The biggest showings at the Fall Stars Game, one of the schedule's great collections of prospect talent.
Outside of the Futures Game and perhaps the occasional loaded league All-Star game, it’s tough to find a better collection of talent in one game than the AFL's Fall Stars game. It’s the very best of the league squaring off against each other, and unlike the Futures Game you’re generally seeing guys who are close to contributing at the big-league level.
Unfortunately, this was the watered-down version of the game, as several injuries and various defections made it the weakest field in my five years covering the event. That’s not to say there wasn’t talent on display Saturday night, as there were several potential regulars and future members of MLB rotations and bullpens featured at Salt River. Here’s a look at a few who stood out.
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Many of the nation's top prep bats gathered in Jupiter last week.
The WWBA World Championship in Jupiter is quite the experience.
It’s countless golf carts roaming the Roger Dean complex and camping out behind home plate or down the lines. It’s being on your feet for hours at a time and seeing perhaps the most baseball you’ll ever witness in one day, then multiplying that over several days. It’s filling pages upon pages with notes about so much talent that it becomes almost overwhelming. It’s the Florida sun baking in the middle of the day and that occasional gust of wind. It’s seeing old friends and colleagues, and making new connections by sitting in someone’s golf cart to get off your feet.
Eyes on Alex Reyes, Sean Manaea, Raimel Tapia, Austin Meadows and more.
If you’ve spent too much time mesmerized by the postseason, you might have missed that the Arizona Fall League started this month. The AFL is one of my favorite times of the year, enabling not only the 350 mile trip to a place I consider baseball utopia, but also the chance to evaluate plenty of prospects who I normally would only get to see on video or hear about through scouts. If you are serious about player-development—or if you just want go watch baseball for cheap in warm weather—I seriously recommend making a trip out here.
Here’s a look at some standouts for each club over the first two weeks.
Notes on Anderson Espinoza, Andrew Benintendi, Confesor Lara, and more.
On the mound Nicholas Frey (Cardinals) has average arm speed and pitches out of a traditional three-quarters arm slot. His mechanics were ugly when I saw him, he has a deep stab, there is effort to the delivery, and he fights moderate spine tilt which can cause him to fall off hard to the first base side. Frey has a fastball that comes in at 93-94 and shows moderate run but it's a surprisingly hittable offering as batters get a long look at it all the way through the zone. Frey flashes an 11-5 curve but it lacks consistency and deception; he does a poor job of replicating the fastball arm speed. Frey's stuff should produce better results but his fringy command profile and the ease with which batters pick up his stuff have hindered him severely. – Mauricio Rubio
The Cardinals' fourth-round pick out of Illinois State, Paul DeJong has handled himself well during his pro debut. He showed average arm strength, coordinated actions, and average hands in my viewing. At the plate DeJong keeps his hands low and in towards the body, and has a moderate load pre-pitch. I saw his swing get long some on hard stuff in but DeJong shows some feel for the barrel and he has above-average bat speed. – Mauricio Rubio
Notes on Ketel Marte, Chris Shaw, an an under-the-radar guy you probably ha
Quick Hits:Miguel Andujar (Yankees) is a better athlete than you’d expect by just looking at the body type, busting a 4.17 time down the line despite being on the right side and having a long finish (JM)…Kyle Finnegan(Athletics) generates one of the longest strides you’ll see and gets excellent extension, but his sinker didn’t sink much on Sunday and he was up in the zone en route to getting whacked around by Lancaster (WK)...Carlos Belen (Padres) is one of the youngest players in the NWL and he has some thump in his bat but he swings at everything and his lower half is out of sync with his hands. He’ll be back in the league next year (BG)…Dante Bichette, Jr. has a lot of flaws and few tools, but he does have plus raw power, a swing that’s not afraid to unleash it, and the ability to hit lefties, meaning he’s going to keep getting chances (JM)… Jose Castillo (Padres) is a 19-year-old lefty having a lot of success, but he’s 86-89 with the fastball and surviving on guile (BG)… Melvin Mercedes(Athletics) showed above-average foot speed and a lightning quick transfer filling in for injured Stockton SS Franklin Barreto (WK)... I saw Tyler White (Astros) twice and he crushed everything on the inner half. He has good plate discipline, knows what he can drive, and has an intelligent plan at the plate. If he can cover the outer half of the plate, he’ll be a DH someday (BG).
Notes on Domonic Smith, Nick Williams, Cody Reed and more.
Nick Williams has progressed nicely with patience and discernment at the dish this season. He has gained the ability to be selective and not miss his pitch when he sees it. He looks steady and calm in the box, exuding a quiet confidence that wasn’t always observed early in the season. From his setup in the box to taking pitches, it is very noticeable that he’s comfortable and tracking pitches well. From his approach and selectiveness, to his quick hands, he looks unbeatable at the dish right now. -Colin Young
Cody Reed used a fastball heavy arsenal when I saw him earlier this month. There’s plenty to like with Reed: he throws strikes, has some feel for pitching, can spin a curve, and uses his change up to keep hitters off balance. Unfortunately, he isn’t throwing in the mid-90’s like he did in high school — he was 89-91 with the fastball in my viewing — and his command is well behind his control. There are also body concerns: he’s listed at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds and, well, he doesn’t look a pound shy of that. He could develop into a backend starter, but my bet is that he winds up in the bullpen at some point where he may be able to get some velocity back and where his funky arm action will play up. -Brendan Gawlowski
Notes on Raimel Tapia, Kevin Comer, Balbino Fuenmayor and more.
Raimel Tapia isn’t ever going to develop more than average game power. He has the bat speed to make up for his lack of strength, and he’ll grow into his frame more, but his swing mechanics create serious topspin on the ball, keeping it from carrying. Everything hit hard to the pull side has serious downward action. It is tough to clear the fence consistently that way. –Jeff Moore