2017 AFL Most MLB Ready Hitters

There have been a lot of AFL top prospect list circulating cyberspace so I decided to do something a little different. This is my “AFL Most Major League Ready” list. In other words, if I were to assemble a team with the sole purpose of winning MLB games in 2018, these are the players I would select. Also considered players are in parenthesis. Performance in the upper minors and my belief in how likely current skills are to play at the major league level were heavily weighted/considered in my thought process.

  1. CF Victor Robles (Steven Duggar, Charlie Tilson)
  2. DH Francisco Mejia
  3. LF Ronald Acuna
  4. 3B Sheldon Neuse (Lucas Erceg)
  5. 1B Michael Chavis (Billy McKinney)
  6. RF Monte Harrison (Kyle Tucker, Eric Filia, LaMonte Wade)
  7. C Sean Murphy (Will Smith, Tomas Nido)
  8. 2B Luis Guillorme (Luis Urias, Thairo Estrada)
  9. SS Nicky Lopez (Luis Guillorme, Kevin Kramer)

CF – For a fleeting second I thought about Steven Duggar and Charlie Tilson. The latter was among the most polished players in the AFL, but I wonder whether he’s good enough to be more than a fourth OF. The former brings a nice power-speed combo to the table, but there are some holes in the swing. I think we’re looking at a 25% K rate guy who will draw walks, hit for some power, and does enough to be an above average offensive CF.

Having said that, Robles was the clear choice. Since you are reading this I do not think I need to elaborate much. 70 speed, 70 arm, 60 defense, and 60 hit is not much of a stretch. Last season he had a cup of coffee in the majors and spent over a month in AA. In 2018 after a couple of months of procedural service time manipulation, we should see him in the majors.

DH – Since Francisco Mejia only played 3B and DH this fall, I am slotting him in at DH. He would have been the obvious choice at catcher otherwise.

LF – Ronald Acuna

3B – My man crush on Sheldon Neuse grew over the course of the fall. It apexed when I saw him play a passable short on two occasions. He has a plus arm and plays above average defense at third. At the plate he has good strike zone awareness and utilizes a mostly contact-based, opposite-field approach. Having said that, he is also capable of dropping his back shoulder and tapping into his power to all fields at opportune times. There wasn’t much debate in my mind that he is the third baseman I want on this team. Lucas Erceg warranted some thought due to some eye-popping tools. The arm is ridiculous and he showed off prodigious power. Overall, he was less impressive than Neuse, especially at the plate.

1B – The options at first base did not blow me away (cue Shania Twain “That Don’t Impress Me Much”). I ended up settling on Michael Chavis, a pseudo first baseman. Chavis looked below average defensively at third despite his plus arm. I think a move across the diamond is inevitable. I expect Chavis to strike out a little more than his minor league numbers would suggest, but his raw power is 70 grade, and he does well getting to it in games. The power may be enough to carry his profile even at first. It’s worth noting that Chavis has been lauded for his workman-like, blue collar approach to preparation.

Shockingly only 22, Billy McKinney feels like somewhat of a post-hype sleeper. He’s already logged over 1000 PAs in AA and half a season at AAA. The power emerged last year and was on display in the AFL too. Compared to the other 1B options (Naylor, Bradley, etc) I think he would acquit himself well next season.

RF – With Acuna and Robles inked into two OF spots, and that left a few worthy outfielders for one remaining spot.

Astros prospect Kyle tucker has tremendous bat speed, but he also has also swung and missed a lot this fall. Often times he looked like he just wanted to go home. I heard the Astros asked him to focus on getting more loft in his swing and told him not to worry about about strikeouts. Glancing at his Fangraphs page, the numbers bear this out. Regardless, I think he still needs more seasoning in the high minors. If he were to break camp with the Astros, it’s not hard to envision a long, strikeout-ridden slump at the MLB level.

Eric Filia has looked great this fall, frequently barreling baseballs to all fields and displaying an excellent ability to protect the zone. Extension of his 2017 full-season performance in the AFL has helped to allay concerns about his age. He put up a .362/.407/.434 slash with more walks than strikeouts in High-A, but at age 25 (7/6 birthday), he was old for the level. Unfortunately, he provides little game power. I was surprised to see he had a 3.4% HR/FB rate in the hitter-friendly confines of the Cal League. Defensively, he isn’t too flashy. It’s about average range and a fringey arm. With limited power and a middling defensive profile, there is a ton of pressure on the bat, but thus far he’s been doing it.

