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 this second part of the 2014 AFL Preview we will take an in-depth look at the Peoria Javelinas. The season begins with the Bowman Hitting Challenge on October 4th with games beginning October 7th.
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 Francisco Lindor, Raul Mondesi, Kyle Zimmer, and Hunter Dozier 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||Justin O'Conner||TB||R/R||6'0 190 LB||22||AA||80||21||9||4||0||2||3||1||20||0/0||263/298/388||685||314||91|
|C||Cody Stanley"]" style="padding:2px 3px 2px 3px;vertical-align:bottom;border-bottom:1px solid #000000;font-weight:bold;text-align:center;">Cody Stanley||STL||L/R||5'10 190 LB||25||AA||385||109||47||16||2||12||43||35||68||13/15||283/340/429||769||348||119|
|C||Tony Wolters"]" style="padding:2px 3px 2px 3px;vertical-align:bottom;border-bottom:1px solid #000000;font-weight:bold;text-align:center;">Tony Wolters||CLE||L/R||5'10 180 LB||22||AA||341||85||36||15||2||1||34||35||74||3/5||249/319/314||633||293||78|
Justin O'Conner has put together a hell of a season, earning numerous accolades for his play this year. He was a Futures Game participant, a Florida State League mid-season all-star, post-season all-star, and was also named as the best defensive catcher by Florida State League managers. He was promoted in early August to AA Montgomery and finished the year with a combined 35 doubles, 12 homers, and a 278/316/466 line. O'Conner was one of three first round picks the Rays had in 2010, chosen 31st overall out of an Indiana high school. He made great strides in working the gaps and a 60 point jump in BABIP to .340 certainly helped. Better pitch recognition will go a long way towards improving his prospect status as a 3.8% walk rate and 23.1% strike out rate is a red flag. The good thing is his defense will buy him plenty of time to get that sorted out. O'Conner has a cannon for an arm and is very athletic, adding up to a 55% caught stealing rate with 13 passed balls and 17 errors in 82 games. It's also worth noting O'Conner began catching after being drafted, so he's still learning the nuances of being a back stop.
|SS||Daniel Castro"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Daniel Castro||ATL||R/R||5'11 170 LB||21||AA||173||48||23||9||1||4||20||5||18||2/3||277/300/410||710||321||96|
|3B||Hunter Dozier||KC||R/R||6'4 220 LB||22||AA||234||49||33||12||0||4||21||31||70||3/5||209/303/312||615||292||81|
|1B||Patrick Leonard"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; border-bottom: 1px solid #000000; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Patrick Leonard||TB||R/R||6'4 225 LB||21||A+||455||129||79||26||5||13||58||49||107||14/14||284/359/448||808||371||131|
|SS||Francisco Lindor||CLE||S/R||5'11 175 LB||20||AAA||165||45||24||4||0||5||14||9||36||3/10||273/307/388||695||311||88|
|SS||Raul Mondesi"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; border-bottom: 1px solid #000000; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Raul Mondesi||KC||S/R||6'1 165 LB||18||A+||435||92||54||14||12||8||33||24||122||17/21||211/256/354||610||277||68|
|2B||Breyvic Valera"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Breyvic Valera||STL||S/R||5'11 160 LB||22||AA||227||65||31||8||2||0||20||15||22||4/9||286/329/339||668||310||93|
|2B||Jacob Wilson||STL||R/R||5'11 180 LB||24||AA||131||40||15||13||0||5||21||11||23||3/4||305/366/519||885||398||153|
Peoria was blessed with the best defensive short stop prospect in the game with Francisco Lindor and another in Raul Mondesi that continuously is praised for his excellent defense, especially for his age. The ideal alignment for the Javelinas would have Lindor and Hunter Dozier on the left side with Patrick Leonard or one of the Cardinals second sackers handling the keystone.
Daniel Castro was signed by the Braves back in 2009 as an international free agent out of Mexico. He spent the next two years in the DSL with unimpressive numbers, and was loaned to Saltillo of the Mexican League for the next year and a half. Upon his return to the states, Atlanta sent him to A+ Lynchburg and he finished the year slashing 284/337/318 in just 96 trips to the plate. He was stout for Saltillo though, hitting 312/339/472 as a 20 year old in a league that's technically classified as AAA. This year he split time between A+ and AA Mississippi, handling short stop duties and also being named the best defensive short stop by Carolina League managers. His numbers held steady during the jump to AA, and posted a composite 286/312/398 line with a strike out rate over 10 points better than league average, and walk rate five points lower than average. He's good at putting the ball in play and looks like he could have enough pop to keep pitchers honest.
