- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
The Scottsdale Scorpions won the Arizona Fall League's championship game on Sunday, 3-2, with nearly all the scoring coming early before each team ran out a parade of relievers, including big leaguer Dan Runzler (up to 96 mph with a sharp slider) and the infamous Josh Lueke (92-97 with -- wait for it -- a sharp slider).
Both starters were amped up, but they gave up four of the game's five runs between them; Nationals lefty Sammy Solis showed that he could get ahead of hitters but struggled to put them away, while Astros right-hander Kyle Greenwalt had good sink on his above-average fastball but didn't locate it well.
AFL MVP Dustin Ackley singled off Solis for his only hit in four at-bats. Ackley played in the AFL last year after a full college season followed by a layoff between the draft and the signing deadline, and as a result he looked caught somewhere between exhausted and rusty. This year, he's had more energy, has stayed back on the ball better and has had much better plate discipline. I'm assuming he'll be up in Seattle whenever the front office is happy with his defense at second -- and, perhaps, when the service-time rules permit it.
Bryce Harper was 1-for-4, punching a fastball away to left for a run-scoring single but finishing with two strikeouts on breaking balls down and in; he's looking for something out over the plate even when he's not getting it. Trying to force the issue is probably the result of playing only twice a week, because it's not as though Harper has never seen a quality breaking ball before.
Adam Loewen led all hitters with three hits, but all were soft, two just excuse-me singles to left. He also misplayed a ball at the right-field wall that led to a Scottsdale run. Two shortstops stood out on defense -- Boston's Jose Iglesias, who's still making every play look routine from his hands to his transfer to his throwing, and Colorado's Nate Field, who dove for a deflected grounder to his right with two on and two out, got up and threw a strike to first for a huge out. Also worth noting was Washington catcher Derek Norris, who ran the best home-to-first time I've ever gotten (slightly above-average), received well and showed good instincts on the bases, taking third base on an errant throw from the pitcher to second.
•The other big news of the day was the Rangers' signing of Barret Loux for a $312,000 bonus. Loux was the sixth pick in June's Rule 4 draft but failed his postdraft physical, putting him in a sort of baseball purgatory until MLB agreed to give Arizona a compensatory pick in 2010 while making Loux a free agent. I've been told by multiple sources that Loux has damage in both his elbow and shoulder but reports no pain when throwing, so although the probability of him staying healthy long enough to reach the big leagues isn't very high, the Rangers might want to just let him keep pitching until he says "ow." Once you cut on a shoulder, it's usually never the same anyway.
•Another draft item: UNC suspended star outfielder Brian Goodwin, a potential top-10 pick for 2012, for the 2011 season for "violating University policy," apparently around academics. I see no way Goodwin sits out the 2011 spring; look for him to show up at a junior college -- there are some lovely ones out here in Arizona, Brian -- and enter the first-round picture a year early.
•The dismissal of Mets amateur scouting director Rudy Terrasas was no surprise, as the entire industry expected Sandy Alderson to install his own man in that role. But as important as the identity of Terrasas' replacement is whether Alderson has persuaded the Wilpons to completely abandon their adherence to MLB's slot "recommendations" in the amateur draft.
Before going about $350,000 over slot for their first pick in 2010, the Mets hadn't done so in the first round since 2005 and rarely spent on signability guys after the first few rounds, signing just two such players in the past five drafts for more than $200,000 and neither for more than a half-million. Terrasas' draft record doesn't look great, but he was working with shackles on, and there's really no excuse for a team in the New York market in a taxpayer-funded, cash-cow stadium to cry penury on the first Monday in June.
•The Pirates cut Andy LaRoche, Delwyn Young and Zach Duke from their 40-man roster, making them all free agents. Duke was a comical selection for the 2009 All-Star Game; since that point, he has a 5.52 ERA and has given up a .320/.362/.506 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) line. He has a .330 batting average on balls in play in the past five seasons, and at some point, that's not about bad luck or bad defense but a lack of stuff.
LaRoche always took knocks for a questionable work ethic, and although that issue appears to be gone, he can't hit and is so stiff that there doesn't seem to be much chance he will. Young is an interesting bench option, but his lack of any defensive value really limits his market.
•I was asked on Twitter whether players who are Rule 5 draft-eligible but not on the 40-man roster can be protected if they're traded between now and that draft. The answer is no, which is why you'll see some players to be named later in trades during the next few weeks, with those players typically named within a few hours of the draft's conclusion. A team also may work out a deal in which the receiving team can pick one of a list of unprotected players after the draft takes place on the morning of Dec. 9.
•I don't track the Rule 5 draft much, as the last collective bargaining agreement gutted the talent pool, but I did hear that Rule 5-eligible Milwaukee prospect Taylor Green -- the player Cleveland turned down in favor of Michael Brantley as the PTBNL in the CC Sabathia trade -- worked out at catcher in the instructional league and is attracting some attention as a potential convert to the role. Green has struggled with injuries and hasn't hit enough to profile every day at third base.
•I'm not sure about the analytical value of it, but I love seeing the "pace" stat added to FanGraphs' pitcher cards, showing the pitcher's average time between pitches. I'm assuming the "25.9" listed for Daisuke Matsuzaka was minutes rather than seconds, though. There's a reason Fenway concession stands sell No-Doz when he pitches.
•This story is a week old, but the headline on Kansas City Star writer Bob Dutton's article about Jeff Francoeur becoming a free agent speaks volumes. If the hot stove league were a reality show, the first message board comment when the Royals sign Francoeur would be "rigged!"
• Baseball Prospectus' David Laurila talked to J.C. Bradbury about his new book, "Hot Stove Economics."
• I don't know whether this sentiment is widespread, but one Tampa Tribune writer is angry that the Rays didn't match Detroit's offer for Joaquin Benoit. Me? If I were a Rays fan, I'd be doing cartwheels that my front office doesn't overpay for middle relievers.