November 2, 2012
Notes from the Arizona Fall League
The Arizona Fall League has developed into an off-season combine for clubs to evaluate some of the top talents in the minor leagues, including their own. This year's schedule is just beyond the mid-point of the schedule with the circuit's all-star event—the Rising Stars Game—slated for Saturday.
The class of participants in the 21st year of the AFL is deep in talent, and scouts are raving about the results of the eye test, despite what the statistics may suggest. Here are a handful of the most talked about performers in the desert this fall.
Slade Heathcotte, OF -- New York Yankees | .295/.415/.455, 12 BB, 9 SO
"This is a kid that has overcome a lot, on and off the field," opined one general manager. "That goes a long way when projecting a young player. He can run down fly balls (in center field) and is a really, really good athlete, maybe the best one here."
Rymer Liriano, OF -- San Diego Padres | .300/.364/.460, 3 BB, 11 SO
"He's strong and understands there are a lot of hits the other way," said an American League special assistant. Another scout called Liriano the "one guy I've seen here that could explode into elite status next season. With that power swing he's going to run into a lot of extra-base hits to center and right field. The sky is the limit."
Brian Goodwin, OF -- Washington Nationals | .268/.359/.571, 8 BB, 17 SO
"He's got a chance to do a little of everything," said one National League scout. "He's still developing but there's a lot to like in his game. He has all five tools and can do damage with each of them."
Goodwin struggled in Double-A Harrisburg, but torched the Sally League with power, patience and speed and has put both bat and glove on display in Arizona.
Seth Blair, RHP -- St. Louis Cardinals | 16 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 18 SO, 9 BB
The right-hander made just seven appearances (six of them starts) in 2012 due to a tumor found in his right middle finger, but he's had problems with his control since signing with the Cardinals and that has continued in Arizona. If he can develop the changeup there's a No. 4 starter on his way to Busch Stadium, but a late-inning bullpen role is likely in Blair's future, and he's done little in the fall league to suggest he's on a different path.
Nick Franklin, 2B/SS -- Seattle Mariners | .341/.438/.585, 7 BB, 8 SO
"He's just a baseball player," noted one American League scouting supervisor, "and he's still getting better." Franklin is a determined, confident player that impresses by maximizing his production despite some limitations physically.
"I'd like to see what he could do as a pure left-handed stick," the supervisor added of the switch-hitting Franklin. "He drifts and expands the zone as a righty, but he's very good from the other side. I think he's ready for a shot (in the majors) this spring."
Hanser Alberto, SS -- Texas Rangers | .390/.422/.488, 2BB, 3 SO
The Dominican native is a pure shortstop, with 60-grade speed and arm strength, good instincts in the field and on the bases, and an advanced approach at the plate that has earned him high praise. As he matures physically there may be more than middle-infield power in his bat. He shows good range laterally and has terrific hands, but still needs to clean up the work on routine plays and stay within himself.
"There's a sizable ceiling there," noted a National League club's special assistant to the general manager. "He's a bit raw in some areas, but very polished in others."