Another viable option is Twins OF LaMonte Wade. Like Filia, Wade is a guy who can use all fields and control the zone. He also walked more than he struck out last year. It’s worth noting Wade was about a year younger than Filia and played at AA Chattanooga, a more difficult level and a more pitcher-friendly park. At present, I think Filia is the better hitter, but not by a large margin. Wade has shown more ability to get loft, and Filia has more consistent gap power. Wade is the superior defender, projecting to be a roughly league average.

After lengthy consideration and mental tug-of-war, I landed on maybe the most obvious candidate, Monte Harrison. Filia and Wade appear “safer” and more ready offensively, but I found it hard to ignore Harrison’s tools. I think Harrison would have hefty swing and miss if he were thrust into a MLB lineup now but his skills would also shine through at times. The game power is legitimate, and he would run into some homers. His cyborg arm and overall plus athleticism would be an excellent fit in this hypothetical team’s RF corner.

C – Sean Murphy is a plus defender with a double-plus arm and a bat that could play to average. Will Smith and Tomas Nido were decent alternatives, but for me Murphy is a cut above. I wrote more about Murphy here: https://baseballbellcurve.com/category/teams/al-west/athletics/

2B – Luis Guillorme, Thairo Estrada, and Luis Urias all played full seasons at AA last year, which makes them appear equally qualified to make the jump to the big club. However, they have played 474, 375, 347 minor league games, respectively. Guillorme is two years older than Estrada and three years older than Urias. Guillorme would play the best second base defense among the three. Praise of his hands has been ubiquitous in baseball circles. He makes excellent plays on the periphery of his (albeit limited) range. All three players have question marks with regard to their game power and sported GB:FB ratios around 2:1. Urias has the consensus best bat among the three, but I am having trouble imagining major league success next year due to his lack of power. He’s a very difficult evaluation. What do you do with a 70 hit 20 power player? There’s a chance Urias takes a step forward next year and makes this paragraph look like utter nonsense, but I am not ready to bet on it. In the long term, he is the obvious selection. For 2018 alone, I would give a slight nod to Guillorme due to his defense and the uncertainty surrounding all of their bats. I have to admit this is the selection I feel least confident about.

SS – There was no infielder who elicited more adoration from scouts this fall than Nicky Lopez. He’s a slick defender with good hands and a plus arm. The bat speed is plus, and he can foul pitches off until he gets something he likes. It’s a mostly linear bat path with gap to gap power, but for a shortstop you are taking this alllll day. On top of it all, he has plus speed. The more I watched him, the more I thought every-day player. I considered Guillorme (who played both SS and 2B) due to his defense and overall polish, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered whether Lopez was also the superior defender. The answer is yes. Besides, I had already used Guillorme to fill my second base spot. Pirates Kevin Kramer was given some consideration, but his carrying tool is his bat, and I have some qualms as to how it would play in MLB next season. The defense and overall package from Lopez feels like a safer bet.

 

 

2017 AFL Most Major League Ready Pitchers

There have been a lot of AFL top prospect list circulating cyberspace so I decided to do something a little different. This is my “AFL Most Major League Ready” list. In other words, if I were to assemble a team with the sole purpose of winning MLB games in 2018, these are the players I would select. Also considered players are in parenthesis. Performance in the upper minors and my belief in how likely current skills are to play at the major league level were heavily weighted/considered in my thought process.

Today I am posting about the pitchers. Hitters coming soon!

SP1 RHP Mitch Keller, SP2 LHP Max Fried, SP3 RHP Burch Smith, SP4 RHP Tyler Beede, SP5 LHP Justus Sheffield (Alec Mills, Elniery Garcia, TJ Zeuch, Walker Lockett)

RP1 RHP Sandy Alcantara, RP2 RHP Cody Carroll, RP3 RHP Dean Deetz, RP4 LHP Kirby Bellow, RP5 LHP Kyle Regnault  (Art Warren, Nolan Blackwood, Zac Houston, Gerson Moreno, Andres Munoz)

Starters:

Mitch Keller (RHP) Pittsburgh Pirates – This is an extremely polished pitcher. His fastball command was (probably) the best in the league. The curve command was wicked impressive. Keller can use it inside-outside and in-out (of the zone) at will. Keller’s change is not flashy, but it generated a lot of ground balls. I also noticed a high 80s pitch that moved glove side in a couple of Keller’s starts. I think it is a hard slider, but it may also be a cutter. He pitched with purpose and was able to change eye levels and sequence. It’s a well-rounded arsenal that should keep hitters off balance at the highest level.

