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AFL Preview: Surprise Rafters

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. Over the past two weeks, we’ve looked at five teams:

  • The Phoenix Desert Dogs
  • The Scottsdale Scorpions
  • The Mesa Solar Sox
  • The Peoria Javelinas
  • The Peoria Saguaros
  • Today, we finish up our Arizona Fall League preview with a look at the Surprise Rafters.

    The Surprise Rafters (Click HERE for the entire roster)
    New York AL, New York NL, Kansas City, St. Louis, Texas

    Danny Gutierrez | RHP | Texas
    Gutierrez was recently involved in a rare prospect-for-prospects trade between Texas and Kansas City, which netted the Royals outfielder Tim Smith and catcher Manuel Pina. Gutierrez entered 2009 as a highly-regarded pitcher in the Royals system but then he got hurt and reportedly had some run-ins with the organization. When he got on the mound this year, the right-hander produced solid numbers, including 20 hits allowed in 32.1 innings between high-A and double-A. He walked just seven batters.

    Lance Lynn | RHP | St. Louis
    A supplemental first round draft pick from 2008, Lynn has been on the fast track to St. Louis and spent the majority of the year in double-A. He also made one triple-A start. At double-A, Lynn allowed 117 hits in 126.1 innings of work, while posting rates of 3.63 BB/9 and 6.98 K/9. The right-hander doesn’t strike out a lot of batters, but he’ll put the ball in play, get his fair share of ground balls and does a nice job of keeping the ball in the park.

    Evan Reed | RHP | Texas
    Reed was nabbed in the third round of the 2007 draft as a college reliever who was expected to make it to the Majors quickly. However, the Rangers tried to make him a starter and that backfired in 2008 when he imploded at high-A. He moved back to the bullpen in 2009 and saved 25 games in high-A but was still a little too hittable while battling his command. Enthusiasm for his big-league role must be tempered to setup man.

    Bryan Anderson | C | St. Louis
    Anderson was on track to make his MLB debut in 2009, but he was derailed by an injury so he’s looking to make up for lost time. The Cardinals organization isn’t in the market for a big league starter with Yadier Molina already in the fold so Anderson is ticketed for a big league back-up role unless he gets traded out of town. He’s an OK defensive player, but his strengths lie in his offensive skills and his ability to hit .280-300 from the left side.

    Austin Romine | C | New York AL
    Jesus Montero gets a lot of attention – and deservedly so – but Romine is a pretty darn good catching prospect in his own right. The 20-year-old prospect hit .276/.322/.441 with 13 homers and 11 steals in 442 at-bats at high-A ball. With a little more patience at the plate (6.2 BB%), he could jump into elite status.

    Jeff Bianchi | SS | Kansas City
    Bianchi received some love (including from yours truly) back in 2005/06 after he hit more than .400 over two rookie seasons while battling injuries (He accumulated just 140 at-bats). With the injuries perhaps having taken a toll on the youngster, Bianchi all but disappeared offensively for two seasons before resurfacing in 2009 in high-A and double-A. Combined, the 22 year old hit .308/.358/.435 with 22 steals. He still needs to work on his plate approach, though.

    Ike Davis | 1B/OF | New York NL
    Davis had a dismal pro debut in 2008 and took a lot of heat. He really turned things around this year and ended up in double-A. Overall, he hit 20 home runs in 429 at-bats after failing to hit even one in 2008 in 215 at-bats. Davis also hit for a solid average in 2009 (more than .300 in double-A) and he did a nice job of getting on base (11.2 BB%).

    Marcus Lemon | 2B | Texas
    He’s not flashy, but Chet’s son has had a pretty solid career so far and projects as a fringe regular, or big-league utility player. He struggled in double-A in 2009 but he’s still just 21 years old and he swings from the left side (and has hit more than .300 against southpaws in his career).

    Ruben Tejada | SS | New York NL
    Only 19, the Mets pushed Tejada to double-A in 2009 even though he hit .229/.293/.296 in 497 high-A at-bats in 2008. He responded to the challenge and improved his stats to a line of .289/.351/.381 with 19 steals in 488 at-bats. Tejada also struck out just 12.1% of the time.

    Tyler Henley | OF | St. Louis
    Henley has a nice year as a 24 year old in double-A. The outfielder hit .303/.367/.482 with 13 homers and nine steals in 423 at-bats. He has fringe power for a corner outfield spot so he’s likely to end up as a fourth outfielder, but he could end up getting some regular playing time if the cards fall in his favor.

    David Lough | OF | Kansas City
    Lough is still learning how to be a baseball player after spending time in high school and even college focusing on other sports like football. He’s catching on quickly though and flew through high-A after hitting .320 in 222 at-bats. In double-A, Lough continued to perform well with a line of .331/.371/.517 with nine homers and 13 steals in 236. Lough is moving from sleeper to legit prospect.