With the Arizona Fall League (AFL for those who like abbreviations) right around the corner, the initial rosters have been released for each of the six teams. In the third part of the 2014 AFL Preview we will take an in-depth look at the Scottsdale Scorpions. The season begins October 7th, and with it will bring the return of the AFL Gameday.
Many AFL squads will have a handful of premium prospect, but I'd like to look at the lesser known commodities. After all, everyone knows how good guys like Tyler Glasnow, Brandon Nimmo, and Josh Bell are. Lets put some light on the guys you may know nothing about.
Previous AFL Previews -
All stats are as of the end of the minor league season.
|C||Elias Diaz||PIT||R/R||6'1 175 LB||23||AAA||33||5||4||1||0||0||0||3||6||0/1||152/243/182||425||213||21|
|C||Logan Moore||PHI||L/R||6'3 190 LB||23||AA||190||42||9||12||1||4||17||20||48||0/2||221/296/358||654||298||81|
|C||Kyle Higashioka||NYY||R/R||6'0 200 LB||24||A+||26||6||5||3||0||1||2||4||4||0/0||231/323/462||784||352||114|
Elias Diaz put together a hell of a break out in his age 23 season for Pittsburgh's AA affiliate in Altoona. The Venezuelan signed with Pittsburgh as an international free agent back in 2008. He spent two seasons in the rookie leagues followed by two more in Low A West Virginia where he was known as a defensive minded catcher and organization depth. Last year in the second half at A+ Bradenton, Diaz had something click and he finished the year with a 315/380/393 line after July 1st. That momentum carried over into 2014 where he tore up the Eastern League to the tune of a 328/378/445 triple slash with 27 extra base knocks and a tidy 30:51 walk to strike out ratio. In mid August he was promoted to AAA Indianapolis for the stretch run where he struggled to get his footing, hitting 152/243/182 in 33 at bats. Against southpaws, Diaz was an animal, hitting 413/450/578 with 12 extra base hits in just 109 at bats. He was much more human against righties with a 268/330/352 line, and showed more power hitting on the road (310/372/485) than at home (314/359/362). Behind the dish he gets praise for his fundamentals, quick release, and arm strength, with his own manager throwing a Benito Santiago comp (remember him?). Eastern League managers also named him the best defensive catcher in the league while also earning mid and post season all-star nods. Diaz threw out 31% of attempted stolen bases with five error and eight passed balls. Combine the offensive improvements with his defensive prowess and he gets much more interesting.
|1B/RF||Josh Bell||PIT||S/R||6'3 213 LB||21||AA||94||27||13||2||0||0||7||8||12||4/5||287/343/309||652||306||86|
|3B||Dante Bichette Jr||NYY||R/R||6'1 215 LB||21||AA||67||15||7||3||0||1||4||6||11||0/0||224/297/313||611||285||73|
|1B||Greg Bird||NYY||L/R||6'3 215 LB||21||AA||95||24||16||8||0||7||11||18||27||0/0||253/379/558||937||411||158|
|2B/3B||Dan Gamache||PIT||L/R||5'11 190 LB||23||AA||138||38||22||11||0||6||27||11||32||0/1||275/340/486||825||367||128|
|2B||LJ Mazzilli||NYM||R/R||6'1 190 LB||23||AAA||5||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0/0||200/200/200||400||182||-5|
|2B/SS||Blake Miller||SF||R/R||6'3 195 LB||24||AA||92||28||9||5||2||0||12||9||21||1/1||304/373/402||775||354||119|
|SS||Matt Reynolds||NYM||R/R||6'1 198 LB||23||AAA||267||89||54||16||4||5||40||21||60||14/18||333/385/479||864||379||124|
|2B/SS||Kelby Tomlinson||SF||R/R||6'2 180 LB||24||AA||433||116||63||9||6||1||32||44||82||49/61||268/340/323||663||308||88|
I really like the depth the Scottsdale squad will have to work with in their infield. Josh Bell will be getting work at first base as he transitions into the infield where he will be sharing time with Greg Bird. LJ Mazzilli, Matt Reynolds, Blake Miller, and Kelby Tomlinson are up the middle with all but Mazzilli able to handle short stop. Dante Bichette Jr and Dan Gamache will also be getting looks at third base.