Max Fried (LHP) Atlanta Braves – Scouts I have spoken with love Fried’s athletic delivery. His arm is sneaky-fast because his delivery starts slowly before catapulting home at full speed. The fast arm is great, but this attribute accentuates instances when his arm speed slows down. I believe these are semi-telegraphed offspeed pitches. In spite of this blemish, I think Fried has what it takes to perform in the majors. The fastball sat 92-94 and touched 95 with cut at times. His mid 80s change was not thrown much in my looks, but I have read it has plus potential. The high 70s curve is devastating when located. In limited action last year, he performed well in the majors making him a seasoned veteran on this list.

Burch Smith (RHP) Tampa Bay Rays – Somewhat of an under the radar guy, I only caught him once this fall but came away impressed. His motion was easy, and the delivery utilized his lower half well. I liked how he pitched with confidence. Smith mostly stayed in the zone and challenged hitters, especially early in counts. The fastball sat 92-95, and Smith seemed to leave a little in the tank for two-strike counts when he would amp it up to 96 or 97. His high 70s curveball missed a lot of bats. Smith tended to use it below the zone after fastballs up. The third offering was a changeup which was effectively mixed in. Arm injuries have derailed Smith’s career to date. If he can stay healthy, it shouldn’t shock anyone to see him in Tampa’s rotation next year.

Tyler Beede (RHP) San Francisco Giants – The depth of Beede’s repertoire stood out to me. I wish got to see more of him. I caught him on 10/31 when he went four innings. His fastball had three distinct variations. There was a mostly straight four-seamer around 93-94 (T95). There was a low 90s cutter that broke glove side late. And there was a low 90s sinker with decent drop and some armside fade. Beede also employed a slider in the low 80s, a curve in the high 70s and a change in the mid 80s. His offerings all had different velocity bands and moved in different directions. Beede peppers the lower third of the zone and strikes me as a pitch to contact guy who should have a high ground ball rate, eat innings, and occupy the back end of a rotation. With 109 AAA innings in 2017, he’s nearly a finished product.

Justus Sheffield (LHP) New York Yankees – I believe his three-pitch mix gives Sheffield enough to start every fifth day. My first looks at Sheffield were this fall. From what I gather, there has been an uptick in his velocity. He sat 93-95 and touched 97. His mid-upper 80s slider may be his best pitch. The changeup feel also exceeded my expectations. He was able to get ks on all three of his pitches, which bodes well for his future success. I think he could fit into the back end of a rotation now, but there is room for more if his changeup can improve to be a league average pitch. (Video of Sheffield also available on my YouTube station)

Other Starters Considered: I almost selected Alec Mills over Sheffield for the fifth spot. Based purely off prospect pedigree, it doesn’t seem like a fair comparison. For next season alone, it’s a lot closer than one may think. Mills doesn’t project to be much more than a fifth starter, but he’s already pitched extensively at AAA. He is the more polished guy right now. His fastball, curve, slider, and changeup all sink in different directions. He can get in trouble when pitches are left up, which results in a shellacking. To some degree, he relies on hitters getting themselves out, but he has a good feel for all his offerings and looks major league ready. Elniery Garcia and TJ Zeuch have more ceiling than Mills, but I would like to see them “do it” at higher levels. I feel like both are high floor (4th or 5th SPs) too. Lastly, Walker Lockett is a really interesting guy. His build is that of a prototype pitcher, 6’5” 225 lbs. This fall his slider (83-87) generated a lot of swing and miss. I was surprised to see he had only a 13% K rate in AAA last season, possibly the result of a rash of injuries including his shoulder, back, and finger. Granted it was only a limited sample, but 22 k in 25 IP this fall feels more indicative of his true talent level. This someone to keep an eye on.

