2013 Arizona Fall League Preview: Scottsdale Scorpions

Pittsburgh Pirates top prospect Jameson Taillon. - USA TODAY Sports

The Scottsdale Scorpions feature two of the best right handed pitching prospects in the game, Jameson Taillon and Kyle Crick.

The Scottsdale Scorpions easily have the best 1-2 punch in the AFL with starters Jameson Taillon and Kyle Crick. The Scorpions are pulling players from the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets and Yankees, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here's a deeper look into the squad.

Atlanta Braves

3B Kyle Kubitza
2B Tommy La Stella
SS Elmer Reyes
LF Robby Hefflinger

RHP John Cornely
RHP Juan Jaime
RHSP Aaron Northcraft
RHP Shae Simmons

Atlanta is sending a trio of relief pitchers will elite strike out numbers. Of course, all three come with the same caveat as most players like them, their control is not quite there. The most impressive of the three from a performance stand point is RHP Shae Simmons. The undersized righty is listed at 5'9 180 pounds but pitches like a bulldog. He was drafted in the 22nd round of 2012 and brings a mid 90's fastball that touches 96 with a hard, wipe out slider and tumbling change up. This year he threw 53.1 innings between Low A (42.1 IP) and AA (11 IP) in his age 22 season and had a composite 1.69 ERA, 82 strike outs (13.84 K/9), 22 walks (3.71 BB/9), 31 hits (5.2 H/9) and a 3.73 K/BB with 24 saves (all in Low A). His control wavered after his promotion but he still performed well, allowing just 5 hits and 7 walks in his 11 AA innings with 16 strike outs. John Cornely was lights out this year while dropping his walk rate. The 6'1 195 pounder from the 15th round in 2011 threw 50.2 innings at A+ Lynchburg, recording a 3.38 ERA with 70 strike outs (12.6 K/9), 24 walks (4.26 BB/9), 40 hits (7.11 H/9) and a 2.92 K/BB ratio. He works with a mid 90's fastball as well with great movement on it and a big sweeper of a slider in the low 80's. He also shows a 12-6 curve occasionally. The downside to Cornely though is he's only reached A+ and will be 25 to start the year. Thefireballer of the group though is 26 year old Dominican Juan Jaime. After debuting in the Nationals system, he missed all of 2010 and 2011 with arm injuries (Tommy John) and the Braves picked him up when he regained his triple digit cheese. This year in AA he threw 42 innings with a 4.07 ERA but 2.53 FIP. He struck out 70 batters (15.0 K/9), walked 28 (6.0 BB/9), allowed 30 hits (6.43 H/9) and a 2.5 K/BB. He was that dominant against hitters that he even had a high .345 BABIP and only allowed 6.43 hits per 9 and a .194 average against. His fastball gets up over 100 mph but he can spot it better in the mid-high 90's. He's got a good slider too in the low 80's with great speed differential from the heat, along with a curve that tends to hang and get creamed. This very well could be an audition for a bullpen role next year.

San Francisco Giants

C Andrew Susac
1B Angel Villalona
OF Jarrett Parker

RHSP Kyle Crick
RHP Cody Hall
RHP Derek Law
LHSP Adalberto Mejia

The Giants squad is led by a pair of starters who will be featured on just about every San Francisco Top 10 list so lets look elsewhere. RHP Derek Law was drafted in the 9th round of the 2011 draft and split time between Low A and A+ with a rehab stint in the AZL mixed in. The 22 year old threw a total of 66.1 innings this year with a 2.31 ERA, 102 strike outs (13.8 K/9), 12 walks (1.6 BB/9), 51 hits (6.9 H/9) and a ridiculous 8.5 K/BB. Interestingly enough, he performed better in the A+ California League than Low A this year. Compare his 35 innings of Low A with 2.31 ERA, 48 K, 10 BB, and 27 H to 25.2 innings in A+ where he had a 2.10 ERA, 45 K, 1 BB and 20 H. He's got a funky delivery with an arsenal that includes a downer curve and 89-93 mph heat. The other reliever from the Giants is RHP Cody Hall who was a 19th round senior sign in 2011. The 6'4 220 lb righty split the year between A+ and AA in his age 25 season. He posted a great 1.34 ERA in 33.2 innings in A+ to start the year with 48 strike outs (12.8 K/9), 7 walks (1.9 BB/9), 6.86 K/BB and 15 hits allowed (4.0 H/9). This got him a promotion to AA where he moved to the closer role and tallied 8 saves in 26.1 innings, allowing 17 hits (5.8 H/9), 8 walks (2.7 BB/9) and 27 strike outs (9.2 K/9) with 3.38 K to every walk. All told he finished the year with 60 innings under his belt with a 1.80 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 32 hits (4.8 H/9), 75 strike outs (11.2 K/9) and 15 walks (2.2 BB/9). I found one instance of Hall hitting 100 mph but everything else points to a mid 90's fastball with a curve, slider and change up. Hopefully more eyes on him will help determine his repertoire. I also wanted to look at a guy who had a breakthrough year in C Andrew Susac. The former 2nd round pick in 2011, Susac's 6'2 210 lb frame held up to the rigors of catching while hitting .256/.362/.458 in AA as a 23 year old. In 310 trips to the plate he hit 12 out of the park, 17 doubles, 32 runs scored, 46 RBI, and 42 walks to 68 strike outs. He finished with a .813 OPS and was 27 percent better than league average offensively with a 127 wRC+. Defensively, he was solid this year, throwing out 40% of would be base thieves and allowed 9 passed balls with 4 errors. Peering into the tool shed, Susac shows good power with a good eye at the plate, a strong throwing arm and very little speed. His contact is average or a tick below and he still needs to work on blocking balls in the dirt.

