We call it the "Gookie Dawkins Rule."
A term coined by those who regularly attend the Arizona Fall League, it essentially means that if you are sent to the AFL three times in your career, it probably just isn't going to happen for you in the big leagues. An in-joke for a small group of people to be sure, but it's funny to us, so that's all that really matters. It also happens to be true.
We do give special consideration to Brian Shouse, who made the big leagues a full six years after his third appearance in the AFL and has carved out a career in his late 30s as a lefty specialist, but the rule is still alive and well.
(Here's the really funny part: Dawkins went only twice, so he doesn't even follow his own rule. However, it seemed like he was there for like five years straight, and that was enough for the rule to get its moniker.)
Enough about Gookie, though, let's talk about a player who could be the exception.
Nolan Reimold, OF, Orioles Yes, he's been at the AFL the past three seasons, but he's also currently hitting .396 with 20 extra-base hits in 30 games at Triple-A, putting himself in line for a big league summons soon if Luke Scott can't fight through a shoulder injury or the Felix Pie experiment ends.
Reimold's development as a corner outfield prospect had been stalled a little bit due to foot and back injuries in 2006 and an oblique injury in 2007. (That's the main reason he kept getting AFL time, making up for the lost at-bats in those years.) He stayed healthy the whole way at Double-A last season, and showed his power potential with a .284 average, 25 homers and a .501 slugging percentage in 139 games.
A second-round pick in the 2005 draft out of Bowling Green, the 6-foot-4 Reimold's main calling card is that raw power, which is good enough to hit the ball out of any park to any field. He couples that ability with a good knowledge of the strike zone.
The biggest questions scouts usually have about him regard his ability to hit big league lefties, his long swing and that he's just a mistake hitter, albeit a good one. In the past, Reimold has taken too big of a load, which worked to counter his good bat speed.
"Sometimes my head was moving too much, and I wasn't getting ready early enough," Reimold said. "I need to make sure that I'm in position to hit when the pitch comes, and I wasn't always doing that well in the past."
However, Reimold has tinkered with his swing a bit and now gets a much better load and is a little shorter to the ball. Reimold crowds the plate a bit, which leaves him prone to getting jammed, and his long arms also don't help when he gets busted inside, but when he's able to extend, look out. He's also become much better in the past year at using the whole field and being less pull-conscious. Defensively, he can play either corner outfield spot, and though he will take poor routes at times, he has a strong arm and is athletic for his size. His bat has been slower to develop, but it's probably due to the injuries and the fact he was tinkering with his swing for a while to find the adjustments that worked for him.
His average may not be great at the big league level, but it should be serviceable, and his power will definitely play. At worst he's a fourth outfielder/platoon player, but I think he can be a legitimate starting outfielder in the big leagues if given the opportunity.
Bryan Augenstein, SP, D-backs: A seventh-round selection in the 2007 draft, Augenstein will make the jump from Double-A to the D-backs' rotation on Wednesday night. He earned that promotion by posting a 0.78 ERA in his first six starts this season, striking out 31 in 34 2/3 innings and allowing just 23 baserunners. Those six outings were his first above Class A ball. You hadn't seen him on any prospect lists because his raw stuff is not imposing, but he throw strikes, commands all of his pitches, and knows how to mix them up.
Augenstein posted a combined 2.74 in 2008, splitting the season between Arizona's two Class A level teams. He struck out 99 in 131 innings, while walking just 14 and allowing seven homers.
A sinkerballer, he lives by keeping the ball down in the zone and commanding his fastball on both sides of the plate. Although he's been able to dial it up to 93 mph in the past, he's better now that he has scrapped his four-seam fastball and just concentrated on his 89-91 mph sinker. Although he's a big 6-foot-5 right-hander, he throws the ball from a three-quarters slot which occasionally becomes an issue in staying on top of his breaking ball, a high-70s slurvy pitch. His high-70s change has good arm speed and he can locate it. His delivery is smooth, controlled and repeatable, which helps to give him his plus command, and he's going to need every bit of it to compensate for his lack of an out pitch against big league hitters.
Augenstein likely will be back out of the rotation when Brandon Webb returns even if he does well, but you never know what can happen in the interim, so how he does in this audition will be worth watching because he might have some value to NL-only players. When you throw strikes, have pitchability, and can command your secondary stuff, you have a chance to succeed.
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