Scouting the Statline: Three More Interesting Bats from the AFL
A couple weeks back I checked in on the Arizona Fall League to see how some of the more intriguing prospects toiling in the desert sun were performing. Since then the League has closed up shop for the year, and it’s on to the Caribbean and Latin American winter leagues. But while we wait for those leagues to produce sample sizes worthy of evaluation, let’s check in one last time on the AFL and talk about a few more bats that went unmentioned in my mid-season review.
Peter O’Brien, C/1B/RF ARI
The return haul for Arizona in the Martin Prado deal last summer, O’Brien’s an interesting prospect for deep leagues because he’s a catcher who’s getting reps at first and in the outfield as well, and he’s got a whole bunch of power. After ripping up the Southern League to the tune of a .321/.353/.688 (150 OPS+) line over 119 plate appearances the former second rounder ran into a bit of resistence after a jump up to AA. He slugged 24 homers in just over 300 plate appearances at the level, but posted an AVG/OBP line of .245/.296 with a 26% strikeout rate. He rebounded in a big way in the desert though, finishing fourth in OPS with a .256/.393/.512 line and five homers. His approach at the dish is aggressive and he’ll sell out for power with a long swing, leading evaluators to question just how much of his power will play at the highest levels. He’s not a particularly well-regarded defender behind the dish, but Arizona has indicated an intention to keep developing him there, and that bodes well. The potential is here for him to develop into an Evan Gattis-type of player who catches enough each season to retain eligibility while compiling everyday at-bats elsewhere in the field. Given the prodigious power potential that makes for a tasty combination even if the hit tool never fully actualizes. A .240 hitter with 20 homer pop and plus counting stats is nothing to sneeze at when catcher eligibility is involved.
Steven Moya, OF DET
Moya’s a highly divisive prospect in the scouting world. He’s a behemouth of a human being at a listed 6’6″ 230, and his massive limbs make for a tough package to keep in mechanical alignment through his swing. But when he does and he squares one up it goes a loooooong, long way. After battling injuries in 2012 and 13 the 23 year old played a full, healthy season and led the Eastern League with 35 bombs last year. He did so despite a cringe-worthy 161:23 K:BB rate over 550 plate appearances, however. He kept right on rolling in the AFL with very similar production, hitting .289/.327/.544 with five homers and an ugly 29:6 K:BB over 90 at-bats. Despite the prodigious power and strikeout rates to match he doesn’t profile as a true three-outcome hitter a la Russell Branyan or Adam Dunn because he doesn’t walk enough, so his projected value in OBP-based leagues takes a big hit. But any prospect with this much pop certainly deserves to be monitored in even the shallowest of leagues. He’ll likely start the season at AAA next spring, and if a guy like CJ Cron was owned in your league heading into last year he’s a similarly worthy power upside prospect to stash this winter.
Max Kepler, OF MIN
It feels like I’ve wanted to climb on board the Max Kepler bandwagon forever, and while we’re still not to the point where I’m willing to buy a ticket we’re getting closer. The German national signed the largest bonus ever for a European player as a 16-year-old and put together a semi-breakout campaign in the Appy League two years ago with a .297/.387/.539 line and respectable discipline. Scouts noted his athleticism and instincts despite an overall rawness on account of growing up in Germany. The last two seasons haven’t produced much in the way of further optimism in terms of results, however, as he’s struggled to generate sustained success through a couple injuries in A ball. He flashed some pop and an improved approach in the desert this fall, piecing together a .307/.366/.440 line. He still hasn’t quite figured out how to tap into his suspected plus raw power, and he’s a longer term project given the delayed developmental clock. Still, the Twins thought highly enough of his ultimate ceiling to protect him on their 40-man roster before last season before he’d even tasted High-A. He’s a name for TDGX-deep leagues right now, but he’s got the kind of athletic package to shoot quickly up prospect lists once it starts to come together. AA next year will be a big test.