AFL 2015 Wrapped Up

By on December 8, 2015
Minnesota Twins prospect Taylor Rogers was the winning pitcher for the Scottsdale Scorpions in Arizona Fall League championship game. (Buck Davidson photo)

Minnesota Twins prospect Taylor Rogers was the winning pitcher for the Scottsdale Scorpions in Arizona Fall League championship game. (Buck Davidson photo)

The 2015 Arizona Fall League season is in the history books, with the Scottsdale Scorpions emerging as league champions. I spent almost a month in Arizona following the numerous top prospects who participated in the year’s AFL, and thought I would share my thoughts about some of the players I saw. These are players that made a particularly strong impression – favorable or unfavorable – on me during this year’s Arizona Fall league. Keep in mind that I’m not a scout, and the sample size is very small, so these assessments should be taken with a grain of salt.

Hitters:

  • Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees: He cooled off in the latter part of the season, but he still led the AFL in homers, and he tied for the league RBI lead with 21. Sanchez’s defense looked okay, but the small sample size prevents me from going too far out on a limb insofar as his prospects for staying behind the dish long-term. His bat looks like the real deal, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the Bronx as soon as September of 2016.

  • Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs: An injury ended his AFL season early, but Contreras showed some good defensive skills and a fair amount of pop during his 14-game stint. There are legitimate questions as to whether Kyle Schwarber can handle an everyday job behind the plate, and Contreras batted .333 at Double-A this season. He probably won’t be a factor in 2016, but Contreras looks like he could be the future backstop on the north side of Chicago.

  • Rowdy Tellez (Buck Davidson)

    Rowdy Tellez (photo Buck Davidson)

  • Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays: He’s only 20 years old, and his power potential is intriguing, but I’m wondering if Tellez will be able to handle advanced off-speed and breaking stuff as he moves through the Jays’ system. He can flat-out mash when he gets his pitch; I saw him hit a home run that I estimated at about 430 feet.

  • Dominic Smith, 1B, New York Mets: He batted .362 with a .483 OBP in 14 games before an oblique injury ended his AFL season. I didn’t see elite power potential with Smith, but he looks like a very polished hitter – and he’s only 20 years old. Smith should start next season at Double-A, and he could be in the majors by the 2017 season if he continues to progress.

  • Aledmys Diaz, SS, St. Louis Cardinals: He batted .315 in the AFL, and 13 of his 23 hits went for extra bases. Diaz has had his ups and downs since being signed as a free agent from Cuba, but I was very impressed with his ability to make hard contact on a regular basis, and with what I saw as his plus power potential. He batted a rather pedestrian .264-10-46 in 102 games at Double-A this season, and he cleared waivers after being designated for assignment in July. I’m not sold on Diaz’s ability to be a starter in the major leagues, but he’s someone I’ll be watching closely this spring.

  • Christian Arroyo, SS, San Francisco Giants: A polished player who looks to be well on his way to the big leagues; Arroyo has nice pop, but he’s not likely to steal many bases. I’m not sure that he will stick at shortstop, especially now that the Giants have inked Brandon Crawford to a contract extension, but I would expect to see him in the majors within about two years.

  • Mac Williamson (photo Buck Davidson)

    Mac Williamson (photo Buck Davidson)

  • Mac Williamson, OF, San Francisco Giants: It seemed like every time I turned around, Williamson was hitting the ball hard somewhere, so I was surprised to see that only five of his 27 AFL hits went for extra bases. He finished third in the league with a .370 batting average and sixth with a .935 OPS. I liked what I saw of Williamson; he’s a big guy with plus pop, but I’m concerned that he batted just .249 in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this season.

  • Adam Engel, OF, Chicago White Sox: He won the AFL MVP award by batting a league-best .403, but he also drew 16 walks in 19 games while amassing a .523 OBP. Engel smacked out nine doubles, two triples and a homer among his 27 hits, and he finished second in the circuit with 10 stolen bases. The 23-year-old Engel batted just .251 at High-A this season, but he did swipe 65 bases; he will try to build on his fine AFL performance this coming spring.

  • Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: I liked him when I saw him in the Florida State League this season, but he looked overmatched in Arizona. Hopefully he can bounce back this spring.

  • Jurickson Profar, DH, Texas Rangers: He had shoulder surgery back in February, and he didn’t play defense during his AFL tenure, so I can’t comment on how his throwing is coming along. I saw him hit on several occasions, though, and was quite impressed with what I saw: his swing was quick, and the ball was jumping nicely off his bat. His 20 RBIs was good for third best in the league. Profar is reportedly doing well in his throwing program, and he should be full go by the time spring training rolls around. The 22-year-old Profar was the top prospect in baseball just a few years ago; based on what I saw in Arizona, I’m not ready to give up on him.

Pitchers:

Nick Travieso (EDDIE MICHELS PHOTO)

Nick Travieso pitching this summer for the Daytona Tortugas (EDDIE MICHELS PHOTO)

  • Nick Travieso, Cincinnati Reds: Travieso is a burly right-hander who throws what I term a “heavy” ball…he seems very hard to square up and even harder to take out of the yard. He allowed only four homers in 93.1 innings in the Florida State League this season, while posting a 2.70 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He was even better in the AFL, finishing with a 2.05 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, with 20 strikeouts in 22 innings. If he continues to develop, I think Travieso could be in the mix for a rotation spot as soon as the 2017 season.

  • Josh Hader (photo Buck Davidson)

    Josh Hader (photo Buck Davidson)

  • Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers: His fastball sits in the mid-90s, and his wonky delivery makes him very hard to pick up. What impressed me about Hader, though, was that he seemed to have decent secondary pitches – most notably his slider. My first blush was that he was destined for a job in the bullpen, but after watching him throw four shutout innings on November 12, I’m not so sure that he couldn’t challenge for a rotation spot someday soon. Hader finished the AFL with a stellar 0.56 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with 19 strikeouts in 16 innings. Watch this guy closely; I was very impressed.

  • Luke Weaver, St. Louis Cardinals: He’s a smallish right-hander who employs a pitching style that reminds me a bit of Tom Seaver – with his right knee nearly touching the ground. Weaver doesn’t throw overly hard, but he relies on command and a good change-up to get the job done. I saw him on a good day and a bad day; his stuff isn’t overpowering, so it looks like he needs to hit his spots to be effective. I like his future, but his upside looks to be as a No. 3 or No. 4 starting pitcher.

  • Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles: I saw the oft-injured Bundy pitch one inning, and his stuff looked rather flat. He was shut down after that outing with a strained forearm, but the injury isn’t reckoned to be serious. Bundy is still the O’s No. 2 prospect, but he won’t hold that lofty ranking for long if he can’t stay on the field.

  • Mickey Jannis, New York Mets: Jannis is a 27-year-old former 44th round draft pick who spent parts of four seasons in independent ball refining his knuckleball, which eventually earned him a deal with the Mets. He did a remarkable job in the AFL, posting a 2.48 ERA in 29 innings, and he’ll look to continue his amazing odyssey in spring training. If you like rooting for the underdog, this could be your guy.

That’ll about wrap up my Arizona Fall league report; hope you enjoyed it. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to peg a few players’ breakouts before they happened based on what I had seen in the AFL – Nolan Arenado comes immediately to mind – but I’ve also missed big-time on some guys who tore it up in Arizona, and then stunk it up in the majors (looking at you, Dalton Pompey.) Hopefully, something you read in here will give you an early heads-up on a future big-league star. Very happy holidays to you and yours, and we will talk again soon.

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