Relievers:

Sandy Alcantara (RHP) St. Louis Cardinals – There are split opinions on whether Alcantara can remain a starter. The consensus seems to be he will move to the bullpen where his stuff can play up and his command deficiencies won’t matter as much. His fastball grazes 100 but doesn’t get as much swing and miss as you may expect, largely due to his poor command and hitters’ lack of respect for his breaking pitches. Having said that, there isn’t much doubt he can occupy a closer role which is perfect for me in this exercise. (Video of Alcantara also available on my YouTube station)

Cody Carroll (RHP) New York Yankees – I am fairly confident you could drop Carroll into a MLB pen next year, and he’d be fine. He uses a leg kick to create deception and has phenomenal stuff to boot. The fastball sits 95-98 and gets good swing and miss. Hitters do not pick it up well out of his hand. His high 80s slider has sharp two-plane break and is an excellent second pitch. His third pitch is a mid 80s splitter with quality drop. I think he will be a high leverage guy with a chance to close.

Dean Deetz (RHP) Houston Astros – Like a fine wine, Deetz grew on me over time. The stuff was always evident. A hard fastball touching 98 jumps off his hand. It’s pretty straight, but it’s hard enough to get swings and misses when located. His slider has nasty break, and he uses it to both sides of the plate or as a chase pitch. At times he will miss with it glove side, but the command is much better than I originally thought. His change isn’t bad either. It’s interesting to note, Deetz was primarily used as a starter in 2017. He walked an absurd 8.2/9 IP in 45 1/3 innings with AAA Fresno as a starter. A ratio of 4 BB in 11 innings as a reliever this fall was a monumental improvement. It looks like a switch to the pen was the panacea Deetz needed. I read Houston added him to their 40 man so it seems likely we will see him in the majors in sometime in 2018.

Kirby Bellow (LHP) Arizona Diamondbacks – Can we get some lefties up in here? Yes, yes we can. Bellow is one of my personal cheeseballs. I wrote about him in more detail earlier this fall. He had excellent command of his fastball and slider, often pounding the zone away against left-handed hitters. I was later surprised to see him on Jim Callis’ AFL best tools list in the “under consideration for best changeup” section. (http://m.mlb.com/news/article/260341206/afls-fall-stars-game-features-top-tools/) Bellow only allowed two hits to lefties in 2017 in over 60 plate appearances. *Promoter drops mic and exits the stage.* (Video of Bellow also available on my YouTube station)

Kyle Regnault (LHP) New York Mets – A 2012 Indy Ball signee out of the Canadian-American Association, Regnault is the walking personification of the cliche “To be greater than the sum of your parts”. His fastball is below average. The change and slider, average maybe? The curve, possibly plus? Add plus location and a willingness to pitch backwards and you get a pretty good pitcher. Regnault has been very effective at painting the bottom of the zone and below the zone in my looks. To satisfy my own selfish curiosity, I am pulling for him to get a shot in the Mets pen at some point next season.

Other relievers considered: There are very legitimate arguments to be made for Art Warren, Nolan Blackwood, and Zac Houston over Kyle Regnault and Kirby Bellow. All I saw Houston do out in AZ was shove. I think he will move quickly through the Tigers system. He’s a big guy with plus extension that helps his stuff play up. Blackwood has done things like strike out Francisco Mejia on three pitches, which made an indelible mark in my lobe. Warren’s fastball/slider combo was among the handful of best 1,2 punches I’ve seen in the AFL. Ultimately, all three were a little too far away to warrant selection (none appeared above High A). Padres’ Andres Munoz is even farther from the majors but had to be considered due to his elite stuff. Lastly, I love what I have seen from Gerson Moreno this fall, but right now his command needs some work.

 

11/13/17, 11/14/17 AFL Notes

AFL Notes 11/14/17

Monte Harrison (OF) Milwaukee Brewers – The term tool shed was made for guys like Monte Harrison. A college football recruit at Nebraska, he is a premium athlete. The speed, arm and power are all plus tools. I think Harrison best fits in right due to his arm. It’s an easy 60 maybe 70 from what I have seen this fall. I have Harrison 4.25 home to first, which is plus from the right side. Taking a glance at his BaseballReference page, he stole 27 bases in 31 attempts last year. This leads me to believe he can read pitchers well and has base stealing acumen. At the plate, Harrison’s approach was somewhat erratic. At times he displayed good plate discipline, working counts by fouling off pitches and taking borderline balls. At other times, he expanded the zone by chasing fastballs up or a breaking pitches down and away. I think there will always be some swing and miss in his game. I was talking to Derek Corr (Twitter: @dcorr82) who brought up the issue of Harrison’s hands when he swings. If you examine the swing, Harrison starts with his hands high and dips them as the swing begins. The bat speed is plus, but this extra motion adds length to his swing. Despite the swing and miss, Harrison gets to his power consistently in games. It’s easy plus power, generated mostly by his strong hands and quick wrists. Today he crushed a Henry Owens pitch opposite field (the open face home run in the video). I think Harrison has a first-division ceiling and a very good chance to be an every day player. Even if the hit tool lags, the compilation of other tools will buoy his overall profile.

