AFL Team Review: Surprise Saguaros


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

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

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Panoply of Prospects Surprise for Saguaros  

The Western Division champs, and owners of a league-best 19-11 record, benefited as much as anyone from the make-up-for-lost-time contingent and a couple of quick appearances from high-value producers. The club tied for the league lead in home runs (31), led the league in slugging (.424) and was the only team to average more than five runs per game (5.3).

The most closely watched bat on the roster was Texas middle-infielder Jurickson Profar, who was limited to designated hitter duties. Profar made a strong impression on evaluators, demonstrating the strong wrists, plus bat speed and barrel control, and a leveraged swing that helped the talented 22-year old earn the title of best prospect in the professional game just two years ago.

While statistics don’t tell the whole story in the AFL, it was an encouraging sign to see Profar’s power present, with nine of his 20 hits going for extra bases. Perhaps more importantly, he avoided any injury setbacks and was not visibly restricted in his actions at the plate or on the basepaths. After missing significant time with a number of ailments over the past two seasons – most significantly a torn labrum requiring surgery – Profar looks ready to step back into the picture with the Rangers, which is a good thing for Texas, and a good thing for fans of exciting baseball.

Of those prospects making brief appearances for Surprise, solid contributions were provided by established high-end prospects like Brett Phillips (OF, Brewers), Lewis Brinson (OF, Rangers) and Luis Ortiz (Rangers), while other interesting talents like Jose Trevino (C/3B, Rangers), Michael Reed (OF, Brewers) and Ronald Guzman (1B/OF, Rangers) also flashed plenty of promise.

The most impressive individual performances might have come from righties Brooks Pounders (RHP, Royals) and Jacob Barnes (RHP, Brewers). Pounders tossed twelve innings of five-hit ball over three October starts allowing no runs and no walks while striking out 14. Barnes also finished up the fall season with a spotless ERA, going 11.2 scoreless innings while allowing six hits and three walks and striking out a whopping 17 hitters.

Who ya got?

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

Aledmys Diaz, SS, Cardinals

Aledmys Diaz, SS, Cardinals (Triple-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’1″/195 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  25y, 4m
The Cuban has an athletic and sturdy body with strong forearms, which create above-average bat speed to go along with his short and compact swing. Diaz displayed moderate barrel control with slight leverage, both being ingredients for a doubles-heavy hitter. His athletic actions in the field coincide with my belief that he will be able to play an average shortstop. Diaz has smooth footwork with quick hands, which was evident around the base on transfers, and in the hole on plays that required significant effort. While there might not be the flashiest profile involved, a solid regular capable of handling shortstop is nothing to sneeze at.  –Tucker Blair

Dustin Fowler, OF, Yankees (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’0″/185 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  20y, 11m
Fowler split his time in high school with football and wrestling and had only limited exposure on the travel ball circuit, but he’s improving with every at-bat as his speed and athleticism transition quickly from prediction to production. Well-built but not oversized, he’s maintained the strength from his football days, and has bat speed to hit for average game power and the foot speed to stay in the middle of the field and be an asset on the bases. He’s still learning to control the strike zone and develop a plan at the plate, but the natural barrel feel and pitch identification skills are already present and applicable in games. There’s still work to be done, but the power/speed combination makes for a potential first-division regular.  –Jeff Moore

Luke Weaver, RHP, Cardinals (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’2″/170 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  23y, 3m
After a great year at High-A Palm Beach, his first full pro season, Weaver took his talents to the AFL without skipping a beat. He continued to show impressive command, consistently spotting his 91 to 94 mph fastball on both sides of the plate with ease. I was impressed with his controlled delivery his ability to maintain his velocity and composure throughout the outing. His curveball and changeup looked average or better, with his sharp, darting 86 mph slider being his best offering of the day. Despite his smallish, slender frame, Weaver is a good athlete with plenty of strength and, I believe, has the arsenal and command to start at the big league level. I’m optimistic he gets there rather quickly – perhaps as early as 2017.  –Chris Rodriguez

You should know about…

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

Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’3″/175 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  21y, 3m
Over the past 20 months Reyes has progressed from an electric but inconsistent Low A arm with a potentially problematic body to a Double-A hammer-slinger powering his way towards the St. Louis rotation. There’s top-shelf swing-and-miss stuff in the arsenal, including a mid-to upper-90s fastball that cracked triple-digits during two of his four AFL appearances, and a plus to double-plus curve with jarring depth and bite. His fall campaign was cut short, and the start of his 2016 will be delayed, due to a 50-game suspension resulting from a positive test for marijuana. Despite the let down of his season’s abrupt conclusion, 2015 marked Reyes’s ascension from a hope and a dream to one the game’s most promising young arms, with a loud quartet of starts for the Saguaros all the righty needed to stake a claim to the title of top prospect in the Arizona Fall League.

Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (Triple-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’2″/230 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  23y, 0m
Like Reyes, Sanchez entered 2015 with questions of inconsistency surrounding his profile before proceeding to run-off an impressive summer campaign that was capped-off by a smile-inducing AFL performance. The Dominican backstop led the AFL in home runs (7) and extra-base hits (14) thanks to a quick stick and leveraged swing, while showcasing premium arm-strength behind the dish gunning down over 60% of would-be base stealers and consistently popping 1.9 to 2.0 on his throws to second. Sanchez remains a bit clunky on the defensive side, lacking athleticism, side-to-side actions and fluidity of footwork, but appears to have progressed enough to stick at catcher for the time being. If he can maintain a handle on his physique and smooth out some of the rough edges on the defensive side, he has a chance to emerge as the a middle-of-the-order bat for the Bronx Bombers and a solid, if unspectacular, contributor behind the dish.

Lewis Brinson, OF, Rangers (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’3″/170 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  21y, 7m
AFL evaluators were treated to 49 plate appearances by the Texas farmhand, and the former first-rounder did not disappoint, slashing .300/.408/.575 in his abbreviated stay before setting-off to the Puerto Rican Winter League. Brinson has an impressive collection of tools at his disposal, drawing average or better grades across the board from evaluators and consistent “plus” designations on the raw power, arm strength, run and glove. While contact rates continue to be a question, Brinson has improved his selectivity each of his three full professional seasons, and drew praise from scouts this fall for a tightened approach, leading some to believe the Florida prep product could be ready to take yet another developmental leap in 2016 – an impressive projection considering the large strides made this past year when Brinson emerged as one of the most impactful minor league bats in the game. All of this just two-years removed from a Sally League performance in which he slashed .237/.322/.427 and struck out in nearly 40% of his at bats.

Josh Hader, LHP, Brewers

Josh Hader, LHP, Brewers (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’3″/165 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  21y, 8m
While Reyes was most frequently mentioned as the top pitching prospect in the league, Hader received his share of support from evaluators as well, thanks to a lively mid-90s heater and power breaking-ball that has grown into a weapon against left-handed hitters. A quick arm and wide, slinging action adds deception to the mix, helping Hader to average more than a K per inning in the desert while drawing some comparisons to Madison Bumgarner along the way. The young southpaw still has a ways to go developmentally before the surface level comparisons to three-time all-star become truly apropos, including tightening up his in-zone command and pitch-to-pitch execution. But after his 7 AFL appearances (including a stellar relief outing in the championship game) scouts appear more and more willing to buy into the long and loose lefty as the real deal, and a potential impact arm for Milwaukee in the not-too-distant future.

Sam Wolff, RHP, Rangers (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’1″/190 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  24y, 8m
A 2013 sixth-rounder out of the University of New Mexico, Wolff put together a solid 2014 in his first full pro season, before missing the entirety of 2015 with a torn Achilles tendon. The former Lobo took the mound six times for the Saguaros this fall, and, after an inauspicious start, mowed down his AFL competition to the tune of 14.1 innings of one run ball (unearned), allowing 12 hits and just two walks while striking out nine. Wolff worked with a low-90s fastball that regularly touched 94 to 95 mph with arm-side run and some downhill plane. His stable of secondaries include an 11-to-5 mid-70s curve with average depth, a low-80s slider with slight tilt and average bite, and a low-80s change piece that flashes fade and mirrors his fastball action. Wolff showed impressive comfort with all four offerings, particularly considering his limited game action this year. While some evaluators still view his high-stress delivery as an indicator of a future in the pen, he shows the depth of repertoire to emerge as a number four starter. If he does wind up in relief, there’s enough stuff to profile as a potential late-inning arm.

