2006 Arizona Fall League Prospect First Half Update
About three weeks ago, we outlined a number of players to watch in the this season Arizona Fall League. With the all-star gameâ€”named the rising stars gameâ€”being played on October 27th, the first half of the season is over. Here’s an update onthe list, with a few new additions, bringing the current total 21 players representing 14 teams. Pre-season analysis is in Italics, while updates are in regular text.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Atlanta Braves
Jarrod had a fall from grace this season (.230 ba), entering the year as one of baseballâ€™s top catching prospects. The braves originally felt that McCann was simply keeping the seat warm in Atlanta, but with McCann solidifying himself as a #1 big league catcher, Jarrodâ€™s career in Atlanta is now in question. A strong AFL appearance is needed by Jarrod to return him to the ranks of top catching prospects. This season could also be used as a showcase for a possible Atlanta trade.
Sally is tearing apart the AFL so far, hitting .565/.655/.1000 for a ridiculous OPS of 1.655. His offensive output has been nothing short of spectacular, but he had a rough first game defensively, allowing five steals and committing three errors. However, reports are that heâ€™s settled in since then. Even if youâ€™re not a braves fan, sallyâ€™s a guy to keep your eye on, as he may be on the move in a year or two.
Jacoby Ellsbury – Boston Red Sox
Ellsbury had a strong year getting on base, posting a combined .382 OBP in AA & AAA. But his slugging percentage left much to be desired (.425). A terror on the basepaths, ellsbury stole 41 bases this past season. It will be interesting to see how well Ellsbury can slug and run against top flight pitchers & catchers.
Jacoby started in left field in the rising stars game, going 1 â€“ 4. So far his AFL line has been consistent with his Milb line, hitting .306/.386/.408. Ellsbury is 4 for 6 in stolen base attempts so far. With only three extra base hits and two RBIâ€™s so far, letâ€™s see if Jacoby can slug the ball a little more in the second half.
Michael Aubrey – Cleveland Indians
Aubrey, a top prospect coming into this season played only 14 games due to injury. This will be his chance to shine and show that he is one of the top power hitting prospects in all of baseball.
Aubrey kept up with the status quo, which is nursing injuries. He did not make the trip out to Arizona and was replaced by;
Kevin Kouzmanoff â€“ Cleveland Indians
Quite the replacement, Kouzmanoff went on to hit clean-up in the all-star game. So far heâ€™s hitting .429/.487/.743 in the AFL. But get this, he hit a combined .379 between AA & AAA! His total line was .379/.437/.656. In limited MLB playing time (56 AB) he hit 3 HR and hit a grand slam on his first ever major league pitch. While heâ€™s older (07/25/81), Kouzmanoff should be an interesting player to watch next MLB season. As an added bonus, hereâ€™s a note on Kouuzmanoff (3rd baseman) that I wrote after attending a Buffalo Bisons (AAA) game late August;
â€œAt one point in the game he was in position to catch a bouncing ground ball, but at the last moment he pulled his glove back, allowing the SS to catch it and turn it into a double play. A play like that won’t show up in the boxscore but it really showcased his overall baseball knowledge. He went 0 – 4 but he had some solid at bats. In fact, in his first two abs he was able to see a total of 17 pitches.â€
Trevor Crowe – Cleveland Indians
The number one question in the AFL season is how Crowe will perform at second base. An outstanding athlete, Crowe has played most of his professional career in the outfield. However, due to the Indians organizational depth at this position, Crowe is moving to second base. He played the position towards the end of the season in AA & AAA, but with many scouts on hand this will be an interesting development to keep an eye on.
I got this wrong as well. So much for me being an Indians fan. About three to four days before the AFL season, Indians brass did an about face and canceled the Crowe second base experiment. I personally fell that this is foolish, I mean come-on, this is winter ball, and you have nothing to lose if he stinks the joint up. Anyways, so far Crowe has been playing leftfield and has a decent line of .348/.436/.413, although weâ€™d like to see a bump in his SLG percentage in the second half.
Troy Tulowitzki – Colorado Rockies
A season and a half removed from the 2005 draft, Tulowitzki found himself in the rockies infield during the month of September. A strong favorite for a starting position in 2007, all signs point towards Tulowitzki having a strong AFL season.
Well, Tulowitzki has preformed as anticipated, producing a line of .357/.396/.452. Iâ€™m sure heâ€™d like to increase his slugging, but its early. He may be starting to feel a bit of fatigue as well, given that he had to play in September while most of the other prospects were at home resting. Troy was a reserve in the rising stars game.
Hunter Pence – Houston Astros
Iâ€™d like to see how Hunter Pence does this season. A centerfielder in the Houston Astros organization, Pence had a line of .283/.357/.533 with 28 home runs. A strong AFL campaign could lead to Pence competing for a job in the Astros outfield next spring.
Hunter is slugging like a mad man, throwing up a .362/.403/.603 line so far. Heâ€™s also showcasing his speed, going 6-6 in stolen base attempts. Reports are commenting on strong defensive play as well. If youâ€™re a fantasy guy, keep Pence on your radar for the 2007 MLB season.
Ryan Braun – Milwaukee Brewers
A first round selection in 2005 out of Miami University, Braun had a terrific year. In the Southern league, Braun hit .303/.367/.589, with 15 home runs and 19 doubles in 231 at bats. All signs point to Braun continuing his success in the AFL.
Yep, heâ€™s continued his success alright. Heâ€™s current second in HR with 5 and is leading the league with 21 RBI in 13 games. The rest of his line includes his ridiculous .745 SLG percentage, .319/.389/.745. Heâ€™s also gone 3-3 in stolen base attempts. Heâ€™s looking like the real deal and he might be a fast track to the big leagues.
