While we’re all gearing up for the playoffs, the Arizona Fall League campaign is still over a week away, giving us a chance to wrap up this article series next week with one last entry. Today, in our second to last entry, we scan the roster of the Surprise Saguaros, who are affiliated with the Royals, Brewers, Yankees, Cardinals and Rangers.
Ian Clarkin (NYY) comes to the AFL from the “making up for lost time” category of player. The left-hander missed the entire 2015 season due to elbow inflammation. When healthy, the 20-year-old has a solid four-pitch mix and commands it well. If he can avoid further elbow trouble, he profiles as a middle of the rotation starter. If all goes well, he will begin 2016 in A+ ball.
Josh Hader (MIL) is a former Oriole and Astro farmhand who thus far has exceeded expectations (former 19th round pick) and handled every level with aplomb. The 21-year-old has already made it to Double-A, where he posted an 11.6 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 over seven starts. A left-hander, Hader has a good fastball but has inconsistent command and secondary pitches and therefore looks more like a back end of the rotation starter or reliever long term.
One of the more exciting young arms on the team belongs to Alex Reyes (STL). The 21-year-old has three plus pitches, including an upper nineties fastball, curve, and change-up. At A+ and Double-A, he produced K/9 rates in excess of 13.5. His weakness, you ask? His control, of course. Reyes has yet to post a sub-4.0 BB/9 at any level in his career. Reyes has an upper end of the rotation arm but may end up profiling better as a power reliever. Expect him to return to Double-A in 2016, but he is also someone who could make an impact on the big league scene later in the season.
Luke Weaver (STL) is yet another interesting young pitcher the Cardinals are sending to the AFL. A former first-round pick, Weaver produced a 7.5 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 over 19 A+ starts in 2015. While he exhibits good command and has a good changeup, he no longer projects as a high end starting pitcher like he did when drafted due to some velocity loss and a sub-par breaking ball. Double-A will be a major test for him.
Former Oriole receiver Mike Ohlman (STL) enjoyed a rebound season in his first year as a member of the Cardinals’ organization. Ohlman’s defense has never been much to write home about, but his power re-emerged as did his ability to make contact and draw walks with an overall .273/.356/.418 slash. The 24-year- old will move up to Triple-A and should see some time in the Majors next season. If he can improve with the glove, he’d make a nice back-up catcher and extra right-handed bat off the bench.
Gary Sanchez (NYY) does not have much left to prove in the Minors, yet he remains blocked by Brian McCann, who is signed through at least 2018, leaving him once again as potential trade bait. Sanchez, 22, has legitimate upper teens to low-twenties home run power, modest, though not overwhelmingly great plate discipline and an ability to translate his 80%+ contact rates up to each new level of play. Defensively, he still needs work, though he has an excellent throwing arm. Expect Sanchez to spend the majority of 2016, barring an injury to McCann, in Triple-A.
Jurickson Profar (TEX), though no longer a rookie, remains just 22 years old. Profar missed most of 2015 due to tearing his labrum and has an undefined role for 2016. Earlier in his career, he was one of the most coveted middle infield prospects in all of baseball, combining power, speed, a quick bat and a very advanced approach at the plate into a single package. If healthy, he may need to play in a super-sub capacity in order to get playing time with Texas next season.
Tyler Wade (NYY) is coming off a good campaign at A+ where he made contact, got on base and showed good speed (31 steals) while hitting .280/.349/.353. Wade is light on power product and hit just 15 doubles all season long along with three home runs and five triples. The 20-year-old struggled upon reaching Double-A, where his plate discipline fell apart. He’ll return there in 2016 and will try to prove he is not over-matched. Wade has an outside shot of becoming a regular and profiles best as a utility infielder. His speed and skills as a solid defensive shortstop make him worthy of note in AL-only formats.
Lewis Brinson (TEX) played at three levels for the Rangers in 2015, excelling at all three places and is good bet to begin 2016 in Triple-A at just 21 years of age. Brinson is a five-tool player with mid-twenties or better home run power long term (20 combined in 2015) and enough speed and defensive ability to handle centerfield (18 stolen bases). Despite having good bat speed, Brinson does have a long swing and struck out over 20% of the time at his two longer minor league stops. In fact, his .337 A+ batting average was powered a great deal by a .402 BABIP. That said, Brinson is still an exciting talent with 30-20 potential, but expectations as far as his long-term ability to produce good batting averages and on-base percentages need to be tempered.
Brett Phillips (MIL) was acquired by the Brewers in the same deal that netted them Josh Hader from the Astros and is seen as the better of the two prospects. A true centerfielder, Phillips has plenty of speed but is not necessarily a base stealer, swiping 17 bags this season. His power production, which was a concern earlier in his career, has emerged somewhat with 16 combined homers. The lefty showed better leadoff/upper end of the lineup skills earlier in his career but has seen his walk rates drop off to mediocre levels and is only a fair contact hitter, though that combined with his speed should enable him to be at least a .270s hitter in the Majors. He’ll begin 2016 in Triple-A and could be the starting centerfielder by the end of the year.
Next week, we conclude our AFL preview with a look at the Scottsdale Scorpions.