AFL Prospects: Brewers, Indians, Orioles, Rangers, Red Sox

The preliminary rosters were recently announced for the impending Arizona Fall League. If you’re not familiar with the AFL, all you really need to know is that it’s an off-season league that offers addition innings/at-bats to prospects from around baseball. Some of the names you’ll know quite well. Others, well, you’ll probably never hear from again. And, frankly, a lot of players fall under that latter grouping.

Because there is such a wide range of talent in the league — as well as for a smattering of other reasons — any numbers produced in the league should be taken with a grain of salt. Oh, and each organization is responsible for providing a specific number of prospects to play in the league.

We’ve already looked at:
Glendale (Dodgers, Marlins, Reds, Twins, White Sox)
Mesa (Angels, Athletics, Cubs, Nationals, Tigers)
Peoria (Astros, Mariners, Padres, Phillies, Royals)
Salt River (Blue Jays, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Rays, Rockies)
Scottsdale (Braves, Giants, Mets, Pirates, Yankees)

Surprise Saguaros: Brewers, Indians, Orioles, Rangers, Red Sox

The Stud Muffin: Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Orioles: Baltimore is currently rich with high-ceiling pitching talent in the form of (injured) Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Rodriguez. On the whole, the young southpaw produced solid numbers in 2013 even after hitting some turbulence with a promotion to Double-A.

After that rough introduction to Double-A (22 runs in 29.2 innings) he settled in and — in his last four starts — the lefty allowed just one run with 26 strikeouts in 25 innings. If Rodriguez keeps chugging along it may not be long before Rodriguez teams with Gausman (and later Bundy) to establish a formidable young rotation.

Ripping Off the Band-Aid: Matt West, RHP, Rangers: Texas enjoyed six selections in the first two rounds of the 2007 amateur draft. Big leaguers Tommy Hunter and Blake Beavan were among those picks while two other selections have since undergone position switches: Michael Main (who went from pitcher to hitter) and West (who went from hitter to pitcher).

The latter switch look quite good in 2011 when the former third baseman flashed plus velocity on his heater and a promising breaking ball. Unfortunately, he blew out his elbow in 2012 and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. West made it back to the mound briefly at the end of 2013 but he’ll continue travelling down the road to recovery with a stint in the Arizona Fall League that may help the organization decide if the pitching prospect is worthy of holding onto his 40-man roster spot.

The Cool Backstory: Ryan Rua, 2B, Rangers: If you had mentioned Rua’s name before the 2013 season, you would have been met with a resounding: “Who?” The infielder finished the year tied for fifth in home runs (32) for the entire minor leagues. Rua’s season is not quite as impressive as it looks, although it was fun to watch.

The 23-year-old infielder was old for Low-A ball where he spent much of the year (104 games) before a late season promotion over High-A to Double-A (23 games) and he struck out a combined 115 times. On the plus side, the prospect showed some versatility by playing both second base and the hot corner (although he didn’t field the ball overly well at that position). A respectable walk rate helped Rua’s on-base percentage (.347) despite his low batting average (.247).

Don’t Forget About: Garin Cecchini, 3B, Red Sox: The Red Sox have depth. That’s the good news. The “bad news” is that — even with the trade of shortstop Jose Iglesias — there is a ton of infield talent starting to backup at the big league level. A resurgent Will Middlebrooks certainly muddles the picture at the hot corner and makes it much more difficult to envision Cecchini settling into that position.

The third base prospect cannot match Middlebrooks’ raw power but he’s a more consistent hitter and should hit for a higher batting average with a strong on-base percentage. While splitting 2013 between High-A and Double-A, Cecchini posted a batting average of more than .320 with an on-base percentage of .443 and solid gap power. At worst, he’s an intriguing trade chip.

