Tentative rosters for the Arizona Fall League were released on Aug. 29. The fall developmental league is designed to help prospects received extra seasoning and coaching at the conclusion of the minor league season. Each organization contributes players to the six-team league. The league typically shifts in favor of the hitters because teams are generally reluctant to assign top arms to the league – unless they’re attempting to make up for lost innings due to injuries.
The Mesa Solar Sox club consists of players from five organizations – Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles NL, and Chicago NL. Below are some interesting names set to appear on the roster. Full rosters can be found here.
Mike Belfiore, LHP, Baltimore: A former supplemental first round draft pick, Belfiore doesn’t have the same stuff he once did but he was a great addition to the organization when Arizona asked for Josh Bell. He pitched well in double-A and held left-handed hitters to a .170 batting average. He could provide same-handed match-ups at the big league level as a loogy or work as a long reliever. Belfiore, 23, is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this off-season so the organization will have to decide if its going to add him to the 40-man roster by the November deadline; his fall performance could help sway the decision.
Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF: Detroit: One of the top prospects on the squad – along with Chicago’s Javier Baez and Houston’s Jonathan Singleton – Castellanos could use the AFL as a spring board to a big-league assignment in 2013. A natural third baseman, Castellanos has seen time in the outfield in 2012 as the big league club tries to find a way to fit his bat into a lineup that already features third baseman Miguel Cabrera. The young prospect probably needs another half season of seasoning in the minors after posting a 96 wRC+ in 72 double-A games after a promotion from high-A ball (186 wRC+).
Chia-Jen Lo, RHP, Houston: After missing most of 2010 trying to avoid the knife and then 2011 following Tommy John surgery, Lo returned to appear in 18 games in ’12. When he’s right, the 26-year-old Taiwan native can hit the mid-90s with his fastball and he flashes a solid curveball. He struck out 19 batters in 17.0 high-A ball innings this season and could jump all the way to triple-A in 2013 if he has a strong AFL. Lo has the ceiling of a high-leverage reliever.
James McCann, C, Detroit: With the recent trade of Rob Brantly to Miami, McCann is now the top catching prospect in the system. He appeared in 45 high-A games and posted a 102 wRC+ and was aggressively pushed to double-A. McCann slumped badly afer the promotion, though, with a wRC+ of just 24. With big league catcher Alex Avila under contract for at least three more seasons, the club can afford to be patient with McCann. He’ll look to jumpstart his bat in the fall.
Jiovanni Miers, SS, Houston: A former first round draft pick who’s fallen on hard times, Mier showed an improved offensive game in 2012 but missed time with an ankle injury. The middle infielder was also playing in the potent California League so it’s hard to know for sure just how “real” his results were. Observers did have some nice things to say about adjustments made at the plate so the Astros organization will look for his success to carry over to the AFL. The jump to double-A could be a big test in 2013.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles: The Dodgers organization shocked a lot of people when it handed a contract for more than $40 million to the relatively-unknown Puig. Reportedly 21 years old, the outfielder has appeared in just 21 games this year – nine in Rookie ball and 12 in High-A ball. He’s flashed some massive power and has also handled the strike zone surprisingly well. The AFL will provide some much needed at-bats for the Cuba native and will help the organization decide if he’s ready for the challenge of double-A in 2013.
George Springer, OF, Houston: The Astros’ first pick of the 2011 draft, Springer was known for being exceptionally athletic but raw for a college product thanks to some fairly large holes in his swing. He got off to a strong start, thanks in part to the favorable hitting environments in the California League. He produced a 20-20 season with 101 runs scored and a .316 batting average in 106 games before getting bumped up to double-A. Springer, 22, then suffered a concussion and hit just .191 in his first 15 double-A games. His tour of duty in the AFL will help him continue to smooth out his rough edges and cut down on his massive strikeout rates.
Tony Zych, RHP, Chicago: A solid fourth-round selection during the 2011 draft, Zych reached double-A in his first full pro season. The right-hander flashes heat that sits in the mid-90s but he has yet to develop a consistent slider, which has hampered his overall effectiveness… to a degree. Zych struck out 28 battes in 23.2 double-A innings and also showed an above-average ground-ball rate. If he can improve his command of his secondary pitch and sharpen his overall control, Zych could develop into a high-leverage reliever and could reach the Majors in 2013.