2012 Arizona Fall League Players to Watch, Part ONE
The 2012 Arizona Fall League gets started today. Here is a look at some key players on each roster, focusing on players who have something specific to prove or improve. You can find complete rosters here.
This article covers the Mesa Solar Sox, Phoenix Desert Dogs, and Scottsdale Scorpions. The other three teams will follow in a second article.
This is NOT a "best player" list, but rather a look at guys who deserve some particular attention.
MESA SOLAR SOX (Astros, Cubs, Dodgers, Orioles, Tigers)
Javier Baez, SS, Cubs: Only 19 years old, this 2011 first-round pick was a monster in the Midwest League (.333/.383/.596) with his Gary Sheffieldian bat speed, although his aggressive approach was more problematic in High-A (.188/.244/.400 in 23 games).
Nick Castellanos, 3B, Tigers: Age 20, he destroyed High-A pitching (.405/.461/.553 in 55 games) but didn't master Double-A as easily (.264/.296/.382 in 79 games). Scouts love his offensive potential but he needs some work with the strike zone and pulling the ball more often.
Jarred Cosart, RHP, Astros: Age 22, this hard-throwing right-hander has some of the best stuff in the Astros system, but has an erratic track record and component ratios which don't quite match the scouting reports. A good AFL will help make his case for an early shot in Houston in '13.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers: The Dodgers made a huge monetary investment in this tooled-up 21-year-old Cuban and the early results were strong, .354/.442/.634 in 23 games between rookie ball and the California League. The sample size was small, of course, and he'll be watched very closely for further scouting and performance data this fall.
Jonathan Schoop, 3B-SS, Orioles: Scouts like the tools of this 20-year-old from Curacao, but he didn't live up to his full potential in Double-A (.245/.324/.386). He's very young however and could easily sneak up on us in 2013. Will the AFL presage a breakout?
OTHERS OF INTEREST: Onelki Garcia, LHP, Dodgers; Nick Tropeano, RHP, Astros; Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Astros; Aaron Westlake, 1B, Tigers; Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers; George Springer, OF, Astros; Matt Szczur, OF, Cubs.
PHOENIX DESERT DOGS (Athletics, Braves, Brewers, Marlins, Rays)
Tim Beckham, INF, Rays: Age 22, the first player picked in the 2008 draft has not lived up to expectations and continues to generate mixed scouting reports. He hit .256/.325/.361 in Triple-A this year, flashing his tools at times but missing 50 games due to a drug of abuse suspension. A strong AFL would help his cause.
Miles Head, 3B-1B, Athletics: Age 21, Head clobbered California League pitching (.382/.433/.715 in 67 games) but came back to earth in Double-A (.272/.338/.404 in 57 games). He still profiles as a run producer although opinions are mixed about his positional future.
Hunter Morris, 1B, Brewers: Turning 24 this past weekend, Morris put up a fine line for Double-A Huntsville (.303/.357/.563 with 40 doubles, 28 homers), finishing strong by hitting 21 homers in the second half. If he stays hot in the AFL, expect to hear more about him as a potential power source for the Brewers.
Edward Salcedo, 3B, Braves: Age 21, Salcedo hit .240/.295/.412 with 17 homers in High-A. He has excellent physical tools, particularly power, but is a hyper-aggressive hitter and has trouble with breaking pitches. His defense is also rough, but he stands out as one of the most physically talented players on any field. Can he refine that talent?
Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins: Age 20, Yelich put together an outstanding campaign in High-A, hitting .330/.404/.519 with 12 homers and 20 steals. The AFL may artificially boost his power output, but he has legitimate pure hitting skills and above-average pop. He's also a good center fielder despite a fringy arm.
SCOTTSDALE SCORPIONS (Angels, Giants, Indians, Pirates, Yankees)
Victor Black, RHP, Pirates: Age 24, Black throws hard and dominated Double-A with 85 whiffs in just 60 innings, allowing only 40 hits, resulting in a 1.65 ERA. He also saved 13 games. He needs further command refinements but a good AFL could boost his chances to earn a bullpen spot in '13.
Gary Brown, OF, Giants: Age 24, Brown had a somewhat disappointing Double-A campaign (.279/.347/.385). He's fast but doesn't use his speed especially well (33 steals but 18 caught stealing), and could use a good AFL to rekindle enthusiasm about his chances to be a regular outfielder.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Angels: Age 20, the switch-hitting Cowart had a solid season (.276/.358/.452, 16 homers, 67 walks combined between Low-A and High-A) but slumped a bit towards the end of the year. Also a sharp defender at third base, he's made important strides with his strike zone judgment and could put up big AFL numbers.
Slade Heathcott, OF, Yankees: Age 22, Heathcott has seen his career slowed by frequent injuries and off-field problems, but he's impressive when on the field, hitting .307/.378/.470 in 60 games in the difficult High-A Florida State League this year, also stealing 17 bases. He strikes out a lot but maintained his production despite that flaw.
Ronny Rodriguez, INF, Indians: Age 20, Rodriguez hit .264/300/.452 in High-A with 19 homers, impressive for a middle infielder. He's very aggressive and needs better plate discipline, but he's young and has considerable upside. He deserves more attention than he gets but a good AFL may change that.