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2017 Arizona Fall League Preview: Peoria Javelinas Roster

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A closer look at who is on Peoria’s AFL roster from the Blue Jays, Braves, Mariners, Padres, and Red Sox

MLB: Spring Training-Atlanta Braves at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In the first part in the look into the rosters of the 2017 Arizona Fall League, we get the 2017 Peoria Javelinas. The Javelinas are made up of prospects from the organizations of the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays organizations.

I see Peoria as arguably the most talented team in the league after the Braves sent a bunch of key prospects, while the Padres and Blue Jays both sent a talented group. That’s not even mentioning the Mariners sending their best prospect. The Red Sox sent a bit of a more veteran group with guys like Henry Owens and Brian Johnson, but did send an intriguing slugger.

All ages are as of 9/1/2017.

Players on the taxi squad are represented with a * after their name. These players are only available to play certain days a week.

In my projected lineup the positions I have guys playing aren’t set in stone by any means. Since you typically see guys sharing roles and playing slightly out of position, a lineup wouldn’t be simple to project correctly- which is why my projected lineups are meant as a way to get the best lineup out there for each team.

Pitchers

David Bednar, RHP, Padres, Age 22

One year after the Padres took him in the 35th round of the 2016 draft, David Bednar has put himself into the conversation for relief prospects. The former Lafayette College pitcher has used a mid 90s fastball and slider to pitch to a 2.64 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 92.1 career innings as he reached as far as High A. Everywhere he’s been he’s had a strikeout per nine rate above 10, while keeping his walks per nine below three. He’s certainly in the mix to be a middle reliever.

Ty Buttrey, RHP, Red Sox, Age 24

A fourth round pick by the Red Sox in 2012, Buttrey was once a significant prospect. He has since seen his prospect status diminish before finally moving into the bullpen full time this season. His stuff ticked up out of the pen in Double A, as he was solid there as he posted career highs in K/9 and H/9. He was promoted to Triple A and really struggled in 10 outings there before being demoted back to Portland. He can use a strong showing in the AFL to make his case for a spot in the 2018 Red Sox bullpen.

Andrew Case, RHP, Blue Jays, Age 24

Andrew Case is a Canadian kid who was signed by the Jays as an undrafted free agent and has risen as far as a short stint in Triple A. Case is a sinker/slider type of pitcher who also has a change and has success because he’s able to locate his pitches to get ground balls. Case threw 66 innings between High A, Double A, and Triple A this year recording a 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.

Corbin Clouse, LHP, Braves, Age 22

The Braves took hard throwing lefty Corbin Clouse in the 27th round of the 2016 draft out of tiny Davenport University. He dominated in 2016 with a 15.7 K/9 rate over 30.1 innings mostly in Low A- but he also had a 4.5 BB/9 rate. That walk rate caught him this year, especially early on, but he recovered to pitch to a 2.53 ERA with an 11.4 K/9- though he had a 1.51 WHIP thanks to 5.4 BB/9. It’s important to note that he had just a 1.60 ERA and 1.38 WHIP with 52 strikeouts in his final 39.1 innings after June 1st, getting past his slow start. Clouse has filthy stuff and is among the best pure relief prospects in the game, provided the command can be consistent.

Matthew Festa, RHP, Mariners, Age 24

Seattle went to East Stroudsburg University for their 2016 seventh round draft pick, and ended up with a reliever who has already spent this year in High A. Despite that year being in the California League, Festa had a 3.23 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 12.8 K/9 over 69.2 innings. He’s got a low to mid 90s fastball, power slider, plus a change and curve- a starters arsenal as he was a starter in college. Festa could be a middle reliever capable of going multiple innings.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves
Max Fried
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Max Fried, LHP, Braves, Age 23

One of the Braves bigger pitching prospects heading into the season, Fried hasn’t quite pitched up to expectations this year. Still he’s reached the big leagues with three starts and three relief appearances thus far after being more hittable than usual this year in Double A. Fried has a solid fastball from the left side and a big curve, so the potential still exists for him to emerge as a quality big league starter.

