Legends of the Arizona Fall League: Glendale
Since the AFL schedule kicked off nearly two weeks ago, we’ve been making our way through the rosters, talking about the big name prospects on each roster and a handful of lesser known guys whose names may be worth remembering in the future. You can find the links to the teams that have run already below:
The Glendale Desert Dogs are a compilation of prospects from a few wide ranging organizations, as far as talent level is concerned. On the high end (and the biggest supplier of impact on this roster) are the Minnesota Twins, with the Chicago White Sox on the opposite end of the spectrum. In between are mostly middle-of-the-road farm systems in the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins.
First, let’s cover the potential fantasy stars on the roster:
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
Let’s face it–there’s not much I can tell you about Buxton that you don’t already know. He has the highest fantasy upside of any prospect in baseball and is progressing far faster than anticipated when the Georgia high school product was taken 2nd overall in the 2012 draft. At this point, I still don’t believe he sees major league time in 2014, but he’s already shown the ability to surprise us all.
Corey Seager, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
No I’m not listing him as a shortstop. I don’t care that he’s played all but one game of his minor league career there, valuing him as someone who could play up the middle is a mistake. However, he’s certainly not lacking in value. Seager won’t turn 20 until about a month into the 2014 season, and was extremely impressive in his full-season debut this year–hitting .309/.389/.529 with 12 homers and nine steals in 272 at bats in Low-A. He followed that up with a poor showing in the Cal League, but it was only 100 at bats and he’s still 19.
What he’s done this season, besides having some pretty looking stats, is given scouts more of a reason to think that he’ll be able to hit for above average power (or better) down the road. And while Seager doesn’t have the pop to give him elite fantasy potential (a la Evan Longoria), he does have enough potential in both the hit and power departments to make him a .280 hitter with 25 homers. That would essentially make him a better version of his older brother Kyle, who is a very good player in his own right. Mike Buttil wrote more on Seager last week.
And now a few other players who warrant attention:
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
Coming out of the 2012 draft, where Heaney was taken 9th overall, the left-hander had all the makings of a relatively uninteresting fantasy commodity. He was a polished college starter with a mediocre fastball and a command/control profile. However, since he’s been in professional ball, his velocity has seen a full grade jump and a plus-fastball changes the entire profile. His fantasy stock is definitely on the rise, and given the Marlins’ willingness to push their prospects, it’s not a stretch to imagine him holding down a rotation spot in Miami before Memorial Day.
The numbers Heaney put up in his first full professional season were Dylan Bundy-level ridiculous. In 61 2/3 innings over 13 games, he allowed only six earned runs. That’s good for a 0.88 ERA. Heaney continued to impress when he was promoted to Double-A in August, though he did put up a Game Score of less than 50 in one of his six starts at Jacksonville. That was his only start doing so the entire season. There may not be top of the rotation potential here with Heaney, but he has the look of a potential high-end #3 starter if he can hold the velocity jump.
Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF, Minnesota Twins
I’m not going to get into the whole 2B vs OF debate with Rosario since apparently that just turns into a good ol’ comments section fight. But, Craig Goldstein did touch on him and what it means for his value if a move to the outfield becomes permanent in a post from last week. The reality is that Rosario is not a good second baseman, but what we don’t know is how much tolerance Minnesota will have for his defensive inability. There are worse defensive every day second baseman than Rosario projects to be.
On the offensive side of the equation, Rosario can be a guy who contributes across all five categories–though his impact on the base paths is overstated by how terrible he is at actually stealing bases. Over the last two seasons, he’s 21-for-42 in stolen base attempts. You don’t need me to tell you how awful that is. Statistically, Rosario can be a more powerful version of Michael Brantley–which is why the eligibility issue is so important.
Colin Moran, 3B, Miami Marlins
The only member of the 2013 draft class on the Glendale roster, Moran is turning into that guy who you may be staring at in your off-season draft, but just don’t love the idea of pulling the trigger on. I’m here to tell you that it’s OK to pull the trigger on Moran (assuming the top 7-8 guys are off the board)–and that goes double in deep leagues. Moran offers safety in exchange for upside, which in these days of slightly depressed offense isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Though the reason he’s not in that higher tier of players for drafts this off-season is that his safety is relative.
The risks with Moran are that what power he has won’t translate to the majors well and that he won’t be able to stick at third base. Neither of those risks are extreme, but they are worth monitoring. Especially the defensive concerns, as Moran could end up as a first baseman long-term if he doesn’t work out at the hot corner. A reasonable outcome for the Miami prospect seems to be represented in his line at Low-A Greensboro this season: .299/.354/.442 with four homers in 42 games.
Max Kepler, OF/1B, Minnesota Twins
Kepler is best known at this point for being given the highest signing bonus for any European born player. Of course, that’s not even true anymore since the Kansas City Royals gave 16-year old Italian shortstop Marten Gasparini a $1.3m bonus. But Kepler has the raw skills with the bat to make the whole “hey this guy is from Germany” thing an afterthought. The 2013 season was disappointing for Kepler, missing more than two months with a elbow injury before making his full-season debut in June to the tune of a .736 OPS. However, as Kepler continues to fill out his 6’4″ frame, the closer he moves towards potential plus power down the road. And he has the hit tool competency to not only let it play, but augment it with some value. In OBP leagues, Kepler is even more attractive, as he’s shown a strong ability to take a walk (9.6 percent career walk rate).
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