Hitter of the Day: Adam Engel, CF, White Sox (AFL Glendale Desert Dogs): 2-3, BB, 3 R, 2B, 3B, SB, K
Engel signed out of Louisville in the 19th round as a speedster with a solid defensive profile but extremely limited offensive projection. True to the first part of that profile, he led the Carolina League in stolen bases this year with 65, nearly doubling up the second guy on the list. And he’s doing his best to give White Sox fans some hope that he can figure out the last part with a stellar fall campaign to date. He’s leading the AFL in hitting, with 12 walks to just five strikeouts on his ledger thanks to a quick, compact swing and some command of the zone. There’s enough pop in his bat to keep pitchers honest if he can figure out how to get to it in games, so the hit-tool development against high-minors pitching will decide whether there’s a solid fourth outfielder here or an org piece.
Pitcher of the Day: Samuel Wolff, RHP, Rangers (AFL Surprise Saguaros): 5 IP, H, BB, K
A former sixth-rounder, Wolff pitched decently in A-ball in 2014 but missed the entire season after blowing out his Achilles in the spring. He turned in his second straight strong effort yesterday, working in four pitches and hitting 95 with the gas, though he still showed some of the same inconsistencies to his release point that plagued his command pre-injury. At his best he’ll hide it well behind a high front side and change speeds enough to keep hitters off-balance, but he lacks a second plus pitch to pair with his fastball and it’s an open question whether the command will get there for him to stick in the rotation.
Others of Note:
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Cubs (AFL Mesa Solar Sox): 3-5, 2 R, HR, RBI, K
Candelario was good, not great, in a return trip to High-A to start the year before crushing it in nigh-on 50 games of Double-A in the second half. The swing doesn’t always look pretty, but the bat-to-ball gains he showed over the course of the year have translated to desert play thus far, as he’s struck out just six times through his first 51 plate appearances. His growth through the lower minors hasn’t been linear, but for a player just about to turn 22, he’ll find himself at a strong developmental point at the beginning of 2016.
Ronald Guzman, 1B, Rangers (AFL Surprise Saguaros): 1-5, SB
Guzman rotated in for some reps after Lewis Brinson hightailed it to Puerto Rico, and he’s off to a 5-for-12 start, with all of the hits appropriately singles. Guzman was one of the most challenging players to evaluate I saw all year, mostly because he spent a good deal of time tinkering with his swing in an effort to find some semblance of consistency. You can certainly see what the Rangers were attracted to in showering him with the riches they did, but the raw parts just haven’t really blended together into much of anything as of yet, and given the limitations of the profile things really need to click together for it to work. At just barely 21, he’s still far too young to fall into the bin of sunk costs, but there’s still a long developmental road ahead of him, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him back at High-A again next spring. It’s also worth noting that the stolen base yesterday was on the back end of a double steal, lest anyone assume that was the sound of the first horseman rumbling through the gate.
Chance Sisco, C, Orioles (AFL Peoria Javelinas): 2-5, 2B, K
That stat line isn’t the relevant thing about Sisco’s day. The six runners who successfully stole bases against him? Yeah, that’s the relevant thing. Few question his offensive ability, as he’s a strong dude with the ability to get his barrel though the zone and an eye to track pitches. But the chances of him developing into even a poor catcher at this point are wandering aimlessly between slim and none, and without the premium defensive projection it’s unclear whether the bat profiles quite strongly enough to carry him to a big-league career.
Pedro Severino, C, Nationals (DWL Aguilas Cibaenas): 3-4, 3 R, 2B
Meanwhile, you’ll find Severino at the other end of the catching prospect spectrum from Sisco. He made his debut on big-league dirt in September despite a still-raw offensive game on the strength of his athletic receiving and excellent staff management. It’s not an elite defensive profile, but it’s a damn good one. At the plate he liberally unleashes a rigid swing with minimal leverage and bottom-of-the-scale power utility at present, though there’s enough strength and fluidity in his actions to suggest room for improvement. If he can reach even the most modest of baselines with the bat there’s an open road towards a long backup career stretching forth before him.
Fight Another Day:
Phil Ervin, OF, Reds (AFL Peoria Javelinas): 0-5, GIDP
Ervin has had a tough go of it in the desert, with yesterday’s oh-fer dropping him down to a 12-for-54 start, though he’s snatched up eight out of nine bags. He had himself a nice little season across two levels this year, however, helping him reestablish some of the first round shine he’d frittered away. He managed to refine his approach while overcoming the hostile swamplands of the FSL to finally start to tap into the above-average raw power that had remained largely sequestered away in the five o’clock hour. Ervin presents at least average tools across the board, with plus bat and foot speed and enough arm to handle right field. A return trip to Double-A appears likely to start 2016, and an extended look there should prove instructive as to the legitimacy of his apparent progress.
Enny Romero, LHP, Rays (DWL Leones del Escogido): 1.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, K
It wasn’t all that long ago that Romero was the Rays’ best prospect, but lingering issues with mechanical consistency and command conspired to torpedo his career as a starter and the Rays moved him to the bullpen full time at Triple-A this year before calling him up for his big-league debut. It’s not every day you see a guy post a .400 BABIP across 30 innings, but I suspect that’s a lottery Romero would’ve rather not won. Topline ugliness aside he acquitted himself well enough, and luckily for him southpaws who sit 97 tend to get second (and third, and eighth…) chances.
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