Darin Gillies, RHP, Mariners, Age 24

Gillies was a 10th round pick from 2015 who has made it up to Double A already. While Gillies hasn’t quite dominated like he did in 2016, he had a very solid year in the Texas League. He projects as a potential long reliever, as he doesn’t have the pure stuff for high leverage situations.

Josh Graham, RHP, Braves, Age 23

The Braves took Graham in the fourth round of the 2015 draft as the former University of Oregon catcher turned pitcher drew comparisons to Jason Motte. Graham only started pitching in 2015, so he is still new to the mound, but he made it up to Double A by the end of the 2017 season. Graham has been successful at every stop along the way, and has a career 10.2 K/9 rate over 120.2 innings. He’s got a mid to upper 90s fastball, slider, and change with a slightly different delivery and projects as a potential seventh inning man.

Brian Johnson, LHP, Red Sox, Age 26

Brian Johnson is a veteran of six big league starts with one in 2015 and five coming this year. He’s also pitched a total of 263.1 innings at the Triple A level over the last three years, so his inclusion was a bit of a surprise. Johnson, who has been a little off track in the last year while dealing with some personal issues is still a potential back of the rotation arm, with a low ceiling but high floor. This could be the chance to gain some innings after he hasn’t thrown more than 100.1 between 2015-16 and is currently at 120 this year, well below his 2014 total of 143.2.

Walker Lockett, RHP, Padres, Age 23

Walker Lockett took a real step forward in 2016, reaching Triple A by the end of the season. Unfortunately for him injuries and performance kept him from building on that momentum this year. The 4th round pick from 2012. Still he’s got a big, sturdy frame and the sinker/slider pitcher with a potentially plus slider is able to rack up ground balls with ease. This is a kid who John saw as a potential #3/4 starter for the Padres just a few months ago, so there is still upside with him if he’s able to stay healthy.

Jackson McClelland, RHP, Blue Jays, Age 23

The Blue Jays 15th rounder from 2015, McClelland repeated the Northwest League in 2015 and 2016. Then he broke out this year, first in Low A and then after moving up to High A. Between his two stops the big right hander pitched 53.3 innings, with the majority in High A, recording a combined 1.34 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 15 saves. McClelland has a solid fastball and promising breaking ball, but even dating back to his college days he has never really stuck out as many hitters as you might expect. Still he could have a future in middle relief.

Andres Munoz, RHP, Padres, Age 18

Munoz is easily the youngest player in the AFL as the only 18 year old. The young Mexican reliever has big stuff- he’s struck out 64 hitters in 45.2 career innings, but he’s also walked an ugly 34 batters as well. He’s already able to hit 100 MPH with his fastball, but he will need to get the command under control to succeed- however it hasn’t hurt him so far with a career 4.53 ERA and 1.47 WHIP thanks to a miniscule 6.5 H/9 against him. There is certainly impact potential, but he’s far away. I wouldn’t expect him to pitch a ton here because of his age and command issues, but this assignment is a good learning experience for him.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees
Henry Owens
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox, Age 25

The surprise inclusion is Henry Owens, a veteran of 16 big league starts from 2015-16 who hasn’t appeared in the big leagues this year. Not only has Owens not been to the big leagues this year, but he’s lost his command all together with 115 walks over 126 innings between Double A and Triple A. The AFL will be a chance for him to go and get his career back on track.

Bobby Poyner, LHP, Red Sox, Age 24

The Red Sox used their 14th round pick in 2015 on a top lefty reliever from the talented University of Florida pitching staff. That guy is Poyner, who has done nothing short of dominate as a pro. He posted a 0.94 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in 38.1 Double A innings this year, but perhaps even more impressive are his career numbers. That’s because he has pitched 149.2 innings with a 2.35 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9. His fastball is only in the upper 80s to low 90s, but his four pitch mix plays up because of his command. It’s not out of the question he can end up in middle relief, but he will at least be a lefty specialist against right handed hitters.

