AFL Preview: Peoria Saguaros

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 couple of weeks, 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. Last Monday, we took a look at the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Tuesday, we had a gander at the Scottsdale Scorpions roster and on Wednesday we viewed the Mesa Solar Sox roster. Yesterday, we looked at the Peoria Javelinas roster and today we’re viewing the Peoria Saguaros.

The Peoria Saguaros (Click HERE for the entire roster)
Atlanta, San Diego, Houston, Cleveland, Cincinnati

Craig Kimbrel | RHP | Atlanta
Kimbrel was a busy man in 2009, making stops at four levels for Atlanta, so the AFL will be his fifth of the year. Combined in 2009, the reliever allowed 30 hits in 60 innings pitched. He also struck out 103 batters and walked 45. Despite his minor-league dominance, the lack of control is going to be an issue in the Majors so he has some work to do.

Chia-Jen Lo | RHP | Houston
Lo had a similar season to Kimbrel, although he pitched at just two levels. He allowed 40 hits in 64.1 innings of work with 75 strikeouts and 33 walks. His walk rate of 4.62 in double-A is too high but this was just his first year in North America after signing out of Taiwan last year.

Mike Minor | LHP | Atlanta
A 2009 first round draft pick, Minor was a bit of a reach for Atlanta’s first selection, but the club needs some upper-level pitching depth and the lefty should move quickly. He made four brief starts in pro ball after signing, allowing 10 hits and no walks in 14 innings of work. He also struck out 17 batters.

Jason Castro | C | Houston
It would not be shocking to see Castro behind the dish for Houston by mid-2010. The 2008 first-round pick had a very nice first full season in the minors and spent the last half of the year in double-A. He hit with good power in high-A ball but his ISO dropped from .208 to .092 after his promotion out of the extremely good hitter’s league and park.

Matt McBride | C | Cleveland
The Indians organization is not 100% sure what it has with McBride, who missed most of 2008 with an injury. He creamed high-A pitching but was old for the league. Upon a promotion to double-A, his batting average and on-base percentage plummeted but he still showed good power potential and struck out just 11.8% of the time. His BABIP can be partially blamed for his average.

Yonder Alonso | 1B | Cincinnati
Alonso struggled with injuries in 2009 but still played 28 games in double-A with a triple-slash line of .287/.368/.446. He doesn’t show as much in-game power as some of the other big-time first base prospects, but he’s a better overall hitter than most.

Freddie Freeman | 1B | Atlanta
Freeman, like Alonso, is a not a legit 30 home run hitter, but he has a chance to play good defense and hit .300 a few times with 20 homers. He was too advanced for high-A ball, where he began the year at the age of just 19. He finished up by hitting .248/.308/.342 in 149 double-A at-bats and should head back to Mississippi in 2010.

Lance Zawadzki | SS | San Diego
A fourth-round pick out of a smaller NAIA college in 2007, Zawadzki was selected higher than many expected but he rewarded the organization with a solid 2009 season. He split the year between high-A and double-A and showed more power at the lower level. Overall, he hit 15 homers in just under 500 at-bats. He won’t be a star, but he could be an average regular with 10-12 homers and 10-15 steals.

Jonathan Gaston | OF | Houston
Houston pulled the short straw last winter and ended up with Lancaster as its high-A affiliate. The park is perhaps the best hitter’s park in all of pro ball and Gaston enjoyed his time there immensely. He hit .280/.368/.602 with 35 homers and 119 RBI. His ISO was an incredible .322 but he struck out 31.7% of the time.

Chris Heisey | OF | Cincinnati
Heisey, 24, had a solid season in 2009 and split the year between double-A and triple-A. He has an outside shot of being the Reds’ fourth outfielder in 2010. Combined, Heisey hit 22 homers and stole 20 bases, while hitting more than .300. He is not a surefire bet to keep hitting for that kind of power in the Majors.

Jason Heyward | OF | Atlanta
Heyward could very well end up as the Minor League Baseball Player of the Year. The outfielder spent most of the year as a 19 year old and he started out in high-A and ended the year in triple-A. In between, he smoked double-A pitching and put up a line of .352/.446/.611 with more walks than strikeouts in 162 at-bats. He could be playing regularly in the Majors before his 21st birthday.




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

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