AFL Team Review: Salt River Rafters


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Scottsdale | Surprise | Salt River | Glendale | Peoria | Mesa

2080 Evaluators on Coverage
Jeff Moore | Tucker Blair | Mauricio Rubio  | John Arguello | Chris Rodriguez

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First Base Duo Emerges for the Rafters

The Salt River squad didn’t stand out as a group in any one facet of the game, though the club was well balanced and had plenty to show for itself on the evaluative side in both bats and arms. The biggest storyline to emerge for the Rafters was the strong play of two first basemen who have each previously struggled to win over scouts over the course of their brief pro careers.

Dominic Smith (1B, Mets) was selected 11th overall in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, and was generally recognized as one of the best pure hitters in the draft class. Pro scouts have been slow to warm to Smith, in large part due to the lack of in-game power on display to-date, with Smith launching just nine home runs over 1,100-plus regular season at bats. He began to produce hard contact more regularly in 2015, before putting together a loud, though abbreviated, offensive season in this year’s Arizona Fall League, slashing .362/.483/.511.

Rowdy Tellez (1B, Blue Jays) was a bad-bodied bat-only prospect in the same 2013 draft class as Smith, lasting all the way to the 30th Round, and coming off the board as the 895th overall pick. Tellez has slowly built-up his profile over the past two seasons, getting into better shape, improving his approach and contact ability and allowing his big raw power to play with more frequency. During his 2015 AFL stint, Tellez tallied four homers (tying for third most in the league), finishing with a .293/.352/.488 slash line.

Also impressive with some thunder in his stick was Chris Bostick (2B, Nationals), who matched Tellez’s four home runs while slashing .268/.333/.549, and legging out four doubles and two triples to boot. Roemon Fields (OF, Blue Jays) racked-up four three-baggers and 14 stolen bases, each of which was good enough to lead the AFL.

On the bump, Yoan Lopez (Diamondbacks) finished fourth in the AFL in strikeouts (27) over 28.2 innings of work thanks to a solid fastball/slider combo. John Simms (Nationals) allowed just five earned runs over his 24 innings, good for the fifth best ERA in the league among qualifying arms, while Kyle Freeland (Rockies) made up for lost time in 2015, tossing 25-plus frames for Salt River and showing flashes of the stuff and deception that enticed the Rockies to use the 8th overall pick on the former Evansville Purple Ace in 2014. 

Who ya got?

Three 2080 evaluators each make the case for one of their “guys”

Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Blue Jays

Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Blue Jays (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’4″/245 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  20y, 2m
Nothing gets me on board with a prospect more than seeing improvement from look to look, and the progress for Tellez from year’s beginning to end has been noticeable in almost every aspect of his game. Most notable is the physical change he’s undergone, slimming down while maintaining his strength and giving himself at least some mobility when he previously had very little. The power still shows plus in batting practice and translates well to games, and he shows enough bat control and a willingness to use the whole field that the hit tool should play to at least major league average. Defensively, he’s worked hard to improve himself from a future DH to an adequate first baseman. While limited to first base, he has the hit tool and plus power potential to be a first division regular there while hitting in the center of a big league lineup.  –Jeff Moore

John Simms, RHP, Nationals (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’3″/205 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  23y, 10m
While he lacks overpowering stuff, Simms has easy mechanics with a long arm action, and repeatable delivery. The fastball sits 88 to 91 mph with run, and he’s able to spot the pitch in all four quadrants of the zone. The command is above-average, which allows for Simms to throw his fastball with confidence even though it lacks firepower. His 11-to-5 curveball flashes average at 76 to 78 mph with mild depth. The changeup is fringy with mild run at 83 to 84 mph, but he replicates the arm speed, providing deception against his other pitches. Overall, it’s the advanced command that allows for Simms to work his three offerings, despite the fact that none of them grade out as better than average. I can envision a role where Simms plays a backend starter or a solid swingman.  –Tucker Blair

Raimel Tapia, OF, Rockies (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’2″/160 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  21y, 10m
Raimel Tapia is a difficult read due to his unorthodox approach and mechanics, as well as his slight build. His athleticism along with some rare baseball-specific skills – excellent hand-eye coordination, elite bat control, and feel for the barrel – help him to excel in the box.  Tapia has a live, loose body with which he is able to generate great torque, giving him more pop (45 raw power) than his 160-pound frame might suggest. On defense, he compensates for questionable reads and routes with good speed. If he is able to stick in center field long term, he can be one of the more exciting players at the position.
–Chris Rodriguez