LJ Mazzilli has the bloodlines (son of former all-star Lee Mazzilli) and draft status (2013 - 4th round) to remain relevant for the near future, but his performance is doing most of the talking and accelerating his time table. Split between Low A Savannah, A+ St. Lucie, and one game at AAA Las Vegas, Mazzilli put up a 301/361/440 line with 44 extra base hits, and 14 stolen bases, with an 8.0% walk rate and 14.6% strike out rate. Mini Maz gets better looks at lefties than right handers, hitting 308/377/496 in 133 at bats against portsiders with 16 walks to 19 K's. He still hit righties well (298/355/419), and was more effective on the road (322/380/493) than at home (277/340/379) which is understandable with both home stadiums heavily favoring pitchers. His track record suggests his combined .337 BABIP is something he can sustain while also hitting line drives at a better than league average clip. The 23 year old senior sign will make his name with the stick, lacing balls from gap to gap with a good approach at the plate, always looking to go to the left-center gap. His instincts and ability to read pitchers make his average speed play up on the bases. On defense he made 18 errors at second base in 487 chances for a .963 fielding percentage which jives with defensive reports that say he competent, but won't be confused with a gold glover any time soon. No matter the case, he will be one of those guys that will play better than his tools because of his knowledge of the game and great instincts.
Matt Reynolds is another high round Mets draftee, being taken in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft and signing for $525,000 out of the University of Arkansas. He kicked the year off in AA Binghamton where he hit a stout 355/430/422 with an astronomical .433 BABIP. Bumped up to AAA Las Vegas, he continued to rake where he remarkably sustained a BABIP over .400 (.404 to be exact). No doubt part of that was due to the friendly offensive environs of the Pacific Coast League, notching 25 extra base hits there while only hitting nine in AA in roughly the same amount of at bats. Combined between the two upper levels of the minor leagues, Reynolds hit 343/405/454 with a 9.2% walk rate and 18.6% strike out rate, 34 extra base hits, and 20 stolen bases. Digging into his splits, he was a bit better against lefties (359/422/468) than righties (335/396/447) but both lines were excellent. He maintained an excellent line drive rate throughout the year, hitting liners 24.4% of the time in AA (8.9 points better than the Eastern League average) and 22.3% of the time in AAA (3.5 point better than the PCL average). He's not a burner, but Reynolds just doesn't have the same speed as most short stops despite the 20 stolen bases. The lack of speed hurts his range but he is pretty sure-handed with the ones he does get to with soft hands and a plus throwing arm. He made 16 errors at short stop with a .963 fielding percentage in 431 chances while also making one error at second base where he played 21 games, getting 92 chances. Reynolds is a baseball rat and understands how to play the game the right way, being dubbed "a grinder" by AAA manager Wally Backman. He looks to be similar to LJ Mazzilli in that he will squeeze every ounce of talent out of his average tools.
|RF/1B||Tyler Austin||NYY||R/R||6'1 220 LB||22||AA||396||109||56||20||5||9||47||36||80||3/5||275/336/419||756||341||110|
|CF||Daniel Carbonell||SF||R/R||6'3 196 LB||23||A+||80||25||14||2||2||3||9||6||15||5/6||313/368/500||868||380||126|
|RF||Aaron Judge||NYY||R/R||6'7 230 LB||22||A+||228||64||43||9||2||8||33||47||72||0/0||281/404/443||847||394||146|
|CF||Brandon Nimmo||NYM||L/R||6'3 205 LB||21||AA||224||56||37||12||4||6||26||36||50||5/6||250/356/420||776||354||118|
|CF||Roman Quinn||PHI||S/R||5'10 170 LB||21||A+||321||80||48||10||3||6||34||31||80||30/41||249/327/355||682||321||98|
Scottsdale should have three very capable center fielders in Daniel Carbonell, Roman Quinn and Brandon Nimmo with Nimmo being the best of the trio. Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin look to hold down the corners with Nimmo in center and Josh Bell possibly getting time in right field as well if he's not playing first base.
