AFL Preview: Mesa Solar Sox

The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced by Major League Baseball last week. The league allows up-and-coming prospects (usually from high-A and double-A levels, as well as recent high draft picks) to continue honing their skills away from the fall instructional leagues held by each organization. Play will begin in early October and run until late November with the six teams – each one made up of five organizations’ players – continually facing each other.

Over the next week, we’ll take a look at some of the more interesting names on each team. The rosters that were recently released are preliminary rosters and some players will be added, while others could be removed. On Monday, we took a look at the Phoenix Desert Dogs. On Tuesday, we had a gander at the Scottsdale Scorpions roster. Today, let’s view the Mesa Solar Sox roster.

The Mesa Solar Sox (Click HERE for the entire roster)
Minnesota, Chicago (NL), Los Angeles (AL), Florida, Boston

Andrew Cashner | RHP | Chicago
Drafted as a college reliever, Cashner has made a successful conversion to the starting rotation. He opened the 2009 season by allowing just 31 hits in 42 high-A innings. The right-hander then moved on to double-A where he’s had similar success, although his walk rate has risen from 3.21 to 4.56 BB/9.

Tommy Mendoza | RHP | Los Angeles
This right-hander had a breakout season at the low-A ball level in 2006 at the age of 19. The next two years, though, were a disappointment. Mendoza’s value has risen again in 2009, although the ceiling is a little more modest this time around. Still only 22, he profiles as a No. 3 or 4 starter.

Welington Castillo | C | Chicago
With Geovany Soto tanking with a capital ‘T’ there is suddenly a desperate need for catching depth in the Chicago system. However, Castillo chose a really poor time to have an off-year at the plate. He is a very promising defensive player with an excellent arm behind the dish. Unfortunately, Castillo has proven for two straight seasons now that he cannot hit right-handed pitchers, which significantly hinders his chances of ever playing on an everyday basis.

Hank Conger | C | Los Angeles
Conger has the opposite problem to Castillo. The slugging catcher can mash with the best on them, but his defense is bad enough that no one believes he can remain behind the dish. After struggling with injuries in 2007 and 2008, the switch hitter finally played a full season and is currently hitting .294/.365/.423 in 428 double-A at-bats. A former first-round pick, Conger is still just 21 years old.

Starlin Castro | SS | Chicago
The Cubs organization was aggressive with Castro in 2009 after he hit .311/.364/.464 at rookie ball in 2008. The 19-year-old shortstop hit .302/.340/.391 with 22 steals (in 33 attempts) at high-A in 2009 before being promoted to double-A, where he’s held his own in 24 games. Incumbent MLB shortstop Ryan Theriot needs to be looking over his shoulder.

Matt Dominguez | 3B | Florida
Three prep third basemen were nabbed near the top of the first round during the 2007 draft: Dominguez, Josh Vitters, and Mike Moustakas. All three players have had their struggles but Dominguez (who was drafted last at 12th overall) is the only one of the trio to make it to double-A. Although he’s struggled a bit with the bat, Dominguez has the edge in the field.

Josh Vitters | 3B | Chicago
Vitters has had troubles adapting to new levels in his brief pro career. After starting out very well in 2009 at low-A (His second attempt at the level), he has struggled mightily upon a promotion to high-A. At the root of the problem is his lack of patience at the plate, which has manifested itself in the form of a dismal 2.4 BB% in 2009.

Bryan Petersen | OF | Florida
I highlighted Petersen prior to the 2009 season as a possible breakout candidate in 2009. He hasn’t made me look like a genius, but he’s held his own in double-A as a 23 year old. His power has taken a step back in 2009, with his ISO dropping from .200+ to .120. He’s also struggled on the base paths with only 12 steals in 24 attempts. On the plus side, he’s shown a consistent ability to hit for average and he continues to trim the strikeouts. If he cannot regain some ground with his power and speed numbers, he’ll develop into a fourth outfielder.

Michael Stanton | OF | Florida
Petersen’s teammate should need no introductions. Stanton is one of the biggest mashers in the minors and fans are constantly asking for updates on his ETA, especially after he spent the first part of 2009 demolishing high-A pitching. The holes in the talented outfielder’s plate approach have been exposed by double-A pitchers, though. He’s currently hitting .234/.311/.453 with a strikeout rate of 33.6 K% in 274 at-bats. Stanton will likely opened 2010 in double-A with a mid-season promotion to triple-A possible if he makes the necessary adjustments, which have so far eluded him. At the age of 19, time is very much on his side.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

8 Responses to “AFL Preview: Mesa Solar Sox”

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  1. Po says:

    I am extremely sad you make no mention of Blake Parker.

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    • Senior Circuit says:

      Who the fuck is Blake Parker?

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      • Samael says:

        A former 1B prospect for the Cubs who switched to pitching last year. He spent most of 2009 as the I-Cubs closer, where he posted 22 saves and a 3.00 ERA in 51 IP (36 hits, 3 HR, 27 walks, 58 strikeouts, .196 BAA, 1.56 GO/AO)

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  2. Jed MC says:

    How does MLB determine which teams have players on the same AFL rosters? For example, does Minnesota, Chicago (NL), Los Angeles (AL), Florida, Boston make up the Mesa Solar Sox roster every year?

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  3. Samael says:

    I hardly think that 14 PA in Peoria in 2008 before injuring his wrist is an accurate assessment of Josh Vitters ability to adapt to a new level. More accurate would be to say that he was pulled from Peoria after 4 games and 14 AB due to a wrist injury that required rehab, after which he was assigned to Boise. To say that a player ‘failed’ at a league after 14 PA is a rather harsh measuring stick, as I could arbitrarily find poor 14 PA streaks for every player in baseball, many of which were much worse that 3/14 with 3 2B and 5 K.

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  4. R M says:

    You are wrong about Vitters. He started out 2009 in A ball, his first try at the level (he spent 2008 in A-). He did struggle in A+, but big difference between doing well the second time around and doing well a level up.

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  5. R M says:

    Also, you say the root of the problem is his patience at the plate, which may be partially true, but a .258 BABIP is more to blame. He was hardly overmatched with an excellent 12% K rate.

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  6. jess says:

    I live in China. I was walking around the other day and I counted 24 children. Out of the 24 kids, only three were girls! That is a sex ratio of 8 boys to 1 girl! I once taught a class of 33 students where only 3 were girls! Now I know the official rate is 5 boys to 4 girls, but this is ridiculous. Who will all these beloved sons marry?

    I am aware that China has a one child policy, has a traditonal preference for sons as a replacement for a lack of a social security plan, and is backwards and undeveloped, but aborting females for males is beyond cruel. Estimates say that there will be a surplus of 60 million males in ten years.

    Chinese parents can have another child if they have a girl, but not if they have a boy. Chinese, however, often ignore the law, abort the girl, and have two sons. I am also told that China will import women from Russia, Thailand, Japan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and the Philippines to make up for the lack of wives in China. However, these countries do not have an extra 60 million women and India, Pakistan, Nepal, Vietnam, South Korea, and Taiwan also have a severe shortage of women. An imbalanced sex ratio is a serious problem and could lead social instability and even war.

    If you ever go to China, count the first 20 kids you see yourself. I bet you won’t find the sex ratio is better than two boys to one girl. If you are concerned about this problem, try to raise awareness by discussing the worldwide war on baby girls with others and ask them if they want to live in a world where everyone has an unmarried son.

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