Continuing our look at the rosters of the Arizona Fall League, we turn our attention to the Surprise Saguaros. The last team we took a look at was the Glendale Desert Dogs, who look like they could be the best team in the AFL this autumn, stacked with a bevy of top prospects and big names to watch. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Saguaros challenge them (see what I did there?) for the championship, as they have some interesting names as well.
Who they are: For starters, a Saguaro is essentially a cactus, so they are appropriately named for the desert league. Their skipper is former big leaguer Carlos Febles, who now manages the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The Saguaros are made up of some of the finest prospects from the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers and aforementioned Red Sox.
Yoan Moncada alone is enough to boost this team into contender consideration as he headlines the strength of this team in the infield. Moncada has struggled a bit in his big league debut, but let’s not forget this is a 21-year old who has never seen a pitch at Triple-A. Though he is still raw in some aspects of his game, Moncada is one of the most exciting top overall prospects in some time, with potential to be the traditional five-tool player.
Joining Moncada is his Red Sox cohort Michael Kopech. Kopech has had a well documented career both on and off the field, but there is one thing we do know. He hit 105 miles per hour on the radar gun this year. The kid can throw. Now it’s just a matter of whether the big, 20 year old righty can keep his head in the game and pitch. His 14.19 strikeout rate is enticing, but a 5.02 walk rate shows he needs to show some improvements in command and that he can get by on more than that lightning he unleashes.
The outfield was set to showcase one of the most exciting outfield prospects in the game, who’s 2016 debut was only derailed by injury and an overcrowded outfield situation. The Pittsburgh Pirates Austin Meadows — who missed nearly all of April and then July with an assortment of injuries — was removed from the roster for "personal reasons" later tweeting out that he needed to spend time with his family. Despite some struggles at Triple-A this season seeing an increased strikeout rate and lower batting average, there really isn’t an alarming flaws to Meadows game. Minus his absence and barring any freak injuries like last season, he should have every chance to be the Pirates fourth outfielder at the very least.
Prospects of Interest
The Texas Ranger Andy Ibanez dominated Low-A ball for Hickory in his stateside professional baseball debut before skipping High-A and heading to Frisco in Double-A. The 23-year old second baseman from Cuba has a smooth swing and is solid in the field, despite seeing some growing pains in his first full season since 2014. He has sound plate discipline as well, posting a 75:54 ratio over 560 plate appearances across both levels.
20-year old Minnesota Twins shortstop prospect Nick Gordon looks as if he could be on the cusp of greatness as well. Dee Gordon’s little brother and the son of Tom Flash (ah ahhh) Gordon, baseball is in the young left handed hitter’s DNA. He showed some new found pop, besting his career total in home runs by one this season, but could benefit in cutting down the strikeouts and being a bit better on the base paths, stealing 19 bases butting getting caught 13 times this season.
A name everyone loves to throw around in the comment section here at Minor League Ball, and Kopech’s rotation mate, Trey Ball will be in the desert this fall. While the former seventh overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft -- one that has produced some of the biggest young stars in the bigs (or on their way) right now -- hasn’t quite found his groove, he did have arguably his best season as a pro. Still, if he can’t harass his command, he may fade out rather quickly.
Kansas City’s Josh Staumont is getting a lot of attention on this roster. The 22-year old righty out of DII Azusa Pacific struggled mightily in Advanced-A (67 walks in 73 innings) but showed improvements at Double-A. Like Kopech, he is on the radar because of a triple-digit fastball, but unless he can command it and get batters out with other pitchers, he may not get very far.
Mauricio Dubon has been the forgotten man in a Red Sox organization deep with big hitting top prospects, but he has quietly put together a fine season across two levels. He didn’t find his power stroke until reaching Portland, but he has slashed .323/.379/.461 across two levels with a very impressive 61:44 ratio over 486 at bats. He is quick as well stealing 30 of 37 bases successfully this season.
When the Rangers traded away Jorge Alfaro for Cole Hamels last season Jose Trevino became the top catching prospect in the system. He responded with his finest season in the minors, albeit he is a bit on the senior side for High-A at 23. Still, his .303 batting average, nine home runs and improved 49:26 ratio make him an enticing prospect to watch. He’s also thrown out 47 of 98 attempted base thieves while posting a .998 fielding percentage, so he has potential behind the plate as well.
There are plenty more on this roster. Feel free to continue the discussion by mentioning prospects you like in the comments below!