Desert Report: Arizona's highs and lows
The Arizona Fall League concluded its 2012 season on Saturday, as the Salt River Rafters emerged victorious in the league's title game. While the championship is a nice honor for players like the Rockies' Nolan Arenado and the Diamondbacks' Adam Eaton , who toiled for the Rafters over the last month and a half, the impact of the AFL was even greater for players who gained newfound recognition for their strong play over the 38-game schedule.
We'd be remiss if we didn't look back on how some of the bigger-name prospects fared in the AFL this year, so we will conduct one final roll call to see how phenoms like Bryce Harper and Gerrit Cole performed. However, we will also check in on a few players who had little Fantasy appeal back in early October, but may soon be the darlings of owners in long-term keeper leagues, if they aren't already.
Nolan Arenado , 3B, Rockies: Arenado earned the league's MVP honors with a .388 batting average and six home runs. He was already considered to be one of the Rockies' top prospects, but now the organization is talking about him getting a shot at the major league roster sometime in 2012. Arenado has yet to play above Advanced Class A, so this would be an aggressive move, and even if he gets to play in Colorado, the 20-year-old could struggle mightily in his first exposure to the big leagues. Still, Arenado is likely to be highly coveted in long-term keeper league drafts.
Gerrit Cole , SP, Pirates: Cole didn't make the best impression as a starting pitcher in the Rising Stars Game, allowing five earned runs in 2/3 of an inning, but he had a good campaign overall. He didn't disappoint those wanting him to throw heat, as his fastball topped 100 mph at times, and Cole fanned 16 batters over 15 innings. His 3.00 ERA also stands up well in the hitter-friendly league, though based on this small sample, it is still difficult to know when we might see Cole in the majors. While a 2012 debut is possible, 2013 is probably a more realistic expectation at this point.
Matt Dominguez , 3B, Marlins: The Marlins thought Dominguez might be ready to be their everyday third baseman a year ago, but his bat lagged behind his stellar defense. After spending most of 2011 in Triple-A, there are still questions about Dominguez's offense, and 21 AFL games later, those questions are still unanswered. A .226 batting average in this hitter-friendly league does not inspire much confidence, though, and Dominguez's stock may have taken a hit with his tepid performance at the plate.
Sean Gilmartin , SP, Braves: The 28th pick overall in last June's draft continues to impress, as he struck out 26 batters in 29 innings. However, his ERA was a mediocre 4.34, and the extreme flyball pitcher showed his vulnerability by allowing five home runs. Gilmartin could rise quickly through the Braves' system, though how well he can avoid the long ball will likely have an impact on how soon we will see him in Atlanta.
Bryce Harper , OF, Nationals: After a slow start, Harper ripped up the AFL with a .333 batting average and .634 slugging percentage. All in all, it was a remarkable performance for the league's youngest player. With there being talk of Harper getting promoted to the majors sometime next season, don't be surprised to see him go off the boards late in some mixed league drafts.
Danny Hultzen , SP, Mariners: Hultzen probably created more buzz than any hurler in the AFL and rightfully so. He allowed only three runs in 19 1/3 innings and struck out 16 batters over his last three starts, spanning 10 1/3 innings. While Harper and Arenado have spurred talk of major league promotions in 2012, Hultzen has a decent chance of making his debut before either of them.
Wil Myers , OF, Royals: After an unimpressive season in Double-A, many wondered if Myers had the bat to make the transition from catcher to the outfield. A few weeks of games in the Arizona desert can't answer that question unequivocally, but he certainly didn't hurt his case. Myers hit .360 with 14 extra-base hits, including four home runs. He will still have to prove himself in Triple-A, but there is also the question of where Myers will fit in the Royals' outfield when he does arrive. With Jeff Francoeur tied up for two more years, and Alex Gordon arbitration-eligible for two more years as well, the Royals can take their time in promoting Myers.
Andy Oliver , SP, Tigers: Oliver had something to prove, as his control worsened in his second tour of Triple-A this season. After having walked 16 batters in 17 AFL innings, the lefty continues to raise doubts about his readiness for the majors.
Mike Olt , 3B, Rangers: Olt had a dominant AFL campaign, as his home run (13) and RBI (43) totals and his slugging percentage (.764) were tops in the league and all just short of league records. Strikeouts have been something of a concern in the minors, and Olt's 36 Ks were the third-highest total in the AFL. While his power is enticing, Olt's pitch recognition could be a hindrance to his development.
Mike Trout , OF, Angels: Trout was one of the bigger disappointments, as he hit just .245 with one home run. His ratio of 33 strikeouts to five walks is also concerning, but Fantasy owners can't get too carried away with these stats from 25 games. Neither his power nor his batting eye were concerns in Double-A this year, so owners should continue to view Trout as one of the game's most promising prospects with a chance to make an impact in 2012.
Nate Adcock , RP, Royals: Adcock entered the AFL looking to make a case for a spot in the Royals' rotation next year. While his 4.44 ERA and 1.27 WHIP won't stir up much excitement, he showed sharp command, striking out 23 batters while walking only four. As he did with the Royals this season, Adcock did a good job of inducing grounders, and allowing just one homer in 24 1/3 AFL innings is no mean feat. The former Rule 5 pick remains a pitcher worth watching for owners in AL-only leagues.
Christian Bethancourt , C, Braves: Bethancourt has appeared on several top prospect lists, but after posting nondescript stats in Advanced Class A, there were some doubts about his bat. He came alive in Arizona, hitting .306 with five home runs. Scouts are already high on his defense, so if Bethancourt can translate his success at the plate in the AFL to the minors, he could become one of the top minor league catchers in long-term keeper leagues.
