After ten days of standing in the sun, eating food that comes in bovine feed bags, chewing sunflower seeds like they contained the secrets of love and happiness, and falling asleep in a motel room whose game experience was visible to the senses, I’m finally back in New York, sitting in a small apartment thinking about the activity taking place at the Fall Instructional League. I miss the baseball. I miss the rush of walking up to a sparsely attended field, finding my spot on a deserted island of bleachers, removing a towel from my bag to cover my neck and head, placing a beach hat over said towel to provide further protection from the sun, placing a stopwatch in my left hand, and going to work for three hours. My gaze rarely would leave the action on the field, except to chat with a friend or to enjoy a taste of water from a cooler that provided the coldest water on the planet. A few more days in the sun and I would have attempted a romantic maneuver on that cooler.
The FIL (fall instructional league; you get it) was a little strange this year, as I didn’t get a chance to see many of the teams I consider to be standards during my backfield adventures in the Spring; teams like the Padres, Mariners, Indians, and Reds. Not every team located in Arizona plays a full fall schedule, and with only ten days to score prospect dope, I had to take advantage of the talent playing games in my vicinity. I saw a ton of Rangers and Royals action, which is to be expected for multiple reasons: 1) I stay in Surprise, AZ, home base of the Rangers and Royals, and the complex is familiar and minutes from my hotel; 2) the talent on the Rangers and Royals FIL rosters might be able to beat the Astros major league team; and 3) Jorge Alfaro doesn’t workout in Glendale.
I wasn’t just limited to the Rangers and Royals, as I also saw the White Sox, an advanced split squad of Brewers and Mariners prospects, the Dodgers, a traveling Korean team, and a traveling Mexican Pacific League team. I was also able to watch Francisco Lindor, but that was from a telephoto lens and he wasn’t exactly at the fields. The talent level was high, with five-tool dreams like Bubba Starling and Lewis Brinson patrolling center field, power bats like Courtney Hawkins, Jorge Bonifacio, and Nomar Mazara taking massive rips, infield talent like Corey Seager, Adalberto Mondesi, and Luis Marte, and under-the-radar arms like Miguel Almonte and C.J. Edwards looking like players ready to take huge steps forward in 2013. I took nearly thirty pages of notes, and after two full FIL articles, I’m left with only snapshots and debris that I want to release before it is forgotten. Here are a few miscellaneous notes you might enjoy before I pull down the shade on the Arizona FIL for another year.
- RHP Carlos Frias (Dodgers): Three-quarter slot; tall and lanky; Beckett-like delivery, with rocking/hesitation before pickup; long legs; slings the ball; four-seam fastball was 92-94, touching 95; some late arm-side slide; changeup was a below-average pitch on the day; firm at 85-86 mph, with a little sink; slider missed some bats at 82-84; some tilt, but not a sharp pitch; dropped a few cutter-like offerings at 88 mph, with quality late slice; 1.15-1.2 to home on delivery with runners on; showed ability to miss barrels with slider, but caught barrels with fastball despite plus velocity; fits a reliever profile.
- SS Jesmuel Valentin (Dodgers): Good actions at shortstop; very clean and fluid; showed good body control and coordination; range was above-average; arm was above-average; release was quick; accurate; possesses skills to stay at position; bat wasn’t great; stiff swing mechanics; didn’t see pro bat speed; was behind on fastballs and over off-speed offerings; look like he was trying to hit for power by dropping back shoulder and loading it up; didn’t see major league-quality stick (small sample); has defensive chops, good run, iffy bat; only 18, so plenty of time to enjoy the developmental ride.
- LHP Daniel Coulombe (Dodgers): Short lefty reliever; high three-quarter slot; fastball was 89-91 with effort; best curveball I saw in Arizona; 77-80 with tons of depth; easy 6 pitch; changeup had some fade at 83; arm was very quick; decent control; impressive command of curveball, both in and out of zone; pitch overmatched the level of hitter he was facing.
- RF Nomar Mazara (Rangers): Swing has improved 100% since I last saw him in camp; long, lean body; 6-foot-4; needs to add more strength and weight to frame, but already shows impressive raw power; controls bat better than originally thought; not a big contact hitter, but can stay on quality velocity and stay back on off-speed pitches; timing mechanism is much quieter and repeatable; routes better in the outfield; arm is okay; don’t see enough athleticism for left field; right field profile; raw power is a 7; not sure where it will play on the scouting scale; big makeup; big steps forward in a very short time; easy top ten talent in the Rangers system.
- OF Jairo Beras: (Rangers): Swing is still unrefined, and basically untouched from amateur period; long body; easy 6-foot-5, possibly 6-foot-6; incredibly long arms, legs; narrow hips; odd physical profile; almost Richie Sexson-esque; raw power is an 8 on the 2/8; game power is a question mark; pulled off of most balls; struggled against anything out of the zone and/or soft; behind Guzman/Mazara at the plate; fits classic right field profile, with enough athleticism for the position, 6+ arm, middle-of-the-order power potential; top ten prospect in Rangers system on ceiling alone; long way from show; long shot to make it.
- At any given time during the Fall Instructional League, the Rangers could field a starting nine whose amateur bonuses total up to over $18 million dollars. Let that swirl around your head for a while. The outfield alone is over $11M.
- 3B Joey Gallo (Rangers): Monster power, easy 8; biggest raw I’ve seen at the level; no idea where it ends up playing; same swing on every pitch, every situation; doesn’t shorten up or use all-fields approach; looks to crush the ball; big leverage in swing; big load; watches a lot of pitches, but struggles to put good wood to breaking balls; struggles in the field; athletic, but actions are stiff; arm is crazy strong, but accuracy and touch are an issue; body could move him off position; very tall; will add more mass; fits right field profile with athleticism, arm, power potential; swing needs work, but the 8 raw isn’t something you can teach.
- Adalberto Mondesi (Royals): Stud. Should be a top 5 talent in Royals system, and is on his way up the minor league hierarchy. Only 17 years old; can stick, especially from right side of the plate; linear swing path; the softer contact should grow into more line drives and gap power as he adds strength; controls the bat very well; tracks balls well; doesn’t profile as a power threat; good defensive chops at shortstop; smooth, athletic actions; strong arm; big feel for position; easy plus range; needs fundamental refinement, but profiles at the position; plays with swagger; total package is a true shortstop with contact ability and speed; 6 role player; long way to go, but prospect status is on the climb in a big way.
- SS Francisco Lindor (Indians): Touch if you will my stomach. Feel how it trembles inside. You’ve got the butterflies all tied up. Don't make me chase you. Even doves have pride.