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Arizona Fall League Update: The Hitters

The Arizona Fall League is a developmental league for prospects that either A) Need a bit of fine-tuning before reaching the Majors, B) Need extra work after missing a chunk of the ‘09 season due to injury, and/or C) Are being considered for inclusion on the 40-man roster this winter.

Josh Bell, 3B, Baltimore
Obtained at mid-season from the Dodgers (in exchange for George Sherrill), Bell has proven to be a smart pick-up for the Orioles. The soon-to-be 23 year old posted an ISO of .281 after the trade, during 114 at-bats at double-A. Overall, he hit .297 on the season in double-A with 20 homers in 448 at-bats. He’s shown patience at the plate with two straight seasons with a +10% walk rate. So far in the AFL, he’s posting the second-highest batting average behind Florida’s Mike Stanton. Bell may need a little bit more seasoning in triple-A before taking over for long-time third baseman Melvin Mora, who is likely to depart Baltimore this winter via free agency.

Bryan Petersen, OF, Florida
A personal favorite of mine, Petersen had a 23/23 season in ’08 but followed that up in ’09 with reduction in both home runs (seven) and steals (13 in 25 attempts) in double-A. The 23 year old remains an intriguing outfield prospect, in part because he reduced his strikeout rate from more than 20% to 15.3%. He also does a nice job of getting on-base by hitting .280-.300 and he’s not afraid to take a walk (10.4%). He’s hitting .441 through seven AFL games, but he’s been caught the one time that he tried to steal. Petersen could surface in Florida by the end of ’10, especially if he can improve his base running.

Grant Desme, OF, Oakland
It’s easy to get excited about Desme’s season because the 23-year-old outfielder hit 31 homers in 486 at-bats, including a .352 ISO rate in 227 high-A at-bats. Two things work against him, though: A) He was old for low-A and old-ish for high-A, and B) He struck out more than 30% of the time. The ’09 season was the first year that he’s been healthy since signing back in ’07. Desme is currently leading the AFL in homers with seven (three more than the next closest hitter) and he’s hitting .436 despite striking out 13 times in 39 at-bats. We probably won’t see Desme in Oakland before 2011.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta
One of the youngest hitters in the league, Freeman is struggling in the AFL. He’s hitting just .174/.296/.217 in 23 at-bats. The first baseman also stumbled at double-A in the second half of the minor league season in ’09. After scorching high-A ball earlier in the year, he hit just .248/.308/.342 in 149 at-bats. Freeman hit just .164 in August. He just turned 20 in September so there is no reason to be worried. He should be in Atlanta by mid-to-late 2011.

Jemile Weeks, 2B, Oakland
The 22-year-old Weeks is in the AFL to make up for lost time after beginning the year on the disabled list. Upon his return, he was on fire for the first two months before slumping in July; he never really hit consistently after that. His struggles continue in the AFL with a line of .182/.250/.303 through 33 at-bats. Weeks, though, is showing some patience with three walks and he’s been successful in both of his steal attempts. Weeks may debut in Oakland around the same time as Desme… 2011.