The Arizona Fall League is the most exciting winter league (all though it ends sooner than the rest of them) in baseball, but unless one travels to Arizona, you don’t get to see the players. We do get Pitch F/X data from there, which can give us a look at pitchers and hitters (I count 5 different posts, 3 of them on this site, I have done using the Pitch F/X data since the “season” started), but you would still like to see them play live. MLB Network has televised two of the games so far this season, so these are notes on some of the players from those two games:
Nick Castellanos: The Tigers prospect was fooled badly on slider, and showed that he will chase RHP (as a RHB) breaking balls. However, he seems to have good plate coverage, can hit pitches anywhere, and seems to be especially good with the low ball. You can see why people are excited about his bat and he could perhaps add strength for power with his frame. The transition to AA proved tough in 2012, but he crushed all the lower minor league pitching he faced. I clocked him at 4.21 to first, which is decent for a RHB.
Kaleb Cowart: A switch hitter, the Angels prospect starts with an open stance before closing it mostly before the ball gets there when he is batting as a lefty. He doesn’t really have this as a right-handed batter, but he does have a leg kick. It looks like a pretty quick swing, and his minor league numbers are good not great (104 wOBA + in A + this year). He is a little young compared to the competition he is facing in the Arizona Fall League, but he seemed advanced. At third base, it doesn’t look like he has a lot of athleticism or reaction time.
Cody Asche: A below average runner, the Phillies prospect seems to have a little bit of chop in his swing. It definitely looks slow, and he chased some bad pitches. This didn’t stop him from having a really big year in AA in 2012 (118 wOBA +, 140 OPS +). At third base, it doesn’t look like he has a ton of range, but he does have a good arm.
Corey Dickerson: The Rockies’ prospect has a big swing, but seemed quick. He seemed patient on fastballs, but breaking balls are another story, especially against LHP. He he has been an above average hitter through out his minor league career and past the AA test earlier this year with a 111 wOBA + in 289 PAs. He runs well (speed scores in the 6.0-7.0 range helps support this), but is awkward in the field.
Chris Owings: The Diamondbacks’ shortstop had a lot of problems against RHP breaking balls. Like Cowart, he is a little young compared to a lot of the competition, but he showed a quick bat and quick foot speed as well. He hits a lot of ground-balls and doesn’t walk a lot (while striking out quite a bit), so much of his value will most likely be on defense (he was not bad in his first stint in AA offensively).
Brian Fletcher: The Royals’ prospect has sort of a hitch (for a lack of better word) in his swing. It takes him a long to start the swing, even though the swing is quick. It really looks like he will struggle with inside pitches. The plate discipline doesn’t look excellent either, but despite what my eye told me about his offensive skills, he has been good in the minors, above average in every level. The 24 year old had a 104 wOBA + in 280 plate appearances in his first taste of AA, but a lot of it was driven by a .372 BABIP. His K/BB was horrible and he hit ground-balls 43% of the time. I just don’t think he will continue to have as much success with the bat, it just seems that there are too many flaws there.
Christian Yelich: The Marlins prospect is a big left-handed hitting corner outfielder. He is a below average runner (about 4.26 to first base, but did have a 6.9 speed score this year). At the plate, he hasn’t developed big time power yet (.189 ISO in 2012), but he can go the other way and has a really quick swing. He had a monster year in A + this year, with a 164 OPS + and 129 wOBA +. He has a good walk rate, doesn’t strikeout too much, and has consistently put up good line drive rates.
Slade Heathcott: Like most big (and he is a big physical presence) lefty hitters (at least it seems), Heathcott (a Yankees prospect) has an open lefty stance that he closes before the pitch gets there. It looks like he can run pretty well and showed good range in centerfield (although he did drop a really easy ball). At the plate, he showed some good plate discipline, and while the swing is quick, it isn’t exactly flat (though he shows good plate discipline). His peripherals at the plate aren’t great, and he isn’t hitting for a ton of power, but he has been pretty successful when on the field.
Luis Sardinas: We know he is fast, and the Rangers’ minor league shortstop looks athletic in the field, and has a plus arm. He has a relatively quick swing, and it looks like he has more power than you would expect for his size and position. He has good plate coverage and seems to be able to make contact with just about everything. He is just 19, but he was a league average hitter in A-ball (the league average hitter was 21.7 years old) and he had a good K/BB (but hit for virtually no power.
Cesar Puello: A big guy, listed at 6-2 190, the Mets centerfield prospect (he played right field in the game I watched and he wasn’t tested) runs a 4.19 to first. As a right-handed hitter, that is pretty good (and comps closely to guys like Dexter Fowler and Tyler Greene). He was repeating A + this year, and was just okay, not walking hardly at all and striking out too much. As a 21 year old that has yet to reach AA, time is running out for him to start shaking off the rawness at the plate.
Randal Grichuk: The former Angels’ first rounder seems to have some plate discipline and has a very quick swing and makes good contact. He still might have room to fill out, with a very tall frame. I got him at just 4.30 to first, which is not very fast (about average for right-handed hitter. Baseball Cube gives him a 78 out of 100 in that category and rates his patience at just 8). His speed scores are mixed, but they usually have him as an above average runner. Grichuk has hit for big power in lower levels, but in 2012 in A +, he had a .190 ISO, which isn’t bad, but isn’t exceptional. He was an above average hitter in A + this year, but we will see if that translates to AA (I am sure he will be in AA some time next year, if he doesn’t start there). I would be a little surprised if it doesn’t with the swing he has. In the field, it doesn’t look look like he has a lot of range out in the corners, and may be a below average outfielder.