Detroit Tigers v Seattle Mariners
Max Povse

Max Povse, RHP, Mariners, Age 24

Part of the trade from the Braves to the Mariners for Peoria teammate Alex Jackson, Povse climbed the ladder and made his big league debut for Seattle this year. The 6’8" right hander struggled in his three big league relief appearances and also in his 13 combined Triple A appearances after nine strong outings in Double A. Povse still has #4 starter upside, but he doesn’t have a single plus pitch as part of his three pitch mix and will need to make some adjustments to reach that upside.

Touki Toussaint, RHP, Braves, Age 21

Maybe the highest ceiling arm in the deep Braves system, Touki is a work in progress- especially with his command. He’s got a pair of plus pitches in the fastball and curve-which can actually show as double plus at times, plus an improved change. Touki struggled with consistency in High A, as he cut his walk rate but became more hittable. Then he received a promotion to Double A for his last seven starts of the year and went with a 3.18 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 39.2 innings, striking out 44 and walking 22. Toussaint has front of the rotation upside in there, but the command will be what makes him a front of the rotation arm, back of the rotation arm, or possibly even a late reliever.

Art Warren, RHP, Mariners, Age 24

A 23rd round pick in 2015, Warren started in 2016 before moving to the pen in High A this year. He put up solid numbers with a 3.06 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 64.2 innings, and like his teammate Festa he has shown the ability to go multiple innings. He’s become a power reliever with a fastball up to 95 to go with a curve and slider, making him a potential setup man.

TJ Weir, RHP, Padres, Age 25

The Padres 17th round pick in 2014, Weir was off to a solid but unspectacular start to his career while splitting his time between the bullpen and rotation. Then this year outside of two starts he moved to the pen full time and experienced a breakout season. The Ball State product dominated in 10 appearances in the High A California League before moving to Double A and continuing his strong season. Overall he pitched 77.1 innings with a 2.09 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while striking out more than a batter per inning. He pitched in long relief this year and that should continue to be his role going forward, with very good stuff for a long man.

Danny Young, LHP, Blue Jays, Age 23

Poyner wasn’t the only lefty reliever from the University of Florida drafted high in 2015, as the Blue Jays took Danny Young in the eighth round that year. Like Poyner, Young has already reached Double A this year and in 63 innings between there and High A he had a 3.00 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Young projects best in the big leagues as a left on left specialist with a fastball that typically sits in the upper 80s.

TJ Zeuch, RHP, Blue Jays, Age 22

The Blue Jays took the 6’7" right hander from Pittsburgh with the 21st pick in the 2016 draft, hoping his plus fastball mixed with a well above average curve, solid slider, and fringy change hoping he could become a middle of the rotation starter. He’s shown promise so far, though he only threw 65.2 innings on the year due to injury and will be using the AFL as a way to make up some of those lost innings.

Catchers

Joe DeCarlo*, C, Mariners, Age 23

Prior to this year DeCarlo was a corner infielder splitting time between first and third, but he has successfully moved behind the plate this season. That move has given some life to his career, as his bat was light for first, and he wasn’t going to field enough to be a third baseman. If he can be a catcher with some pop and some defensive versatility, the Mariners could have a nice piece to work with.

Alex Jackson, C, Braves, Age 21

A former Top 5 draft pick back in 2014 by the Mariners, Alex Jackson failed to live up to his draft status there as injuries limited his production in addition to some rumored attitude concerns. The Mariners dumped him last winter to the Braves for Rob Whalen and Max Povse(who is also on Peoria), and he has seen his stock move up. Jackson has started to hit for power again and moved back behind the plate while moving up to Double A towards the end of the year. He’s not a lock to stick at catcher as he needs to keep improving his defense. His stock isn’t what it was back in 2014, but he’s a name to track again.

Max Pentecost, C, Blue Jays, Age 24

Pentecost is like Jackson in that he was a highly drafted player(11th pick in 2014) who has battled injuries as a pro. Until this year Pentecost has barely seen the field because of his injuries, so he may have fallen off the radar a bit for some. Like Jackson he may not have the ability to stay at catcher as those injuries may have taken away from his arm, but his bat is intriguing elsewhere if he has to move.

