I do get to spend a lot of time at the ball yard, pres-season, in-season, and again in the Fall when the Arizona Fall League is in action.
The Fall League is a treasure trove of future players, with the past years presenting Albert Pujols, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, and last year Cody Bellinger among others doing their thing before hitting the big time.
Of course my annual trek is linked to the great First Pitch Arizona sponsored by BaseballHQ which means a lot of great baseball, a lot of great information being exchanged, and of course all of this shared amongst the best of friends. As in if you love baseball and fantasy come join in next year.
However, watching games in a relaxed fashion in the fall sun with Todd Zola and Brian Walton is as much fun as there is. Of course, there are the players, and I suspect you want an idea of what I saw. So, let’s have at it.
Note: The number in parenthesis indicates ranking on the Creativesports 2.0 Top 250 Prospect List
Ronald Acuna (OF, Braves): Of course the pair readers want to know about most start alphabetically with Acuna, who is spending the fall with Poeria. I Acuna over a pair of games, one in which he went 0-for-5, and then again at the Fall Stars game where he went 1-for-4 with a single and caught stealing. The outfielder, who will be 20 next month, had a killer year hitting .325-21-82 tearing up the system. Of the outs I saw, Acuna crushed a pair of balls to deep center and had a big league whiff. I still believe. (Acuna ranked #2 in the Creativesports 2.0 Top 250 Prospect
Victor Robles (OF, Nationals): Robles was yanked from one game I saw after one at-bat after failing to run out a pop out, and then he went 1-for-3 at the Fall Stars game, walking ,scoring a pair of runs and driving in one. The fly-chaser, who turns 21 in May went .300-10-47 in the minors before an August debut which brought a .250-0-4 line over 13 games. Robles certainly looked like a player and seems ready to arrive in 2018 though he might not be mature enough to bear the load just yet. (#57)
Tanner Scott (P, Orioles): A graduate of Howard University, Scott projects as a reliever but he still has some pretty good stuff. Popping with a high-90’s fastball along with a slider Scott pitched a pair of innings at the Fall Stars game, striking out the side–including Acuna– in the third and allowing just a hit with four K’s for his evenings work. Over 198 minor league frames, Scott, 23, has whiffed a solid 251 allowing just 114 hits. But, walks can haunt him as the 145 he has allowed indicate. Still, nasty stuff.
Mitch Keller (P, Pirates): Keller was the one pitcher I was anxious to see in a Fall where not many hurlers have impressed over the past few years. Still, I saw the righty start the Fall Stars game where he toiled a pair of innings, and allowed a run the first where he was clearly trying to settle in. A pair of walks forced the first run for the 21-year old who ran 8-5, 3.03 with 116 whiffs over 116 innings for the Bucs system last year. He is probably still the bulk of a year away, but a fall call-up is not unreasonable. (#117)
Sheldon Neuse (C, Athletics): A second-round pick by the Nats (then part of the Ryan Madson/Sean Doolittle swap) who went to Oakland at the deadline, Neuse hit .321-16-79 at two levels, finishing at AA going .373-0-6 over 18 games. Neuse is hitting .286-4-18, ranking #2 in RBI for the Fall League over 15 games. The backstop went 0-for-2 with a walk and scored a run while flying and then grounding out a second game. For the Stars game he went 1-or-2 with a run scored playing third. Neuse had a good swing which saw extension and contact that looked very good. He hit the ball hard.
Matt Thaiss (1B, Angels): I only saw the #1 pick out of Virginia last year once, but first at-bat he hit a great opposite field liner to left, and second time a hard liner to right. After that they pitched Thaiss away for the rest of the game. He’s hitting .296-0-7 for the league but looks he looks big league bound. (#124)
Luis Urias (SS, Padres): A 20-year old from Sonora, Mexico, Urias provides a package nearly as diminutive as Jose Altuve at 5’9′, 160 pounds, but he crushed a fifth inning homer off Adbert Alzolay. Urias went .296-3-38 at San Antonio with 20 doubles and a fantastic 68 walks to 65 strikeouts, good for a .398 OBP. In fact, Urias has 153 walks to 135 strikeouts as a minor leaguer but he can also clearly turn on a pitch, so some nice pop might be out there as he ages. (#80)
Kevin Kaczmarski (OF, Mets): At 25, Kaczmarski is ancient for the Fall League but he raked the ball to the tune of a two-for-six the pair of games I saw, adding to his .375-1-8 line for the Scorpions. The outfielder hit .274-5-62 at AA Binghamton in 2017, with 15 swipes and a solid .370 OBP with 61 walks to 84 whiffs. He looked like a hitter.
Michael Chavis (1B, Red Sox): There seems to be some question as to what position Chavis, whom I saw hit both corners of the infield, will play. He actually seemed like a second sacker to me, but for sure, he hits the ball very hard. Chavis smacked a pair of doubles along with a single and a triple, scoring a pair of runs and displaying some pretty good wheels (19 minor league steals, but I think he could do better). He had a tougher time at the Stars game (0-for-4 with a pair of K’s) but Chavis is a gamer.
Josh Morgan (C, Rangers): The 21-year old backstop had a killer day last Thursday going 4-for-4 with a homer, three singles and a pair of knocks. Drafted #3 by Texas in 2014, Morgan hit .270-6-45 last year at Down East and made good contact for though he only walked 26 times, he only whiffed 54 over 408 at-bats.
Kyle Tucker (OF, Astros): Preston’s younger sib probably had the hottest run of any hitter I saw in Phoenix, going 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and a walk one game, and at the Stars game lined a single and walked before giving way to Braxton Lee. The 20-year old hit .274-25-90 with 63 XBH out of 127 total hits (42%), a tremendous stat. (#80)
Nicky Lopez (SS, Royals): Lopez, a fifth-rounder in 2016 out of Creighton, banged a pair of singles and copped a walk when I was in attendance, all part of the .383-0-3 line at the AFL, second best in the league average wise. He’s got nine runs scored over 15 games over the regular season hit .279-2-38 with 21 steals (though 12 caught stealing) and 68 runs scored. And, he played good defense, suggesting the end of the Alcides Escobar era may be over.