White Sox. The hype is all around the 2011 #1 draft pick Gerritt Cole and he has not disappointed.
Below are some of the more interesting prospects on the team.
Pittsburgh RHP: Gerritt Cole
Cole was the 2011 #1 overall pick in the amateur draft out of UCLA. He has elite stuff with an upper 90's fastball, a nasty change-up and an improving slider. He was being compared at the beginning of the college season to Stephen Strasburg, but scouts quickly realized that while the stuff is there, the command is lacking. A 6-4 and 220lbs, Cole should have the body to endure 200+ innings at the major league level. In his highly anticipated AFL debut, Cole did not disappoint; lighting up the radar with several triple digit readings.
Signed in the 32nd round of the 2009 amateur draft, McNutt flew up prospect lists in 2010 by combining a 94-96MPH fastball with a nasty two-plane slider. High expectations turned into disappointment as a complete mechanical breakdown in 2011 resulted in a 65K/39BB rate in 95 IP in Double-A. In limited exposure in the AFL, it’s been more of the same with four walks in 9.0 IP and a .342 against. McNutt might be destined for the bullpen where can throw with maximum effort for an inning.
Pittsburgh OF: Robbie Grossman
Grossman has lots of average to above average tools, but doesn’t have that one tool that scouts can call elite. He does have a tremendous batting eye and approach which resulted in 104 walks in 490 at-bats in High-A. Roll it all together and his stat line this year was 13 home runs, 24 stolen bases while batting .294. Grossman has continued to hit in the AFL, batting .377 with 6 home runs and maybe the elite tool that he really has is that he can flat out play.
Minnesota OF: Aaron Hicks
Scouts fall in love with tools and Aaron Hicks has a ton of them. The problem is his ability to hit has yet to catch up to his athleticism. Part of the problem is the 78 walks he took in 443 at-bats this year in the Class-A Florida State League. Scouts look for aggressive hitters with a good eye but Hicks is just passive at the plate. He doesn’t swing at good pitches and then gets himself into poor hitting counts resulting in weak contact. In the final two months of the season, Hicks batted a paltry .195. At 22 years-old and likely to repeat Single-A, Hicks needs to start figuring things out. So far in the AFL, it’s more of the same – 59 at-bats, 10 walks and a .254 average but with 3 home runs and 3 stolen bases.
Chicago Cubs 3B: Josh Vitters
Taken as the #3 overall pick in the 2007 amateur draft, Josh Vitters has a beautiful right-handed stroke that makes elite contact (85-87%). His power potential is average to above average. The main problem with Vitters is he swings at everything, walking 22 times in 488 plate appearance. Additionally, because his approach is so poor, he swings at many bad pitches and much of the contact he makes is weak. His focus at the AFL is patience and so far, he’s doing well. In 58 at-bats, he’s batting .328 with 2 home runs and 4 walks. There might be hope here.