The Arizona Fall League began on Tuesday, and with it comes the return of the Minor League Update. Soon, leagues throughout the Caribbean will begin play as well, giving us a return to the prospect action we’ve been going through withdrawals from over the past five weeks, even if it’s in a limited fashion.
As a reminder to those not completely familiar, the AFL is often referred to as a “finishing school” for prospects on the cusp of the majors. Not all players on the roster are top prospects, but most will make the majors in some capacity. You can read about all of the player eligibility rules here, but it makes for a strong collection of top prospects, fringe prospects, role players, and true youngsters. It’s a dream setting for a scout looking to see as many prospects as possible in one plcae, which is why several members of the BP Prospect Team (including yours truly) will be heading out to the desert at the end of the month.
Steven Moya, OF, Tigers (Glendale Desert Dogs): 3-5, R, 2B, K. Even after a breakout campaign that saw him hit 35 home runs and 33 doubles in Double-A, scouts are still split on Moya’s future. This debate has extended deep into the BP hallways, where members of our own team have debated his future role. Most of the questions surround his approach and extreme K:BB split, and more importantly, whether or not either will play against better competition. He got a very brief (eight plate appearance) stint in the big leagues at the end of the season, but otherwise, this will be his best test yet.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners (Surprise Saguaros): 4 IP, 4 H, R, 0 BB, 5 K. It’s almost unfair to unleash Walker on the AFL, given that he has eight major-league starts under his belt and a 2.89 ERA to boot. But injuries limited Walker to just 120 1/3 innings this year between the minors and majors, and many teams use AFL spots to help injured players make up for lost time. With Walker in the Mariners’ plans for next year’s rotation, these innings are important ones for him to get in.
Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals (Peoria Javelinas): 3 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 K. It’s even more important for Zimmer to make up for lost innings than Walker, as the Royals’ former first rounder lost all but 4 2/3 innings this season due to a shoulder injury. Expected to move fast after being drafted out of the University of San Francisco in 2012, Zimmer has had shoulder issues in each of the last two seasons. The Royals have shown that they are willing to be aggressive with young pitchers, and Zimmer could still end up in the majors by next season if he can show that his shoulder is healthy. This fall should give him a chance to re-establish himself for the start of 2015.
Justin O’Conner, C, Rays (Peoria Javelinas): 3-5, 2B, K. O’Conner won’t be a strong all-around hitter at the major-league level, but he does feature some power and enough feel for the barrel to clear the bar set by major-league catchers in recent years. Additionally, while his all-around catching game is still a work in progress, no one doubts his arm strength, which borders on elite and was on display on Tuesday as he picked a runner off of first base.
Greg Bird, 1B, Yankees (Scottsdale Scorpions): 3-5, 3 R, 2 2B, HR, K. Bird doesn’t offer the plus-plus power that most teams look for from their first basemen, but he has enough of it and pairs it with plus plate discipline that helps increase his offensive value. He has a tendency to get too passive at the plate, at times letting the best pitch to hit in an at-bat pass him by, but that’s a solvable problem as he finds the balance between patience and passivity.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates (Scottsdale Scorpions): 2/3 IP, 0 H, R, 3 BB, K. Glasnow doesn’t get hit around very often but he does battle his control, especially when his mechanics get out of whack. This is an extreme example, obviously, but Glasnow battles the same issues that many tall pitchers face within themselves. To this point, it hasn’t kept him from being a successful pitcher, but as his competition level increases, he’s going to have to take steps forward.
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