Arizona Fall League Prospects: Corner Infielders

by Chuck

The list of candidates at first base really isn’t a list at all, with two of the names undoubtedly among the top ten prospects in all of baseball. But I would be disrespecting the abilities of everyone else who are all quality players and I’m not about to do that.

First base:

Josh Satin (Mets), Eric Hosmer (Royals), Mike McDade (Blue Jays), Hunter Morris (Brewers), Davis Stoneburner (Rangers), Caleb Joseph (Orioles), Koby Clemens (Astros), Brandon Belt (Giants), Ed Easley (Diamondbacks).

Despite a career minor league average of over .300, Satin is not considered much of a prospect, a fact further emphasized by the emergence of Ike Davis. With no starter currently in place at and the Mets’ looking under every conceivable rock, they have, as they did two years ago with Daniel Murphy, sent Satin to the AFL to learnsecond base.

As is with the case of Joseph, the younger brother of Davis Stoneburner is also a prospect in the Yankees organization. And as is the case with Joseph, Stoneburner’s younger brother is considered the better prospect.

Both Mike McDade and Koby Clemens are considered decent ML prospects, although not in starting roles. McDade’s .375 average placed him third in the AFL, while Clemens checked in at .288. Both have had twenty homer seasons in the minors and could carry their power potential to the highest level, but defensive issues will keep them from ever becoming ML regulars.

Ed Easley is a catcher who wasn’t even on Arizona’s list of AFL candidates but was forced into a back up role due to an injury to Dback teammate Konrad Schmidt.

Hunter Morris was the Brewers’ fourth round pick in the 2010 draft. He does have corner outfield experience in addition to first base, so the Brewers are likely exploring all options in advance of the inevitible departure of Prince Fielder.

Which brings us now to the top two, Eric Hosmer and Brandon Belt. In Baseball America’s post AFL rankings Hosmer came in as the third best prospect in the league, Belt followed him at number four. In his first full professional season, Belt won the overall minor league batting title with a .352 mark, an accomplishment more noteworthy because it encompassed three different classifications. He continued raking in Arizona, posting a .372 mark, which placed him fourth in the league. Belt uses all fields as a hitter, is considered a top defender and scored high in pre-draft interviews with makeup and approach.

Despite having 248 career minor league games behind him, Hosmer is seventeen months younger than Belt and much more advanced due to the extra professional experience. Hosmer struggled with the bat in Arizona in part due to fatigue, unlike most guys in the league he didn’t have a month off between seasons, Hosmer was in Puerto Rico leading Team USA to a Pan Am games qualifying gold medal. It was jokingly said in the press area after one of Hosmer’s games with the Surprise Rafters that he was the winner of “the 2010 Buster Posey Award” because of Posey’s struggles in the 2009 AFL season despite his obvious talent.

While Belt shows the signs of being a very good player, it’s hard to ignore the superlatives that routinely accompany Hosmer’s name in describing his abilities; “potential batting champ”, “likely gold glove winner”, “possible HR champ” so with that…

I’ll take Hosmer.

Third base:

Conor Gillaspie (San Francisco), Nate Tenbrink (Seattle), Ryan Adams (Baltimore), Hunter Morris (Milwaukee), Josh Harrison (Pittsburgh), Francisco Martinez (Detroit), Cord Phelps (Cleveland), Zach Cox (St. Louis), Brandon Wood (Angels), Josh Vitters (Cubs).

Third base had some interesting candidates, amongst them former Angels first rounder and AFL single season homerun record holder Brandon Wood. I’m also still waiting to see what’s up with another former number one pick, Josh Vitters, who showed signs of becoming the player he was thought to be on draft day.

Hunter Morris, Lance Tenbrink and Josh Harrison are utility types. I like Harrison, a smallish yet agressive player who reminds me of Scott Sizemore, Detroit’s opening day second baseman who was impressive in a brief AFL stint in 2009. Another guy I liked was Baltimore’s Ryan Adams, who Baltimore chose to expose to the Rule V and could have a shot at a ML reserve role with another organization.

Francisco Martinez and Cord Phelps, another kid I liked a bit, are both trying to find their game despite being stuck behind their respective organizations top position prospects, Nick Castellanos and Lonnie Chisenhall, respectively.

One third base prospect who stood out the most, at least in voting for the league’s top prospects, was the one guy who impressed me the least, Conor Gillaspie. I’m aware he tied for the league lead in homers, although he had to hit all five of his totals in his final 37 at bats, and the total of five were the fewest to lead the league in AFL history. It’s hard to sit here and spit on a guy who hit .306 and struck out just five times in 72 AB’s against tougher competition, but I guess I can hold comfort on Gillaspie not being recoginized as one of the top two 3B prospects in his own organization.

I also had the chance to see the Cardinals’ top pick this year, Zach Cox. Some draftniks believe Cox may eventually have to change positions because of his short, stocky build which is reminiscent of an earlier Cardinals top pick, Brett Wallace. He did struggle in Arizona, striking out 21 times in 18 games, although he did homer twice over his final eleven at bats. His struggles, I believe, are more rust related, as he only played six games in Rookie ball after being drafted. Long layoffs are tough on any player no matter how good you are.

There are things about Brandon Wood and Josh Vitters I can’t let go of. I don’t know if I see things no one else does or if I’m blind to what everyone else sees. Despite his combined .155 average between the minors and majors in 2010, for just the second time in his professional career Wood had fewer strikeouts than games played. The positive trend continued into the AFL, where he posted a .341 BA and OPS’d .874 while striking out sixteen times in 22 games, a total which included a golden sombrero.

Vitters is one of those rare players who makes the game seem so easy, and thus has found himself on the hot seat at times for a perceived lack of effort. Vitters just needs to learn patience when in the batter’s box, to learn and wait for his pitch.

While I still believe in Vitters, he’s still a couple of years away from Chicago. This could also mark the final shot, at least in Los Angeles, for Wood.

I think he will take advantage and will finally become a solid major league player.

Next: Middle Infielders.


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3 Responses to “Arizona Fall League Prospects: Corner Infielders”

  1. Cameron Says:

    I’d heard Hosmer had a decent glove, didn’t hear gold glove. No Royal is ever gonna win a homer crown, and I didn’t hear that HR Champ label applied to Hosmer. Might have heard it thrown around for Moose.

    Though I have heard, a lot of times, about Hosmer’s ability to win the batting crown. He’s certainly the best all-around player the Royals have waiting. Moustakas might be better because he’s got more power and could still be a .270-.285 hitter at the major league level. All I have to say is, these two are gonna be one SICK 3-4 combo.

  2. Chuck Says:

    Some of the superlatives tossed around about prospects are empty, they’re tossed around so the guy on ESPN sounds smarter than the guy on Fanhouse or whatever.

    Hosmer didn’t do shit in the AFL, but like I’ve said before, scouts scout tools, not stats.

    Your mouth might lie, but your body doesn’t.

    He has the potential to win HR crowns, but you’re right, any lefty hitter in the AL Central is going to have a tough time; Minnesota’s big to RF, Detroit is, Cleveland is.

  3. Cameron Says:

    It’s not just that, but his home ballpark isn’t very friendly to home run hitters either. That’s about 81 games out of the year where his power’s sapped.

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