Patrick Leonard got his name in the headlines as part of the package that was lead by Wil Myers that Kansas City sent to Tampa for James Shields. Drafted as a third baseman in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of a Texas high school, Leonard made the transition across the diamond to first base beginning last year. That was his full time home this year and he made huge strides defensively, being named the best defensive first baseman in the Florida State League by managers, and also a mid-season all-star. At the dish, Leonard put together a solid year, showing more of his raw power in games while also getting a boost in batting average from a career high .346 BABIP. His K% and BB% is within two points of the league average while hitting line drives 5% more than your average Florida State Leaguer. Leonard was also a perfect 14 for 14 in stealing bases and is now 24 for 27 in his career (88% success rate).
Jacob Wilson had his season cut short with a knee injury in mid-June, but put up another solid year at the plate. This is his second go-round in the AFL after hitting 304/373/413 last year for Salt River. A former 10th round pick from 2012 as a senior sign from the University of Memphis, Wilson spent his age 23 season split between A+ Palm Beach and AA Springfield with time spent at both second and third base. He only garnered 283 trips to the plate before the injury with 30 extra base knocks, 23 walks, and 47 strike outs. Like Leonard, Wilson benefited from a hefty .348 BABIP which was a good 91 points better than 2013. A composite 135 wRC+ between the two levels is on par with his 2013 season and I can't help but expect similar results next year, because this guy can flat out hit. This will be a good opportunity for Wilson to make up for lost time.
|CF/RF||Kes Carter"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Kes Carter||TB||L/L||6'2 205 LB||24||AA||199||48||27||14||2||3||19||23||46||8/14||241/339/377||716||332||104|
|CF||CJ McElroy||STL||S/R||5'10 180 LB||21||A||490||131||74||11||2||0||29||40||84||41/59||267/342/298||640||308||92|
|RF||Edward Salcedo"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Edward Salcedo||ATL||R/R||6'3 210 LB||23||AAA||364||77||50||21||1||10||44||40||97||13/18||212/294/357||651||299||79|
|RF||Jordan Smith"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; border-bottom: 1px solid #000000; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Jordan Smith||CLE||L/R||6'4 205 LB||24||AA||459||114||52||24||4||2||50||33||82||9/17||248/300/331||631||288||75|
|CF||Bubba Starling"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; font-weight: bold; text-align: center; border-bottom: 1px solid #000000;">Bubba Starling||KC||R/R||6'4 180 LB||21||A+||482||105||67||23||4||9||54||49||150||17/19||218/304/338||642||301||84|
|CF||Kyle Wren"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Kyle Wren||ATL||L/L||5'10 175 LB||23||AA||205||58||28||11||4||0||16||16||40||13/18||283/338/376||713||329||102|
Peoria certainly lacks star power in their outfield with Bubba Starling being the only player to ever show up on a Top 100 ranking, and that was long ago it seems. The ideal assortment of outfielders would be Starling in center with Salcedo in right field and the speedy CJ McElroy in left.
CJ McElroy joined the Cardinals organization as a third round pick in 2011 out of a Texas high school, signing for $510,000. McElroy also has good bloodlines being the son of former major leguer Chuck McElroy and nephew of five time all-star Cecil Cooper. In his age 21 season this year, he made his second trip through the Midwest League with Low A Peoria. After dealing with a nagging foot injury in 2013, he was finally at full strength and was able to show off his carrying tool of plus plus speed. He swiped 41 bags with a 69% success rate while working on reading pitchers and getting good jumps. McElroy offers no power at all, slapping hits and relying on his speed with the occasional shot to the gap. He's also got a decent eye, working a walk 7.2% of the time with a manageable 15.1% strike out rate. He posted a .323 BABIP over 558 plate appearances in 2014, and was slightly better at home (285/347/326) than on the road (251/338/271). The switch hitting center fielder also made good strides hitting left handed as a natural righty learning to switch hit. Out of the left hander's box he hit 323/406/372 in a SSS of 111 plate appearances while posting a 254/327/280 line as a right hander in 447 PA's.
