Eno Sarris


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AFL Long-Term Prospect Roundup

Monday, November 29, 2010

Last week, we took a look at the Arizona Fall League prospects that could be ready for the primetime. The AFL specializes in just these sort of fast risers, so it was a nice list of the top fantasy-ready prospects in the game.

It's worth noting that some players just missed last week's list. In the case of Jeremy Jeffress, it's hard to see what role he will play in the major leagues despite the fact that he hit 102 MPH in the Rising Stars game. He's most likely a middle reliever unless John Axford's walk rate blows up again. And Freddie Freeman - well, he's ready to go and will take the starting role from day one in Atlanta, but he didn't really play at the AFL this year after a thumb injury.

But there were plenty of players in Arizona that provide hope for the longer term. Just-drafted star players and pitchers that spent some of the year injured come to Arizona for reasons of their own. You may have heard of some of them, even. They deserve a little attention, so let's take a look at the guys that may not make the major leagues until late next season at best. They might even help you next September if things break right.

Bryce Harper, Nationals
The big name, the big bat, and the eye black at night made for an interesting debut for last year's number one pick. Just by being a bat-first number one pick, he's in good company - going back to 1984, the worst slugging number one pick was Pat Burrell. Then again, if Harper ends up anything like Burrell, he'll be called a bust. Superstardom is not assured - a scout mentioned to me that the swing looked high-effort - but Harper's .343/.410/.629 line in the AFL sure made for a good debut. Watch his strikeouts, and check here for a longer breakdown I did on Harper, but we may be talking about a cup of coffee late next year if he tears through the minors like he burned up the AFL.

Mike Montgomery, Royals
Montgomery did not have the best AFL, as he gave up seven earned runs in 10 1/3 innings, but he still impressed those in the stands. Working in shorter stints, the Royals' lefty hit 94 and 95 MPH on the gun and showed the vaunted changeup often. The best news was that his curveball, which has been inconsistent at times, looked great from the stands in Arizona. Montgomery only got 59 2/3 innings at Double-A last year, and started the season in rookie ball, so a cup of coffee or some innings in the major league pen in 2011 are about the best fantasy managers can hope for.

Eric Hosmer, Royals
Hosmer had a great half-season in Double-A last year, a fact that he credits to his Lasik surgery. Batting .313/.365/.615 sure looks great, but the below-average walk rate could improve, and 211 plate appearances at Double-A does not a major-league ready first baseman make. His work at the AFL seems to concur, as he batted .203/.284/.291 in a league known for its offense. Hosmer is still a great prospect - either the first- or second-best prospect in the game at his position - but unless he tears up Double-A once again and comes up mid-season, he probably won't impact fantasy baseball until 2012.

Zack Cox, Cardinals
The Cardinals took Cox in the first round, and took some heat for it. The thing is, he's a college hitter, relatively ready to go, and he plays third base (at least in the short-term) - so he fit a team need. With low-ceiling but defensively-able David Freese in the fold, the team can allow Cox to play some in the minor leagues (he only got 17 plate appearances in rookie ball last year), but with his polish, he'll move quickly. In the AFL, he didn't impress with the bat (.278/.304/.389), so look for Cox to be relevant in spring training 2012, and temper your expectations a bit.

Michael Taylor, Athletics
Taylor was traded to Oakland for Brett Wallace, and seemed ready to go as a 24-year old that had torn up Double- and Triple-A in the Phillies' system. He had power, speed, and great batting averages, and the A's needed star power in their outfield. A year later, and he's in the "long-term" upside category - what happened? Well, Taylor joined the A's system and completely lost his power. Then he went to the AFL and continued the trend (.278/.391/.407) while also looking lost at the plate far too often. Taylor needs to repeat Triple-A for Oakland and recover his lost power stroke before the team will advance him.

Danny Duffy, Royals
Another power lefty in the Royals organization, Duffy also struggled in the AFL. In 15 2/3 innings in Arizona, Duffy gave up 14 (!) earned urns and walked nine batters. Enough with the "Debbie Downer" about Danny Duffy - there are some good signs. Number one is the fact that he was on the mound at all - Duffy famously left baseball for a time, due to some maturity issues. When asked about his past at the AFL, Danny Duffy was contrite, as well - he admitted to being immature, and as any twelve-stepper knows, that's the first step to getting better. Oh, and Duffy also struck out 18 in those poor AFL innings, so look at his Double-A statistics around mid-season for an update.

Marc Krauss, Diamondbacks
Krauss hit 25 home runs in High-A ball in 2010, and then followed it up with a .298/.404/.524 performance at the AFL. He has a nice, clean swing and hasn't struck out too often anywhere. So why isn't he higher on the list? He was drafted after three years at a top college (Ohio), and is a little older than his competition. Scouts also wonder if the bat is a little slow. Then again, the power potential is there, and he deserves to be watched.

Charles Blackmon, Rockies
Another power/speed centerfielder coming up the Colorado organization? Well, done, Rockies, well done. Blackmon hit 11 home runs and stole 19 bags in only 381 plate appearances in Double-A last year, and then went for .264/.372/.417 in the AFL. Most impressive about his performance in Arizona, though, was the fact that Blackmon only struck out six times in 85 plate appearances. If only his team didn't have so many outfielders, he'd be on radars right now.

Tony Sanchez, Pirates
A high draft pick, and nice batting averages, have been Sanchez' claim to fame so far. The power is suspect, as his AFL line (.206/.289/.397) hints. He also hasn't played above High-A yet, so he's a name best filed for later.

Chris Carpenter, Cubs
Not 'that' Chris Carpenter, this Chris Carpenter is coming off TJ surgery and questions about his future role. In the pen, he can hit triple-digits and use his slider to dominate, but the ability might be there to provide more value as a starter. In Arizona, he wowed with velocity, and struck out about a batter per inning, but also walked too many batters. Could be a Carlos Marmol replacement if they ever trade their current closer.

Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
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