This is the first of a six part series that will examine the rosters of each Arizona Fall League team. The Arizona Fall League is annually renown for showcasing the elite talent of each major league organization and often serves as a spring board for talented youngsters to carve out opportunities with their big league clubs in the following MLB season. For the savvy prospect investor, the AFL offers a prolonged look at the development of key prospects during the baseball offseason and shapes the buying and selling strategies to be employed throughout the ensuing season.
Our first look is at the Mesa Solar Sox which boasts talents from the Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, L.A. Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, and Florida Marlins. Enjoy!
|#||Name||Pos||Bat||Thw||Ht||Wt||DOB||Status||MLB 40-man||MLB Parent Club|
|75||Marco Albano||P||R||R||5′ 11″||215||08-26-1983||Active||No||LAA|
|47||Randor Bierd||P||R||R||6′ 4″||190||03-14-1984||Active||No||BOS|
|51||Jay Buente||P||R||R||6′ 2″||185||09-28-1983||Active||No||FLA|
|26||Alex Burnett||P||R||R||6′ 0″||190||07-26-1987||Active||No||MIN|
|41||Andrew Cashner||P||R||R||6′ 6″||210||09-11-1986||Active||No||CHC|
|43||John Gaub||P||R||L||6′ 2″||200||04-28-1985||Active||No||CHC|
|84||Jeremy Haynes||P||R||R||6′ 2″||180||05-28-1986||Active||No||LAA|
|59||Steve Hirschfeld||P||R||R||6′ 5″||226||09-08-1985||Active||No||MIN|
|94||Tim Kiely||P||R||R||6′ 1″||190||08-26-1985||Active||No||LAA|
|57||Richard Lentz||P||R||R||6′ 2″||210||08-06-1984||Active||No||BOS|
|37||Mike McCardell||P||R||R||6′ 5″||220||04-13-1985||Active||No||MIN|
|74||Tommy Mendoza||P||R||R||6′ 2″||195||08-18-1987||Active||No||LAA|
|23||Andrew Miller||P||L||L||6′ 7″||205||05-21-1985||Active||Yes||FLA|
|34||Garrett Parcell||P||R||R||6′ 5″||220||07-12-1984||Active||No||FLA|
|30||Blake Parker||P||R||R||6′ 3″||225||06-19-1985||Active||No||CHC|
|48||Chris Province||P||R||R||6′ 3″||220||01-20-1985||Active||No||BOS|
|58||Dustin Richardson||P||L||L||6′ 6″||220||01-09-1984||Active||Yes||BOS|
|50||James Russell||P||L||L||6′ 4″||205||01-08-1986||Active||No||CHC|
|25||Spencer Steedley||P||L||L||6′ 2″||194||05-31-1985||Active||No||MIN|
|38||Jay Voss||P||L||L||6′ 4″||195||04-22-1987||Active||No||FLA|
|#||Name||Pos||Bat||Thw||Ht||Wt||DOB||Status||MLB 40-man||MLB Parent Club|
|3||Welington Castillo||C||R||R||6′ 0″||200||04-24-1987||Active||No||CHC|
|65||Hank Conger||C||S||R||6′ 1″||220||01-29-1988||Active||No||LAA|
|19||Luis Exposito||C||R||R||6′ 3″||210||01-20-1987||Active||No||BOS|
Top 5 Players to Watch:
1.) Michael Stanton
- It was a tale of two seasons for the king-sized Florida Marlins slugger who split time between High-A Jupiter and AA Jacksonville this season. With Jupiter, Stanton hit .294 with 12 HR 39 RBI and a solid 28 BB/45 K ratio in 50 games. His promotion to Jacksonville, however, exploited some still raw strike zone judgement (31 BB/99 K in 79 games) that plagued him throught 2008. As a resut, Stanton mustered a .231 BA against Southern League hurlers, though his 16 HR and 53 RBI were demonstrative indicators of the power to come. The market for Stanton’s various ’08 RC autos is still quite active but the costs have diminshed by about 25% since his hot spring numbers. His cheapest autos can be found in the 2008 Razor series (#/1199) for a shade under $10 each. His more popular autos in the Bowman Chrome Drat set command $30-35 each.
- Stanton has drawn rave reviews from members within the Marlins organization for his work ethic and cerebral approach to the game. His struggles with the strike zone are issues stemming strictly from a lack of experience and an expedient ascent through the system. Like other power hitters, he will always rack up high K totals, but I think that he will find a way to be more selective at the plate which should raise his BB totals as well as his batting average in future years. If his AFL season is a successful one, Stanton should figure heavily in the Marlins’ plans at some point in 2010.
