2013 Arizona Fall League Preview: Surprise Saguaros

Henry Urrutia - USA TODAY Sports

Surprise opens their season against Peoria. Who do they have?

The Surprise Saguaros will be represented by players from the following teams: Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, and Boston Red Sox. They will be led by 2013 Hickory Crawdads teammates Jorge Alfaro and Ryan Rua.

Milwaukee Brewers

C Adam Weisenburger
RF Mitch Haniger
1B/LF Jason Rogers

RHP Tyler Cravy
RHP David Goforth
RHP Taylor Jungmann
RHP Kevin Shackelford

Jason Rogers is listed on the Surprise roster as an outfielder, which shows the organization is trying to increase Rogers' positional flexibility aside from first base. He played 31 games in LF in 2012 and another 33 in 2011 so the outfield isn't a completely foreign territory. His bat is potent though, hitting 22 home runs and 25 doubles with a .270/.346/.468 line in 549 trips to the plate. His plate discipline is solid with 86 K to 59 walks. The only downside to his profile is he will be 26 next year. Kevin Shackelford turned his season around once he was promoted to AA. The 6'5 215 lb right hander was sporting a 5.06 ERA in A+ over 32 relief innings but had only walked 4, struck out 23 and allowed 39 hits with a .346 BABIP. After the promotion he threw 29.1 innings, allowed 23 hits, 7 walks and 25 strike outs with a 0.92 ERA and .259 BABIP. Combined for the year he had a 3.08 ERA with 9.1 H/9, 7.04 K/9, 1.61 BB/9 and 4.36 K/BB. His fastball gets up to the mid 90's and will go into the 2014 season as a 25 year old. Another right hander Tyler Cravy didn't find his groove til the second half. The 6'3 194 lb former 17th round pick in 2009 missed time in early May with an injury but was moved to the rotation in July and posted a 1.28 ERA over 49.1 innings as a starter with 48 K, 11 walks and 41 hits. He held batters to a .562 OPS with a .296 BABIP as a starter. It looks like the Brewers front office want to see him start more games, but it seems like he's definitely earned a promotion to AA for next year.

Cleveland Indians

C/IF Tony Wolters
2B Joe Wendle
OF Tyler Naquin

RHP Shawn Armstrong
RHP Trey Haley
RHP Jeff Johnson
RHP Will Roberts

Shawn Armstrong was and absolute monster out of the bullpen last year, crossing 3 levels (A, A+ and AA) and finishing with a combined ERA of 1.60 in 67.2 innings. He was drafted in the 18th round of the 2011 draft, and has been used exclusively in relief his entire career. In his age 22 season this year, the 6'2 210 lb righty only threw 37 innings between AA and a rehab stint in the AZL for a wrist injury. He struggled with his control though, posting a 5.1 BB/9, and 1.51 WHIP. His stuff overpowered hitters though with a 11.7 K/9 but a high BABIP of .340 inflated his hits per 9 innings to 8.5, a good 3.6 points higher than last year. This will be his 2nd trip to the AFL after posting a 0.00 ERA in 5.2 innings last year with 2 hits allowed, 4 BB, and 3 K. Jeff Johnson was a 10th round pick in 2011 out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo but didn't make his debut until last year. The 6'0 185 lb righty dominated in the closer role at Low A Lake County and was just as good in a late season promotion to A+. This year he kicked the season off back at A+ Carolina, throwing 26.1 innings where a high BABIP of .346 gave him trouble and contributed to allowing 9.6 H/9. Combined with his 3.4 BB/9, that gave him a 1.44 WHIP. He still had a sparkling 2.05 ERA and 8.9 K/9 which was good enough for a promotion to AA Akron. He put it into another gear in Akron though. Across 21.2 innings he struck out 24 (10.0 K/9), walked only 5 (2.1 BB/9) and allowed just 12 hits (5.0 H/9). 2B Joe Wendle found some success this year in his full season debut. The 6th round pick in 2012 of the Tribe, the 5'11 190 lb lefty swinger debuted in the short season New York-Penn League and mashed to a .327/.375/.469 line as a 22 year old with 15 doubles, 4 triples and 4 HR with 15 BB to 25 K. He split time on the dirt between the keystone and third base, but he was very sketchy at 3B. He moved back to second for 2013 and skipped over Low A and went to A+ Carolina where he hit .295/.372/.513, showing much more power and solid plate discipline with 44 BB to 79 K over 474 plate appearances. He knocked 32 doubles, 16 home runs, scored 73 runs and even stole 10 bags in 12 tries. He also posted a solid .974 fielding % at the keystone with 13 errors made in 502 chances. He's been said to have top shelf baseball instincts, along with average tools across the board. The kicker here - Wendle signed for a measly $10K bonus despite being drafted in the 6th round.

Baltimore Orioles

C Michael Ohlman
2B Jonathan Schoop
OF Dariel Alvarez
LF Henry Urrutia

LHP Tim Berry
LHP Jason Gurka
RHP Branden Kline
LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

