Desert Report: Storylines are starting to take shape
The Arizona Fall League's six-and-a-half week schedule is nearly at its halfway mark, and some interesting stories are starting to take shape. Some of the prospects mentioned in our earlier Desert Reports, such as Joey Terdoslavich and Sean Gilmartin , continue to put up impressive stats, but several others are starting to draw attention as well. Jesus Aguilar, Terry Doyle and Kevin Munson are not household names just yet, but they may be names that you'll need to know in Fantasy in the near future.
What have these prospects and others done to deserve a place in Fantasy owners' mental databases? Read on, as we will take a look at the achievements of several AFL standouts -- and a few disappointments -- and see what it all means for the upcoming Fantasy season.
Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Cleveland (Phoenix): Aguilar turned heads with his 23 homers hit in Class A and Advanced Class A this season, and he continues to hit with authority. In Arizona, the 21-year-old is batting .354 with three home runs and six doubles in 48 at-bats. He hasn't been especially whiff-prone in the minors, but Aguilar's 15 strikeouts are a bit concerning. He's not a big-time target in long-term keeper leagues just yet, but with a hot fall, his stock could rise in time for drafts next spring.
Gary Brown , OF, San Francisco (Scottsdale): Brown lived up to the hype of being a first-round pick in 2010, delivering power, speed and a high batting average in his first full year out of Cal State Fullerton. His impressive California League numbers have yet to translate to the AFL, as Brown is just 11 for 50 (.220) with no homers and two steals. He is already a favorite in long-term keeper leagues, but if he has a good year in Double-A, Brown has a shot at a late-season callup. That would make him a target for steals during Fantasy's home stretch.
Michael Choice , OF, Oakland (Phoenix): Choice is leading the AFL in slugging percentage by a wide margin with a .933 mark. Making contact has been Choice's biggest struggle in the minors, but he has only six Ks in 30 at-bats so far this fall. This season, Choice benefitted from a good hitter's park in Class A Stockton, and the thin Arizona air is probably helping him this fall. It will be interesting to see if Choice's power holds up when he heads to pitcher-friendly Double-A Midland in 2012.
Tyler Cloyd, SP, Philadelphia (Scottsdale): Cloyd had a strong campaign at Double-A Reading, which was backed up by a high strikeout-to-walk ratio. He is replicating the feat so far in the AFL, as he is tied with Anthony Bass for the lead in strikeouts with 15, and he has walked only three batters in 14 innings. Cloyd has been hit hard in his last two starts, so his ERA is a bloated 5.79. Still, he may show enough to earn a spot on the Phillies' 40-man roster, and if he doesn't, he could be an intriguing Rule 5 pick for someone.
Hank Conger , C, L.A. Angels (Scottsdale): Conger played in 59 games for the Angels, but he's spending the fall in Arizona in order to work on his defense. He didn't do much with the bat in his rookie year, as his tendency to get under the ball led to too many popups. At least Conger is hitting for a decent average so far, going 9 for 31 (.290). If he can improve his defense to the satisfaction of Angels manager Mike Scioscia, Conger should wrest more at-bats from fellow catcher Jeff Mathis next season.
Terry Doyle, SP, Chicago White Sox (Mesa): In our kickoff Desert Report, I wondered who might be this year's Josh Collmenter -- a relatively unheralded prospect who could use the AFL to get himself a look at the big league level. Perhaps it's Doyle. About to turn 26, he's roughly a year older than Collmenter was last fall, but the former math teacher is a soft-tossing control artist, much like his Diamondbacks counterpart. Doyle's 1.08 ERA and 0.42 WHIP over 16 2/3 innings are the lowest for any AFL pitcher with at least nine innings pitched. It's unlikely that Doyle, who has yet to pitch in Triple-A, will start the year in the White Sox's rotation, but he could find a role there by midseason if he continues to find success in the minor leagues.
Adam Eaton , OF, Arizona (Salt River):Eaton is usually noted for his diminutive 5'9" stature, but he has been putting up outsized on-base percentages wherever he plays. Not to be confused with the former big league pitcher with the same name, the younger Eaton is getting on base in the AFL at a .431 clip, and he is tied for third in stolen bases with five. He has moved quickly through the Diamondbacks' system, finishing at Double-A this year, so it's not a stretch to think we may see him in the majors sometime in 2012.
