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Sunday 25th Feb 2018

The Fall is a good and fun time of year, with the Series going full throttle, along with the NFL, while Hockey and Hoops are warming up. The holidays are on the horizon, and that means my annual trek to Phoenix for the BaseballHQ First Pitch, that is part of the Arizona Fall League.

So, in and among all that good Fall stuff, Diane and I toddled down to the Valley of the Sun, and I caught four games including the AFL All Star Game, so here are my thoughts about some of the players I saw.

The numbers identified with the player are his ranking on the 2016 Mastersball minor league ranking, part of the Top 250 package. NR means the player had not yet appeared above A-ball for the requisite at-bats to be rated. The 2017 Top 250 will be published shortly and is part of our Platinum Package

Brent Honeywell (P, Rays #29): A second-round selection of Tampa in 2014, Honeywell has been nothing short of brilliant over 279.3 minor league innings, whiffing 284 while going 18-10, 2.59 with a 1.060 WHIP. He was the All Star Game starter for the West, and he whiffed five of the six batters he faced. Pretty dominant.

Willie Calhoun (2B, Dodgers NR): Drafted in the fourth round by the Dodgers in 2015, Calhoun is a spark plug (5'8", 190 lbs.) who has a quick bat and some pop to boot, as witnessed by his .264-27-88 2016 at Tulsa. Calhoun does like to swing the bat, but he similarly makes contact with strong numbers: 45 walks to 65 strikeouts over 560 plate appearances. The Keystone guy had a monster Fall Stars game, going 3-for-3, banging two singles and a big homer, knocking in three and scoring twice. Calhoun made it to first a fourth time via a Catcher's Interference call.

Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, Dodgers #94): A kid I like a lot went 2-for-4 with a walk during a league game, then struck out three times at the Stars game, but similarly crushed a 430-foot bomb that certainly caught the eyes of everyone. Bellinger was a fourth-rounder in 2013--out of high school--who hit .263-23-65 at Tulsa last year. The question might be where does Bellinger play, but the answer is if he hits, he will play somewhere. A lot like Joc Pederson.

Jacob Nottingham (C, Brewers #110): Flat-footed, not fantastic defensively, and apparently there are holes in his swing, but every time I see Nottingham play, he bangs a double off the center field wall. As in he has done this three straight times, including Spring Training. Hit .234-11-37 at Double-A in 2015.

David Paulino (P, Astros #97): The 6'7" righty kind of harkened to the days of J.R. Richard with a pair of perfect innings, one AFL game, one during Fall Stars. He whiffed four, and though Paulino does not seem to be as dominant as Richard, he did strike out 106 over 90 innings last year at three levels before a Houston cup of java. I like this guy.

Brian Anderson (3B, Marlins #1311): A little lower on my radar, the 23-year-old hit .265-11-65 split between A+ and Double-A last year. Facing Glendale, at Mesa, Anderson went 3-for-4, banging a single, double and dinger and contributed a single and a run to the Fall Stars game.

Harrison Bader (OF, Cardinals #282): Bader, who singled, doubled, and scored twice during the Fall Stars game, was a third-round selection of the Cards in 2015. The University of Florida alum had a solid 2016, hitting .267-19-58, albeit with a lot more whiffs than walks, split between Double-A and Triple-A. Bader was shut out on an 0-for-5 earlier in the week, so the jury is still out, but he should be ready for Major League time shortly.

Michael Kopech (P, Red Sox #12): Kopech hurled two shutout innings during Fall Stars, whiffing three, coming off a 4-1, 2.08 season of 56.3 frames over which he struck out 86. The first-round pick of the Sox in 2013 is just 20, so he is probably a year or so away from Fenway, but the future does look like he will need shades.

Francis Martes (P, Astros #3): Another hurler I was anxious to see, though the results, in a very small sample, were less than stellar. Martes, nearly 21, got dinged for three hits and three runs, allowing a three-run jack to Ryan McMahon. Martes fared well at Corpus Christi last year, going 9-6, 3.30, with 131 strikeouts over 125.3 innings. 

Scott Kingery (2B, Phillies #1065): Kingery, a second-round selection of the Phils in 2015, had a pretty good season, hitting .281-5-46, with 36 doubles and 30 swipes largely at Clearwater. I had not really paid much attention to Kingery, save the right-handed hitter drove a grounder into the hole during the Fall Stars game and on what looked like a routine play, was only thrown out by a step-and-a-half, meaning the kid is really fast. REALLY fast. 

Gleyber Torres (3B, Yankees #66): Torres had a tough Fall Stars game, whiffing three times, but rumor in the booth was he was the best looking prospect at the Fall League. Torres, 19, could be strong enough to make the Yankees roster coming off a .270-11-66 season during which he was part of the Aroldis Chapman swap.

Follow me @lawrmichaels.


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