Arizona Fall League Prospects: Pitchers
In year’s past the AFL was known as a hitters league, what with the cooler post-summer temperatures and the Phoenix elevation. This year was somewhat less so but more due to an overall lack of talent, which included pitching as well as hitting. The right handed starters were a mixed back of prospects while the lefty starters had four top prospects and then a steep drop off to potential journeymen.
Righthanded Starting Pitchers:
The righthanded starters I saw this year were not very good as a group. The best of the lot was Eric Hurley, who was coming off an injury plagued stretch which caused him to miss the entire 2009 AND 2010 seasons. Kyle Greenwalt and Tyson Brummett showed good stuff in a limited amount of innings, but Hurley was clearly the best of this group.
The lefty starters were another story completely. While I only had the opportunity to see four, all four rank pretty high on their respective team’s prospect lists.
Rzepczynski led the AFL in just about every pitching category, coming off a season where he made twelve starts for the parent Blue Jays. The Jays’ system is top loaded with pitching, specifically righthanded pitching. Rzepczynski is the top lefty in the organization and should make the team out of spring training, either as the fifth starter or a lefty specialist out of the pen.
I’m not a believer in Banuelos. His diminutive size points to strength and stamina issues, as is reflected in his three season total of 215 innings. His fastball, while pretty quick for a guy his size, is straight and not at all deceiving, his curve remains a work in process and lacks the downward break to be a swing and miss pitch, and his best pitch is considered to be his changeup, which in itself is a red flag. Banuelos struggled his first few AFL starts in part because he was tipping his change and hitters were waiting for it. Once he got it straightened out, he finished up the season allowing just two hits and one run over his final eight innings. I don’t see Banuelos being an effective major league starter and any hope of a substantial career will be out of the bullpen.
The other two guys, Solis and Montgomery, profile as top of the rotation starters. Solis was the Nationals second round pick in 2010 obviously needs some minor league seasoning. He certainly could make an appearance in the majors this year following in the footprints of 2009 first rounders Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, who each had major league success this year.
A forearm injury cost Montgomery two months of the season which caused him to slip behind John Lamb in the Royals’ pitching hierarchy. Montgomery is similar in build to Solis, tall, lanky with clean mechanics and enough deception in their deliveries to keep hitters off balance.
I like Montgomery just a bit more.
There were far too many relief pitchers to list for a number of reasons. Most guys are sent to Arizona to work on specific things and there just aren’t enough innings to go around, with most guys getting bullpen work who aren’t actually relievers. Another reason is there have been only seven complete games thrown in the eighteen year history of the league, none since 2002.
A couple of guys who I’ll be following in 2011 are Wynn Pelzer, a righthander who was acquired by Baltimore in the Miguel Tejada trade. Pelzer was left unprotected by the Orioles and should be snatched up in the Rule V draft.
Another was Chance Ruffin, whose father Bruce pitched in the major leagues. Ruffin was the Tigers’ first rounder in 2010 and led the AFL in saves and who has a pretty decent chance of major league service time in 2011.
Tags: Arizona Fall League