Fowler has as much of an opportunity as anyone to spring from the shadows this fall, though yesterday was really the first monster game in which he seized it. A well-over-slot 18th rounder in 2013, Fowler is still relatively baseball raw after splitting his time with football and wrestling in high school. The tools are impressive and as broad as his shoulders, however, with plus footspeed and instincts in centerfield. There’s solid bat speed coiled up in a compact swing, and the raw power may just be above average as well, though a still-unrefined approach limits its utility in games at present. He made his way to High-A for the second half of the season in 2015, and certainly counts as a name to keep tabs on in an increasingly robust Yankees system.
A fourth-rounder out of Rice in 2013, Kubitza carved up the Midwest League by burning more worms than any minor-league pitcher in 2014. Detroit got a little too excited and teleported him all the way to Double-A this year, however, and the results were… well, they weren’t great. Tucker was not impressed in an April look, though Eastern League hitters were thrilled to have him around. They battered him for an absurd 191 hits in just 133 2/3 innings and put nearly two men on base every inning against him. Kubitza’s hallmark is a wiggly two-seamer that darts down in the zone from a crossfire release, but his underdeveloped secondaries got some street learnin’ this year. The extreme groundball abilities give him a big-league projection, but he’s in one of those weird developmental purgatory states now of a rushed prospect who failed, so 2016 should be an instructive year one way or the other.
Others of Note:
Raimel Tapia, OF, Rockies (AFL Salt River Rafters): 4-4, BB, 3 R, 2B, HR, 2 RBI
That’s the thing about the AFL: One monster game can quiet an awful lot of surface chatter. Tapia entered the day hitting .239 with no homers and 11 strikeouts to one walk through 46 at-bats, and now he’s a .300 hitter with an 11-to-2 ratio. Fun with numbers aside, Tapia is more than capable of filling up a stat sheet like this on a good day, as the raw bat-to-ball ability is a well-documented sight to behold. I’ve spilled enough internet ink stating my concerns about the profile, but today, as someone once said, was a good day. The homer was an inside-the-park job off the centerfield fence, though the “double” was a misplayed can of corn.
Simms’ 2015 was basically that “Groundhog Day” iteration where Bill Murray drops a toaster into the bathtub, as he repeated a split-season trek through High-A and Double-A, albeit with slightly improved results at both stops. The former 11th rounder works off an average fastball that’ll sit around 90, but he can sink it and some deception in the delivery helps that pedestrian velocity play up. It’s not the profile of much more than a swing man in a best-case scenario, but he’s been excellent in the desert to date, with just three earned runs on his tab in 16 innings and three strikeouts for every walk. The soon-to-be-24-year-old should pop up somewhere on the Nats’ depth chart in 2016, though it’s probably more likely he’ll get his big-league shot out of the bullpen.
Zach Borenstein, LF, Diamondbacks (DWL Aguilas Cibaenas): 2-4, K
This is more a cumulative shout-out for Borenstein, who’s had a solid little start to his winter season down Dominican way. Outside of running into a few after arriving in a trade from the Angels last year his efforts at Triple-A have been downright disastrous thus far, but he crushed Double-A after a demotion last year and possesses that special kind of limited offense-only profile that keeps a future as The Next Jeff Baker very much on the table.
J.D. Davis, Astros (AFL Glendale Desert Dogs): 3-5, 3 R, 2B
On the Tapia tip, it had been a rough fall for Davis, hitting as he was just .206 with 10 strikeouts in his first 36 at-bats before yesterday. There’s little question about his raw power, which is probably a tick above plus, and his arm strength sits in the same range. But after posting the second-highest whiff rate in the Cal League and swinging through more in-zone fastballs than stars in the MOO cluster it’s very much an open question as to whether he’ll get to enough of that power in higher-level games for it to matter, and there are lingering concerns about whether he can handle himself adequately at the hot corner. I’m bearish on both counts.
Trinkwon had a nice little season going in the California League—though who doesn’t, am I right? Eh?—before a mid-year promotion to Double-A exposed the limitations of his offensive profile. He tracks well and has quick wrists and hands, but he basically hits flat-footed and it wasn’t much of a surprise that more advanced pitching got to him. Still, the utility defensive profile is decent enough to keep hope alive, and he’s very much a “plays above his tools” type with a good nose for the game.
Jorge Polanco, 2B/SS, Twins (DWL Leones del Escogido): 3-4, R, RBI
Polanco has picked right up in the Dominican where he left off in the Southern League, making consistent contact and working some walks in his first baker’s-dozen games. Polanco’s switch-hit tool projects as above-average, possibly even straight plus, and there’s enough in the legs and glove that it’s not quite a settled debate that he’ll have to move off short to second. He’s manning the keystone this winter, though.
Mark Zagunis, OF, Cubs (AFL Mesa Solar Sox): 0-3, BB, RBI
I bring up Zagunis again only because his is far and away my favorite stat line of the fall. He’s drawn a walk in a full third of his plate appearances so far, currently sitting at .200/.467/.333 with a 15-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Fight Another Day:
Alex Blandino, SS, Reds (AFL Peoria Javelinas): 0-5, 4 K
Yesterday’s Golden Sombrero is the latest indignity suffered by Blandino thus far in the desert, as his line for the campaign now sits at a ghastly .175/.267.250. There’s pop in his bat, but the defensive home remains unclear: he’s an unlikely stick at short, but profiles with too much arm for second but not quite enough bat for third. Whatever his future holds, it doesn’t appear he’s got enough gas left in his 2015 tank to enlighten anybody further this fall.
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