Daniel Carbonell was one of the more recent Cuban defectors to sign, inking a four year deal worth $3,175,000 with the Giants with a $1,000,000 signing bonus this past June. Carbonell is actually the first Cuban born player to sign with San Francisco since 1966. He spent over a year out of professional baseball during his defection so he was certainly shaking off some rust this year where he split time between the Arizona rookie league and A+ San Jose. He only made it into 31 games with 128 at bats where he hit 336/384/523 as a 23 year old. In his limited playing time he did rack up 13 extra base hits and 11 stolen bases, showing off his plus plus speed. With a sample so small, splits won't really tell you much. The scouting reports on him rave about his speed with Ben Badler of Baseball America noting that he notched a home to first time of just 4.0 seconds, which translates to an 80 on the scouting scale. This speed also helps him cover tons of ground in center field and he pairs that with an above average throwing arm. Carbonell is a guy that needs more reps at the dish, both for his own development and for more people to get eyes on him.
Roman Quinn was once considered the heir to Jimmy Rollins' thrown in Philly as their short stop of the future, being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft from a Florida high school and signing for $775,000. He began the transition to center field this season in A+ Clearwater where he hit 257/343/370, beginning his season in late May after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon. He stole 32 bases in 44 tries, racking up 20 extra base hits in 327 at bats, posting career highs in doubles (10), home runs (7), walks (36), and RBI (36). Quinn profiles as a top of the order hitter with minimal power, tons of speed and a good enough eye to draw some walks. He strolled down to first with a free pass 9.4% of the time this year while taking the trip back to the dugout with a K 20.9% of the time. The 21 year old switch hitter was much better from the left side against right handed pitchers, hitting 327/391/418 with eight walks and 14 punch outs in 98 at bats. Southpaws handled him much better by limiting him to a 227/323/349 line but with six of his seven homers. Quinn was also markedly better on the road (331/420/514) than at home (200/280/259) which makes sense as Clearwater is one of the friendliest parks for pitchers in the Florida State League. He understands that speed is a major part of his game and he keeps the ball on the ground, hitting 51.4% ground balls which was 5.8 points more than league average. His 80 grade speed and excellent athleticism make him a perfect fit in center field where he made six errors in 69 games as he gets used to reading fly balls and taking better routes. He's got a plus arm as well which should make him a very good defender with more reps patrolling the outfield.
Starting Pitchers -
|RHSP||Clayton Blackburn||SF||L/R||6'2 260 LB||21||AA||93||0.262||8.23||1.94||4.25||3.29||1.23||0.341||67.7||2.54||5-6||0||18||18|
|RHSP||Caleb Cotham||NYY||R/R||6'3 215 LB||26||AAA||18.1||0.317||8.35||3.44||2.43||5.40||1.75||0.393||58.8||3.37||0-2||0||5||5|
|RHSP||Tyler Glasnow||PIT||L/R||6'7 195 LB||20||A+||124.1||0.171||11.36||4.13||2.75||1.74||1.05||0.260||80.9||2.63||12-5||0||23||23|
|LHSP||Joely Rodriguez||PIT||L/L||6'1 200 LB||22||AA||134||0.285||4.90||2.89||1.70||4.84||1.45||0.315||63.5||4.22||6-11||1||30||21|
|RHSP||Taylor Rogers||SF||R/R||6'5 187 LB||23||AA||145||0.266||7.01||2.30||3.05||3.29||1.29||0.327||69.4||3.04||11-6||0||24||24|
|RHSP||Adrian Sampson||PIT||R/R||6'3 200 LB||22||AAA||19||0.349||4.74||3.32||1.43||6.16||1.89||0.389||64.6||4.25||1-1||0||4||4|
|LHSP||Ethan Stewart||PHI||L/L||6'7 235 LB||23||A+||102.2||0.285||6.14||5.08||1.21||4.82||1.70||0.325||67.3||4.89||5-7||0||28||16|
|RHSP||Robert Whalen||NYM||R/R||6'2 200 LB||20||A||62.2||0.191||7.61||2.73||2.79||2.01||1.01||0.239||76.7||3.46||9-1||0||11||10|
Tyler Glasnow and Clayton Blackburn are the horses in the rotation, with Glasnow emerging as one of the top pitching prospects in the game.