Fernando Martinez – NY Mets
Everyoneâ€™s favorite new prospect, Martinez does not turn 18 until tomorrow (October 10th). In the sally league this year Martinez hit .333/.389/.505. Heâ€™s a left handed batter. It will be interesting to see how Martinez performs against primarily AA – AAA talent at his young age.
Well, Martinez is struggling as expected, hitting .213/.255/.340. But the kid just turned 18 and is playing against the top twenty-something year old prospects in baseball. Hopefully this rush job by the Mets organization doesnâ€™t shake his confidence. Weâ€™ll see how he performs in the second half.
Michael Pelfrey – NY Mets
Pelfrey was rushed to the majors this season due to injuries and it showed. He had a combined 2.43 ERA in the minors this season.
Pelfrey started the All-star game, and after getting into a bases loaded jam, he proceeded to struck out the next three hitters in order. So far, heâ€™s gotten the usual light AFL workload and produced 4 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 2 K.
Erik Duncan – New York Yankees
Last seasonâ€™s AFL MVP, Duncan fell flat on his face this past season. His combined AA & AAA line was .234/.330/.405. Yankees fan are hoping for a strong AFL campaign to put Duncan back on track for 2007.
His AFL line is looking eerily familiar to his 2006 Milb line, at.286/.317/.411. This is well below average for the hitting friendly AFL and he needs to get it going in the second half.
Gavin Floyd – Philadelphia Phillies
A long time top prospect, Floyd has flamed out in his major league appearances. A strong performance in the AFL is a must for Floyd.
Itâ€™s been rough so far for Gavin, with 7.1 IP, 6 H, 5 BB, 5 K. Iâ€™m not writing him off yet, but by now he should be a middle of the line MLB starter, not a work in progress walking 5 in just over 7 IP.
Neil Walker – Pittsburgh Pirates
One of baseballâ€™s highest ranked catching prospects, the switch-hitting catcher increased his national recognition by having a strong futures game performance this season.
In limited playing time (6 games & 34 ab), Walker is hitting .265/.286/.324. This shall sample doesnâ€™t really allow us to get a read. Regardless of this fact, Walker started in the Rising Stars all-star game, going 0-2. Weâ€™ll see how things go in the second half.
Wes Bankston – Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Wes was yet another player with mixed results in 2006. He handled himself well in AAA, hitting .297, but his combined minor league slugging percentage dropped nearly 100 points from 2005. The Rays future at first base, it will be interesting to see how much power Bankston brings to the plate in the AFL.
Bankston suffered a sprained ankle early in the AFL season and will have to miss the rest of the campaign. This has to be a huge disappointment to Wes and the Tampa brass, as all parties were hoping to see a rebound to 2005 production. In limited playing, Bankston was 1-12. He was replaced by;
Elijah Dukes â€“ Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Make no mistake, Dukes is a top-level prospect and many were left scratching their heads when he wasnâ€™t invited to the AFL at the start of the season. A centerfielder, Dukes hit .293/.401/.488 in AAA at the young age of 22. So far, Dukes has scored 7 runs in 3 games, with a early OPS of 1.420.
Curtis Thigpen – Toronto Blue Jays
Thigpen is the considered the future for the Blue Jays catching corps. His 2006 campaign had mixed results, with a line of .259/.370/.421. Obviously his average could use some work, but his walk to strikeout ratio (52/61) is very encouraging.
Curtis started in the Rising Star All-Star game and had a strong first half. His line was .308/.413/.615, giving him a OPS of 1.028. The AFL all-star coach said â€œThiggy runs well for a catcherâ€. Heâ€™s exhibited his usual strong eye in the first half. Letâ€™s see what the second half brings.
Additional Players to Watch
Brett Gardner â€“ New York Yankees
Brett played both in A & AA ball this past season. He hit a combined .298/.395/.370. This included a total of zero homeruns in 449 at-bats. But on the plus side, he walked 70 times, and stole 58 bases in 70 attempts. He is also praised for playing a smooth centerfield. Currently Gardner is leading the AFL in walks with 16 and has but together a line of .333/.493/.426.
Chip Cannon â€“ Toronto Blue Jays
Chip hit 27 HR in AA this past season, but he struckout 158 times. Heâ€™ll turn 25 on Nov 30th, making him one of the older prospects in the AFL this season. Currently he leads the AFL with 7 HR and is second in OPS with a 1.329. The strikeouts are still there (17 in 52 Abs). Letâ€™s see how he fares in the second half.
Yunel Escobar â€“ Atlanta Braves
One of five Cuban defectors to enter the 2005 draft, Yunel (11/02/82) is considered to have plus range and arm from the shortstop position. He had a decent 2006 Milb season, batting .264/.361/.346, but he only hit 2 HR in 428 Abs. .354/.404/.458 is his AFL line so far, which is a pleasant surprise in terms of slugging.
Mark Reynolds â€“ Arizona Diamondbacks
As is the Diamondbacks didnâ€™t have enough prospects already, Reynolds set the minors of fire this season, hitting a combined 318/.401/.633, (OPS 1.034) between A â€“ AA. And it wasnâ€™t all doubles, either, with Mark hitting 31 HR. In the AFL so far heâ€™s hitting .340/.426/.702. Heâ€™s on same AFL team (Scottsdale) as Ryan Braun, howâ€™s that for a third base trio?
Billy Sadler â€“ San Francisco Giants
San Fran prospect Billy Sadler, who features a low-to-mid 90â€™s fastball with movement, ,experienced limited MLB playing time this season (5 IP), but between AA & AAA he held opponents to a .148 BA, striking out 79 in 55.2 IP. His main problem has always been control, walking 31 in those 55.2 IP. So far in AFL he has 12:2 K:BB ratio in 7.1 IP.