Kes Carter put his name somewhat back on the prospect map this year after being ravaged by injuries in his career since being a supplemental first round selection of the Rays in 2011. Selected with the 56th overall pick out of Western Kentucky, Carter had a sub-par 2013 with A+ Charlotte of the Florida State League. He was sent back to Charlotte for 2014 and posted a 230/306/329 line as a 24 year old who was a year and a half older than the league average. Carter was still bumped up to AA Montgomery in mid June and finished the season with a 241/339/377 line in the Southern League. He drew walks at a 10% clip between the two squads with 34 extra base knocks and a 21.5% strike out rate. Looking at his splits, it is obvious Carter has issues with southpaws judging by his paltry 213/286/241 line this year and 178/269/263 line in 2013. He was much better against right handers with a 243/334/390 line and 39:70 BB:K ratio. The Rays will have to make a decision this off season with Carter as he needs to be protected on the 40 man roster or be subjected to the annual Rule 5 draft.
Starting Pitching -
|RHSP||Miguel Almonte||KC||R/R||6'2 180 LB||21||A+||110.1||0.255||8.24||2.61||3.16||4.49||1.26||0.316||65.5||3.98||6-8||0||23||22|
|RHSP||Dylan Baker||CLE||R/R||6'2 215 LB||22||A+||46.2||0.247||5.40||3.47||1.56||4.05||1.35||0.278||65.2||4.37||3-3||0||9||9|
|RHSP||Tyrell Jenkins"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; border-bottom: 1px solid #000000; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Tyrell Jenkins||STL||R/R||6'4 204 LB||22||A+||74||0.260||4.99||2.80||1.78||3.28||1.31||0.286||73.7||4.31||6-5||0||13||13|
|LHSP||Nick Maronde"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Nick Maronde||CLE||S/L||6'3 205 LB||24||CLE||AAA||6||0.100||12.00||1.50||8.00||0.00||0.50||0.167||100||1.19||0-0||0||1||1|
|RHSP||Aaron Northcraft"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Aaron Northcraft||ATL||R/R||6'4 230 LB||24||AAA||64.2||0.315||7.10||4.31||1.65||6.54||1.81||0.370||64.3||4.80||0-7||0||13||12|
|RHSP||Jaime Schultz||TB||R/R||5'10 200 LB||23||A+||23||0.224||8.22||5.87||1.40||3.13||1.48||0.297||75.0||3.78||2-0||0||5||5|
|LHSP||Sam Selman||KC||R/L||6'3 195 LB||23||AAA||4||0.368||15.75||15.75||1.00||13.50||3.50||0.583||57.1||5.45||0-0||0||5||0|
|RHSP||Kyle Zimmer||KC||R/R||6'3 215 LB||22||R+||4.2||0.263||9.64||7.71||1.25||1.93||1.93||0.357||88.9||4.46||0-0||0||6||5|
Peoria will have a two Top 100 starters in their rotation looking to make up for lost time due to injury. The rotation is led by a pair of Royals RHP's in Kyle Zimmer and Miguel Almonte, with established innings eater Aaron Northcraft of the Braves looking like a lock to join them in the rotation. The only southpaws that started in 2014 are Nick Maronde and Sam Selman, with both also spending time in the pen this year.
Tyrell Jenkins was a supplemental first rounder for the Cardinals back in 2010, signing for $1.3 million as the 50th overall pick from a Texas high school. Jenkins, 21, is known for being a freakish athlete who actually turned down a football scholarship to play quarterback at Baylor in favor of going pro. Baseball America even named Jenkins the best athlete in the St. Louis organization three years straight from 2010 to 2012. His athleticism has not helped him stay on the field though, missing chunks of the last three years to shoulder and lat injuries including the first half of 2014. Digging into the numbers, he recorded a career low strike out rate of 13.3% to go along with his best walk rate (7.4%) since 2011. He also had career bests in BABIP, strand rate, opponents batting average (.260) and H/9 (9.0). His splits show a dominance against left handed hitters (174/238/257) and at home (200/254/256) while the opposite is true of right handed hitters (314/368/489 on the road, 320/369/465 vs RHH). A healthy Jenkins brings mid 90's cheese of both the four and two seam varieties, paired with a low-to-mid 80's curve and developing change in the mid 80's. As you can see, the stuff has never been an issue, it's all about health with Jenkins who will look to head into spring training healthy for the first time since 2012.