Javier Hernandez*, C, Blue Jays, Age 21

Hernandez is a light hitting glove first catcher who has just six homers in 230 career games with a sub-.300 on base percentage. He’s not a significant prospect, but he is still young having spent 2017 in his age-20 season.

Infielders

Michael Chavis, 3B, Red Sox, Age 22

A former first round pick who was starting to get a bust label from some this spring, Chavis finally stayed healthy and performed this year. That equalled a breakout for the powerful third baseman with 31 homers. Though with Rafael Devers already in that role in Boston and is the bigger talent, which could mean the AFL is a chance for Chavis to showcase himself for potential Red Sox trade partners.

Chad De La Guerra, SS, Red Sox, Age 24

The Red Sox got De La Guerra as a senior sign in the 17th round in 2015, and the middle infielder has emerged onto the prospect map this year. Between High A and Double A he has hit .283/.361/.437 with 31 doubles, three triples, nine homers, and seven steals. He’s an adequate defender at both middle infield spots with some ability to hit and run, making him a potential utility candidate.

Eric Filia, 1B, Mariners, Age 25

The Mariners scooped up Filia, an advanced hitter as a senior from UCLA. Filia may not have the ceiling of a starter in the big leagues, but he’s a good contact hitter who gets on base and has some defensive versatility with the ability to play the outfield as well. The only reason he isn’t a bigger prospect is because of his very limited power, as he hit just five homers in 128 games despite being an older prospect in the California League- but he did hit .326/.407/.434.

Javier Guerra, SS, Padres, Age 21

When Guerra was sent by Boston to the Padres before the 2016 season as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade he was a borderline Top 50 prospect. Then he really struggled in 2016 seeing his .778 OPS from 2015 drop nearly 200 points to .589, despite playing in the California League. I saw him as a possible bounceback candidate this year because I had heard he dealt with vision problems last year which have since been corrected, but in 39 games in High A he was actually worse with a .588 OPS. He was still promoted to Double A and did show signs of life with a .625 OPS, but that included a .267 on base percentage. A solid AFL would prove there is still talent in there, but he’s running out of chances to show it.

Lourdes Gurriel, SS/2B, Blue Jays, Age 23

The younger brother of Yulieski Gurriel also came over from Cuba in this last year plus. Lourdes, who got a big contract from the Blue Jays, isn’t considered to be a "prospect" by some due to his experience in Cuba, but regardless of how you label him he is a talent. He struggled this year as he didn’t perform up to his contract and also battled injuries, but this could be the chance he needs to redeem himself.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
Josh Naylor
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Josh Naylor, 1B, Padres, Age 20

The Marlins surprised everyone when they took Canadian slugger Josh Naylor with the 12th pick of the 2015 draft. Naylor didn’t perform up to expectations with the Marlins and was involved in a prank gone bad where a teammate was stabbed, which led to him being dealt to the Padres at the 2016 trade deadline. Naylor showed some promise in High A- though it was in the California League, before moving up to Double A amd struggling a bit. The AFL will be a chance for him to rebound from that.

Austin Riley, 3B, Braves, Age 20

If there is one guy who didn’t want the minors season to end it may have been Riley, who started slow in High A, but ended on a tear in Double A. That followed the same script as his 2016 season in Low A, though he did manage back to back 20 home run seasons. There is some question about his bat speed, but the AFL could provide some answers to that question.

Josh Tobias, 2B, Red Sox, Age 24

The Sox landed Josh Tobias from the Phillies last winter for Clay Buchholz, and the former University of Florida standout had a hot month in High A before spending the bulk of the season in Double A. Tobias doesn’t have much power and doesn’t stand out in any way, but he’s got defensive versatility and can hit, field, and run enough to be in the conversation as a potential utility piece.

Luis Urias, 2B/SS, Padres, Age 21

Luis Urias only turned 20 in June but spent the entire season in Double A, where he proved to be a plus hitter with a .296/.398/.380 slash line against older competition. He’s not going to have much over the fence power, but he should be a guy with plenty of doubles because of his contact ability and mature approach. He’s been a solid defensive second baseman who moved over to short this year and held his own for the most part. Urias may not have a very high ceiling, but he’s the type of Top 50 prospect who is almost a sure thing to be a productive big leaguer.