2.) Josh Vitters
- The top prospect of the Chicago Cubs played like one in his first full professional season, hitting .316 with 15 HR 46 RBI and 42 runs scored in his 70 games at Low-A Peoria. That performance earned him a promotion to the Cubs’ High-A affiliate Dayton where his numbers dropped considerably (.238 3 HR 22 RBI in 50 games). Like Stanton, plate discipline was the main culprit of Vitters’ struggles as he earned just 12 walks in 458 AB.
- Vitters is at least a year to year and a half away from making his major league debut, so this AFL experience is really just an opportunity for Josh to show the Cubs’ brass where he is development-wise. Current Cubbies 3B Aramis Ramirez is under contract through next season and has a $14.6 million player option that he can utilize for 2011. This should give Vitters just enough time to develop into a player that can effectively replace Ramirez’s production once he hits the free agent market. Vitters has autographed cards in various 2007 and 2008 products that all seem to fall in the $10-20 range. For someone who has promise to be the face of the Cubs franchise within the next two to three seasons, his cards seem like rock solid investments.
3.) Casey Kelly
- Is he a pitcher or an infielder? Judging by last year’s numbers, his arm seems to be ahead of his bat. Propelled by a 6-1 record and 1.12 ERA, the 19 year old Sarasota native rocketed his way to High-A Salem and continued to post excellent numbers (3.09 ERA 7 BB/29 K in 35 IP). Kelly, as per the Red Sox plans, stopped pitching in the second half of the season and played at SS, where his bat (.222 3 HR 16 RBI 16 BB/49 K) failed to muster the same heat has his electric right arm.
- On a roster drunk with top tier shortstops (Starlin Castro, Jose Iglesias), it seems that Kelly’s initial AFL experience will be limited and a primary source of extra offseason work against elite talent. My gut tells me that Kelly will eventually develop as a pitcher, forgoing the offensive side of his game. There are several other fine SS (Iglesias, Yamiaco Navarro, Argenis Diaz, Oscar Tejeda) within the system.
4.) Starlin Castro
- The 19 year old Chicago Cubs farmhand had an excellent debut season shooting up to AA Tennessee, hitting .299 with 3 HR 49 RBI and 28 SB over two levels. The youngest participant in the Arizona Fall League, Castro has shown sound strike zone discipline (29 BB/53 K) and the ability to hit for future power (32 XBH).
- Castro’s AFL performance could go a long way towards determining just where the Cubs will start him for the 2010 season. My hunch is that he will go back to AA Tennessee with the intent of earning a promotion to AAA Iowa within the first couple of months. Current Cubbies SS, Ryan Theriot, had another solid season with both the glove and the bat, which could mean that Castro’s first MLB action may be at 2B instead of SS. That could happen at the tail end of the 2010 season. Castro’s first year cards have just been issued in the 2009 Bowman Chrome set. The base chrome cards are currently trading at $1.25-2.00 each and his refractors can be found for $4-5 per card. Vitters may be the face of the franchise, but Castro should be playing next to him and hitting in front of him for several future seasons.
5.) Ryan Kalish
- Kalish bounced back after a ho-hum 2008 season to put up big numbers at his High-A and AA stops this year, hitting .279 with 18 HR 77 RBI 21 SB and 84 runs scored. The increase of his power output did not come at the expense of his plate disciline, which at a rate of 68 BB/107 K in 141 games, is still quite acceptable.
- After being outsted by the L.A. Angels in a three game sweep, the Red Sox have some glaring offseason questions to answer. Current LF Jason Bay is an unrestricted free agent and J.D. Drew is a prolonged stint on the DL (35 or more days) away from allowing the Red Sox the ability to opt out of the rest of his contract. Josh Reddick, who received a couple of brief stints with the Sox this year, is at the front of the list of potential replacements, but Kalish may offer a more comprehensive skill set than Reddick has. Long term, both are quite talented enough to flank Jacoby Ellsbury as a formidable Fenway trifecta for seasons to come. The current eBay market for Kalish’s various 2008 first year autos between $8-12, which seems like a bargain considering the future potential that Kalish posesses.
Others to watch:
- Luis Exposito–Red Sox top catching prospect highly successful @ AA (.337 3 HR 12 RBI in 23 games)
- Ryan Mount—Disappointing ’09 season but now top 2B with departure of Sean Rodriguez
- Hank Conger–1st fully healthy season at AA rendered good results (.295 11 HR 68 RBI 55 BB/68 K)
- Andrew Cashner—Cubs ’08 1st rounder w/ power arm showed he can start (24 starts 2.60 ERA)
- Rene Tosoni—Twins OF w/ solid all around skill set may be playing for a change of scenery
- Chris Parmelee—’06 1st rounder developing plate discipline and light tower power (16 HR 27 2B)
- Jose Iglesias—Cuban FA SS with dynamic glove and emerging offensive potential for Red Sox
- Matt Dominguez–A disappointing 2009 season may be due more to being rushed than overall talent
- David Cooper–Unlike Dominguez, his extremely good ’08 may be the aberration