Adrian Sampson was taken in the 5th round of the 2012 draft by the Pirates, signing for $250,000 out of Bellevue CC in Washington state. The 22 year old had a breakout campaign for AA Altoona, logging 148 innings with a 2.55 ERA, 3.63 FIP, and 1.05 WHIP with a 10-5 record. This earned him a four start trial in AAA Indianapolis with less impressive results. He finished out the year with a composite 2.96 ERA, 3.70 FIP, and 1.14 WHIP between the two levels with 5.89 K/9, 1.99 BB/9, 8.29 H/9 and opponents hit 246/292/359 against him. His bullpen helped him out with a 76.1% strand rate and a .275 BABIP is a good 25 points better than league average. Sampson racked up ground balls 2 points more than league average while limiting line drives over five points better. The splits tell me he's tougher on right handed hitters (232/272/325) than lefties (259/311/392) and he also fared better in Altoona (2.44 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 223/263/331) than on the road (3.56 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 270/322/388). Sampson credits his rough 2013 on learning how to throw a change up from scratch and continually working on it despite the results. This focus on the change up was part of the reason for his breakout this year as well. His arsenal features a low 90's fastball that can touch 94 mph, a 12-6 hook with tremendous depth and late break, and his new change up which looks to be an average pitch now. Sampson commands the ball well and is very effective when he gets ahead early and can take advantage of using his big breaker in favorable counts. He also already has a Tommy John surgery on his resume from his amateur days in 2010.
Robert Whalen managed to slip all the way to the 12th round in 2012 before he was snatched up by the Mets and given a $100,000 bonus. He fell so far due to a dead arm he dealt with his senior year of high school in Florida. Now getting to full season ball as a 20 year old, Whalen tore through the South Atlantic even though he missed two months from May to July with a hand infection. He threw 62.2 innings at Low A Savannah with a 2.01 ERA, 3.46 FIP, and 1.01 WHIP combined with a 7.61 K/9, 2.73 BB/9 and 6.32 H/9. Combined with seven rehab innings in the GCL, opponents managed a meager 189/263/248 line against him with right handed hitters even more helpless, hitting 151/222/178. Lefties gave him more issues, tagging him to a 245/325/353 line. Other things that stick out is the 165/237/215 line on the road, and 160/217/179 line with men on base. Whalen did a great job keeping the ball on the ground in Savannah with a 1.91 GO:FO ratio and 54.5% ground balls, which was a good 10 points better than league average. His .241 BABIP is definitely something that will not be the norm, and combine it with a 77.3% strand rate, that makes up for the 1.45 point difference in his ERA and FIP. Whalen has a pair of fastballs that sit in the 90-94 mph range with a heavy two seamer that generates good sink in the lower registers. He's also the owner of the best curveball in the Mets system, a true weapon with 10-4 break in the high 70's to low 80's. A below-average change up rounds out his repertoire to go with good control
Relief Pitchers -
|RHP||Kyle Haynes||NYY||R/R||6'2 190 LB||23||A+||69.2||0.256||7.11||4.26||1.67||3.49||1.49||0.317||66.0||3.51||5-5||1||39||0|
|RHP||Julian Hilario||NYM||R/R||6'1 190 LB||23||A+||51.1||0.268||7.19||6.84||1.05||5.79||1.85||0.317||66.0||5.09||1-1||0||33||0|
|RHP||Tyler Mizenko||SF||R/R||6'1 200 LB||24||A+||62||0.269||6.97||2.47||2.82||3.48||1.32||0.318||75.0||4.11||4-3||14||59||0|
|RHP||Colton Murray||PHI||R/R||6'0 195 LB||24||AA||59||0.185||9.15||3.36||2.73||2.29||1.03||0.233||73.2||3.64||1-5||6||36||2|
|RHP||Ryan O'Sullivan||PHI||R/R||6'2 190 LB||23||AA||112.2||0.254||5.59||3.36||1.67||3.91||1.37||0.283||72.3||4.60||7-8||0||37||12|
|RHP||Nefi Ogando||PHI||R/R||6'2 185 LB||25||AA||56||0.281||9.16||4.50||2.04||6.27||1.64||0.352||63.6||4.53||5-1||7||48||0|
|RHP||Paul Sewald||NYM||R/R||6'2 190 LB||24||AA||4.1||0.188||14.54||6.23||2.33||4.15||1.38||0.333||75.0||3.59||1-0||0||3||0|
|RHP||Alex Smith||NYY||R/R||6'3 200 LB||24||A+||65.2||0.223||8.22||2.88||2.86||2.74||1.17||0.282||75.5||3.30||5-5||7||46||0|
|RHP||Hunter Strickland||SF||R/R||6'4 220 LB||25||MLB||7||0.200||11.57||0.00||9.00||0.00||0.71||0.313||100.0||0.56||1-0||1||9||0|
|LHP||Tom Harlan||PIT||L/L||6'6 215 LB||24||AA||60.2||0.259||3.86||2.52||1.53||3.71||1.27||0.270||72.8||4.97||3-3||0||11||10|
