Here we are, back for the November eiditon of the Hotpage, where tradition dictates I write some words about what I saw at the Arizona Fall League (AFL) last week.
As usual, there are players we seek to see--this Billy Hamilton in particular--but I try to go and watch as much in a vaccuum, reporting on what I see.
For the second straight year, there was really very little pitching that was worth mentioning, but one guy I did like--one of three Giants who impressed me--was Jacob Dunnington, a 6'2", 160 pounder who hails from Redmond, Washington, giving him a pair of commonalities with Tim Lincecum (beanpole and home). I only saw Dunnington go one inning, but he easily whiffed a pair of Salt River hitters, then coaxed a ground out from Anthony Rendon. Drafted out of high school, the 21-year old Dunnington played as high as Double-A Richmond this year (0-0. 1.76 over 18 innings) and has career totals of 9-4, 2.64 over 119.1 minor league relief innings. The right-hander has 161 strikeouts to 70 walks and 72 hits and looked as dominant as those numbers.
Speaking of Rendon, the Nationals first round pick last year, who signed too late to play in 2011, played at four levels this season going .233-6-12 over 133 at-bats, reaching as high as Double-A Harrisburg (.161-3-3 over 21 games) before being dispatched to the AFL. The third sacker had a nice two-for-three day with a walk against Phoenix early in the week, then roped a triple as part of a two-for-four game against Scottsdale, adding to his .395-0-11 AFL line. The big problem for Rendon is Ryan Zimmerman, still just 28, plays ahead of him.
Rich with prospects, Washington also has outfielder Kent Matthes, a fourth round pick from University of Alabama in 2009. After handling Class-A Modesto last year (.334-23-95), Matthes struggled with the jump to Double-A Tulsa this year (.217-17-40), although strikeouts haunted him both seasons with 22 walks to 80 whiffs both years. Matthes hit .260-4-14 for Salt River this year, and I saw him twice where he struck out five times--one by Dunnington--while walking twice, however, he also showed a deadly arm in right field and that was enough to make me want to track.
I only saw the Brewers Josh Prince for one game, but it was indeed a convincing viewing, as the shortstop went two-for-three, with a pair of walks, scoring twice, and knocking in another with a double. Prince, among the leaders of the AFL in offense (.385/.495/.543 with eight swipes) was a third round selection of Milwaukee out of Tulane in 2009, went .251-7-55 with 28 doubles and 41 swipes. Most impressive for Pince this year however, is the seriously improved plate discipline that resulted in 74 walks to 107 strikeouts at Double-A Huntsville in 2012 his best numbers since rising from rookie ball in 2010.
For the third straight season I saw Grant Green, Oakland's first round selection out of USC in 2009, and this time unfortunately Green looked like a lost man. Three years ago, as a 22-year old shortstop, Green was impressive enough coming off a .318-20-87 season at Stockton, and last year he looked better in Phoenix, learning the outfield after logging .291-9-62 totals at Double-A Midland. And, though Green moved up to Triple-A Sacramento and hit .296-15-75 there in 2012, this time he was playing second base and looked weary as a result. Whether this was the result of the long seasons, or his position shuffled, I am not sure, but I saw him go 0-for-eight, with only one ball hit into the outfield. I think maybe a trade and a new start for Green,who will be 25 on Opening Day 2013, without a set position in Oakland, might be the best course unfortunately.
I was not familiar at all with San Francisco third sacker Chris Dominguez, drafted now no fewer than three times (17th round in 2005 by Texas, by the Rockies in the fifth round of 2008, and finally by the Giants in the third round of the 2009 draft out of University of Louisville), but I am now. Dominguez went three-for-four with a homer, and a pair of singles and runs the first game I saw him, then went one-for-four two days later with a single, but also walked, got on via an error, stole a base and scored a run against Surprise. With 83 walks to 447 strikeouts, plate discipline has to be a concern for SF, but Dominguez does have .261-55-270 totals over 426 minor league games with 39 swipes. He went .247-3-25 over 43 games at Triple-A Fresno in 2012, but struck out an alarming 47 times to just a pair of walks, but I really liked what I saw at the dish, on the bases, and in the field of Dominguez.
Another fellow who was new to me was Scottsdale (via the Angels) Randal Grichuk, a first round pick of Los Angeles in 2009 out of Rosenberg, Texas. Just 21 last August, the right fielder hit a pretty solid .298-18-71 at the California League this year, with 30 doubles and 16 steals, although again 52 minor league walks to 261 strikeouts is of concern. He did walk twice, and singled once scoring a pair of runs the day I saw Grichuk, but what was really great was the fantastic throw he uncorked to nail Corey Dickerson--who is not exactly slow--going from first-to-third on a Jose Gonzalez single (that actually scored Rendon).
Closing with the second arm I liked, it actually belongs to Dellin Betances, the 6'8", 260 pound right-hander who has been so balleyhooed, but who also struggled this season with 6-9, 6.44 totals over 131.2 innings split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In fact Betances earned a sip of coffee (6.75 over 2.2 innings) at Yankees Stadium this year. However, I saw the big guy toss two innings--one frame each appearance--Betances looked great, striking out a pair and retiring all six hitters he faced.