AFL Notes 11/13/17

Estevan Florial (OF) New York Yankees – If Harrison is a tool shed, then I suppose that makes Florial a Home Depot.  I’ll be here all week. Someone punch me. The tools are “you need earmuffs loud”, and one scout cited Florial as a top three prospect in the AFL. The speed is elite (70). I have a couple sub-four home to first times and a number at 4.10 or better. He can reach full speed by his second step, which is really impressive. Center field is the most likely landing spot. His arm is also plus. It’s an excellent defensive package. Offensively, there were some concerning trends. Florial has a lot of swing and miss, especially on breaking pitches down. Right now he doesn’t recognize spin. Often this is a skill young hitters acquire over time, and Florial just turned 20 on Small Business Saturday (11/25). For this reason many scouts are not worried about him long term. Just don’t expect a rapid Acuna-esq ascent from Florial. I think there will be growing pains. Rumors have it he’s shown plus raw in BP, but I haven’t seen it materialize much in games. The bat speed is excellent and his swing has upward plane, neither of which explain his high groundball rate. I suspect poor timing is the culprit. When he does barrel, the results are impressive. It just hasn’t happened much in my looks. The hard contact on barrels combined with his speed should help Florial sustain abnormally high BABIPs, maybe in the .350s. Overall, the raw ingredients are here for a first-division player. As is often the case, utility of the hit tool will go a long way in determining his effectiveness. I think it’s a potential 50 at maturity. However, when he reaches maturity is up in the air for me.

11/11/17, 11/13/17 AFL Notes

AFL Notes 11/13/17

Kyle Regnault (LHP) New York Mets – Left-handed command specialist is the best four-word phrase I could come up with to describe Regnault. His fastball is not overpowering, but it can be effective due to his array of secondary offerings. He can run the fastball arm side in on the hands of right-handed hitters or straighten it. Regnault’s best pitch is a high 70s curveball with two plane movement and hefty depth. He’ll throw it either at the bottom of the zone or as a chase pitch. The curve gets a lot of swing and miss. Regnault also employs a low 80s slider. It’s not as good as the curve, but it serves as an effective change of pace. The fourth option is a low 80s changeup that has moderate depth and fade. He seemed to reserve this pitch for lefties and would run it away from them. Regnault’s overall arsenal works because he is able to command all four offerings and keep them down in the zone. I think he is polished and ready for a shot at middle relief in the majors.

AFL Notes 11/11/17

Adam Choplick (LHP) Texas Rangers – After losing out to Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson in the casting process for Game of Thrones’ “The Moutain”, Choplick resorted to his backup plan, a baseball career. He is a massive human, listed at 6’9” 250. With his colossal frame and long arms, one might expect natural plus extension, but his use of a high three-quarters arm slot undermines it. On the other hand, his height and arm slot allow Choplick to pitch with significant downhill plane. I can see this having divergent effects on his fastball and curveball. His high 70s curveball already has quality depth, which is augmented by the plane. Hitters should swing over the top or make contact on the top of the ball, meaning lots of ground balls. Alternatively, plane on his 92-95 mph fastball should result in fly balls. I think hitters will gauge its downward angle and respond with an upward-sloping bat path, allowing them to keep their bat in the zone longer. The uppercut path should result in more fly balls.

The curveball has been Choplick’s most-used secondary offering, and he commands it well. I think the command combined with its aforementioned depth make it a plus pitch. His slider was serviceable but below average. Choplick used it inside to jam right-handed hitters. Choplick has posted excellent numbers in the minors but has also been older than league averages. Next season he will be more age-appropriate in the Texas League, which should be revealing. Overall, Choplick looks like a pen piece. I think the stuff falls short of a closer profile, but middle relief or setup are possible outcomes.

