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Arizona Fall League Update

Let’s have a look at some of the prospects doing well during the fall developmental league in Arizona. All the players listed below could pop up on Major League rosters in 2010, so you may want to remember their names.

Andrew Lambo, OF, Los Angeles NL
Lambo is having some luck in the AFL after a down year in double-A as a 20 year old (He turned 21 recently). During the regular season, the outfielder hit .256/.311/.407 in 492 at-bats. He posted a low BABIP at .298 and did not walk much (7.3 BB%). The left-handed batter did show good gap power with 39 doubles (and 11 homers). Interestingly, he hits southpaws better than right-handers: .317/.372/.523 vs .270/.333/.422 in his three-year career. Manny Ramirez will be a free agent after the 2010 season, right about the time Lambo should be ready for a full-time gig in the Majors. With Ramirez’ advancing age, it becomes more likely that he could spend time on the disabled list in ’10. Lambo could be one of the first players in line for playing time should that happen.

Jordan Danks, OF, Chicago AL
The key with the AFL is too not get too excited with the batting average or how many homers a player hits. Most players are there for extra work, which likely means there is something that they need to improve upon. Danks is a perfect example of that… He was off to an excellent season in ’09 before fading at double-A in the second half. His raw power does not play well in games, in terms of home run power, and he hit just nine homers this past year in just over 400 at-bats. As a result, his strikeout rate of 26.0% is rather high. Danks has made nice strides in the AFL by striking out just 10 times in 58 at-bats. Even better, he’s walk 12 times. If he can keep that up, it will significantly improve his other numbers, which will then make him a more valuable addition to your fantasy squads.

Josh Wilkie, RHP, Washington
The non-drafted free agents are always a good story. Wilkie went undrafted out of George Washington University and he was picked up by the Nationals shortly after the ’06 draft. He posted solid numbers in high-A ball in ’08 and he made it all the way to triple-A in ’09. The right-hander, who is eligible for the Rule 5 draft, began this past season in double-A, where he allowed 48 hits in 49.1 innings. He also posted a walk rate of 2.37 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 7.30 K/9. His rates improved in 22.1 triple-A innings to 1.61 BB/9 and 10.07 K/9. He also improved his ground-ball rate over ’08 by almost 10% to 54% in ’09. Wilkie has saved 23 games over the past four seasons in the minors, so he has an outside shot of eventually becoming a setup man, and possibly grabbing a few saves here and there, although he does not have a knock-out repertoire: 88-91 fastball, curveball, change-up.

Josh Judy, RHP, Cleveland
A good, reliable reliever is hard to find. Judy is off to a good start in his career. Judy has a better chance of seeing save opportunities in the Majors than Wilkie (above) because the Indians prospect has a stronger repertoire: 90-94 mph fastball, slider and occasional change-up. This past season in double-A, the 23-year-old hurler allowed 35 hits in 49.1 innings of work. He posted a walk rate of 3.28 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 11.49 K/9. Judy also allowed just two homers (0.36 HR/9). He does a nice job of keeping the ball on the ground with a career ground-ball rate right around 50%. In ’09, Judy limited batters to a line-drive rate of just 9.6%. If Chris Perez or Jess Todd (or dare I say Adam Miller) are not the long-term closer answer in Cleveland, Judy could be.

Donnie Veal, LHP, Pittsburgh
Is he just teasing us? Veal has long been an interesting pitcher because of his hard stuff from the left side. However, the 25-year-old hurler has never been able to find the plate on a consistent basis. For example, in 16.1 MLB innings in ’09 out of the ‘pen, Veal posted a walk rate of 11.02 BB/9. However, in 12.2 innings in the AFL, he has allowed just two walks. Don’t get too excited, due to the small sample size and level of competition, but keep an eye on Veal in spring training to see if his adjustments stick for the long term. If they do, keep him in mind in deep NL leagues if you need an extra starter. He could even end up as a closer in Pittsburgh, where he could stick to his fastball/curve combo.