New York Mets

C Cam Maron
3B/1B Aderlin Rodriguez
LF Cory Vaughn

RHP Chasen Bradford
RHP Jeurys Familia
RHSP Hansel Robles
RHP Cody Satterwhite

RHSP Hansel Robles really made a name for himself last year in Brooklyn of the short season New York-Penn league, 4 years after signing in 2008 as an 18 year old. The 5'11 185 pounder finished the season with video game numbers, including a 1.11 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 5.8 H/9 and 6.6 K/BB. From this performance the front office decided to jump Robles past Low A Savannah and right to A+ St. Lucie as a 22 year old (he also had 2 rehab starts in the GCL). The two level jump was hard for Robles as his ERA rose to 3.78 this year in 95.1 innings. He struck out 71 (6.7 K/9), walked 31 (2.9 BB/9) and gave up 95 hits (9.0 H/9) with a 2.29 K/BB ratio. He battled oblique and back injuries this season though. On the mound he uses a 91-95 mph heater with life to go with a hard mid 80's slider with a lot of horizontal movement. His change up has solid fade and depth to it and usually sits in the low 80's. His delivery is a red flag with sketchy arm action and trouble repeating the delivery. Relief pitcher Chasen Bradford spent the year between A+ and AA during his age 23 season, and was selected in the 35th round of the 2011 draft. He finished the year with a 2.61 ERA in 69 innings, allowing 64 hits (8.3 H/9), 17 walks (2.2 BB/9) and 61 strike outs (8.0 K/9) with a 3.59 K/BB ratio. His component ratio's were solid in A+ but they fell off the table in AA (K/9 dropped 2.5 points, BB/9 rose 0.9 points, K/BB dropped 2.53 points), yet his ERA fell three full points to 0.71. He works with a low 90's fastball that he pairs with a solid slider and good command with the heater. LF Cory Vaughn had a lost season in 2013, and the blame can be solely placed on his wonky elbow. Last year in A+ as a 23 year old, Vaughn hit 23 HR with 25 doubles and 21 stolen bases with a .243/.351/.463 line at the plate. This year, he spent 21 games in the GCL and A+ rehabbing his elbow and 71 games in AA, coming to the plate a total of 383 times. He hit .253/.348/.400 with 10 HR, 11 doubles, 4 triples, 49 runs scored, 54 RBI, 16 steals and 41 walks to 96 strike outs. He still shows a good power and speed combo and will take a walk, but his strike out percentage went up nearly 5 % this year. Vaughn will play next year at 25 years old and is running out of time in the prospect world.

