Arizona Fall League Prospects: Outfielders
The overall group of outfielders in the AFL was a mixed bag, some big names, some guys fighting for spots on the 40, and a handful of players learning new positions. Most of the players won’t see major league action this season so it was difficult not only to pick a guy from each position, but to be motivated enough to actually pay attention.
Marc Krauss (Arizona), Brandon Barnes (Colorado), Jared Bolden (Texas), Tim Kennelly (Philadelphia), Brandon Laird (Yankees), Eric Thames (Toronto), A.J. Pollock (Arizona), Nate Tenbrink (Seattle), Adron Chambers (St. Louis), Joey Butler (Texas).
Most of the guys on this list are reserve players with no immediate hopes of major league employment. Barnes, Tenbrink and Chambers fit into this spot, with Bolden and Pollock falling into the not quite ready for prime time spots. Kennelly is a catcher by trade, Butler a rightfielder.
Brandon Laird is a third baseman by trade who began his outfield transition during last year’s AFL. Laird can also spell at first base if needed and has been added to the Yankees 40 man, a sign he may be in line to contend for the right handed reserve role held this past year by Austin Kearns and Marcus Thames.
Eric Thames spent this past season in Double A and was named the organizations minor league POY yet didn’t make much of a move in Toronto’s prospect hierarchy.
Pollock is a centerfielder by trade and was sent to the AFL to get some work in after missing the entire season with an injury.
Krauss may have been the biggest surprise of the AFL season for me. At 6′3″, 235, one wouldn’t expect him to be a speed demon in the outfield but he showed good footwork and speed for a guy his size. He made nice running catches in both the Rising Stars and AFL championship game and a better than expected arm. It remains to be seen what the Diamondbacks will do during this off-season to replace the power lost when Mark Reynolds and Adam LaRoche left town. The Dbacks are in the market for a leftfielder and a lefty power bat, although I can’t see them sending Krauss directly to Arizona and skipping Double and Triple A.
As was the case with shortstop, there is no standout, obvious choice here as well. Because Laird offers the Yankees a righthanded power threat they currently lack outside of ARod, I’ll take him.
Charlie Blackmon (Colorado), Jay Austin (Houston), Xavier Avery (Baltimore), Logan Schafer (Milwaukee), Jeremy Moore (Angels), Brandon Barnes (Colorado), Juan Carlos Linares (Boston), Derrick Robinson (Kansas City), Ben Revere (Twins), Jared Mitchell (White Sox), Trayvon Robinson (Dodgers).
Other than at second base, the talent level is highest here than anywhere else. No fewer than eight of the eleven candidates listed could, at some point, become major league regulars.
Jared Mitchell may have been the best athlete in the AFL, and while his obvious talent was apparent, he was here just for reps after missing all of the 2010 with what was initially considered a career ending injury.
Logan Schafer, like Mitchell, was here to get some post injury work. Juan Carlos Linares only played seventeen games during the season, but not due to injury or draft status; he was signed as an international free agent from Cuba. During his seventeen regular season appearances, Linares hit .246 over sixty-one at bats with fifteen strikeouts. In his seventeen AFL games, Linares was a different player, splitting .397/3/15 with just five whiffs in sixty eight AB’s.
Charlie Blackmon, a former college pitcher, and Brandon Barnes are two Rockies prospects with limited opportunities at the major league level as they are stuck behind two up and coming young players in Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez. I like Blackmon alot but he really doesn’t appear to have a shot with the Rox.
That leaves four; the unrelated Robinson boys, Jeremy Moore, and Ben Revere. The two Robinson’s are physically similar; both are 5′11″, both are switchhitters, and both were born in September, 1987. Trayvon is three weeks older, Derrick throws right, Trayvon left. Both are high school products; Trayvon fro m the same school which produced Eric Davis and Darryl Strawberry, Derrick from a small school in Gainesville, Fl.
Trayvon’s hit .300 or better in each of the past two seasons and has shown increased plate discipline as indicated by his increased walk totals each season as a pro. Robinson has stolen 35 or more bases each season as a pro. Derrick Robinson also set career highs this season in most offensive categories and has stolen fifty or more bases each of the past three seasons. Both Robinson’s are prototypical leadoff hitters and centerfielders defensively with their only true offensive weaknesses being the ability to use their speed in a positive, game impacting manner.
Ben Revere has drawn comparison to the Yankees’ Brett Gardner for his speed and willingness to draw a walk. While Baseball America recently ranked Revere the Twins’ seventh top minor league prospect, he came in third amongst outfielders.
Jeremy Moore was one of the handful of minor leaguers who posted triple digit numbers in triples, doubles and homers in 2010. Moore has the first step quickness for leftfield, the speed for center and the arm for right. Despite no playing experience above AA, Moore has a chance to at least contribute to the Angels in 2011 as a reserve.
For immediate impact possibilities, I’m taking Moore.
AJ Pollock (Arizona), Adam Loewen (Toronto), Bryce Harper (Washington), Caleb Gindl (Milwaukee), Andrew Lambo (Pittsburgh), Adron Chambers (St. Louis), Ben Guez (Detroit), Leslie Anderson (Tampa), Michael Burgess (Washington).
While the overall number of candidates here is thin compared to some others, the list of candidates is pretty solid. Right off the bat we can eliminate two, Guez and Gindl, as being fourth or fifth OF types, with two more, Chambers and Pollock, being more qualified at another position.
Since I am not a paid prognosticator, I won’t tell you Bryce Harper is the best prospect I’ve seen. I won’t even tell you he’s the best right field prospect I’ve ever seen, (ever hear of Jason Heyward and Mike Stanton?). His power appears to be legit, but I see him losing effectiveness as he gets older and his swing becomes more controlled. His arm certainly is close to an 80, with an off balance, 300 foot in the air strike to third base on a dead ball showed. The consensus of Baseball America’s scouting staff was Harper projected to above average in power and arm strength and below average in everything else, and I saw nothing of him in three games to dissuade that opinion.
I’m a Lambo fan, and with Pittsburgh non-tendering two thirds of its outfield he could be a factor sometime during the second half of 2011.
Leslie Anderson is a 28 year old veteran of Cuba’s national team who played in both World Baseball Classics. He won the Rising Stars game with a first pitch walkoff homer and could be the fill-in guy this year for Tampa, replacing the likes of Eric Hinske and Matt Joyce.
Adam Loewen was making his third appearance in the AFL since being the number one pick of the Orioles in 2001 as a pitcher. In his first appearance in 2005, Loewen actually led the league in ERA. An after thought this year as an injury fill-in, Loewen tied for the AFL in homers despite playing just 14 games.
The Blue Jays surprisingly left Loewen exposed to the Rule V draft, even more surprising is he wasn’t selected. He’s continued his impressive run in Puerto Rico, as has Leslie Anderson.
Anderson likely will make the Rays in spring training as the replacement for Eric Hinske. With the loss of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, Tampa will be looking for Anderson to be the main lefty pinchitter with occasional starts in rightfield.
Tags: Arizona Fall League