2080 evaluators are cranking through the first week of the 2016 Arizona Fall League, so be on the lookout for fresh reports, spotlights, and prospect video throughout the abbreviated season!
Today, 2080’s Alec Dopp starts us off with fresh video highlights from the desert, with looks at 10 prospects who stood out during the first two days of action.
Cecchini’s second taste of the fall league started on a high note Tuesday afternoon, going 2-for-3 with a double and three runs batted in against Scottsdale’s staff. Fresh off a 117-game Pacific Coast League showing in which he put up a .325/.390/.448 triple slash line, including eight home runs and 27 doubles, the former first-round pick displayed a mix of patience, contact skills, and an ability to take the ball the other way, including a hard line-drive single to short right-center in his first plate appearance against Nationals starter Austin Voth. Cecchini’s swing is quick, compact and mostly conducive to line-drive trajectories, giving him a chance to hit for a quality average at the next level. The lack of leverage and loft in his swing figures to limit his fence-clearing power output, however.
A late-round draft pick last year, Copping was limited to 28 innings of relief work between Rookie and High-A ball this summer after working with Driveline Baseball to enhance his mechanics and velocity in extended spring training. He made the most of his abbreviated playing time, averaging 11.2 strikeouts-per-nine between both hitter-friendly leagues, and has thus far followed suit in the AFL by fanning two hitters in a scoreless ninth inning Tuesday – his first fall appearance. Copping’s fastball scraped 94 once and sat 91-to-93 mph with minimal movement, with the lack of effort required to get there suggesting he could have more in the tank as he adds some more muscle to his frame. He also mixed in a low-80s curveball that flashed above-average 11-to-5 shape and bite when he was able to stay on top of it (see last pitch of video clip).
Tate’s AFL debut featured some of the better stuff of any pitcher on opening day. Working the third and fourth innings from the bullpen for Scottsdale, Tate showed a double-plus fastball that sat 95-to-97 mph with significant arm-side life, a hard 87-to-89 mph slider that missed bats on multiple occasions, and an 84-to-85 mph changeup that, while still raw, flashed plus tumble and fading action away from left-handed batters. Though he surrendered a home run to Carson Kelly on an elevated 95-mph fastball, Tate proved he could effectively sequence and control his offerings to advanced hitters, albeit in this short burst. Reports had Tate in the low 90s toward the end of the season in the Class A South Atlantic League, so the resurgence of velocity and early indications that he has some feel for the changeup give reason for optimism moving forward. Still, questions about his long-term viability as a starter will remain until he proves capable of maintaining over the long-haul the same quality stuff that got him drafted in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft.
One of the most promising prep power bats of the 2012 draft class endured his least effective season to date in 2016, slashing .203/.255/.349 with 12 home runs in 106 Southern League games. Hawkins’s AFL debut was a mixed bag, going 1-for-4 with a double and two strikeouts against Scottsdale arms. A common theme seemed to be his swing-and-miss tendencies, routinely leaking out front on breaking offerings with head movement away from the plate in his swing. Drafted as a center fielder, Hawkins started Tuesday’s game in left field, where his average arm and well below-average speed (4.53 HP-to-1B at full effort in his first at-bat) likely profile best over the long term. Still possessing easy plus raw power, a developmental focal point in Arizona will be shoring up his contact skills and approach so the lone carrying tool – his power – can be usable at the next level.
Drafted and developed as a catcher/corner outfielder, Wick made a permanent transition to the mound in 2016, posting a 2.44 ERA and impressive 11.6 K/9 across 44.1 relief innings split between High A and Double-A. The former ninth round pick (2012) encountered an early rough patch in his AFL debut, surrendering two walks and one run in two innings of work Tuesday afternoon in Glendale. Tall and filled out physically, Wick settled at 92-to-94 mph with his fastball, which lacked life but created downhill plane from his high three-quarters arm slot. He also blended in an average 75-to-77 mph curveball with 12-to-6 shape as his only secondary offering. Wick’s delivery appeared stiff and lacked ideal fluidity after release, which may be a source of his lofty walk totals at Double-A (14 BB in 19.1 IP) to finish out 2016.
Signing a minor-league contract with the Mets early last month, the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback has an 0-for-6 line to show for his first two starts, including one walk, one strikeout and one run batted in. Tebow’s swing remains a work in progress as a professional, but the 29-year-old has exhibited surprising patience at the dish, working the count to his favor as pitchers remain cognizant of the strength and raw power he showed Dave DeFreitas at his showcase in late August. Tebow posted a run time of 4.25 from HP-to-1B Wednesday night in Scottsdale –grading out as fringe-average playable speed for that showing. His routes in left field have been questionable (and sometimes painful) in the short sample, so there’s plenty to work on developmentally over the next month.
Acquired from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman deadline deal, Torres ventured to Arizona fresh off posting a .270/.354/.421 triple slash line, with 11 home runs and 29 doubles across 125 Low A contests. The young 19-year-old parlayed some of that production in his AFL debut Wednesday night, going 1-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts and an opposite-field home run off Tigers RHP Artie Lewicki. Torres’s wide stance and high leg kick left him exposed to a handful of off-speed pitches in the dirt, though his home run showcased his plus bat speed and good backspin carry when he finds the barrel.
Considered one of the better power/speed outfield prospects in the game after amassing 33 home runs and 41 stolen bases between 2014-2015, Phillips entered Arizona on the heels of a 2016 campaign that saw his contact skills and batting average drop considerably in the Southern League. Through two fall games, the 22-year-old has gone 1-for-5 with a triple, four walks and a quartet of runs scored in that span. The walk totals are validated by what appears to be a more calculated approach at the plate early this fall, though the clear lunging tendencies against off-speed stuff have yielded more defensive swings than one would like to see. Phillips is one-for-one in stolen base attempts thus far, and was 4.13 down the line in his debut Tuesday night at Salt River – close to plus speed for a lefty bat.
Suspended 80 games for PED use last season, Demeritte returned to form in 2016, launching 28 home runs and 29 doubles en route to a .266/.361/.554 slash across 123 games between the High-A California and Carolina Leagues. The former first-round draftee has yet to clear the fence through two games, going 2-for-10 with two runs scored, four whiffs and one walk. Consistent contact has been a recurring issue for Demeritte in the past, with strikeout rates hovering well above the 30% plateau as a pro, and an aggressive approach and long swing early are areas he’ll need to address this fall. Demeritte already has an error at second to his resume, but he showed quality range Tuesday night, sprinting in and to his right on a difficult ground ball before making an impressive jump-throw to record an out.
One of the more impressive performance bats in an otherwise depleted Arizona farm system this season (17 home runs and a .311/.339/.492 triple slash in 127 games between High A and Double-A), Lugo’s fall league debut has started on a slow note, going 1-for-10 with a double, two runs batted in and a pair of strikeouts through two contests. A common theme thus far has been a free-swinging mentality at the plate, often struggling to find the barrel. Signed as a shortstop, Lugo has started both AFL games at the hot corner, where his thick build and well below-average speed (his best run time thus far is 4.45 HP-to-1B) may ultimately profile best over the long term.