Believe it or not, the Arizona Fall League has an official hall of fame. It is comprised 34 players and managers who participated in the AFL and have gone onto to significant success after leaving it. Dustin Pedroia, the gritty little person who mans second base for the Red Sox, and won the AL MVP in 2008 was elected as one of three new members to the Hall this year. He played for the league way back in 2004, and the Red Sox can only hope that this years crop of young fall leaguers will have half as much success as Pedroia has. This season, the team will send infielders Garin Cecchini, Derrik Gibson, and Travis Shaw, as well pitchers Noe Ramirez, Pete Ruiz, and Keith Couch to the league.
Garin Cecchini – If any of these players is to rival Pedroia’s success, it will be Cecchini. He can just flat out rake. In 129 games between A+ and AA, the 22 year old third baseman hit .322/.443/.471 with more walks (94) than strikeouts (86). His power isn’t much to rave about, only 7 home runs in 454 at bats, but he should be able to hit around fifteen home runs in the majors once he fills out, especially in hitter friendly Fenway Park. In July, he was ranked as the 21st overall prospect in baseball by Keith law, and at this point, its not a question of if he’ll be Boston’s everyday third baseman, but when.
Derrik Gibson – After Cecchini, the drop off is steep talent wise. At 170 pounds, Gibson is a rail thin 6’1, giving him the speed and raw athleticism to pick it at short. Sadly, his tools end with his defense. In five and a half minor league seasons, Gibson is hitting .243/.334/.312, with an anemic five home runs in 1891 at bats. Its unclear if he will ever hit enough to make it in the majors, although if he can keep up his on base percentage as he did this year, (.348 at AA), his defense gives him the opportunity to survive as a utility infielder.
Travis Shaw – After a breakout season in 2012, in which he posted a slash line of .287/.397/.517 with 66 extra base hitsin 556 plate appearances between A+ Salem and AA Portland, Shaw was a possible dark horse who could rise quickly with a strong showing in 2013. It didn’t work out that way, though, as the 23 year old Shaw saw his hit tool and power vanish at AA. His extra base total fell to 40, and he managed only a .221/.342/.394 line over 129 games. As a first baseman, he will have to hit at a much higher rate if he is to ever receive that fateful promotion to the show. He’ll look to start getting on track this fall.
Noe Ramirez – The vast majority of Arizona Fall League pitchers are relief prospects that teams are hoping to fast track to the bullpen. Noe Ramirez, 23, certainly falls into this category. Primarily working with a low-90′s fastball and a developing slider that are enhanced by an overly deceptive delivery, Ramirez pitched to a 2.38 ERA in 75.2 innings between A+ and AA, striking out 75 while walking on 17. He doesn’t look to be anything special down the road, but could wind up as a passable long reliever within the next couple of seasons.
Pete Ruiz – Another reliever, the 25 year old Ruiz is older than Ramirez but has experienced much less success. In 53.1 AAA innings, he was lit up for a 5.23 ERA thanks to spotty control that resulted in a high walk rate (4.6 BB/9). Ruiz does have a few things going for him, though. His side arm delivery can throw a hitter off balance, and he sports a plus slider with two-plane break and a 12-6 curve that yields both strikeouts and groundballs. These two assets led to a stellar 11.6 K/9 in AAA, and could allow him to succeed as a middle reliever if he ever finds an ounce of control.
Keith Couch – The lone starter on this list, the Red Sox put Couch back in the rotation in June after a brief but disastrous move to the pen. He was lights out as a starter, going 8-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 15 AA starts. He only struck out 52 batters over that span, for a relatively unimpressive 5.7 K rate, but that can be excused as he is a sinkerballer who makes up for by producing troves of strikeouts. Again, not anything special, but he could fit in as a backend starter by 2015.
Tags: Red Sox