Travis Witherspoon: Another Angels’ outfielder, Witherspoon has really good running skills (8.2 Speed Score in A + this year, and 6.5 in AAA). A 12th round pick in 2009, he doesn’t seem to have the bat skills that Grichuk does, with a swing that isn’t as quick (and it looks like you can burn him on high fastballs) and probably not as pretty either. He did show some plate discipline on breaking balls though. He walked over 10 % of the time in both A + and AA in 2012, but most of his numbers predictably dropped in the jump between A+ and AA thanks mostly to an increase in strikeouts and a decrease in BABIP.
Chase Huchingson: LOOGY like delivery, gets some sink and throws a good mix of pitches with a fastball about 88-90 MPH. However, the command and the put away ability was missing. In 120.2 innings, almost all as a starter, he had an okay 3.82 FIP in A +, walking too many batters and not striking out enough (but not giving up a lot of homers). He did a good job of getting ground-balls and limiting line drives. In AA, I imagine he will be moved to a relief role and mainly face lefties, so we really shouldn’t see a regression in the numbers.
Tony Zych: Really weird arm action, but he hit 95 MPH several times. He bottoms out at 92-93 MPH with the fastball and it seems to have some good late sink and horizontal movement. His main secondary pitch is a 78 MPH curve, that sort of knuckles, as it looks slower than it actually is. It didn’t quite get down though. He also possesses a reasonably tight slider at 83 MPH. With the Cubs A + and AA this year, Zych put up some excellent numbers, with a 3.18 SIERA and 2.17 FIP. Amazingly, he hasn’t given up a homer in over 2 years and strikes out hitters over 25 % of the time.
Michael Tonkin: The Twins’ righty throws 92-94 MPH with movement, basically all arm side tail. He gets down to 89-91 MPH and had better control of when sitting at that velocity. His 80 MPH breaking ball was pretty unimpressive but the 22 year old reliever absolutely dominated both A and A+ with an insane 1.93 FIP and 2.03 SIERA. His strikeout rate was insane in both levels, actually increasing slightly from A to A+. While his walk rate crept up in A +, he doesn’t walk a lot of hitters and got a really good ground-ball rate in A (it shrank significantly in A +).
Mike Belfiore: Traded for Josh Bell, the lefty spent most of the year in Baltimore’s AA (where the reliever had some success as a 23 year). The fastball sits at just 90-92 MPH. It is pretty straight, and his mostly throws it high. He has a change at 79 MPH as well. He has a decent strikeout rate, but probably walks too many batters. You would like to see a better GB % for a reliever without an overpowering fastball or K/BB.
Grant Dayton: The Marlins reliever has a high 80s, low 90s fastball. He brings his arm way back behind him in his delivery and he throws a change at 82-86 MPH for strikes with decent movement. He probably won’t face many righties (as a LHP) with that arm action. He spent most of the year in A + and was absolutely dominant with a 2.05 FIP and 2.69 SIERA. He doesn’t get many grounders at all, but he has a pretty big strikeout rate (29%) and a low walk rate.
Mark Montgomery: The Yankees Right-handed reliever showed off a really good slider at 80-83 MPH. The pitch “comes up” then darts down and Montgomery is going to throw the pitch a lot. The command is somewhat spotty but the slider gets great movement both down and glove side. He has sort of weird pitching mechanics and a herky jerky delivery that ends in almost a shot put like action. He was throwing 91 MPH on fastball and Montgomery also seemed to sink it at 88 MPH and move it arm side. He basically pitches backwards, starting at-bats with the slider that he can occasionally throw for sneaky high strikes along with burying it (which he does more frequently). He split the year between A + and AA and saw no regression (technically, he got better!) after putting up amazing numbers in A +.
Kyle Kaminska: A big tall righty, he doesn’t throw exceptionally hard, at 86-91 MPH on his fastball/sinker. He can throw his changeup for strikes at 79 MPH (his sinker sometimes breaks like a changeup and even gets whiffs like one at around 87-88 MPH), but it isn’t an exceptional pitch or anything. Kaminska also breaks out a slider at 82-83 MPH which is better than the changeup with a little bit of late break, but he is mainly going to throw fastball/sinker. He has a really free and easy delivery, and it doesn’t look like he is putting much effort into it. Traded from Miami at the deadline, the Pirates minor leaguer pitched everywhere from A + to AAA this year and was pretty good, with acceptable ground-ball and strikeout rates combined with a really low walk rate.
Ben Rowen: The Rangers’ submarine right-handed reliever has absolutely dominant numbers in the minors (2.57 FIP and 2.78 SIERA with a gigantic ground-ball percentage over the last two years). It looks like he is throwing 80 MPH (he can get down to 74 MPH) changeups that he can throw for basically right down the middle against right-handed batters, but since they can’t pick it up, he gets away with it. The delivery looks a little awkward, but really low effort as well.