Is the second-year Phillie or the new, KBO-destroying Brewer a better fantasy bet in 2017?
The Tale of the Tape series doesn’t get less orthodox than this. In one corner, you have Philly’s Tommy Joseph, a conventional young masher with loads of potential ready for his first full season. In the other, you have a guy who hasn’t played in the majors since 2012 and couldn’t do squat when he did... but Eric Thames went to South Korea in 2014 and played for three years like he was bitten by Babe Ruth reincarnated as a (fat) radioactive spider. Thames returns to America a changed man, but can it win him this totally arbitrary matchup? Let’s find out!
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Notes from around the AFL and Caribbean Winter Leagues.
There was a full slate of action in the Dominican Winter League, although not one player did anything interesting enough to make my list. Not that there wasn't anything interesting going on. For instance, thirty-seven year-old Vladimir Guerrero, a career .318 hitter with 449 HR in 16 big league seasons, went 2-for-4 for the Tigres del Licey. And then there was Manny being Manny, playing for Aguilas Cibaenas. The 40 year-old, who is stuck at 555 career HR, homered in his DWL debut off the first pitch he saw from former big leaguer Daniel Cabrera, who ended up pitching seven strong innings and only allowing a pair of solo homers to Ramirez and former NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, who was celebrating after I recently moved him into my Marlins' projected lineup after a certain blockbuster trade. See, I told you there were some good times being had in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday.
Between the weather, the Mythbusters, and Full House reruns, life's pretty good in San Francisco. But that doesn't mean their top prospects can't fail like the rest of us.
Prospect #1: OF Gary Brown Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources Who: A first-round selection in the 2010 draft, Brown emerged as a near-elite prospect in 2011, showing above-average offensive potential to match his well above-average defensive skill set. The 23-year-old center fielder has all the qualities to become a frontline defensive force, with top-of-the-chart speed that gives him a very broad coverage area, a very solid glove, instincts for the position, and solid-average arm strength. His bat isn’t in the same league as his glove, but the hit tool has promise, with some scouts projecting it to be a plus weapon at the major league level. Without much pop, Brown’s game is more contact and speed, limiting his overall offensive impact, but making him a realistic leadoff option. His defense at a premium position will be his ticket to the majors, and the development and utility of the stick will determine whether Brown becomes a fringe starter or an All-Star. Opinions on the ultimate projection are quite mixed.
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: “Brown’s offensive skills aren’t as average as his 2012 numbers might suggest, but they aren’t as top-shelf as his 2011 numbers either. The reality is somewhere in between. He’s a good hitter, but he’s not a great hitter.” This is a tasty quote from a very good source, and it represents the majority of opinion I received when I asked around about Brown. His struggles in Double-A can be attributed to his weakness against quality right-handed pitching, most notably arms that can locate velocity inside or drop sharp breaking stuff out of the zone. He has good bat control and a stroke designed for contact, but he either fails to recognize and adjust to such off-speed offerings, or his appetite for unhittable breaking balls is so intense that he is compelled to swing despite knowing that his attempts will be for naught. I’m assuming it’s the former. If he can refine this skill, Brown should be more than adequate at the plate, with contact ability and enough speed to turn weak contact into base hits. Power is never going to be a big part of his game—his swing is built for the gaps rather than the seats beyond the fence—but he can put the good part of the barrel on the ball. His value is elevated by his ability to play center field at a high level, so anything you can get from the bat will only add to his worth. If the bat fails to develop to major league standards, Brown will still reach the level thanks to his glove and his speed. If he can hit for some average, his overall profile will make him a starter. If the bat explodes, he will be a star.