Back I am from the Arizona Fall League, and that means a quick report on the players who caught my eye.
Of course my observations will include the players I think you would all like to know about, but, also the guys who looked like they had Major League stuff in my view.
Note that some of the players below made last year's Mastersball Top 250, which will be revealed with the December edition of the Hotpage. So, stay tuned, and please have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday!
Addison Russell (SS, Athletics): I was anxious to see the 2012 #1 pick of Oakland, and believe me, he did not disappoint. Russell lined four hits over the couple of games I saw, and also got on once via an error. He only struck out once, swiped a base and showed excellent range and instincts at shortstop. I would guess a late ETA would be towards the end of the 2014 season, but strong play could find Russell at short with Jed Lowrie moving to second during the coming season, depending upon the path of the Athletics.
Alen Hanson (SS, Pirates): Probably the NL counterpart to Russell, the now 21-year-old Hanson broke out with a big season (.309-16-62) at West Virginia last year, and kept it coming with solid stats at Bradenton and then Altoona this year. Hanson displayed a quick bat (1-for-3 with a steal) at the AFL, as well as good range in the field and a strong arm. He is a skinny guy (just 152 pounds) yet 37% of his minor league hits have gone for extra bases. Hanson has a pretty clear path to the shortstop gig at PNC. Give him a year, and he is there.
Brett Nicholas (1B, Rangers): The Rangers' sixth round selection in 2010 had a nice year at Frisco (.289-21-91) last year, and I saw him for a total of four AFL at-bats: he banged a single and a pair of homers with a very quick bat. Nicholas is 25, meaning he is older than most of his AFL counterparts, but he can hit. The question is can he do it at the Major League level, and at his age, time is getting short.
Byron Buxton (OF, Twins): A first round pick in 2012 by the Twins, who turned in .334-12-77 season in 2013 combined between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers. I saw four at-bats at the AFL All Star Game (Buxton got one hit) but my mates said he did launch a couple of bombs that they witnessed during our stay. Buxton does not turn 20 until next month, and looks to provide some offensive help to the Twins, who are good at promoting their prospects, as soon as next year.
Kris Bryant (3B, Cubs): Chicago to the North's first round selection this year out of the University of San Diego, Bryant hit .336-9-32 over 146 in-season at-bats, banging a 1.076 OPS. He is big (6'5", 215 pounds) and has a big swing to go along. Bryant got a couple of hits and a walk that I saw, and made a good play and throw at third, but also was caught on a short hop making a little league play that got through him and should have been an error. Hence, his ultimate home may not be the hot corner at the Major League level. But, he can hit, and has a presence for sure.
Matt Ramsey (P, Rays): I don't remember seeing that many pitchers at the Fall League over the past few years who caught my attention. That is largely a function of usually just seeing a guy pitch for an inning or so, but Ramsey whiffed all three hitters he faced during the one inning I saw. He threw hard, and his 67 strikeouts over 64.3 minor league innings bear this out. He has given up the same number of hits as innings as a pro, so that tells me he is relying too much on his fastball, and that suggests he needs another pitch, or is a closer in waiting. Based upon the six conversions he culled last year, that latter scenario seems the path.
Lee Stoppelman (P, Cardinals): The Cardinals clearly know how to draft pitchers these days, and my mate Brian Walton brought Stoppelman to my attention. He whiffed a couple of the batters he faced that I saw with an interesting threee-quarters motion. Selected in the 24th round of the 2012 draft, Stoppelman climbed three levels this year, going 6-3, 1.50, with 78 strikeouts over 66 innings, with 40 hits and 26 walks (1.00 WHIP) to go along with six saves.