Rosenbaum: 10 players who stood out in the Fall League
By Mike Rosenbaum
The final week of the Arizona Fall League provides an early opportunity to reflect on some its top players and performances. The MLBPipeline.com crew has been present for more games this year than ever before, with our team alternating stints covering up to two games per day throughout the six-week season.
While my nine-day tour of AFL recently came to an end, many of the players that I saw while in Arizona left an indelible impression.
Here are thoughts on some of them, both hitters and pitchers, who stood out the most.
With four present tools that play above average and some sneaky in-game power, Lopez has proved to be one of the more complete players in the Fall League. There's no doubt among evaluators that he can remain at shortstop, as he's a plus defender with outstanding instincts, range in every direction and a well above-average arm. At the plate, the left-handed hitter collects hits to all fields, showing advanced feel for the barrel and a knack for letting the ball travel deep into the zone that has him winning weekly awards and contending for the AFL batting title into the season's final week.
Estrada has a comparable defensive profile to Lopez in that he has the requisite tools and qualities needed to play either middle-infield position long term. The 21-year-old right-handed hitter employs an aggressive approach that leads to some swing-and-miss issues, but he also has an undeniable knack for making hard contact to all fields, with some present power to the gaps.
Mejia is still very much a work-in-progress at the hot corner, but his hands and cannon arm give him a nice foundation on which to build. He's very reliant on said hands right now, knowing that he can funnel in just about anything his way even if his first step and overall footwork are lacking. He makes too many throws flat-footed rather than creating momentum toward his target, though his accurate, plus-plus arm strength -- and the strong internal clock he's developed as a catcher -- helps him to compensate for any imperfections on that side of plays. Meanwhile, Mejia's bat has been, perhaps unsurprisingly, among the most impressive this fall.
To put it simply, Harrison is tooled-up. He showcased all of them recently during a game at Salt River Fields, as he connected on an impressive 402-foot home run (112.3 mph exit velo) as part of a 3-for-4 performance, posted 4.2- and 4.3-second run times to first base and doubled up a runner at first base with a 90.7-mph throw from right field. It's been an impressive follow-up campaign for the 22-year-old outfielder after a (finally healthy) season in which he produced 21 home runs and 27 steals in 122 games between the Class A and Class A Advanced levels.
Peters has confirmed in the Fall League that the power he showed in the California League, a circuit which he paced with 27 home runs, is legit and will play anywhere. In my two-game look at the outfielder last week, he blasted an impressive home run to right-center field and then followed it with a mammoth blast down the left-field line in his subsequent start. The latter homer had an exit velocity of 116 mph and traveled over 450 feet. What's more, his athleticism and speed gives him a chance to play all three outfield positions, with arm strength that's a natural fit in either center or left field.
There are some interesting catching prospects in this year's Fall League, and Murphy is definitely one of them. After reaching Double-A as part of a successful first full season, the 23-year-old backstop is continuing to refine his game on both sides of the ball in Arizona. While the raw power he shows during batting practice hasn't translated to games, Murphy's plate discipline and feel to hit has largely impressed evaluators, as have his catch-and-throw skills, agility and plus arm strength from behind the plate.
Sean Murphy (#Athletics) has money catch-and-throw skills and a cannon arm. His 1.93-sec pop made this Steven Duggar SB much closer than it should have been: pic.twitter.com/dAPngudkDg
I was on hand for Zeuch's most recent start, and it proved to be his worst so far this fall as the 6-foot-7, 225-pound right-hander yielded six earned runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. But there's a lot to like about Zeuch, who has a chance to be a successful big league starter based solely on his sinker, a bowling ball of a pitch that's product of his tremendous extension towards the plate and makes him difficult to barrel for hitters on both sides of the plate (think Aaron Sanchez or a young Rick Porcello). Combine that with a slider that flashes above average and a changeup with similar potential, and the makings are there for a future No. 3 or 4 starter at the highest level.
A starter this past season at Double-A Altoona, Brubaker has made a name for himself this fall while pitching out of the bullpen for Glendale. The 6-foot-4, 175-pound right-hander boasts two plus pitches in a sinking 95-98 mph fastball and a tight, late-breaking slider in the low- to mid-80s. The offerings complement each other well and enable him to generate whiffs and weak grounders against batters on both sides of the plate.
J.T. Brubaker (#Pirates) has power stuff. Consistently 96-97 mph with a nasty low- to mid-80s slider out of the bullpen yesterday in #AFL. 4 strikeouts, 3 groundouts in 2 1/3 scoreless. pic.twitter.com/3701p3k1eb
Warren's stuff ticked up this year in his first season as a full-time reliever. A physically strong and durable right-hander, Warren boasts a plus fastball that registers 94-98 mph with late life as well as a slider that, when executed properly, gives him a second plus pitch ideal for a late-inning role. He's made strides commanding both offerings in the Fall League, where statistically he's been among the best relievers, and it wouldn't come as a surprise to see Warren make the jump to the big leagues sometime in 2018.
Carroll was consistently the first name to come up in any discussion had with evaluators about standout relievers in the Fall League. My one look at the 25-year-old righty made it easy to see why, as he sat 96-98 mph with his heater and snapped off several plus sliders, all while throwing strikes and hiding the ball well. That nastiness has enabled Carroll to rack up four saves while posting a 0.56 WHIP over 10 2/3 scoreless innings (eight appearances). He's allowed just two hits during that span while compiling 16 strikeouts against four walks.