Eno Sarris


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Next: Long-Term AFL Prospects

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In part one of our Arizona Fall League wrap-up, we focused on the prospects that were ready to produce in 2012. Many times, the AFL represents their final tune-up before joining the major leagues the following year. Call it the Dustin Ackley approach.

But the AFL also serves as a chance to re-evaluate hot prospects that are screaming through the minor leagues. Maybe they're headed for Double-A with a full head of steam, or maybe they only just joined the high minor leagues and need a little more work before they put in a full year at the more difficult level. Some are recent draftees that may ascend more quickly than usual.

Either way, this second group can be just as exciting for dynasty league owners. If you are in a league that has minor league rosters, watch out for these ascending stars. Each has a skill worth daydreaming about, even if they probably won't join the bigs until September at the earliest.

3B Nolan Arenado, Colorado
The MVP of the league, Arenado is definitely the future at third base in Colorado (after Jordan Pacheco at least). But before you put Arenado in the silver and purple, remember that he hasn't had one plate appearance in Double-A yet. Arenado did put up a ridiculous .375/.472/.625 line, in Arizona but you also have to remember that teams score about six runs a game each down there. Arenado only walked eight times in his 129 plate appearances, but he only only struck out 14 times. That's a lot of contact, and power. He led the league in extra base hits on his way to that hardware. Go get this guy before he blows up Double-A and no-one wants to trade him.

OF Wil Myers, Kansas City
Myers hit a bit of a road bump in Double-A last year. The highly-touted Royals prospect only hit .254/.353/.393 and hit for the lowest isolated slugging percentage (ISO) of his career (.138). He also struck out more often than ever before. So consider it good news that he tied for the league lead in walks at the AFL, and struck out 18 times in 106 PAs. He also had 14 extra base hits, and generally rekindled the excitement surrounding his prospect-hood. With Melky Cabrera out of town, and Jeff Francoeur a veteran on a short-term contract, there's a crack of light at the major league level. Myers could be a late-season call-up if he continues his success.

OF Michael Choice, Oakland
After hitting 30 home runs in 542 High-A PAs, many young prospects might have hit a wall or taken a break. Not a choice for Choice. He blew through the AFL with a .318/.423/.667 line and six home runs. The best thing, though, was that he only struck out 12 times in 90 PAs. Strikeouts were a problem for him his first year, an asterisk for him this past season, and a non-factor in Arizona. If he continues this trend, he'll make an excellent big-leaguer in late 2012 or early 2013.

SP Danny Hultzen, Seatle
He was drafted just this year and there are already rumors that Hultzen will challenge for a big-league rotation spot this next season. His AFL work won't stop that hype train. In a league known for offense, he managed to allow a measly three earned runs in 19 1/3 innings… with 18 strikeouts against five walks. He pitched well in the all-star game, too, with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts. He touched 95 in the game and actually showed the fourth-best velocity among starting pitchers in the desert. Here comes the lefty!

SP Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh
Cole didn't quite wow like Hultzen. For one, he got touched for five runs on two outs in the all-star game even though he was bringing 99 MPH heat. And there aren't any rumors that he'll begin the year in Pittsburgh either. But Cole was cooking with gas, too, and he struck out 16 in his 15 AFL innings, against only four walks. His future is just as bright, and he gets to ply his trade in the easier league.  

C Derek Norris, Washington
Norris doesn't make a ton of contact. Last year in Double-A, he walked 18.2% of the time and struck out 27.7% of the time. If he didn't also have great power (20 home runs in 423 PAs), the low batting averages might be more of a problem. As it is, the strikeouts and the players in front of him in Washington are still a worry. He made a little progress on the contact front in the AFL -- 12 walks and 14 strikeouts in 88 at-bats -- but the power wasn't there for him (.382 slugging). A mixed bag, but he's still exciting enough.

OF Tim Wheeler, Colorado
Wheeler's AFL line (.256/.353/.438) would look fine if it were for his major league debut, but in the AFL it paled in comparison to the competition. And his 26 strikeouts in 138 at-bats wasn't super. But he walked 17 times, and didn't seem that terrible in person. Paul Sporer was there and felt that he had "legitimate gap power" and that his 2011 AFL work shouldn't be the measuring stick for his potential. Keep an eye out on him, but the team has enough outfielders for now.

MI Jean Segura, Los Angeles A.L.
The next Angel middle infielder hit .310/.344/.425. The average AFLer hit .286/.363/.454. Amazing what a league context can do to a number. The big questions for the guy who stole 50 bags in High-A in 2010 is if he stays at short, and what happens to Erick Aybar. An Erick Aybar with more speed is an appealing thing in fantasy.

OF Aaron Hicks, Minnesota
Hicks has been striking out a little too much for a guy that's more of a speedster than a power bat. The good news is that he's made progress making contact during the fall. Oh, and he also hit five triples, two doubles, and three home runs, so the power is coming too. Let's see if he can keep it going into Double-A.

3B Josh Vitters, Chicago N.L.
It seems like he's been around forever, but recently Vitters has made it look like his all-contact, no-patience approach might just work. he doesn't have great power or speed, but some years he puts up above-average power and makes enough contact to put up okay counting stats.  He only struck out ten times in Arizona, so it's sort of okay he only walked four times. With Aramis Ramirez out of town, it looks like Vitters actually should have been in the 'ready for the bigs' article, but he's an enigma wrapped in a mystery.

SS Tim Beckham, Tampa Bay
Beckham needed to show some patience in his battle to re-establish himself as a real prospect at a position of need for the Rays. So it's good that he walked 15 times in 105 PAs. But he still struck out a little too much. He's another name that might actually be close to the big leagues, but also another guy that has dubious offensive upside.

3B Jedd Gyorko, Padres
Gyorko actually played in Double-A last year, but he's got a couple third base prospects ahead of him in the organization, so he has obstacles to overcome (unlike the two players above). He doesn't strike out much and has good patience, but his power is the question mark. In Arizona, he made hard contact at the fourth-highest rate according to Trackman, and he also managed nine extra base hits in 81 PAs. Remember his name.

SS Joe Panik, San Francisco
Panik hit the streets of Salem for Low-A and he walked more than he struck out. Panik hit the desert and struck out one more time than he walked. So that part of his game is ready to go. Who knows how much power the Giant shortstop will develop, but the big club needs a shortstop if he shows he can handle Double-A next year.

SP Sammy Solis, Washington
Solis showed one of the better curveballs (by spin rate, recorded by Trackman) in Arizona despite his 4.5 ERA and 1.73 WHIP. And he did strike out 25 in 26 innings, which is about in line with his HIgh-A work last year. Hopefully his 16 walks don't mean anything, because he always had good control to date.

1B Joe Terdoslavich, Atlanta
It's turr-DAW-slavich, get your mind out of the gutter. The next Braves first base prospect had a nice .321/.424/.548 kind of fall, with 11 extra base hits. He struck out a little bit too much, though, and has a full year or two in the high minors before he's really relevant.

OF Anthony Gose, Toronto
Milwaukee's centerfield prospect Logan Schafer played better than Gose in Arizona, who struck out a whopping 41 times in his 133 PAs. Gose has more tools, but both players are blocked right now and Gose is the one striking out too much.

3B Jefry Marte, New York, N.L.
Marte had a good fall. He walked as much as he struck out, hit four out of the park, and looked good at third. But he also spent four full years in the Mets' minor league system without really showing much promise and broke his left wrist at the end of fall league play. Now he's unprotected and will need some Rule Five draft luck to make an impact.

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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