Baltimore is supplying 60% of the left handed pitching for Surprise, including a pair of starters. Their lone southpaw out of the pen is Jason Gurka, a 6'0 170 lb former 15th round pick of the 2008 draft. He spent the year in AA, amassing 39.2 innings while allowing 35 hits (7.9 H/9), 18 walks (4.1 BB/9), and 46 strike outs (10.4 K/9). He was injured in late June and spent 3 weeks on the DL. He returned for a week before going back on the DL for the rest of the season with an undisclosed injury. His bread and butter is a heavy, bowling ball sinker that tops out at 92-93 with late sink. Gurka will be 26 next year and should be getting plenty of looks by the brass this fall to decide if they want to protect him on the 40 man roster. The O's are also sending a pair of Cuban imports to Arizona in outfielders Dariel Alvarez and Henry Urrutia. Alvarez signed July 24th as a 24 year old and spent a brief amount of time in the Gulf Coast League, 10 games in A+ Frederick and 9 games in AA Bowie. All told he managed to tally 79 at bats and he hit .342/.373/.570 with 4 HR, 4 doubles, 10 RBI, 4 BB and 11 strike outs. He's got a heavy uppercut to his swing but has an absolute cannon for an arm. There was talk of putting him on the mound if his swing wasn't playable, but he's going to continue getting looks in the outfield. Urrutia signed with Baltimore last year but visa issues delayed his stateside debut til 2013. He started in AA as a 26 year old and mashed his way to a .365/.433/.550 line, mocking Eastern league pitchers for 200 at bats. Bumped up to AAA, he continued his hot hitting by posting a .316/.358/.430 line in 114 at bats. All told in the minor leagues, Urrutia posted a .347/.406/.506 line with 21 doubles, 9 home runs, 50 RBI and 32 walks to 51 K. He made 58 trips to the plate for the parent club and didn't draw a single walk. He had only one extra base hit, a triple, with 5 runs scored, 2 RBI, and 11 K. He seems to have average tools across the board with a tick above average arm.

Texas Rangers

C Jorge Alfaro
1B Brett Nicholas
2B Ryan Rua

RHP Ryan Harvey
LHP Will Lamb
RHP Nick McBride
RHP Matt West

1B Brett Nicholas finally broke through with his power stroke, turning some of his 33 doubles last year into homers. Last year in A+ Myrtle Beach, the 6th rounder from 2010 posted a .285/.351/.413 line with 8 home runs, 49 runs scored and 63 RBI in 504 plate appearances. He also walked 46 times to 84 strike outs and spent 11 games behind the plate as well. This year he showed off the thunder hitting .289/.357/.474 with 21 home runs, 25 doubles, 91 RBI and 71 runs scored. His strikeouts made a big jump in the wrong direction though, coming up empty 123 times to just 46 walks in 575 trips to the plate. He still made 14 appearances behind the plate and had solid numbers, throwing out 35% of potential thieves and only 1 passed ball. Sticking with my namesake, Nick McBride was a 5th round pick in the 2009 draft and really had an up and down 2013. Starting the year in bullpen of A+ Myrtle Beach, he pitched well in 23 innings with a 1.96 ERA, .658 OPS allowed, 11 K, 9 BB and 20 hits allowed. It went downhill from there. A double jump to AAA was followed by demotions to AA and back to A+. Over that span he threw 93.1 innings allowing 126 hits, 35 walks, 53 K, a 5.88 ERA and insane .389 BABIP. He's not really that bad, he was just incredibly unlucky this year. His performance as a relief pitcher is a better indicator of his actual talent than as a starter. Matt West is a former 2nd round pick in 2007 and converted third baseman that had a stellar debut on the mound in 2011 as a 22 year old in the short season Northwest League. After 20.2 innings he succumbed to Tommy John surgery. He attempted to make a comeback in late August in the rookie Arizona League but faced 4 batters and walked 2 and gave up 2 singles. He's looking to shake off the rust and get more innings under his belt.

Boston Red Sox

2B Mookie Betts
3B Garin Cecchini
2B Derrik Gibson
1B Travis Shaw

RHP Keith Couch
LHP Miguel Pena
RHP Noe Ramirez
RHP Pete Ruiz

Plenty of digital ink has been spilt on breakout stars Mookie Betts and Garin Cecchini. I want to see what the prospects with less shine have. Take the 2nd round pick of the 2008 draft for the Sox, Derrik Gibson. His last above average season according to wRC+ was 2009 when he was a 19 year old in short season ball. 2013 was a repeat of AA but he also moved across the keystone from short stop to second base. He hit .250/.348/.342 in 308 plate appearances with 16 doubles, a pair of home runs (#4 and 5 of his 6 year career), 12 stolen bases and 37 walks with 61 strike outs. As a middle infielder in the Boston system, Gibson has no shot of making the big league club in a starting capacity. At this point a reserve role is his cieling. Noe Ramirez had a great sophomore year, building on an already impressive debut campaign. The 6'3 180 lb righty had a problem leaving his low 90's fastball up and he gave up 12 home runs in 84.2 innings. This year the 4th rounder from 2011 kept the ball down and advanced from A+ to AA working exclusively out of the bullpen. Moved to shorter stints, his fastball jumped up to 93 with a solid change in the low 80's. He threw a total of 75.2 innnings allowing just 63 hits (7.5 H/9), 17 free passes (2.0 BB/9), 75 punch outs (8.9 K/9), 4.4 K/BB and just 4 long balls. His peripherals improved after moving to AA Portland (6.9 H/9, 9.7 K/9) and he saved 5 of the 9 games he finished off, getting higher pressure situations. Pete Ruiz began his career as a starter after being drafted in the 10th round of the 2008 draft. After 4 seasons with a 4.62 ERA, Boston transitioned him into the bullpen. He kept batters in check with a 3.14 ERA in 48.2 innings with 47 hits allowed (8.7 H/9), 16 walks (3.0 BB/9), 51 strikeouts (9.4 K/9) and 3.19 K/BB despite a relatively high .328 BABIP. This year, the BABIP rose to .336 and his ERA followed suit, jumping to 5.23. In 53.1 innings this year he allowed 49 hits (8.4 H/9), 27 walks (4.6 BB/9), 69 strike outs (11.6 K/9) and 2.56 K/BB. He works with a low 90's heater that touches 94 and a 2-plane slider in the low 80's. His command took a step back this year and he will look to show the front office he can bring it back in the zone while still striking out batters at such a high clip.

Sources : Baseball America, Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, Soxprospects.com,

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