November 2013

AFL favorites: Non-Top 20 edition

My colleagues Jim Callis (@JimCallisMLB) and Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff) have already weighed in on players they liked in the Arizona Fall League who didn’t make MLBPipeline.com’s Top 20 list.  Jim mentioned five players in his blog while Bernie filed two reports, one on outfielder Henry Urrutia and one on lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, both from the Orioles organization.

Teddy Cahill (@tedcahill), who also helped out with the Top 20 along with Jim and Bernie, listed these names when asked who were his non-Top 20 favorites: Eduardo Rodriguez, Andrew Susac, Brian Goodwin and Mason Williams. He also liked Richie Shaffer as a bit of a sleeper pick, not a guy who belongs on a Top 20, but one who “seemed to rebound from a so-so season” and who walked as much as he struck out in Arizona.

Where does that leave me? I, too, like Rodriguez and Susac, but I wanted to find a few players not mentioned by anyone else (a benefit of being late in posting this). So I’m definitely going more of the “sleeper pick” route, though all of these guys are prospects in their own right. In no particular order:

Chris Taylor, SS/2B, Mariners: Not saying he’s going to be a superstar or anything, but he’s hit everywhere he’s been, reaching Double-A this past year. He has good on-base skills and can play second and short. He’s the type of utlity guy (maybe an every-day 2B?) who helps teams win and I’m becoming a firm believer in University of Virginia guys hitting at the next level.

Yorman Rodriguez, OF, Reds: There were signs that the 21-year-old corner outfielder was starting to figure things out during the 2013 season as he reached Double-A for the first time. Yes, there’s swing and miss aplenty, but the tools are very much still there and he’s starting to use them. Oh, and he won’t turn 22 until mid-August.

Mike Montgomery, LHP, Rays: Yeah, I know what you’re going to say. Him again? Been there, done that. But he’s still big and left-handed, and he threw pretty well this fall. He’s still only 24 and has decent stuff. It’s all about command, and it was pretty good in the AFL.

Nick Wittgren, RHP, Marlins: OK, I have to admit. I’m kind of stealing this from Bernie Pleskoff, who really likes Wittgren. So do I, though maybe not quite as much as Bernie does. Wittgren put up video game numbers during the 2013 season (0.77 ERA, .198 BAA, 9.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9), then did it some more in a much more hostile pitching environment in the AFL (0.66 ERA, .130 BAA, 19 K, 2 BB in 13 2/3 IP). He had 26 saves during the regular season, but he’s likely not a closer in the big leagues. But he could be pitching there in 2014.

Some quick AFL Fall Stars pre-game tidbits

We’re less than an hour away from this year’s Fall Stars (previously called the Rising Stars Game). You can watch on MLB Network and the game will be streaming on MLB.com. I hope you watch the entire game, but if you’re curious, I’ll be sitting in with Paul Severino and Joe Magrane for the 4th-6th innings.

Batting practice was quite a show. Jorge Alfaro (Rangers) probably was the most impressive for the West Division Fall Stars. His raw power is just ridiculous and he was putting balls way up on the berm in left-center consistently.

The East Division’s first group turned into a home run hitting contest between C.J. Cron (Angels) and Kris Bryant (Cubs). Cron hit a light post above the berm and one that nearly left the stadium completely. Bryant wasn’t far behind, but Cron might have been the “victor” in this round.

Cardinals outfielder James Ramsey is the leadoff hitter and isn’t a power guy, but he clearly had fun trying to muscle up. He blasted a couple out to right, though he did swing through a pitch with an all or nothing swing at the end.

Ramsey knows his role, though, tonight and in general. He’s hitting atop a lineup followed by the Nats’ Brian Goodwin, Bryant, Cron, Angels 2B Taylor Lindsey, fellow Cardinal Stephen Piscotty, Cubs right field Jorge Soler, Yankees catcher Peter O’Brien and A’s shortstop Addison Russell (any lineup with Russell hitting ninth is insane). Ramsey turned to Goodwin at the start of BP and said, “All I have to do is get to first base and the rest is easy.”

Alex Meyer and the rest of the West Division pitching staff might have something to say about that, and the West isn’t exactly devoid of firepower (Byron Buxton’s BP was pretty impressive as well).

Should be a fun night. Hit me on Twitter (@JonathanMayoB3) if you want to chat about the game. And join me over on MLB Network. Enjoy the game!

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