Jaime Schultz joined the Rays organization in 2013 as a 14th round pick from High Point University in North Carolina. Schultz has already done the Tommy John dance, going under the knife in 2010, and made his professional debut for A- Hudson Valley of the New York-Penn League. He was on the shelf to begin the year, not making his first appearance until mid May, but he kicked off his age 23 season with a bang. In his first two outings he struck out 21 batters in just 10.1 scoreless innings with four hits and four walks allowed. Aside from another month long DL stint in late June, Schultz dominated Midwest League hitters for Low A Bowling Green with a 1.95 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 6.6 H/9, and 14.1 K/9. He made five more starts for A+ Charlotte with his walk rate jumping five points (from 9.5% to 14.7%) and strike out rate dropping by nearly half (from an otherworldly 39.2% to a more mortal 20.6%). His bullpen helped him out this year, benefiting from a 79.8% strand rate, but that was offset by a .321 BABIP to keep his FIP close to his ERA. He keeps the ball down and doesn't allow many long balls (two all year for a 0.3 HR/9) although he was a fly ball pitcher in Low A with a 0.60 ground out to air out ratio. Looking at splits, he dominated righties (192/287/275) while still limiting lefties to a 237/339/309 line. Interestingly, he was also better with men on (198/274/260) than pitching from the wind up (223/338/314). His repertoire consists of a lively mid 90's fastball with a lot of movement low in the zone and boring action in on right handers. Schultz also has a big breaking curve with 11-5 break and a sharp power slider with late break. He gets into trouble when he nibbles but can overpower a lineup when he's in attack mode.
Relief Pitching -
|RHP||Zach Cooper||TB||R/R||5'10 185 LB||24||A+||24.1||0.258||8.14||4.44||1.83||5.92||1.48||0.309||59.8||4.66||0-3||7||22||0|
|RHP||Brandon Cunniff"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Brandon Cunniff||ATL||R/R||6'0 185 LB||25||AA||52.2||0.202||8.54||3.42||2.50||2.05||1.12||0.262||80.4||2.98||3-0||0||33||0|
|RHP||Ryne Harper"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; border-bottom: 1px solid #000000; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Ryne Harper||ATL||R/R||6'3 215 LB||25||AA||76.2||0.237||10.92||2.82||3.88||2.58||1.21||0.332||80.7||2.63||9-5||1||48||0|
|RHP||Mitch Harris"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Mitch Harris||STL||R/R||6'4 215 LB||28||AAA||1||0.333||18.00||0.00||2.00||0.00||1.00||1.000||100.0||-0.30||0-0||0||1||0|
|RHP||Louis Head||CLE||R/R||6'1 180 LB||24||AA||36.1||0.247||9.66||3.96||2.44||2.97||1.40||0.320||79.5||3.69||1-1||3||29||0|
|RHP||Nate Hyatt||ATL||R/R||6'0 185 LB||23||A+||63||0.244||10.43||3.86||2.70||2.71||1.38||0.335||74.0||3.15||5-3||3||37||0|
|RHP||Matt Lollis"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; border-bottom: 1px solid #000000; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Matt Lollis||TB||R/R||6'9 250 LB||23||AA||73.2||0.261||8.55||3.91||2.19||4.03||1.47||0.316||70.7||4.20||6-2||3||49||0|
|RHP||Chris Perry||STL||L/R||6'2 215 LB||24||A+||14||0.122||11.57||3.86||3.00||1.93||0.86||0.167||86.2||3.25||1-1||5||13||0|
|RHP||Colton Reavis||TB||R/R||6'0 195 LB||24||A+||17.2||0.161||6.62||2.55||2.60||1.02||0.85||0.188||80.9||3.50||1-2||7||15||0|
|RHP||Grant Sides||CLE||R/R||6'4 215 LB||25||AA||1||0.000||0.00||18.00||0.00||0.00||2.00||0.000||100.0||9.35||0-0||0||1||0|
|RHP||Samuel Tuivailala"]" style="padding: 2px 3px 2px 3px; vertical-align: bottom; font-weight: bold; text-align: center;">Samuel Tuivailala||STL||R/R||6'3 195 LB||21||MLB||1||0.625||9.00||18.00||0.50||36.00||7.00||0.600||71.4||33.13||0-0||0||2||0|
|RHP||Ali Williams||KC||R/R||6'2 185 LB||25||AA||40||0.225||10.35||4.73||2.19||5.18||1.38||0.268||68.5||5.00||5-3||0||25||0|