11/02/17, 11/06/17 AFL Notes

11/06/17 AFL Notes

Sean Murphy (C) Oakland Athletics – Murphy has a well-rounded game with defensive skills that are likely to play at the highest level, not only giving him a high floor but also a good chance to be an everyday player. The arm is elite. Scout chatter is he threw out a runner by 10 feet with a 1.78 pop earlier in this fall. I have seen him around 1.85, but regardless it is a legitimate weapon and 70 grade tool. Today, I saw Murphy make a smooth back-handed stop and throw out Thairo Estrada from his knees. Murphy’s blocking ability is also quite good, earning plus grades. I can attest to his propensity for making quality blocks on pitches in the dirt. It is a regular occurrence. The jury is still out on the bat, but I am encouraged by what I have seen. Murphy swings really hard and has respectable contact skills. During the 11/02 game, he went oppo on a 98 mph offering from Jordan Hicks, and scouts in my vicinity asserted, “This kid does not get cheated.” Balls on the ground are normally pulled, and fly balls are hit to all fields. I think it is a potential 50 bat at maturity, which would make Murphy a first-division regular. Having said that, 2018 will be a big litmus test as he will have another crack at AA Midland. The struggle was real in AA last season, with a slash line of .209/.288/.309 in 217 PAs. Based on his AFL performance thus far, I am optimistic Murphy can figure out AA pitching and will find himself on the precipice of the majors next year.

11/02/17 AFL Notes

Jordan Hicks (RHP) St. Louis Cardinals – In 2015 the Cardinals used their third round pick on a high school pitcher from Houston, Texas who sat 92-93 and touched 96 with his fastball. That pitcher was Jordan Hicks. Now he’s a 21-year-old that sits 96-98 and can touch triple digits. I think we can throw that into the developmental success bucket! Today the velo did not disappoint, as my gun displayed one hundo. The velocity was sexy, but the pitch missed fewer bats than I expected (between today and my previous viewing). I think the underlying causes were pitch location and lack of movement (i.e. it’s a straight fastball). The secondary offering was a slider in the 83-87 range, which Hicks “played with” to vary velocity. It made sharp two-plane break and missed a fair amount of bats. I think it’s a potential plus pitch. Hitters looked to be geared up for the heat and swung over it. Also, I’m no expert but Hicks’ mechanics appear sub-optimal. Watching him in .25x speed, you can see the front leg and body move toward home well before the arm starts moving forward. I think the result is a disproportionately heavy burden on his arm (relative to many deliveries). Deliveries look more natural when the torso, legs, and arm all move toward home concurrently. The delivery combined with the stuff look like a golden ticket to the bullpen, which is not necessarily a negative. The Cardinals may have found themselves a future closer.

(11/9 Edit – The more I think about it, I wonder how much Hicks’ velocity gain is simply due to throwing shorter stints. I’ve read he was throwing roughly as hard as his HS velo in 2016 when he started games. He began relieving toward the end of 2017. Perhaps this is cause of the spike.)

Arizona Fall League Fall Stars – East Preview

This fall I have attended 27 Arizona Fall League games (and counting!) and have seen most of the players on the East Fall Stars Roster first-hand. My thoughts and opinions are formed by a combination of my own observations, discussions with scouts, and overhearing scout chatter. There were a few players I did not see enough to warrant a write-up. Sorry about those guys!

Pitchers

Yency Almonte (RHP) Colorado Rockies – It’s a loose arm with an easy delivery. His fastball sat 92-95 and touched 97 without much effort. The slider and change were around average. Currently, his command is below average. Some days he will look like a borderline-ace, and other days he will struggle finding the zone. Almonte profiles best as a starter due to the ease of his delivery. I think the most likely outcome is a back-end starter, but there’s a chance he could be a #3 if the command improves.

Adbert Alzolay (RHP) Chicago Cubs – Alzolay works with a quick tempo and controls the pace of play. I like his aggressiveness, but I have also seen instances where it comes back to haunt him when his command is errant. His arm is fast and the delivery is repeatable. The fastball has decent sink and can generate ground balls or strikeouts. It sits 93-94 and touches 96. Alzolay will use it in all quadrants of the zone and will use it to change the hitter’s eye level. His curve features mostly vertical movement with some glove-side movement. It’s a plus offering that is used mostly as a chase pitch or early in counts to steal strikes. The changeup lags behind his other pitches and is used more sparingly. I have seen Alzolay locate it inside on right-handed hitters. The range of probable outcomes here is a #3-#5 starter.

