After finishing as the runner-up to Peoria in 2017, the Solar Sox bring a somewhat sub-par roster into 2018 league play. The highlights include a strong infield, some athletic outfielders, and a strong defensive catcher in Jake Rogers. Then again, this is the Arizona Fall League, who cares about records and such? We’re here for the prospects. A product of your affiliates organizational depth, Mesa draws from the Red Sox, Cubs, Tigers, Angels, and A’s. Not exactly the strongest group to pull from when the Tigers, Angels, and A’s don’t send their biggest name talent. That’s not to say there isn’t a strong group of future major leaguers to follow, but more on that below it’s the 2018 Mesa Solar Sox Preview.
Summary: It’s become cliche to say that the pitching in the Fall League, on the whole, is pretty sub-par. The Mesa staff exemplifies this notion. With a collection of strong relief prospects like Angel Duno (Oak), Brett Hanewich (LAA), Erick Leal (CHC), and Josh Taylor (BOS), the Mesa staff is very much built on its relief talent with a dozen of the eighteen spots going to pen arms. As for starters the group is led by the Red Sox Darwinzon Hernandez, along with the Athletics Grant Holmes, Tigers Sandy Baez, Cubs lefty Justin Steele, the Angels Jesus Castillo, and the Red Sox Teddy Stankiewicz. Overall, this is an uninspiring group of starters.
Pitcher to watch: Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP Red Sox
The 21-year-old left-hander started to show signs of a breakout in 2017, and took a big step forward in 2018 repeating the high-A Level. The body filled out considerably, and he’s just about maxed out with a thick lower half. He throws from a low three quarters arm slot, almost short-arming it at times, and there’s some effort to his delivery. His arsenal is really built off a nasty mid-to-high 90’s fastball with cut action and late life. His extension and deception really play this pitch up, and led to success against over-matched Carolina League competition. His secondaries are made up of an average curveball that flashes a 55 when he has feel, but much like his other secondaries it comes and goes. His changeup is coming along, and will flash decent movement every now and then. His slider is behind his curveball, but will flash decent shape on occasion. Hernandez is a lefty with a pitcher’s body, a live fastball, and a work in progress secondary mix. It will be interesting to see how he fares versus higher level competition in Arizona.
Infield and Catchers
Summary: This by far the strongest group of the squad. Led by the Red Sox contingent of repeat vacationer Michael Chavis, in addition to Bobby Dalbec, and Josh Ockimey, the Sox sent power to Mesa. The Cubs send first rounder Nico Hoerner and under the radar Trent Giambrone, while the A’s send Eli White. Jahmai Jones is the best prospect representing the Angels in the Fall League, and had a somewhat disappointing offensive season following the move to second base. The catching platoon will consist of the Tigers Jake Rogers, and a pair of Cubs backstops in P.J. Higgins and Jhonny Pereda. Rogers is an excellent defensive catcher with a little pop in his bat, and is the standout of the trio. Overall the infield is definitely the group to watch, and should be well represented in the Fall Stars game.
Player To Watch: Nico Hoerner, SS Chicago Cubs
This assignment came as a bit of a shock, as you don’t often see first round picks playing in the Fall League just months after the draft. Hoerner however is a unique case. After just 10 games in rookie ball Hoerner was assigned to full-season South Bend of the Midwest League. After four games and a 6-for-15 showing Hoerner’s season was over, ending with a strained ligament in his left elbow. We don’t have much of a professional track record to go off of, but his amateur track record is strong. He hit .301 with 6 homers down the Cape in the summer of 2017, following it up with a .349/.394/.502 campaign his Junior season at Stanford. It should be interesting to see if the power he showed on the Cape and in his 14 professional games continues.
Summary: It’s an interesting outfield group headed by the Tigers Daz Cameron. The defining characteristic of the group might be speed, with a collection of future platoon outfielders in the mix. The A’s send Skye Bolt, along with Luis Barrera, while the Cubs D.J. Wilson, and the Tigers Daniel Woodrow rounds out the group. No superstars in the bunch but Cameron, Bolt, and the rotation trio of Wilson, Barrera, and Woodrow should cover plenty of ground.
Player To Watch: Daz Cameron, CF Detroit Tigers
The son of long time major leaguer Mike Cameron, has blossomed into a nice all-around player over the last 18 months or so. When I caught Cameron over the summer with Erie, I was impressed with his play on both sides of the ball. He covers tons of ground in center, makes hard plays, and gets to few balls other outfielders can get to. At the plate he shows good bat speed, and developing plate approach, though he’s still prone to some aggressive hacks on bad pitches. The improvements in Cameron’s game have been incremental, but the sum of his parts make him a future everyday centerfielder.
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