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Hitter of the Day: Chad Pinder, 2B/SS, Oakland Athletics (Mesa Solar Sox): 3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI

The former second-rounder and newly-minted Texas League MVP picked up right where he left off in the regular season, launching a pair of bombs in his AFL debut. Pinder made great strides this season in translating his above-average 5-o’clock power into production, and while his approach remains a touch on the aggressive side, the bat projects to be an asset on the infield dirt. What he lacks is a permanent home on said dirt, and the A’s sent him to the desert primarily to develop his utility potential on the left side. His arm strength grades out as plus, but in throwing away a potential double-play ball yesterday he reminded everyone that his footwork and body control remain works in progress.

Pitcher of the Day: Luke Weaver, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Peoria Javelinas): 3 IP, H, ER, BB, 5 K

The Cardinals’ first-rounder in June 2014, Weaver wore the tag of high-floor arm with collegiate polish in the wake of the draft and throughout his first full professional season. The right-hander’s first appearance of the fall suggested the potential for a bit more ceiling, however, as he hit 97 and pounded the zone with advanced command of a three-pitch arsenal. The changeup is Weaver’s go-to secondary at present, projecting as a plus companion to a groundball-inducing heater, and the mechanics are easy and repeatable. He has the pedigree and profile to move quickly next year, especially given the player development juggernaut guiding his progress.

Best of the Rest:

Austin Dean, LF, Marlins (Mesa Solar Sox): 2-3, BB, R, 2B, SB. Certain players face longer odds on account of their profiles, and Dean falls squarely into that bucket. He’s already limited to leftfield, he lacks standout athleticism, and his average raw power plays down significantly in games. What he can do is square the baseball, however, and freed from the shackles of the Florida State League he’ll be a moderately interesting name to follow in the desert this fall and on into the Double-A ranks.

Kyle Farmer, C, Dodgers (Glendale Desert Dogs): 2-5, R, HR, 4 RBI, K. A converted shortstop, Farmer has impressed scouts with his transition to catching, as his agility and physicality have aided him well. He’s also made strides as a professional in refining his swing, using his lower-half balance and a simple attack up top to generate strong contact numbers. Despite the longball yesterday, his in-game power is limited, but there’s enough contact and defensive projection here to tab him as a potential backup catcher down the line.

Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (Surprise Sagauros): 2-4, R, HR, 3 RBI. Sometimes prospects end up seeming like disappointments even though long big–league careers still loom on their horizons, and Sanchez’s progression seems to be shaping up along that line. He’s not the future Hall of Famer the Yankees hype machine of yesteryear may have had you believe, but his offensive skillset remains above average for a catcher and he was been able to drag his defensive projection along for the ride to a big-league debut last month. The swing looked as sweet as the box score in his AFL opener, and he figures to fine tune his way into the Yankees’ 25-man roster plans this fall.

D.J. Peterson, 1B/3B, Mariners (Peoria Javelinas): 2-4, R, 2B, 2 RBI. One of the more enigmatic prospects to grace the badlands this October, Peterson scuffled mightily at Double-A and scouts couldn’t reach a consensus on the cause. His pitch recognition has never been a strong suit, but this year he struggled to punish the in-zone mistakes he used to crush, and that’s not a luxury he can afford with his limited profile. A strong AFL campaign can quiet at least some of the questions raised by his lost season, and he’s off to a good start.

Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Blue Jays (Salt River Rafters): 2-3, R, 2B, SF, 4 RBI. Tellez made noteworthy strides in turning raw power into game power this year, all while showing patience and surprising bat control for a man his size. The sheer offensive potential here is significant, which is important because the defensive profile is below average even by cold-corner standards.

Fight Another Day:

Willson Contreras, C, Cubs (Mesa Solar Sox): 0-5, 2 K. Contreras demonstrated an outstanding command of the strike zone to go along with an impressive step forward in his bat-to-ball skills at Double-A this year. As a former infielder, he has the requisite agility and arm strength to develop into a quality backstop, and his ticket to Arizona was punched largely to continue working on his defensive progression.

Pierce Johnson, RHP, Cubs (Mesa Solar Sox): 3 IP, 3 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HR. It’s all about logging innings at this point for Johnson, who has missed more time than a broken watch thanks to a vast array of assorted maladies over the past couple years. The Cubs would no doubt prefer if those innings looked a little cleaner than his first few in the desert, but the fact that he made it through three of them without exploding into flames should be considered progress.

Bubba Starling, RF, Royals (Surprise Saguaros): 0-4. Starling managed to produce a reasonably competent season at the plate in Double-A this year despite lingering reports of a poor swing and tentative approach. The physical tools are still there for a solid defender and runner that can help a big-league club, but he’ll need to continue to build on the modest gains he made at making contact if he’s going to eventually earn that chance.

Lucas Sims, RHP, Braves (Peoria Javelinas): 2 IP, 3 R, 3 H, BB, 3 K, 1 HR. Sims struggled through an uneven 2015 campaign across two levels, failing to make the kind of adjustments needed to improve on spotty command and inconsistency. Unfortunately for Braves fans, his AFL efforts looked eerily similar to his regular season, as he worked from behind and struggled to locate throughout this outing.

Raimel Tapia, LF, Rockies (Salt River Rafters): 0-4, 2 K. If Tapia is going to develop into an above-average major leaguer it will have to be his otherworldly raw hitting ability that carries him, and to this end his second-half stagnation in the California League was more than a little concerning. His defensive and baserunning efforts in Salt River will be the most important things to pay attention to after he showed precious little progress in refining his skills in either area this summer.

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HURRAH! MLU is back! Wonderful.....
Well-written MLU. Nice work.
Wilson, do you think Tapia is still, say, a Top 75 prospect? How much has his stock fallen due to lack of development this year?
Promotions should help that cause greatly. I would wager that he is still top 75. The same people that were in love with him still will be.
I'm not so sure. His stock is definitely down at least to some degree. And Wilson seems less enamored with him than a few of the other authors here; asking someone who isn't a high man on Tapia seemed worth trying.
Well, we had him in the top 30 in our mid-season update, and I'd imagine he'll still be comfortably inside the top 50 this winter. I don't mean to overstate my concerns, as he's still a high-probability major leaguer thanks to one of the better pure hit tools in the minors and a nice physical baseline. It wasn't a great season from the standpoint of developing his game for primetime, but he still posted an above-board OPS as one of the youngest players in his High-A league. His stock is probably more stagnant than down, which is disappointing relative to the helium he'd generated heading into the season but certainly not a worst-case scenario. AA will be an appropriate and important challenge for him next year.
Thanks for the speedy and informative reply!