Arizona Fall League Prospects: Pitchers

by Chuck

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:

Kyle Greenwalt (Houston), Michael Fiers (Milwaukee), Seth Garrison (Boston), Eric Hurley (Texas), Brian Broderick (St. Louis), Tyson Brummett (Philadelphia), Brooks Brown (Detroit).

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.

Lefthanded Starters:

Marc Rzepczynski (Toronto), Sammy Solis (Washington), Mike Montgomery (Kansas City), Manny Banuelos (Yankees).

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.

A handful of others stood out, but didn’t throw enough innings to really make a mark, including Boston’s Jason Rice, Seattle’s Josh Lueke, Baltimore’s Wynn Pelzer and Kansas City’s Jeremy Jeffress.


Recent Posts

8 Responses to “Arizona Fall League Prospects: Pitchers”

  1. raul Says:

    Seems like Toronto and Kansas City are really on the rise.

    I have no idea how they’ll do. The AL East and AL Central are kinda tough for relatively low-payroll teams — well, in comparison to the other wallets in the division, anyway.


    Word seems to be the Yankees will open 2011 with Sabathia, Hughes and Burnett, with Nova and another minor leaguer filling out the rotation. An ESPN article (bear with me here) lists the possibilities for the 5th spot as: Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Adam Warren and Hector Noesi.

    That’s assuming, of course, that Andy Pettitte retires.

    Apparently Cashman isn’t thrilled with the remaining pitching options on the FA Market and doesn’t see any pitcher worth trading for.

    Also, fans in Washington have at least some hope of seeing a winning team. You noted Sammy Solis, and in addition to Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Drew Storen, things could get really competitive in the NL East.

    …I was looking at Drew Storen’s BBREF page. Interestingly, he was drafted by the Yankees in 2007. Not sure what happened there. Also of note, he only pitched 53 combined innings in the Minor Leagues. Wondering why so few?

  2. Chuck Says:

    Joe DelGrippo knows way more about the Yankees’ minor league pitchers than I do (and we disagree on some, Banuelos in particular) so I’ll ask him what he thinks.

    Personally, I think Cashman will BEG Pettitte to come back for one more year.

    I read something the other day in passing that gave the impression Brackman is a lock to be on the 25 man roster next year, but I think that’s a stipulation to his ML contract.

    I think Betances has the highest ceiling of just about any minor league pitcher in any organization, although his size concerns me. Banuelos’ size concerns me too, but for different reasons.

    The Yanks have too much invested in Brackman to just let him walk so they’ll do anything possible to get something out of him, even if it’s just pitching in blowouts.

    Noesi and Warren have no chance.

    I think the Yanks will wait til after the first of the year and maybe take a shot on a cheap veteran option. I’ve heard they’ve requested medical records for Freddie Garcia and Chris Young, so they’re at least kicking the tires on a few guys.

  3. Chuck Says:

    Just a general comment.

    Living and working in New York and Connecticut for years gave me access to the daily “newspaper” wars between the Daily News and The Post. Just like with their sports teams, people love one and hate the other.

    I was always a Post guy, I just found their headlines and stories better.

    The front page of the Post today shows why.

    An absolute classic, putting dog heads on Giants players as they’re chasing Michael Vick.

  4. raul Says:

    I dislike the Post, but that’s for political reasons.

    In terms of sports, I liked Newsday and the Post, with the Daily News probably 3rd.

    Although I don’t read any of them much anymore.

  5. raul Says:

    By the way,

    Any chance some team takes a chance on Pedro Martinez in 2011? I don’t think he’s officially retired.

  6. Bob Says:

    I Love the Post, and there is always a chance some team will take a flier on Pedro. Best free-agents still out there
    1. Beltre
    2. Soriano
    3. Pavano
    4. Pettitte
    5. Fuentes
    6. Manny
    7. Probably Kevin Millwood
    After that the talent level is thin.

  7. Chuck Says:

    Seen at the Winter Meetings;

    Gary Sheffield’s agent panhandling in the lobby for a spring training invite, saying his client never “officially” retired and wants to play again.

    The Yankees signed Luis Vizcaino, a 36 year old relief pitcher who hasn’t pitched since June, 2009.

    If Cashman considers that move a “bullpen improvement”, then the Yanks are in deep doo-doo.

  8. Cameron Says:

    Milwood blows. I’d rather take a guy like Joe Crede or someone who got left off a roster last year than give Millwood a chance. I’d rather give Elijah Dukes a chance.

    Why? Dude made 10 million last year and I don’t even wanna give him half that.

Leave a Reply