The roster for the Glendale Desert Dogs is made up of players from the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees organizations. The Glendale squad might have the weakest pitching staff of any team in the Fall League, but their outfield is absolutely stacked. The infield lacks star power but has several future big leaguers that are a bit under the radar.
Summary: The three biggest names on this Glendale pitching staff are Domingo Acevedo (NYY), Jordan Sheffield (LAD), and relief prospect Zack Burdi (CWS). All three have had significant arm injuries and are trying to make up for lost development time by coming to Arizona. Domingo Acevedo hit the disabled list for the third time in 2018 after it was announced that he would be making the trip to Arizona. He was diagnosed with a biceps strain, but hopefully he will be healthy enough to make the trip. When healthy he sits in the high-to-mid 90s with a plus slider in the upper 80s. Jordan Sheffield is a former Vanderbilt arm that was a supplemental round pick in in 2016. He’s an athletic arm, but lack of physical projection makes him a future reliever for me, and he’s already started pitching out of the bullpen in High-A. Zack Burdi might be a name people have forgotten about, as the former Louisville star is making his way back from Tommy John surgery. When healthy we’re talking about a guy with a 33% K rate in Triple-A in 2017 thanks to his 80-grade fastball and plus slider/changeup secondaries. Burdi has the upside to be one of the best relievers in the game. The other notable arm here is Justin Garza (CLE). Otherwise, there are about a dozen relief prospects auditioning for 40-man spots and Major League looks in 2019.
Pitcher to watch: Justin Garza, RHP Indians
Admittedly there isn’t much to choose from here, but I feel like Indians RHP Justin Garza is worth talking a bit more about. Garza is a name I remember from his days at Cal State-Fullerton where he was pumping 95-96 in short stints as a Freshman. Since then he’s dealt with a shoulder injury and has had Tommy John surgery as well. Recent reports have Garza sitting at 91-93 now with some life and a changeup and slider. He’s a bit of a mystery right now, but he has some pedigree so I want to see how the arm looks.
Infield and Catchers
Summary: The best infield prospect for the Desert Dogs is Cleveland Indians prospect Yu Chang. Chang’s best tool is his power, and I think he can hit 20 homers in the majors while playing an average shortstop. Unfortunately, he’s blocked in the Indians system, so he should get looks at third base and the outfield corners here in Arizona. He could play a Yairo Muñoz-type role for the Indians in 2019. Jared Walker (LAD) is a 1B/3B utility type with good power but serious contact issues. His heavy fly ball approach does make him somewhat interesting. Laz Rivera (CWS) is a contact oriented middle infield prospect with a bit of power and speed but he’s absolutely allergic to ball four, and probably even ball three. Errol Robinson (LAD) and Thairo Estrada (NYY) are both on the disabled list currently and project as utility men going forward. The catchers for the Glendale squad are Keibert Ruiz (LAD) and Li-Jen Chu (CLE).
Player To Watch: Keibert Ruiz, C Los Angeles Dodgers
At first glance, Keibert Ruiz’s numbers don’t jump off the page. Ruiz hit .268/.328/.401 with a 100 wRC+ in Double-A, with a 6% walk rate and a microscopic 8% strikeout rate. When you look under the hood however you realize that he did that in his age 19-20 season, and he’s around three years younger than the average position player in the Texas League. Rostering a catching prospect in fantasy is something I tend to stay away from, but Ruiz is one of the few exceptions. Ruiz has elite barrel control, and his season in Double-A compares favorably to several guys like Betts, Lindor and Jose Ramirez who have also outdone their original offensive projections. (Check out @ckurcon’s pinned tweet for a more detailed explanation). I’m interested in watching Ruiz defensively while in Arizona, as that will determine how highly he’s ranked on my top 100 list.
Summary: The outfield for this Glendale squad is bursting at the seams with talent. You can make a strong case that the Desert Dogs outfield will be the best in Arizona. All six outfielders on the roster are worth discussing here. I’ll start with probably the least known guy on this list, Connor Marabell (CLE). Marabell hit a combined .275/.315/.448 between Double-A and Triple-A, and those numbers were drug down a bit by a lackluster stint in Triple-A. The most impressive thing about Marabell is the 49 extra base hits with only a 14.9% K rate. The ability to rack up all those extra base knocks with that low of a strikeout rate is impressive in this era. It’s even more impressive to see that he did it with below-average speed. Cody Thomas (LAD) has big power, but he struck out at a 29% clip in the California League. The swing is long, but he’s got serious pop. Luis Alexander Basabe (CWS) was the third piece in the Chris Sale trade, and he’s got a nice power/speed combo for fantasy. After a disappointing 2017, Basabe bounced back in ‘18 for a combined .258/.354/.445 with 15 homers and 16 steals in High-A and Double-A. The hit tool is probably a 40 right now, but it plays up because he will take a walk. He has a cannon in the outfield too. Austin Hays (BAL) might have had the most disappointing season of any prospect, but he’s still got power and some speed—the talent is there for him to be the right fielder of the future in Baltimore. We should see him at Camden Yards in 2019. We touched on Luis Robert during the AFL preview podcast, but the raw numbers have been a huge disappointment so far. He absolutely looks the part but hasn’t hit for any power since coming stateside.
Player To Watch: Estevan Florial, OF New York Yankees
My outfielder to watch here is Yankees top prospect Estevan Florial. This will be Florial’s second stint in the desert after he hit .286 with a .797 OPS for the Scottsdale club last year. The toolsy outfielder missed about a month and a half with a hamate injury that required surgery so he’s here to make up for lost time. At first glance, his 2018 season looks like a considerable step back from 2017, but while he didn’t perform as well in the Florida State League this year, he did make some improvements in his approach. Our own Jason Woodell saw Florial multiple times in 2017 and 2018. He shared with me that the quality of Florial’s at bats improved significantly in the second half of 2018. He was chasing less and not getting himself out as much as before. He still swings and misses too much in the strike zone, but athletes like this are worth waiting for.
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