Kirby Bellow (LHP) Arizona Diamondbacks – I want to start with a slash line: .039/.180/.098. That is what left-handed hitters hit vs Bellow in 61 plate appearances last season. Granted it’s a small sample, but it’s not hard to see why. His arm angle and fastball/curveball combo are really tough on lefties. Bellow looks like a middle reliever, with the floor of a loogy. I wrote about Bellow in more detail here:

https://baseballbellcurve.com/2017/10/26/101317-101417-arizona-fall-league-notes/

Brennan Bernardino (LHP) Cincinnati Reds – The curveball is plus and he throws it a lot. The rest of the arsenal is pretty fringey. This tweet sums it up for me. I think the ceiling here is middle relief.

Brennan Bernardino

Tyler Cyr (RHP) Chicago White Sox – The fastball sat in the low 90s and touched 93 in my looks. His offspeed was a slider in the low to mid 80s. The arm speed was noticeably slower for his offspeed pitches. And he grunted audibly at times, suggesting this is a high effort delivery. I think it’s a middle relief ceiling.

James Farris (RHP) Colorado Rockies – I have seen Farris two or three times. He has a fairly pedestrian fastball (sitting in the low 90s, touching 93) and slider (83-85). He’s another guy with a middle relief ceiling for me.

Gerson Moreno (RHP) Detroit Tigers – Moreno is a potential closer whose fastball ranges from mid to high 90s with some natural cut. His slider features mostly vertical drop and his command of the pitch seems to have improved over the course of 2017. I think his floor is a setup guy. I wrote about Moreno in more detail here:

https://baseballbellcurve.com/2017/10/28/102517-102617-arizona-fall-league-notes/

Justus Sheffield  (LHP) New York Yankees – An almost major-league ready guy, Sheffield looks polished. His fastball has sat 93-95 in my looks and has touched 97. He throws a hard slider in the 85-87 range. It’s a plus pitch with good late depth and glove side fade. The changeup was better than I was expecting. It was in the high 80s, and Sheffield likes to use it on the right side of the plate (from batter’s perspective). Overall, I think Sheffield has a good shot to be a #3 starter and an outside shot of being a #2. I wrote more here:

https://baseballbellcurve.com/2017/10/25/101017-arizona-fall-league-notes/

Catchers

Aramis Garcia (C) San Francisco Giants – He is a bat first catcher who could have 50 hit and 50 power at maturity. I think the defense is passable but not special. He has a chance to be a second division player, but I think that is the ceiling. It’s more likely he settles in as a bench guy who fills in at catcher and first base to spell starters.

Tomas Nido (C) New York Mets – Nido has a well-rounded skill set that should make him a high floor player because he is not overly reliant on one tool. As a result, I don’t think there is a large gap between his ceiling and floor. The bat has improved in recent years. He does a decent job controlling the zone and does not strike out much. Also, I think the defense is better than he gets credit for. I have seen pop times in the 1.84-1.90 range, and he has shown an affinity for making solid blocks on balls in the dirt. I believe he can be a second division regular.

Infielders

Yordan Alvarez (1B) Houston Astros – I have only seen Alvarez a couple of times. He has been out due to an injury. He seems to have an advanced bat for his age.  Other than that, I cannot offer up any insight.

David Bote (2B, OF) Chicago Cubs – He been one of Arizona Fall League’s best performers this season. The question everyone should be asking is how legit is it? For me it looks like Bote has good awareness of the zone, but the bat speed is just average. I am putting more credence in his 470 AB slash of .272/.353/.438 at AA than his .357/.429/.607 slash in 56 AFL ABs (as of 11/2).

Thairo Estrada (SS) New York Yankees – The range of likely outcomes for Estrada is somewhere between a second division regular and a super utility guy. I have observed a plus arm and defensive skills that would play at shortstop, second, or third. The bat lacks pop, but Estrada makes a lot of contact and has solid plate discipline.

Luis Guillorme (2B) New York Mets – He has great hands and is a good defender. The offensive profile is limited by a flat swing and a lack of power, as a result he looks like a bench bat and defensive replacement. I wrote more about him here:

https://baseballbellcurve.com/2017/10/28/102317-102417-arizona-fall-league-notes/

Ryan Mountcastle (3B) Baltimore Orioles – As Chris Kusiolek (@calikusiolek) notes, Mountcastle seems to have made improvements at the plate this fall. Earlier in the AFL season, he was struggling vs offspeed pitches. More recently, he is doing a better job tracking spin. This 11/1 clip where he faces Argenis Angulo does a good job illustrating that. I am optimistic this improvement will result in a higher walk rate from Mountcastle next year and a possible step forward in his overall offensive game. I have heard concerns over Mountcastle’s arm, but haven’t noticed it as a below average tool thus far. It is something I am keeping an eye out for.