You should know about…

Aggregate write-ups based on in-person AFL views by 2080 evaluators and industry contacts

Dominic Smith, IB, Mets

Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’0″/185 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  20y, 6m
Smith has always been viewed by evaluators as a quality bat and an exceptional defensive first baseman. Beyond those truths, however, lies a vast land of varying opinions regarding to future power production, overall value, body maintenance, and make-up. Smith hit just one home run in 518 plate appearances during his first professional season in 2014, but enjoyed a productive 2015, flashing more power (six homers) and a little higher average (.305 in 2015 versus .271 in 2014). His brief 15-game run through the AFL was defined by a forceful stick, advanced approach, and lots of very loud contact. While just one of his 17 hits went for a round-tripper, the constant hard contact and ability to use the entire field was enough to convince a number of scouts that the homers will eventually come. Even if the power production tops out as merely average, his on-base skill set, and ability to hit for a high average, will help buoy his offensive production. Smith is likely to tackle Double-A in 2016 as a 20-year old, turning 21 in mid-June. While he hasn’t won everyone over just yet, there’s no question Smith is looking more and more like a deserved first-round selection and could quickly develop into one of the more exciting minor league bats to watch in 2016.

Yoan Lopez, RHP, Diamondbacks (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’3″/185 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  22y, 11m
Lopez took in a little over $8 million of the $75-plus million spent by Arizona last winter on Cuban additions, and then promptly turned in an underwhelming debut season that consisted of spotty command and issues with blisters and periodic arm soreness. While his AFL stint was likewise highlighted by some control issues and spotty command in the zone, leading to walks and hits, respectively, his pitch execution was sharper and he began to miss bats with more regularity. The fastball spanned a 92 to 95 mph velo band, topping 96/97 on occasion with good downhill plane. Additionally, his power breaking ball flashed plus bite, sitting 82 to 84 with hard 11-to-5 action. There’s still work to be done as to the consistency of his low- to mid-80s changeup, but overall it was a nice step forward for the soon-to-be 23-year old. The jury is still out as to whether Lopez will pick-up enough consistency in his changeup and his control to turn over major league lineups, but the fastball/breaking ball combo allow for a nice fallback as a late-inning power arm.

Gabby Guerrero, OF, Diamondbacks (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’3″/190 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  22y, 0m
After a disastrous 2015 that saw the nephew of Vladamir slash a combined .222/.258/.343 at the Double-A level between two organizations, Guerrero began to right the ship during his time with Salt River. The profile remains high risk due to the painfully aggressive approach he brings to the plate as well as some quirks in the swing that can combine to prevent regular hard contact. Guerrero has an athletic frame and bears a strong resemblance to Vladdy in appearance and actions at the plate. The swing is high effort and can get long, though there is good bat speed to help counter the ill effects of the length and swing-from-the-heels cuts. Unfortunately, Gabby lacks the elite hand-eye coordination of his uncle, and the barrel simply doesn’t yet find the ball often enough to give evaluators confidence that he will figure things out and thrive at the upper-levels. Nevertheless, the .300 average, and demonstration of a little more patience at the dish during his 13 AFL contests, have convinced some evaluators to continue to give Guerrero more developmental time before moving on. The upside is that of a first-division regular, but he’ll need to build upon his AFL successes in 2016 – a process that will most likely start with a return trip to the Southern League this spring.

Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies

Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’3″/170 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  22y, 7m
Freeland missed most of 2015 due to shoulder fatigue and some clean-up surgery to remove bone chips from the elbow of his throwing arm. When he finally did get into game action in August for High-A Modesto, the stuff was flat and his control and command were well below average. His AFL debut was an unmitigated disaster, with the lefty lasting just two-thirds of an inning and allowing six earned runs, five hits, two walks and two home runs. From that point on, however, the former first-rounder threw with a little more precision and effectiveness, more closely resembling his masterful draft-eligible spring with Evansville than his forehead-slap inducing 2015. At his best, he shows a lot of different looks and a lot of wiggle in his arsenal. The fastball comes in a four-seam, two-seam and cut variation and can run from the low- to mid-90s with action down, arm-side and glove-side, respectively. He can throw two sliders, a deeper low-80s offering and a shorter mid- to upper-80s version that bleeds into his cutter. His changeup is generally a low-80s offering that can show fade of split-like dive depending on the release. The Freeland that evaluators saw this fall still isn’t the Freeland that the Rockies bought into when they drafted him eighth overall in the 2014 draft, but he’s getting closer.

