Offseason Prospect Update: AFL concludes, ABL commences
Seven Rays prospects finished their stints in the Arizona Fall League, while three start theirs in Australia.
Arizona Fall League
The Arizona Fall League concluded when the Mesa Solar Sox beat the Surprise Saguaros 6-1 in the AFL Championship Game in Scottsdale on Saturday. The Peoria Javelinas, the team for which the Rays prospects played, didn’t make the playoffs, so they’ve been done for some time now. Here’s a summary:
C Nick Ciuffo started off the A+ Charlotte 2016 regular season strong, but he missed two months to injury and couldn’t get back on track thereafter. He added a leg kick to his swing heading into the AFL, and after a brief adjustment period he started raking doubles at a record pace. At one point he hit six doubles in an eight game stretch. He nearly doubled his XBH total for the entire year in the short AFL stint. He cooled off significantly over the last week, but the adjusted swing is something exciting to keep an eye on for the 2017 season when he hopefully sees AA Montgomery.
OF Justin Williams actually left the team early, just before the end of the regular season. I haven’t seen anything about any injury so I’m guessing it’s fatigue related considering he was actively playing throughout last off season as well. It’s been a long two years for him; he hasn’t had much of a break from baseball since the beginning of 2015. He stayed the near top of the AFL batting leader boards for the first month, but went cold after that. He’ll be with AA Montgomery to start 2017.
2B Kean Wong spent a full season with AA Montgomery and then went on to an impressive AFL season, increasing his walk rate, lowering his strikeout rate, and hitting consistently. He didn’t hit for any power, but he got on base plenty, slashing .313/.389/.363 for a 117 wRC+ over 90 PA while showing some pretty outstanding glove work at 2B.
RHP Brent Honeywell’s stat line was dragged down by his first two starts, but after that he was lights out. He started in the all star game and racked up 5 strikeouts in just 2 innings. He showed good control of a four seam fastball that touched 98 mph, a cutter at 90, a potentially elite change up, a curve ball, and his signature wipe out screwball.
RHP Diego Castillo came out of the bullpen to show us a fastball that averaged 99 mph and an Archer-esque slider in October, but the slider velo ticked down and the shape became inconsistent. I compared him to Chris Archer here. I still think he can be a guy that gives us one inning of Chris Archer out of the bullpen, but he will need to prove that he can lock down the slider to really maximize his potential. He’ll get to the majors quickly if he does.
LHP Kyle Bird also came out of the bullpen and suffered some uncharacteristic issues with walks. The change up got great results but everything else was kinda ho-hum. He could start 2017 in AA Montgomery or AAA Durham.
RHP Greg Harris started for A+ Charlotte all season but came out of the bullpen for the Javelinas, and perhaps due to the unfamiliar usage his walks ballooned. He didn’t get a ton of whiffs on any specific pitch. It’ll be hard to have success going forward if he doesn’t have an out pitch.
Australian Baseball League
Meanwhile, the Australian Baseball League kicked off last week and as usual, the Rays have a few prospects there as well. 3B Kevin Padlo and CF Thomas Milone are playing for the Brisbane Bandits, while RHP Taylor Hawkins is with the Adelaide Bite. Here’s a quick breakdown of those players:
3B Kevin Padlo was acquired from the Colorado Rockies last year in the Jake McGee / Corey Dickerson trade. He is a 20 year old kid with a ton of power potential that comes with some swing and miss in his bat. He also takes his walks and defends his position well. His power bat playing in the small Australian parks could put up some gaudy video game numbers. It’s only 15 PA, but he’s already slashing.333/.412/.600. He should start the year in A+ Charlotte next year regardless of the results in Australia.
CF Thomas Milone is an excellent defender in center field who hasn’t had much success with the bat over the last two seasons. He could make the profile work if he can rework his swing to become a line drive hitter who uses his speed to create doubles and triples, but as of right now the batted ball profile does not look good at all. He pulls most of his ground balls and his fly balls are mostly weak contact to center and opposite field. It’s like a how-to guide to exactly what you don’t want to do. Hopefully he works on that in the ABL. He’ll probably repeat AA Montgomery in 2017 to see if he can adjust; otherwise he’ll likely be left off the 40 man when eligible next off season.
RHP Taylor Hawkins was drafted in 2012 as a catcher but was converted to a pitcher last year. He’ll be trying to make up lost time in the ABL as a 23 year old who just spent 2016 with Single A Bowling Green. He’s had one start there so far, going 5.0 IP and giving up 5 hits, 4 walks and 1 HBP with only one strikeout. Expect some growing pains here.
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