Don’t Underestimate: Tyler Naquin, OF, Indians: Naquin’s status as a former first round draft pick hurts him more than it helps. The Texas native has a modest ceiling — projecting as either a second-division starter or fourth outfielder rather than a true impact talent. He’s played center field throughout his pro career even he’s a bit of a ‘tweener and perhaps better suited for right field. His strong arm helps him compensate for his solid but unspectacular range.

Offensively, he doesn’t possess much home-run pop but he strikes out (26% K rate) like a power-hitter. He’s also been rather unsuccessful on the base paths despite his above-average speed. If Naquin can learn to make more consistent contact and/or drive the ball with more consistency he could improve upon his current projection.

I Remember You…: Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Brewers: The 12th overall selection of the 2011 amateur draft, the right-hander’s career has not progressed as hoped. Jungmann was given a mulligan in 2012 because he was working on improving his breaking ball and not worrying about results. Things got even worst this season and he produced a 1.12 K/BB rate. His walk rate jumped from 2.71 BB/9 in 2012 to 4.72 in ’13.

When drafted, Jungmann appeared to possess the ceiling of a No. 3 workhorse starter. At this point, though, he projects as more of a No. 4/5 starter — or a trip to the ‘pen may be in the cards. The 23-year-old Texas native has just two pro seasons under his belt so he’s by no means a lost cause but he’s going to have to start taking at least some tiny steps forward. Hopefully the AFL will help him start down that path.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


7 Responses to “AFL Prospects: Brewers, Indians, Orioles, Rangers, Red Sox”

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  1. Woe is Me says:

    Count me among the fans who were happy that the Brewers finally had a good draft in 2011. Both Jungmann and Bradley could have gone higher in the draft. But, of course, the Brewers had their usual shit luck in player development and can’t even help one of them become anything respectable.

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    • grandbranyan says:

      If “shit luck” occurs repeatedly over the course of numerous years it is more likely bad process.

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      • Kris says:

        Agreed. It could be development but I’m guessing the Brewers’ issue lies more in drafting seeing as they haven’t drafted many quality starters (that currently play on the Brewers, Lawrie doesn’t count) since Ryan Braun.

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        • Paul says:

          You can’t say players that now play for other teams don’t count, especially if they were traded for others of value. So that’s problem number one.

          Problem two is that you’re just wrong. There are problems with the brewers, but it’s not how they done in the draft, particularly at the top. They’ve made short-sighted trades, overpaid for marginal FAs, gotten some bad breaks, and not developed depth all that well. But their drafting is not the problem.

          Look at the brewers’ top picks with their current scouting director. 2002 – prince fielder. huge value out of him until he left in free agency. 2003 – rickie weeks. not great, but has been a serviceable player for a decade. 2004 – whiffed in first round (mark rogers), but gallardo in 2nd. 2005 – braun. 2006 – whiffed. 2007 – laporta, used to acquire sabathia. Lucroy a few rounds later. 2008 – lawrie and jake odorizzi – both used in trades. 2009 – whiffed on 1st round pick (HS pitcher, i forget who), got ok prospect in supp picks. 2010 pick didn’t sign and later picks are still developing (including Jungmann mentioned above). That’s pretty fricken good, man.

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  2. ALEastbound says:

    Any updates on Bauer? What a nightmare season.

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  3. dan says:

    AS an Indians fan, I’d love to stay optimistic about Naquin…but he’s giving me flashbacks to former Indians first round pick Trevor Crowe.

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  4. Eric Feczko says:

    I’m not sure Will Middlebrooks is the answer for the red sox. While he has been resurgent at the plate, much of the resurgence has been driven by an unsustainable 415 BABIP. In looking at his pitch selection, he has shored up his problems with pitches high in the zone, but still has problems with pitches low and away.

    I would say his career line may actually be a good indicator for what he may produce in the future: a wOBA of .340, which is largely driven by a .210 ISO.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Middlebrooks is a trade chip after next year (i.e. offseason after 2014), when Cecchini, barring setbacks, would likely be ready for the majors.

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