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!
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.