Are you prepared to throw everything you know about Arizona Fall League squads out the window and fall in love with the Scottsdale Scorpions? We’ve spent a fair amount of time discussing the construction of Fall League pitching staffs. They’re a mix of good relief prospects, fringe 40-man roster types, and talented arms coming off a season with a lighter workload due to injuries or other factors. The third description best captures Scottsdale’s staff; this team is loaded with front end talent, the leading attraction for the club. Some names that jump off the roster sheet are Phillies top prospect Sixto Sanchez, the Astros’ top prospect Forrest Whitley, and system-mate J.B. Bukauskas. The roster features plenty more star power besides pitching, including Top 100 prospects like Taylor Trammell, Peter Alonso, and PL-favorite Andres Gimenez, and interesting under the radar types like Shed Long, Austin Listi, Garrett Williams, and Arquimedes Gamboa. The Scorpions draw from the Mets, Phillies, Giants, Astros, and Reds, one of the best talent pools in the circuit for manager Willie Harris’ to play with. Below we’ll discuss some of the top names, highlight players to watch, and detail one of the more talented rosters in the desert this autumn.
As noted above, the Scorpions staff is the most star-studded in the Fall League, boasting two of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball plus a wide array of obscure but talented arms. One such player I’ve always been enamored with is the Giants’ Melvin Adon—more on him below. The other Giants arm I have my eye on is lefty Garrett Williams, a 7th round pick out of Oklahoma State in 2016. He showed strong in 2017 across both levels of A ball, striking out 96 batters in 97 innings thanks to a plus FB that sits 91-94 with late life and a nasty 12-6 curveball that plays off of his low three-quarters arm slot. Unfortunately, Williams really lost his command—or what he had of it—in 2018 and was demoted to a pen role. With two potentially plus pitches and some funk from the left side, Williams can secure a consistent pen role in 2018 if he maximizes his stuff for shorter stints.
Others arms of note are the aforementioned J.B. Bukauskas, a first rounder in 2017 with two plus pitches but an inconsistent track record of health. Of course there’s Sixto Sanchez, a dynamic right-handed starter with a bevy of above average to plus pitches. Forrest Whitley is considered by many to have the highest ceiling in the minors, and he looks to get back on track after his season was delayed by a drug suspension and filled with injuries following his return. Chase Johnson and Sam Wolf have live fastballs and promising relief futures. Other names to watch are Luke Leftwich, Gerson Bautista, and Eric Hanhold.
Pitcher to watch: Melvin Adon, RHP San Francisco Giants
An unusual pathway to the United States makes Adon’s age—24—a little deceiving in that he still has a good deal of room for development. He missed the second half of the season with an oblique injury, and needs to be added to the 40 man this year. So, this time in the Fall League will be important to his development track, as he could potentially see some time with the big club next season. Adon’s skills stand out. He maintains premium velocity deep into his starts, and by premium velocity I mean 97-100. He mixes in a hard slider (89-91) that flashes plus, as well as a developing changeup. He’s raw in terms of sequencing and his approach to attacking hitters, but there’s a foundation of stuff that makes Adon someone to follow.
Infield and Catchers:
The two names that stick out here come courtesy of the New York Mets. The first is Andres Gimenez, who Jason Woodell covered in great detail here. The other is Peter Alonso, one of my favorite underrated bats coming into the season. Alonso punished baseballs with Binghamton in the Eastern League for the first half of the season before seeing promotion to AAA Las Vegas. He continued to hit for power and get on base there, and would have been in the Majors by early August, or at the very least September with many clubs. Instead Alonso heads to Arizona, in what one can only hope is preparation for significant major league time in 2019. Other names of interest are the Reds Shed Long, the Phillies Darick Hall and Arquimedes Gamboa, as well as the Astros Abraham Toro-Hernandez.
Player to watch: Shed Long, 2B Cincinnati Reds
There are certain players in the minors who, when you watch them, give you the sense that their numbers will be better in the majors. Players who possess a combination of skills tailor-made for the everyday grind. I’ve long believed that the Reds’ Shed Long is one of those players. Blessed with a potent offensive profile across the board, Long pairs feel to hit with above average power and excellent base-running instincts. His greatest strength, however, is his plate approach. In 168 AA games dating back to late-June 2017, Long owns an 11.1 Bb%. There’s still some swing and miss, as he sported a 13.7 SwStr% on the season, but the strikeouts stay under the 25% mark. Long has a legitimate shot at MLB time late in 2019 should things go right, and his background as a catcher provides him some versatility in the field. His fielding took a step forward in 2018 as he showed an improved feel for the keystone, with soft hands and a passable arm. Long does a little of everything well, and shows enough intangibles and awareness to possibly provide a higher ceiling than expected.
The standout here is obviously Taylor Trammell, one of the most tooled up players in the minors. Trammell burst onto the national radar with a big performance (and gaff) in the 2018 Future’s Game. His combination of power, speed, and on base ability make him a name to keep up with in the AFL and beyond. The rest of the group is well below Trammell in terms of pedigree and raw talent, but each has at least been on the prospect radar at one point or another. My favorite of the group, or the one I’m at least the most excited to see, is Philadelphia outfielder Austin Listi, who had a breakout 2018. Other names are old friend Heath Quinn, a player out of Samford I took a liking to. He’s struggled to hit for consistent contact and has dealt with some injuries. He did slash .300/.376/.485 across 96 games and showed improvement in his plate discipline, cutting his strikeouts by 5% year over year while raising his walk rate nearly 4%. He did it at 23, however, so while the signs are encouraging, he still has much to prove. The Fall League should be a good barometer of his growth. Speedster Myles Straw represents the Astros after getting a cup of coffee this September. Here’s more on Straw. The Mets will send former first round pick Desmond Lindsay to Arizona. The outfielder has a bag of tools that have yet to materialize. The Astros Ronnie Dawson rounds out the group. Dawson has a nice mix of power and speed as a left-handed bat, but that’s all there is to the profile. His hit tool is below average, leading to strikeouts, though to be fair he gets on base a fair amount. The subpar defense and throwing arm are an issue, as bat first fourth outfielders are a tough breed to project. Still, it would be good to see him piggyback on his early AA success.
Player to watch: Austin Listi, OF Philadelphia Phillies
Across two levels, the 17th rounder in ‘17 out of Dallas Baptist slashed .312/.412/.502 with 18 homers. The most impressive part of the statline is the strikeout and walk rates. Listi walked 12.2% of the time while only striking out 18.5% of the time, with a 10.1% SwStr%. He’s pull heavy with his power, but makes a fair amount of hard contact and puts the ball in the air. Our own Jason Woodell saw Listi and said, when Listi was spontaneously promoted, “Good feel for the barrel, country strong, no position. Bat has to carry the profile. Stocky frame, hits from a crouch which may limit power”. As Jason said, though Listi has natural power, he has not been able to harness it enough to fully play in games. Luckily his bat to ball skills and plate discipline are good enough to give him an everyday major league ceiling, even if it might be as a DH/1B/LF.
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