New York Yankees

C Peter O'Brien
1B Tyler Austin
CF Mason Williams

RHP Brett Gerritse
LHP Fred Lewis
LHSP Vidal Nuno
LHP James Pazos

The position player contingent from the Yankees features break outs and top prospects, but what about the pitchers? Elder statesman Fred Lewis threw 59.2 innings this year at age 26. The 6'2 210 pound southpaw was a 47th round senior sign in 2010 and has worked his was through the system, posting solid numbers at each stop. He started off the year over-matching hitters in A+, only staying for a month (14 IP)before getting promoted to AA. Aside from a one game appearance at AAA, Lewis spent the rest of the year with Trenton, throwing 43.1 more innings. For the year, he tallied up 58.2 innings with a 2.61 ERA, 60 strike outs (9.2 K/9), 25 walks (3.8 BB/9), 60 hits (9.2 H/9) and a 2.4 K/BB ratio. He also dealt with a high .341 BABIP. He will be Rule 5 eligible after the AFL wraps up and the Yanks will have to decide if he's worth protecting. RHP Brett Gerritse just finished off his third season at Low A after being selected in the 12th round of the 2009 draft. The 6'4 220 pound right hander worked out of the pen to start, making 21 relief appearances then switched to the rotation and made 9 starts, totaling 101 innings with a 3.56 ERA and 2.39 FIP. He allowed 93 hits (8.3 H/9), 31 walks (2.8 BB/9) and struck out 108 (9.6 K/9) with a 3.48 K/BB, the best of his career. Gerritse made progress across the board this year, lowering his ERA, BB/9, H/9 and raised his K/9 by almost 3 batters. He had no platoon split and worked better as a starter, posting a 2.22 ERA and 5.33 K/BB in 48.2 innings. He is eligible for the Rule 5 as well, so he has to show Cashman and Co. that he's worth protecting from the minor league portion of the draft, which is where he would be selected if taken. James Pazos is a 6'3 220 lb lefty that was picked in the 13th round of the 2012 draft. He's been used exclusively in relief since signing, had a great debut in 2012 but took a step back this year. In 34.1 innings between short season Staten Island and Low A, Pazos gave up 28 hits (7.3 H/9), 9 walks (2.4 BB/9), stuck out 33 (8.7 K/9), and had a 3.67 K/BB ratio. He finished the year with a 3.93 ERA and 3.39 FIP. On the mound he attacks hitters with a three pitch mix - a fastball anywhere from 89-93, a hard slider and change up still in the development phase.

Pittsburgh Pirates

SS Alen Hanson
SS Gift Ngoepe
LF Alex Dickerson

RHP Matt Benedict
RHSP Jameson Taillon
RHP Zach Thornton
RHP Tyler Waldron

The Pirates are sending one of their top arms to Arizona in Jameson Taillon and a top position prospect in short stop Alen Hanson. RHP Zach Thornton was acquired by the Pirates from Oakland for Chris Resop in November of 2012, and was originally drafted in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft. This year Thornton put up very impressive numbers between A+, AA and AAA. All told, he threw 75.1 innings with a 2.63 ERA, 2.03 FIP, and 0.93 WHIP. He allowed 58 hits (6.9 H/9), 12 walks (1.4 BB/9) , and 90 strike outs (10.8 K/9) with an insane 7.5 K/BB ratio. Thornton dominated same side hitters, with right handers hitting just .172 with a .456 OPS. He throws from a low 3/4 arm slot with a fastball that comes in between 88-92, a low 80's change up and a fringy curve in the high 70's. His funky delivery and low arm slot probably explain his high strike out rates throughout the minors. Short stop Gift Ngoepe is also heading west. The 24 year old signed for a mere $15 K in 2008, Ngoepe became the first black South African to play baseball in the states. The 5'10 165 lb infielder is praised for his glove work, even being named the best defensive short stop in the Florida State League by Baseball America. He has an above-average arm, Andrelton Simmons-like range and soft hands, all the makings of an impact defender at a premium position. His bugaboo is the stick. Even an optimist would put his ability with the bat at below-average. He has a lot of problems hitting even average breaking pitches which resulted in Ngoepe striking out in nearly 30% of his at bats. This year he posted a .207/.320/.319 line between A+ and AA. He spent most of the year starting at short for AA and he was just bad. Like .177/.278/.282 bad in 259 plate appearances. His only saving grace was his ability to take a walk (12.8% for the year). He's eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year so he needs to show he can hang with the bat, because he's already a Major League defender. First-baseman-turned-right-fielder Alex Dickerson will also be making the trip after a great season in AA as a 23 year old. He was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft and has just kept hitting since,winning Florida State League MVP honors in 2012. This year he played the entire season in the outfield, spending 115 games in right and 6 in left. The 6'3 235 pound lefty only made one error and had four assists, but showed limited range (shocking from a former first baseman). At the plate he made 491 appearances, posting a .288/.337/.494 line with 36 doubles, 17 home runs, 61 runs scored, 68 RBI, 10 steals and 27 walks to 89 strike outs. His .832 OPS was good for sixth in the AA Eastern League, his .494 slugging percentage was tied for second, his 36 doubles were second and he was tied for 10th in home runs. His performance this fall will certainly put his name into the hat for a bench role in the Steel City.

Sources: Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ScoutingBook.com, Talking Chop.com, AmazinAvenue.com, PinstripedBible.com

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