|LHP||Steven Okert||SF||L/L||6'3 210 LB||22||AA||33||0.200||10.36||3.00||3.45||2.73||1.06||0.266||77.9||3.23||1-0||5||24||0|
|LHP||Dario Alvarez||NYM||L/L||6'1 170 LB||25||AA||5.2||0.200||14.29||0.00||9.00||0.00||0.71||0.364||100.0||0.71||1-0||1||5||0|
|LHP||Adam Morgan||PHI||L/L||6'1 195 LB||24||DNP||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Steven Okert is one of the few guys to be drafted three times but not sign as a senior. He spent his first two years of college at a junior college before transferring to Oklahoma for his junior season in 2012. The Giants snagged him in the 4th round in 2012, giving him a $270,000 bonus. Last year he made his full season debut, spending the whole year in Low A Augusta. This year, the 22 year old kicked off the year with A+ San Jose where he was the closer, posting a 1.53 ERA, 2.53 FIP, and 1.06 WHIP through 35.1 innings with 19 saves in 33 games. Okert also struck out 35.5% of hitters, walked 7.2%, and allowed a .237 opponents batting average and 8.41 H/9 even with an insane .374 BABIP. Being the closer and finishing 29 of 33 games, he understandably had a high strand rate of 92.6% since he didn't have many opportunities to leave runners on for his bullpen mates. His performance in the California League at San Jose earned him a promotion to AA Richmond where he made 24 more appearances with a 2.73 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and 1.06 WHIP. Okert's BABIP went to the other extreme, dropping to .266 in AA with his opponents batting average lowering to .200 as a result. A 77.9% strand rate helped keep the ERA down, and he did finish out 11 of the 24 games he came in. His composite ERA between the two levels sits at 2.11 with a 2.87 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 12.12 K/9, 2.90 BB/9, and an opponents triple slash line of 225/291/332. He was death on lefties, limiting them to a 165/240/209 line while right handers tagged him with a 259/320/401 line. Aside from the month of July (cherry picking stats, I know), Okert kept his ERA under 1.95 each month of the season. He also did a great job limiting line drives in AA with just 9.8% of batted balls falling under that category, a good 5.7 points better than the Eastern League average. On the mound, he works with a heater that sits 92-95 but can reach back for 97 mph when needed. He also has a low 80's slider with late bite and sharp break, and a fringy change up he uses sparingly.
(Both Hunter Strickland and Matt Duffy were taken off the AFL roster to play in the postseason with the Giants after I already wrote them up but I didn't just want to delete everything.)
Hunter Strickland has been around for awhile now, first turning pro back in 2007 as an 18th round pick from a Georgia high school with a modest $123,500 signing bonus from the Boston Red Sox. WEEI's Alex Speier penned a fantastic piece on his time with the Sox which ran from 2007 to July 2009 when he was shipped to Pittsburgh with Argenis Diaz for Adam LaRoche. He's also lost the majority or all of two seasons to injury - all of 2011 to rotator cuff surgery and most of 2013 to Tommy John surgery. The Bucs placed him on waivers before the 2013 season and he was claimed by the Giants before undergoing elbow surgery. He made his way back into game action in mid May where he spent his age 25 season shuttling between A+ San Jose and AA Richmond. Called up to AA for good after striking out seven in just three innings, Strickland powered his way through the Eastern League with 48 strike out to four walk over 35.2 innings with a 2.02 ERA, 2.09 FIP, and a 0.81 WHIP. The Giants thought enough of his dominance to call him up to the show for September where he once again overpowered hitters in a brief seven inning trial. He punched out nine in seven frames with no walks, no runs, and just five hits allowed. Strickland overmatched lefties and right handers equally with right handed hitters running a 182/202/304 line against him and lefties hitting 210/227/258 off him. He also allowed just one free pass with men on base, and all three home runs he allowed were solo shots from right handed hitters. The repertoire is simple with Strickland, a high octane 96-100 mph fastball and a vicious mid 80's slide piece with tight rotation and excellent movement. He's got a great idea where it's going (hence the four walks all year), and the organization was so enamored with the pure stuff he was named to the postseason roster despite just seven innings of big league experience.