 Notes from the stands…

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

Domingo Acevedo, RHP, Yankees (Short-Season A)
Ht/Wt:  6’7″/190 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  21y, 9m
Giant frame; potential weight concerns; three-quarters arm slot; premium arm speed; long arm action; top and bottom half out of sync; hips open up early; fastball 95 to 98 (T99) with extreme arm-side run and life; below-average command; changeup 84 to 87, firm and slows down arm; slider 81 to 87 with short break, telegraphs offering; consistently out of tempo; mechanics and command hinder overall profile; middle relief or setup profile due to inconsistent mechanics and lack of a second pitch.
-Tucker Blair

Charlie Tilson, OF, Cardinals (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  5’11″/175 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  23y, 0m
Skinny, lithe frame; plus defender in center field; athletic and instinctual; solid first step and range; plus speed; average arm; average bat speed; quick and loose swing; moderate barrel control; well below-average power; gap-to-gap style hitter; patient approach; potential second division regular or fourth outfielder.
-Tucker Blair

Bubba Starling, OF, Royals

Bubba Starling, OF, Royals (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’4″/210 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  23y, 9m
Projectable frame; athletic build with fast-twitch actions; plus arm and athleticism in outfield; played right field in all viewings during AFL; swing has become mildly more consistent since my last viewing in Wilmington; has dropped his hands on pre-swing set; hands still drift during load phase of swing; plus bat speed; mild leverage; average raw power; unrefined approach at the plate; struggles to recognize and hit spin; improved and more consistent player since last year, with a chance at becoming an average regular.  –-Tucker Blair

Ian Clarkin, LHP, Yankees (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’2″/190 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  20y, 10m
Small frame; fastball 89 to 91, minimal movement, below-average present command, should get to average; curveball 71 to 72, big break, flashed average; changeup 83 to 84, minimal movement, threw for strikes, little deception; back-end starter profile.
-Jeff Moore

Ramon Torres, SS/2B, Royals (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  5’10″/155 | B/T:  S/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  22y, 10m
Small and wiry frame; athletic player with fast-twitch actions; solid footwork and range; capable of playing an average shortstop and above-average second base; smooth hands and transfers around the base; average bat speed; quick hands and flat swing from both sides of the plate; hands still drift as a left-handed hitter; moderate barrel control; below-average raw power; slap hitter that will spray the ball around the field; aggressive approach at the plate; solid utility option.  –-Tucker Blair

Adrian Houser, RHP, Brewers (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’4″/230 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  22y, 10m
Tall and fall righty with broad shoulders and sturdy, classic innings-eater build; high three-quarters arm slot; heavy fastball 92 to 95 with significant arm-side run generated weak groundball contact. Flashed ability to command fastball to both sides of the plate, first viewing it ate up right-handed hitters with its late movement, second he was better at dotting it to the glove side; curve sits in the low 80’s, tight spin and inconsistent command, will flash plus but is more of an average offering; needs more consistency with changeup in order to manage lefties and stay in a rotation; has the ceiling of a back end starter with a floor as a solid bullpen piece.  –-Tucker Blair

Connor Sadzeck, RHP, Rangers (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’5″/195 | B/T:  L/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  24y, 2m
Big frame; sturdy shoulders and muscular chest; workhorse body; premium arm speed; poor arm action; moderate effort; fastball 97 to 100 (T101) with arm-side run and life, elite offering; flashed plus curveball 79 to 83, 11-to-5 action with moderate depth, inconsistent release point, replicates arm speed; well below-average changeup, firm at 90, consistently left up in zone; fastball/curve combo will be an asset in the back of a bullpen.  –-Tucker Blair

Tyler Austin, 1B/OF, Yankees

Tyler Austin, 1B/OF, Yankees (Double-A)
Ht/Wt:  6’1″/220 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  24y, 3m
Smaller frame; sturdy shoulders; maxed body; average bat speed; short and compact swing with slight leverage; moderate barrel control; fringe raw power but more gap-to-gap than over-the-fence; average speed; average arm; plays a solid corner outfield; lacks any standout or impact tools; fourth outfielder profile. –-Tucker Blair

Andrew Edwards, RHP, Royals (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’6″/265 | B/T:  R/R | Age (as of 12/1/15):  24y, 2m
Big frame; thick and maxed body; three-quarters arm slot; plus arm speed; front shoulder will occasionally fly open on release; inconsistent mechanics; notable crossfire delivery on fastball, lacks the crossfire on slider; fastball 93 to 95 (T96) with life and downhill plane; flashes an average slider 87 to 88 with short sweep, inconsistent in both release point and arm speed replication; threw a firm changeup at 86; middle relief profile.  –-Tucker Blair

Ronald Guzman, 1B/OF, Rangers (High A)
Ht/Wt:  6’5″/205 | B/T:  L/L | Age (as of 12/1/15):  21y, 1m
Giant body with strong, projectable frame; below-average athleticism; poor footwork at first base and left field; plus arm strength; double-plus raw power; average bat speed; minimal barrel control; swing can become elongated; hands drift; front side will open up; becomes unbalanced; struggles against left-handed pitching; hit tool will hinder raw power from manifesting; potential platoon bat against right-handed pitchers, but hit tool leaves me with real concerns about the future profile becoming anything more. –-Tucker Blair