Chris Perry is probably going to be next in a long line of under the radar, late round prospects to make it to St. Louis and contribute. A senior sign in the 17th round of the 2012 draft from Methodist College in North Carolina, Perry started his age 23 season in Low A Peoria's bullpen and mowed through hitters to the tune of a 2.20 ERA, an identical 2.20 FIP, and 0.90 WHIP through 49 innings with 14.69 K/9, 2.79 BB/9 and 5.33 H/9. For a bit more shock factor that's 80/15 K/BB and 29 hits in those 49 innings pitched. Perry was also named to the Midwest League all-star team with that performance despite being a full year older than the league average player. A promotion to A+ Palm Beach was well deserved and he finished the year with a 1.93 ERA, 3.25 FIP, and 0.86 WHIP with 11.57 K/9, 3.86 BB/9, and 3.86 H/9 over 14 innings. He was exceptional at limiting line drives in his short stint at Palm Beach with just 3.2% of batted balls being line drives, a good 11.2 points better than league average. Looking at his splits from the year is interesting as both lefties and righties were equally helpless against him (158/229/259 vs RHB, 151/232/256 vs LHB). Another peculiar stat was four of his five home runs allowed came in a dreadful April where he pitched to a 4.50 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. The next month he allowed a single earned run (0.46 ERA) in 19.2 IP with 40 strike outs to three walks and just nine hits. Perry's arsenal features a lethal 1-2 combo of a low 90's fastball he can put where he wants and a downright nasty hook. He looks primed for a multi-level jump next year.
Sam Tuivailala is becoming a well known commodity in the prospect world as a late innings flamethrower with crazy strike out numbers. The Cardinals third round selection back in 2010 from a Califonia high school, Tuivailala was drafted as an infielder but couldn't get out of the rookie league with his bat after two years. The organization put him on the mound and he really blossomed this year, blowing through the top three levels of the minor leagues and also getting a cup of coffee in the show. The 21 year old posted a composite 3.15 ERA, 1.84 FIP, and 1.25 WHIP over 60 innings with 14.55 K/9, 4.05 BB/9 and 7.20 H/9. Tui dominated despite an incredibly high .370 BABIP. Including his one major league inning, lefties hit him better (247/369/301) than right handed hitters (219/292/336) with lefties benefiting from an insane .500 BABIP over 93 at bats. He works with a pair of fastballs - a four seam that can tickle triple digits and a two seam in the mid 90's. A power curve in the low 80's and a very, very seldom used circle change round out his repertoire. The ball jumps from his hand even though it looks like there is no effort when he throws, but his command still needs work, often failing to repeat the same arm slot.
Nate Hyatt was scooped up by the Braves in the 13th round of the 2012 draft from Appalachian State. For the 2014 season, he was sent back to A+ Lynchburg to work on his command which was inconsistent the previous year. He put in 63 innings of work in his age 23 season, posting a 2.71 ERA, 3.15 FIP, and 1.38 WHIP. The BABIP gods were unfavorable to Hyatt with a .335 BABIP, but his bullpen mates helped with a 74% strand rate. A peek into the splits show a much better pitcher at home (210/292/290) than on the road (292/361/387) despite a misleading 1.98 road ERA. Hyatt was also tougher on right handed hitters (242/312/333) than lefties (253/340/330), and he finished strong with just one earned run allowed in 13 innings in August. It's easy to call any young right hander in the Braves system with a high 90's fastball and hard slider a "Diet Kimbrel", but Hyatt still needs to make quantum leaps in control and command to reach that. As is, he still looks like a useful middle inning or set up option if he continues to make progress in knowing where each pitch is going.