Brandon Crawford , SS, Giants: The Giants are thinking about giving Crawford the chance to be their everyday shortstop next year. However, based on his AFL stats and his longer-term minor league track record, there is no reason to think he will be more than a slick-fielding, no-hit Fantasy cipher. Crawford mustered only six extra-base hits in 87 AFL at-bats.
Miguel Yan , SP, Rangers; De Los Santos led the AFL in strikeouts with 40, and it wasn't a close race. The second-place finisher, Yankees farmhand David Phelps , punched out 28 batters, and he pitched 2 1/3 more innings than the Rangers' lefty did. De Los Santos also walked 15 batters in 30 innings, so clearly control is still an issue. He has consistently posted double-digit strikeout rates in the minors, so all of those Ks are no fluke, but Fantasy owners shouldn't get too tantalized. In addition to handing out frequent walks, De Los Santos is also a flyball pitcher, so his 8.04 ERA in six Double-A starts could be a sign of more trouble to come.
Cole DeVries, SP/RP, Twins: The Twins like control artists who pitch to contact, and DeVries appears to fit that mold perfectly. While DeVries has been used as a starter and as a reliever in the minors, he started exclusively in the AFL and with good results. He finished with a 3.12 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, having walked only three batters in 26 innings. DeVries already has some experience at Triple-A, so it's not a stretch to expect him to get a chance with the Twins sometime next year, perhaps as a rotation injury replacement.
Terry Doyle, SP, White Sox: Doyle's stock may have risen more over the last two months than any other player on this list. His stat line (1.98 ERA, 0.62 WHIP) would have looked good in a more hospitable pitching environment, but it really stands out in the AFL. Doyle's surprising performance, combined with the White Sox's willingness to part with either John Danks or Gavin Floyd this offseason, and with the potential departure of free Mark Buehrle , creates an opportunity for Doyle to win a rotation spot. Since he has not pitched above Double-A, Doyle still has to be considered a long-shot, but at the very least, he deserves to be on the radar of owners in AL-only leagues, as he could easily get called up in midseason.
Adam Eaton , OF, Diamondbacks: Eaton continued to do what he does best -- getting hits, drawing walks and stealing bases -- and it was encouraging to see him also pick up eight doubles this AFL season. As a result of his strong showing, Eaton's stock has risen considerably, and the Diamondbacks could really use a leadoff hitter. If Eaton does get the call sometime next year, he is certain to be an instant hit in Rotisserie leagues as a strong threat in the runs scored, batting average and stolen base categories.
Scooter Gennett , 2B, Brewers: "Scooter" turned a lot of heads with his .411 batting average, but he has already shown in the minors that he has the contact skills to be a potential .300 hitter. His .145 Isolated Power in the fall league shows that he can't necessarily be counted on to develop power. He is still probably a couple of years away from the majors, so there is time for the power to come. Just don't go overboard in long-term keeper leagues due to his obscenely-high AFL batting average. It's too early to consider Gennett a top prospect.
Robbie Grossman , OF, Pirates: Grossman missed the latter part of the AFL season due to a hand injury, but he made a strong impression in the 26 games that he did play. The 22-year-old has profiled as a good speed-and-on-base type in his minor league career, but he flashed a little power this fall, banging out seven home runs. If he can come close to his AFL numbers while playing at Double-A Altoona next season, Fantasy owners will know that they have a special prospect on their hands. Not only will Grossman be coming back from hamate bone surgery, but he will be hitting in a good pitcher's park.
Jedd Gyorko , 3B, Padres: Gyorko was the circuit's batting champion with a .437 average, which was also the second-highest mark in league history. He actually struck out at a higher rate than he has in the minors, but Gyorko has shown a consistent ability to get hits on balls in play. It's hard to know what to make of his power, as his home run totals were inflated in the hitter-friendly California League and then dampened by playing at Double-A San Antonio. 2012 will be a critical year for determining whether Gyorko can hit for the power that will help him succeed at the hot corner.
Kevin Mattison , OF, Marlins: The Marlins have been drawing attention in their pursuit of big names this offseason, but one of their biggest finds just might come from the AFL. Mattison entered fall play as a 26-year-old non-prospect, but he continued to make strides in his power hitting and on-base percentage during his time in the fall league. He also added nine stolen bases to the 38 he swiped in Double-A this season, and even if he squeezes onto the Marlins' roster as a reserve, he could have value in deeper Rotisserie leagues due to his stolen base potential. Keep an eye on how his role shakes out next spring.
Forrest Snow, SP/RP, Mariners: Hultzen drew a lot more attention as a possible addition to the Mariners' rotation in 2012, but Snow has also been mentioned as a candidate to start for the Ms. Snow led the AFL with a 1.10 ERA, though he only started one of the 10 games in which he appeared. While he will reportedly get a chance to crack the rotation in spring training, it seems more likely that Snow will be slotted in as a reliever, and not even necessarily as soon as 2012.
Joey Terdoslavich , 1B, Braves: Terdoslavich slumped over the latter stages of the AFL schedule, but he still finished with a .321/.424/.548 slash line. He will slide across the infield to third base at Double-A next season, and he could be the heir apparent to Chipper Jones in Atlanta. Terdoslavich isn't the most patient hitter, but it's easy to ignore his mediocre walk rate when you consider the 52 doubles that he smacked in Advanced Class A this year. The position change, should it stick, will only increase his Fantasy value. Given that he is clearly being groomed for a full-time job in Atlanta, possibly as soon as 2013, it's time to start targeting "Terdo" in long-term keeper leagues.