Chris Mountcastle Tweet

Sheldon Neuse (3B) Oakland Athletics – This is a guy I like who I think is a bit underrated on various prospect lists. Offensively, he can control the zone and has more of a contact-oriented approach than power-oriented approach. He can use all fields but has a tendency to go the other way. On defense, the arm is plus and he has pretty good hands. He’s a bit less agile than the average third baseman, but makes up for it with the rest of his game. I think he’s an everyday regular. I wrote more about Neuse here:

https://baseballbellcurve.com/2017/10/26/101617-101717-arizona-fall-league-notes/

Outfielders

Braxton Lee (OF) Miami Marlins – I think Lee will be a 4th OF / defensive replacement type. He is very fast (timed 3.6 on a bunt) and looks good in center field. He has made a couple of excellent diving catches in my views, one of which he was running full speed toward home. Those are always tough. At the plate, he lacks the power to be an every day regular.

Corey Ray (OF) Milwaukee Brewers – This fall has been a struggle for Ray. He has swung and missed a lot on breaking balls low in the zone. One might expect a more polished offensive approach from a college draftee. Overall, his frustration is palpable. Having said that, scouts still believe in the underlying skill set that made him worthy of the 5th overall pick in 2016.

Victor Robles (OF) Washington Nationals – Most of this will not come as news to followers of prospects. It’s not difficult to see why Robles is considered a top prospect in the game. He oozes athletic ability whether in the field or at the plate. The bat speed is plus, and he can hit for average and power. He can be had with well-located breaking stuff away, but overall this is a really advanced guy for his age. He could make multiple all star games if he reaches his ceiling.

Kyle Tucker (OF) Houston Astros – The bat speed is sublime. It may be the best in the league (Robles and Mejia also are in the argument). He pulled a 99 mph fastball from Jordan Hicks for a double in one of my looks, and he made it look effortless. The bat speed should provide Tucker with some margin for error as he adjusts to pro-caliber breaking balls, a skill that needs refinement at present. Scouts do not seemed worried about it. They believe there is room to add more weight on his frame, which should result in more power. Right now he has more of a Christian Yelich body type. When all is said and done, I see a first division regular with the chance to make occasional all star games.

 

10/30/17 Arizona Fall League Notes

Mitch Keller (RHP) Pittsburgh Pirates – If we are doing AFL superlatives, I think best fastball command goes to Mitch Keller. Today he was surgical. The fastball ranged from 92-97. There was a three-pitch sequence to Thairo Estrada that stood out as an impressive display of command. Keller started with an 85 mph changeup at the bottom-middle of the zone for a swinging strike. Then, he went to the 97 mph heat at the top of the zone. He finished Estrada with a 92 mph fastball that was down and away. I found this to be impressive because Keller appeared to be deliberately changing the eye level of hitters to keep them off balance. The curve was also quite good. It ranged from 78-82, generating some swing and miss and weak ground balls. Keller could use it to both sides of the plate. He left one up to David Thompson, who was not able to take advantage, but for the most part Keller did a good job keeping the pitch down. Overall, it was a dominant outing that displayed what Keller is capable of. This is a polished pitcher who should get a shot in the Pirates rotation at some point next season.

I did not take any video today, but I recorded Keller in his 10/24 start.

Albert Abreu (RHP) New York Yankees – It would not be a stretch to argue that Albert Abreu has better pure stuff than Mitch Keller. The fastball sat 93-95, without much effort in the delivery. The curveball is already considered plus, and Abreu could get swinging strikes with it seemingly at will. It would drop off the table, and hitters swung over it. His changeup had more drop than fade. This pitch was effective largely due to Abreu’s arm speed, which remained constant for fastballs and changeups (1:07 on video). As a result, the timing of opposing batters was thrown off. A scout sitting behind me noted Abreu had more confidence in his offspeed pitches than his fastball. The fastball command was inconsistent. Whether or not Abreu figures this out will go a long way in determining his efficacy at the major league level.