Mark Teixeira's for real. OK, you probably didn't me to tell you that. The Rangers' superstar third base prospect has terrorized pitchers every step of his amateur and pro careers.
But did you know Adam Morrissey has one of the quickest swings you'll ever see? That Kevin Cash's defense may be even better than you've heard? That Luke Hudson could help push the Reds to the top of the NL Central in 2003? You would if you headed out to Phoenix for the Arizona Fall League season.
Last weekend, I made it out for Baseball HQ's Arizona Fall League Symposium. This was my first time, and the trip was well worth it. Ron Shandler assembled a terrific group of speakers for the symposium, while leaving enough time for six games in four days thanks to the AFL's jam-packed schedule and the proximity of the five AFL ballparks.
Some nuggets from the speakers:
Former Houston Astros assistant director of scouting and current baseball consultant David Rawnsley riffed on a few dozen young pitchers and their futures. A.J. Burnett's criminal workloads and inexplicable late-season return put his outlook in doubt. Brandon Duckworth pitched much better than a 6 ERA guy last year–his numbers should catch up with his performance soon. Mark Prior's hamstring injury that ended his 2002 season may be the best ailment Cubs fans have seen in years, given the heavy load Prior carried all year.
ESPN.com prospects hound John Sickels really likes Dodgers first base prospect James Loney, who more than held his own in the Florida State League two months out of high school. A good general rule: pay close attention to prospects who hang tough in advanced levels at a young age. Jerome Williams hasn't posted any spectacular strikeout rates in his minor-league career. But he also finished last season as a 20-year-old in AAA who got batters out.
Tucson Sidewinders manager Al Pedrique spoke of his experiences coming up as a kid out of Venezuela trying to crack a star-laden Mets team in the mid-80s. He's worked closely with Royals first base prospect Ken Harvey in AFL, trying to get him to pull the ball. Harvey's hitting .512 this fall, showing the same high batting average he's flashed throughout the last few years. Of course, a) he still needs work on his power and patience, and b) Drew Henson ripped up the AFL last year, and Mickey Rooney on Zoloft would look better than Henson's looked this year.
Baseball HQ's Doug Dennis and Deric McKamey, Wise Guy Baseball's Gene McCaffrey, Scoresheet Sports' Jeff Barton, Baseball Weekly's Mat Olkin, injury czar Rick Wilton and roto guru Alex Patton also dished out some useful tidbits. Jason Grey and the crew at mastersball.com put out an AFL guide with profiles on every player that's worth the money.
- Joe Sheehan reprised an article he wrote for BP 2000 on performance analysis to solid reviews. Summing up: there's no such thing as a pitching prospect. Joe plans to get rich selling T-shirts with that line on the front. In the meantime, if you haven't read his new newsletter yet, drop him a line.
The symposium was originally launched for fantasy baseball players. As someone who plays both fantasy and Strat-O-Matic baseball, I found the seminars fun and informative. Even if you're just a fan of the game though, there's plenty for you. Many of the games I saw were sparsely attended–less than 100 fans. That set-up has its pluses, namely second-row seats behind home plate for nearly every game. Throw in a group of great fans shooting the breeze about everything from Henson's future to the merits of Damion Easley bobblehead dolls and you get a great time had by all.
Reports on notable AFL players coming soon. Hint: hope that Fred McGriff has a great real estate agent.
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