Stephen Fife , SP, L.A. Dodgers (Salt River): Fife was part of the three-team trade that sent Erik Bedard from the Mariners to the Red Sox and Trayvon Robinson from the Dodgers to the Mariners. In that deal, the Red Sox shipped Fife and two other prospects to the Dodgers, and once Fife arrived in the Dodgers' system, he continued to do a good job of getting hitters to ground out. Control is not Fife's strongest suit, and he has already walked eight batters in 11 2/3 AFL innings. His ability to improve his walk rate in Triple-A next year could be an important indication of whether Fantasy owners should target Fife in long-term keep leagues.
Scooter Gennett , 2B, Milwaukee (Peoria): Gennett, more commonly known as "Scooter," is doing what he does best, hitting for average. He batted .300 in Advanced Class A this season and is now hitting .381 in the AFL. What's new is that he is also hitting for power (two home runs, three doubles) and taking walks (six BBs). Time will tell if this is merely the result of a very small sample, but Gennett would be an exciting second base prospect if he could add power and patience to his arsenal of skills.
Robbie Grossman , OF, Pittsburgh (Mesa): Grossman came into this season overshadowed by Starling Marte as the Pirates' top outfield prospect, but it was Grossman who emerged as the organization's minor league player of the year. The 22-year-old has continued his hot hitting into the fall, putting up a .385/.474/.662 slash line in Arizona. His power in the minors has been more of the doubles variety, but Grossman already has five homers in 16 AFL games. One weakness in Grossman's game has been inefficiency in base stealing, and that has persisted, as he has been thrown out on four out of seven steal attempts. That's an area where he will need to improve at Double-A next year.
Bryce Harper , OF, Washington (Scottsdale): After getting off to an ice-cold start in the AFL, Harper is finally starting to pick up his pace. He now has a six-game hitting streak, going 8 for 23 (.348) with four extra-base hits over that span. Considering that Harper is the youngest player in the circuit, it's easy to forgive him his early struggles and to be impressed by his recent string of games.
Danny Hultzen , SP, Seattle (Peoria): Hultzen hasn't been getting many strikeouts, but the No. 2 overall pick from last June's draft has been tough on AFL hitters nonetheless. He has allowed only two earned runs in nine innings, and in his last start, Hultzen pitched four no-hit innings. He has only two strikeouts so far, and none in either of his two most recent starts.
Kevin Munson, RP, Arizona (Surprise): The Diamondbacks' relief prospect has 13 strikeouts in only 7 1/3 innings, but that's not the best part of his performance so far. After walking close to a batter per inning in Advanced Class A this season, Munson has yet to issue a walk in the AFL. With a 1.23 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in seven appearances, Munson has been one of the best pitchers in the AFL so far this fall.
Wil Myers , OF, Kansas City (Surprise): Myers' numbers at Double-A Northwest Arkansas this year were a downer, but he's picked himself back up in the fall league. He leads all qualifying hitters with a .500 on-base percentage, and seven of his 13 hits have been for extra bases. Though we still have to see how Myers will do in the minors next year, maybe there's enough bat here for him to be a big league outfielder after all.
Kyle Skipworth , C, Florida (Surprise): Skipworth has shown some pop in the minors, but his plate discipline has been atrocious. After only 24 plate appearances this fall, it's far too early to know if Skipworth is making progress, but at least he is hitting .333. That's a much nice number to look at than .207, which is what he hit in Double-A this season. He is still only 21, so there is time for Skipworth to live up to the expectations that came with being a first-round pick in 2008.
Sammy Solis , SP, Washington (Scottsdale): Solis showed good control in Advanced Class A this season, but so far, he has struggled to find the strike zone in Arizona. The lefty has issued eight walks in his first ten innings, and it's come back to hurt him in the form of an 8.10 ERA. Despite these difficulties, Solis should still be viewed an important member of the Nationals' impressive cadre of young arms.
Mike Trout , OF, L.A. Angels (Scottsdale): Trout has yet to get untracked, as he is batting only .222 through his first 10 games. Most surprising is his lack of power, as he has mustered a total of three extra-base hits, which have all been doubles. Trout's Fantasy owners should not worry about tracking his AFL power numbers; he has already shown in his first 40 games with the Angels that he is capable of walloping big league pitching. His batting average is another story, and 14 Ks in 45 fall league at-bats should not inspire confidence that Trout is making progress on that front. Though the 20-year-old could have some value in standard mixed leagues next season, his rookie season is likely to be a bumpy ride.