In 2015, the Arizona Rookie League has been absolutely star-studded. The AZL has been graced with six first round picks this year and a lot more International Free Agents, all making their professional baseball debuts.
Giants RHP Phil Bickford who has only pitched two innings at a time and has been relatively effective. Top ten pick White Sox RHP Carson Fulmer dominated in his one inning in the AZL. CBA pick, Indians RHP Triston McKenzie made his debut recently, while Brewers OF Trent Clark looks like he is here to stay despite an early injury.
The number one overall pick in 2015, shortstpo Dansby Swanson has been assigned to the AZL but, after being hit in the face with a fastball by fellow prospect Yoan Lopez things look cloudy in terms of his professional debut. It is unclear if it will be with the AZL team or elsewhere. Dodgers pitcher Walker Buelher, he has been officially assigned to AZL for rehab purposes.
With all of the names mentioned, only one of those names made the performance list. This is mainly due to the fact that the AZL is a tune up spot for many high profile players. It is unfortunate that the Arizona League does not have a mid-season All Star Game. This year really could have been a fun year to watch some young budding players all in the same game. Listed below are the qualifies I used to determine who made the cut and who did not.
To make the list as a hitter:
- Players must have had at least 75 At Bats in AZL 2015 season.
- Players must have played more than 2/3 of the 2015 season for their respective AZL team. (Approx. 20 games)
- Starting pitchers must have 5 Games Started.
- Relief Pitchers must have at least 8 appearances or 15 innings pitched.
AZL Midseason Top 20 Performers List
1. OF Gabriel Mejia (AZL Indians) - Gabriel Mejia is hands down the best prospect in the AZL in 2015. This kid leads in several statistical categories including Hits, Runs, Stolen Bases, and .AVG. In addition, Mejia is a switch hitter and has yet to make an error in center field. He stole 72 bases and .335 in 2014 with the DSL Indians. This year through 32 GP: 32 R, 49 H/126 AB, 6 2B, 14 RBI, 18 BB, 30/38 SB, with a slash line of .389/.466/.452. Mejia turned 20 about a week ago and should be promoted soon, if he continues to hit near .400 and rack up the stolen bases. Mejia was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.
2. RHSP Pedro Payano (AZL Rangers) - Pedro Payano takes the award for best RHPSP at the mid-season mark. It will be hard for him to qualify for the end-of-season list, due to the fact he was promoted to Full-Season Hickory. Payano in 2015 with the Rangers was: 6-0 with a 1.55 ERA over 40.2 IP, 46 K, 9 BB, 1.03 WHIP. Payano is 2nd in the league in strikeouts and is 3rd in ERA. Payano is 20 years old and figures to move up quickly if he can keep putting up great numbers. Payano was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012 for $650,000.
3. OF Ariel Sandoval (AZL Dodgers) - Ariel Sandoval has arguably been the best power hitter in the AZL. Sandoval is tops in Total Bases, tied for 2nd in HR, and 2nd in Hits. His only weakness is his plate discipline, he has struck out 32 times and only walked twice. In 2015: 17R, 45H/135AB, 5 HR/22 RBI/70 TB with a slash of .333/.341/.519. Sandoval signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013 for $150,000.
4.LHRP Kyle Kubat (AZL Royals) - Kyle Kubat was a UFA in 2015 out of Nebraska. Despite going undrafted he has looked really good in the AZL only giving up 1 ER over 21.2 IP. In 2015, he is: 3-0, 0.42 ERA, 21.2 IP, 7 APP, 1 SV, 16K/3BB, 0.83 WHIP. Despite only appearing in 7 games Kubat has proven he can be trusted as a long reliever and be very effective in this role.
5. OF Demi Orimoloye (AZL Brewers) - Demi Orimoloye is one the most exciting players in the AZL. He has shown at least 2 of the 5 tools in his power hitting and speed on the base paths. Orimoloye is tied for 1st in HR, and 2nd in Stolen Bases. In 2015, 21 R, 34 H/112 AB, 9 2B, 2 3B,6 HR, 20 RBI, 16/18 SB, .304/.328/.580. Orimoloye needs to work on plate discipline as well, he has struck out 31 times and only walked once. Orimoloye was a 4th round pick in 2015 out of Ottawa, Canada for $450,000.
6. OF/DH Jose Leal (AZL Mariners) - Jose Leal is the RBI and Doubles leader in the AZL with 28 and 14 respectively. This is his 3rd stint in the AZL and is finally looking like he could advance to full season in 2016.
7. RHRP Nick Monroe (AZL Padres) - Nick Monroe was excellent in his short stint in the AZL in 2015. He was: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 11.1 IP, 18 K/1 BB, 6 H. Monroe was a 21st round pick in 2015 out of high school and was promoted to Full-Season Fort Wayne about a week ago.