Carlos Estevez, RHP, Rockies (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’3″/185 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  22y, 11m
Estevez finished his 2015 season averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings and a K-to-walk ratio of 4.9. The arm was a little more erratic in the desert, perhaps due to some fatigue and mechanical inconsistencies, though the flamethrowing righty had no trouble missing bats at the same clip. Estevez throws from a high slot, creating downhill plane on his upper-90s heater and making the pitch difficult to lift when he keeps it down in the zone. He pairs with the fastball a hard mid-80s breaking ball with downer action and solid bite that plays both in and out of the zone. It’s a two-pitch profile that is limited to relief work, but the quality of the stuff is such that Estevez could find his way to high-leverage innings in short order. He’s on a short list of potential future closers in the Rockies system and could join a wave of interesting arms poised to hit Denver over the next two summers.

Notes from the stands…

Quick hits from the notebooks of the 2080 evaluators in the stands

Oscar Hernandez, C, Diamondbacks (MLB)
Ht/Wt:  6’1″/220 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  22y, 5m
Solid build, little physical projection remaining; up-the-middle approach, short swing; not an impact bat; strong receiver, above-average arm strength; good footwork behind plate. –-Jeff Moore

Emilio Guerrero, 3B/UTL, Blue Jays (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’4″/189 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  23y, 3m
Ideal frame, tall, lean, long limbs; athletic; uses size very well; impressive set of raw tools though in-game application severely lacking; above-average bat speed; long arms, battles trying to get extension; plus raw power, below-average in-game realization due to exceptionally aggressive approach and lack of a plan; plus arm, above-average defender at third base; can handle corner outfield spots well; first-division potential at multiple positions, but huge risk due to lack of baseball feel.
-Jeff Moore

Chris Bostick, 2B, Nationals

Chris Bostick, 2B, Nationals (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  5’11″/185 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  22y, 8m
Undersized frame; average bat speed; flashes average raw pop despite size; fringy in-game power would play best at middle infield; utility profile. –-Jeff Moore

Matt Carasiti, RHP, Rockies (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’3″/205 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  24y, 4m
Prototypical pitcher’s body; quick arm; fastball 93 to 95, some cutting action; splitter 81 to 82, strong diving action, potential above-average pitch; relief profile.  –-Jeff Moore

Jeff McNeil, 2B/UTL, Mets (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’1″/165 | B/T:  L/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  23y, 8m
Thin, needs to add strength; patient hitter; average bat speed; plus bat control; struggles with same-side breaking balls; well below-average power, gap-to-gap at best; over-extended at shortstop, above-average second baseman; limited offensive profile; not an impact bat, but could provide above-average on-base ability and defense at second base.  –-Jeff Moore

Abel De Los Santos, 3B, Nationals (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’2″/200 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  23y, 0m
Thin; effort in delivery; fastball 92 to 96, poor command; slider 76 to 79, average bite, sweeping action; limited repertoire and command issue point to reliever profile all the way –-Jeff Moore

Daniel Palka, 1B/OF, Twins (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’2″/220 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  24y, 1m
Strong, physically maxed out; hitch in swing, starts with hands away from body; large load slows down reaction time; flat swing, pull happy approach; plus bat speed but delivery slowed by hitch/load issue; long finish; plus raw power that plays in games to pull side; will have to do damage on fastballs on inner half; significant swing and miss; power will have to carry him.  –-Jeff Moore

Brady Dragmire, RHP, Blue Jays

Brady Dragmire, RHP, Blue Jays (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’1″/180 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  22y, 9m
Slightly undersized frame, can handle more weight; fastball 93 to 94, slider 85 to 86, average movement; changeup 85 to 86, average arm-side fade; middle-relief profile.  –-Jeff Moore

Roemon Fields, OF, Blue Jays (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  5’11″/180 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  25y, 0m
Small frame but well-built; plus athlete; plus runner; short, quick stroke; wide base in setup; bottom-scale power, does not look to drive the ball, embraces speed profile; struggled with off-hand changeups; raw approach; raw ability to be a plus center fielder, but still learning routes/footwork; high-energy player; long way to go, likely a fourth outfield profile with outside chance at up-the-middle/leadoff-type.  –-Jeff Moore

Chad Girodo, LHP, Blue Jays (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’1″/195 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  24y, 10m
Low arm-slot, almost side-arm; crossfire delivery; fastball at 85, below-average command; curve 75 to 77, big and sweeping; tough on left-handers, left-handed specialist profile.  –-Jeff Moore