Thursday, October 10, 2013
Observations from Arizona Fall League
By Keith Law
Alex Meyer, acquired in the Denard Span trade last offseason, impressed at the AFL.
I'm out in Arizona this week for four days of Arizona Fall League scouting, catching two games each day before I head home on Saturday. Here's the first set of notes on players I've seen so far, with more emphasis on pitchers who've stood out through four games.
• Minnesota right-hander Alex Meyer, acquired in the Denard Span trade, started the first game on Tuesday, hitting 100 mph in his first inning and sitting 96-99 for three innings with great sink on the pitch. Although he's 6-foot-9, Meyer comes from a low 3/4 arm slot, which puts that action on the ball but increases the need for him to develop his still-fringy changeup, which he barely threw on Tuesday. His slider was hard at 84-87, a swing-and-miss offering that he doesn't yet throw for enough strikes. Much of what Meyer needs to accomplish comes down to his size -- tall pitchers often have trouble repeating their deliveries and maintaining their coordination, which hurts command. If Meyer can get that consistency with his delivery, he's a potential top 30 starter because he can miss bats and get ground balls, but he will have to throw more and better strikes first.
• Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon pitched on Tuesday night, working at an easy 93-97 mph with a hard curveball at 78-82 mph. He wasn't overthrowing, which has been an issue in the past, but the fastball remains very easy to see. His hard changeup at 87-88 is below-average, missing up to his arm side often.
• Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman also pitched on Tuesday, sitting 94-96 mph in relief with a power slider at 85-86 that had good tilt and depth on it. He also threw a cutter at 90-91, helping to mitigate the lack of plane on the fastball, and flashed a hard change at 86 that had good tailing action. I still think his most likely career is in relief, because his fastball ticks up there and the lack of downhill action (Stroman is 5-foot-9) is less of a concern, but he does have enough weapons to work as a starter.
• Wednesday brought Orioles lefty Eddie Rodriguez, who sat 91-93 mph with his four-seamer and in the upper 80s with a two-seamer. Rodriguez' hard changeup at 86-87 has both deception and action and is a better weapon right now than his 82-84 mph slider, which he doesn't finish well enough to get it to his glove side (such as to the back foot of a right-handed hitter).
• The opposing starter was Houston's Matt Heidenreich -- whom the Astros acquired earlier this year for Brett Myers -- but he was 84-86 mph and is just an org arm. Lefty Alex Sogard, also of Houston, showed more promise, sitting 92-94, touching 96, with a true power curveball with tight rotation and depth. If he throws more strikes, he is potentially a late-game relief option who should wipe out lefties.
• Brewers reliever David Goforth only threw a few pitches in relief but was 94-98 mph with a solid-average slider at 85-86. He should appear in Milwaukee's pen at some point in 2014.
• I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my cousin* Derek Law, a right-hander in the Giants' system who was 92-94 mph with some downhill plane. He comes from over the top with a lot of effort, putting his slider at 82-83 in the dirt more often than not.
(*Not actually my cousin.)
• Moving on to hitters, the Cubs' trio of impact hitting prospects all looked good on Tuesday and then went off at home on Wednesday afternoon. (I was only at the Tuesday game, but was at another game on Wednesday.) Jorge Soler has filled out significantly since I last saw him in late 2012, now making louder contact during a very impressive BP, but looked rusty at the plate in that first game.
Kris Bryant also looked strong in BP with plus-plus raw power and had no problem handling bigger velocity on Tuesday, squaring up a 97 mph fastball for a hard-hit single. Albert Almora had the game of the Fall League so far on Wednesday, falling a triple short of the cycle, and has filled out nicely as well since he first signed after the 2012 draft.
• Boston second base prospect Mookie Betts was one of the biggest breakout prospects of the regular season and already is carrying that forward into Fall League, going 3-for-6 through two games with lots of hard contact, including a flyout to deep left-center on a right-hander's fastball in on his hands. Betts also looks good on defense, with a very quick transfer on the double play, and adds value with his speed.
• Cardinals outfielder James Ramsey surprised me with the power he showed in BP and followed it up with a bomb on Wednesday night while also showing good ability to take the outside pitch to left field. He's struggled a little to lay off velocity up in the zone, but if he's a grade 50 or 55 power guy he's got a good shot to be an average (or better) regular in an outfield corner.
• White Sox second baseman Micah Johnson led the minors in stolen bases this year and has been wreaking havoc on the bases here as well, which is key as it is by far his best tool. He's got a lot of effort in his swing, even grunting during BP like he's doing his best Monica Seles impression, and he's fringy at second with a 45 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) arm. I'd like to see what he could do in center field given his speed, and would also love to see him challenged in 2014 with a promotion to Double A, as he was old for his levels in 2013.