Outfielders

Ronald Acuña, CF, Braves, Age 19

No other minor leaguer filled their trophy case quite like Acuña did in 2017. This is another chance for him to showcase himself against top competition and prove he’s worthy of taking an Opening Day lineup spot for 2018. Based on talent and proximity to the big leagues he’s easily one of the five biggest players to watch in the AFL.

Braden Bishop, CF, Mariners, Age 24

The Mariners third round pick from 2015 is a sure thing to be a big leaguer, but the question is if Bishop can be a starter or more of a fourth outfielder. Bishop split the year between High A and Double A, hitting .306 with 34 doubles and 22 steals. He doesn’t have any real home run power, but he’s a plus runner and plus defender in center with a borderline plus arm. His bat has made strides this year, and if he can keep it up he is looking like a guy who could possibly be a top of the order bat.

Jonathan Davis, CF, Blue Jays, Age 25

A bit of an older prospect, Davis has moved slow for a college draftee. Still he’s got a power/speed combo worth paying attention to as over the last two seasons between High A and Double A he has averaged 20 doubles, six triples, 12 homers, and 26 steals. He’s got some swing and miss to his game, but he is willing to take a walk and can play all three outfield positions. He’s most likely an extra outfielder, but he’s got a chance to earn a shot with a strong AFL performance.

Kyle Lewis, CF, Mariners, Age 22

The Mariners top pick in 2016, Lewis got off to a great start to his pro career before an ugly knee injury. That knee recovery and some setbacks went into the 2017 season, costing him games and production. Lewis could benefit from a few weeks off before heading to Arizona to try and get back some of those missed at bats. Lewis is a big time talent and the biggest question is how healthy he is, but he’s definitely one of the five guys guys to watch in the AFL just like his teammate Ronald Acuña.

Franmil Reyes*, RF, Padres, Age 22

The hulking 6’5" 240 pound slugger has seen a real growth in his in game power each of the past two years. In 2015 Reyes hit just eight homers in 123 Low A games, but he doubled that in 2016 to 16 homers in 130 High A games. Then this year in his age-21 season he hit 25 bombs in 135 Double A games. The power is there, but there are some questions about his hit tool as well as a chance he ends up at first base longterm.

Anfernee Seymour*, CF, Braves, Age 22

Seymour was acquired by the Braves from the Marlins last August and the former high draft pick has a true 80 grade tool. That tool is his speed, which is an unquestioned 80 grade. Unfortunately his hit tool is a work in progress and he has zero power, though he did make some progress with the hit tool this year. His defense has also been an issue, but the recently converted former shortstop has the tools to succeed defensively. UPDATE Seymour was dismissed from the team before the start of the AFL for a “violation of team rules.” The Braves have instead sent Double A outfielder Jared James. James is the son of former big leaguer Dion James, and a 2016 draftee in the 34th round. The 23 year old spent the entire 2017 season in Double A with a .279/.352/.415 slash line to go with 19 doubles, six triples, and five homers. James, who played much better in the second half of the season is a potential fourth outfielder at the big league level with his contact skills and on base ability despite having limited power.

Potential Lineup:

1.Ronald Acuña, RF

2.Luis Urias, SS

3.Kyle Lewis, LF

4.Michael Chavis, DH

5.Austin Riley, 3B

6.Alex Jackson, C

7.Lourdes Gurriel, 2B

8.Eric Filia, 1B

9.Braden Bishop, CF

Potential Rotation:

1.Brian Johnson, L

2.Touki Toussaint, R

3.Max Fried, L

4.TJ Zeuch, R

5.Max Povse, R

Piggyback Candidates-Walker Lockett, Henry Owens, TJ Weir, Darin Gillies, Ty Buttrey

Potential Bullpen:

Closer-Corbin Clouse

Setup-Art Warren, Jackson McClelland

Middle Relief-Matt Festa, Josh Graham, Andrew Case, David Bednar, Andres Munoz

Lefty on Right-Bobby Poyner

LOOGY-Danny Young