8. RHRP/CL Heath Slatton (AZL Giants) - Slatton is 2nd in appearances but, 1st in SV and Games Finished. In 2015, He is: 2-0, 4 SV, 11 GF, 0.69 ERA over 13.0 IP, 12 K, 3 BB. Slatton was an 18th round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft.
9. OF Robert Garcia (AZL Cubs) - Garcia is 3rd in the league in hits with 41, 3rd in RBI with 25, and 3rd in SB with 14. He is quietly doing all of this while hitting .350 AVG. Garcia is out of the D. Republic and is 21 years old.
10. 1B James Vazquez (AZL Reds) - Left handed hitting Vazquez is tied for the most homers in the league with 6 and tied for 3rd in RBI. His slash is: .337/.397/.633. Vazquez is a 25th round pick out of University of Central Florida.
11.RHRP Wendolyn Bautista (AZL Reds) - Bautista is another power righty who can strike batters out at a high rate. He has 44 K in 36.1 IP with a 1.49 ERA. Bautista profiles to be very versatile, he has been used in long relief, middle relief, and situational relief. He is also out of the Dominican Republic.
12. SS Gilbert Lara (AZL Brewers) - Lara is a 3.1 million dollar question mark. He is making his professional debut in the Arizona League in 2015 and is only 17 years old. Currenlty he is # 14 on the Milwaukee brewers top 20 list by John Sickels. Lara is on this list for his contact hitting. He has 24 R and 37 H over 35 G. However, his glove has looked shaky with 6 errors and his speed looks even worse with only 1 SB in 3 tries. Right now some of the tools need to improve but, he is also 2 years younger than the average player in this league.
13.OF Eric Jenkins (AZL Rangers) - Jenkins is proving he is a true burner. He has five triples and 15 SB in 18 attempts. Speed is Jenkins only Plus Plus Tool. He was a 2nd round pick out of high school and received a $2,000,000 bonus.
14. RHRP/CL Jose Morel (AZL Giants) - Morel leads the league in appearances with 15. He has a 1.47 ERA over 18.1 IP with 15K. Extremely effective and gets the job done.
15. OF Trent Clark (AZL Brewers) - Trent Clark was a 2015 1st round pick out of High school and received a $2.7 million signing bonus. He has his for the cycle in 2015 and has also been carried off by on a stretcher in the middle of a game. To say he has had an eventful 2015 season is an understatement. In only 105 AB, he has 32H/5 2B/ 5 3B/1 HR/10 RBI. Clark has 11 SB and is showing why he is talked about being a 5 tool player. He is hitting .305 while slugging .476 with only 2 errors in the field. This kid is only 18 years old and many have him in their top 10 Brewers prospects already, including Jon Mayo.
15. LHP Brad Kuntz (AZL Brewers) - Kuntz has been one of the best lefties in the AZL and has a great 0.65 ERA over 9 appearances. In 2015: 2-0, 0.65 ERA, 27.2 IP, 2 ER, 37 K/8 BB.
16. 1B Cody Daily (AZL White Sox) - Daily was an UDFA in 2015 out of Southern Illinois and was quickly promoted to A ball after showing he has true power hitting ability. In the AZL in 2015: 82 AB, 20 R, 32 H, 57 TB, 3 HR, 15 RBI, while slashing .390/.440/.695.
17. RHSP Emmanuel Ramirez (AZL Padres) - Ramirez has already been promoted this year from the DSL to the AZL. Since arriving he is: 4-2, 0.98 ERA over 36.2 IP. Ramirez has 31 K to 5 walks and is holding hitter to a .187 AVG over 6 games started.
18. RHSP Jaime Barria (AZL Angels) - Barria just made his first start in the Pioneer league but, was great over 6 starting appearances in the AZL. He was: 3-0, 2.00 ERA over 36.0 IP with 31 K to 3 BB.
19. LHRP Jared West (AZL Mariners) - West has 0.00 ERA over 10 appearances and 12 K in 12.2 IP.
20. SS F. Torres (AZL Angels) - Torres profiles to be a contact hitter. He has 3 more hits than he did all of last year, he is hitting .314 and has 41 TB.
Did Not Qualify or Just Missed
OF Gareth Morgan - AZL Mariners (CBB pick in 2014)
P Phil Bickford - AZL Giants (1st rd. pick 2015)
C Jose Herrea - AZL D-backs (1 million dollar bonus in 2012)
P Nick Neidert - AZL Mariners (2nd rd pick in 2015)
P Austin Smith - AZL Padres (2nd rd pick in 2015)
1B Ismael Pena - AZL D-backs
P Carson Fulmer - AZL White Sox (1st rd pick in 2015)
OF Joantengel Segovia - AZL Brewers