Well, now that the 40-man roster moves are done, we can get back to continuing the wrap up of the Arizona Fall League with the Salt River Rafters. The Rafters were made up of players sent by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays.
Leading the way on offense was St. Louis right fielder Stephen Piscotty who, while he only hit one home run, led the club in OPS with a .936 mark. He hit .371 and had an outstanding .430 OBP with nine walks and 14 strikeouts in 89 at bats. While the home run power wasn’t there, Piscotty showed off some great speed, stealing seven bases and hitting three triples.
Colorado’s Kyle Parker shared the team lead in home runs with four. He also hit a very solid .278/.320/.536 and slammed nine doubles and two triples to go with the four home runs. Parker’s issues will likely be in minimizing strikeouts but, while he racked up 21 in 97 at bats in the AFL, Parker kept the figure below 100 for 480 Double-A at bats (hitting 23 doubles and 23 home runs) for Tulsa.
Leading the club in stolen bases was Blue Jays prospect Kenny Wilson. The 23-year-old center fielder was just placed on the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft and showed off his good extra-base power in addition to his blazing speed and great defense. Wilson is another for whom strikeouts are going to be a problem if he doesn’t figure out higher-level pitching. He struck out 32 times in 97 at bats, leaving a lot of potential on the table.
A surprising performance came from another Blue Jays prospect, catcher Derrick Chung. Chung is one of the older players in the league at 25 but was only drafted in 2012 and this season was his first year as a catcher in professional baseball playing for High-A Dunedin in the Florida State League. Chung displayed his outstanding ability to hit for contact, hitting .390 and striking out only 7 times in 41 at bats but only two of his hits went for extra bases.
Another Cardinal, Richie Shaffer, also put up some very good numbers. Hitting .277/.478/.362, Shaffer’s incredible plate control allowed him to take 17 walks which contributed to his low number of at bats (47). While he also hit seven doubles, Shaffer struck out 17 times in the AFL (and another 106 times in the Florida State League) showing that he’ll need to work on his contact skills especially if he’s going to face the tougher Double-A pitching.
Speaking of pitching, Toronto’s pitchers made a huge contribution to the Salt River pitching staff. Starter Aaron Sanchez has been called one of the most impressive starters in the league, earning himself the ranking of #4 prospect in the league by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis. Sanchez featured easy mid-to-high 90s heat and while his strikeout numbers were merely “good,” he proved himself extremely difficult to hit and proved to be his own worst enemy. Sanchez threw 23 1/3 innings, posting a 1.16 ERA and 0.94 WHIP only allowing 11 hits but walking 11 and striking out 21.
Arizona’s Bo Schultz had one of the best strikeout to walk ratios on the team although he’s 28 years old and can hardly be called a “prospect.” Despite that, Schultz worked 32 innings and struck out 28 with only seven walks (4:1 K/BB ratio) and had a solid 3.09 ERA.
Toronto’s Drew Hutchison had a 3.32 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 21 2/3 innings. If we remove one bad start, he would have given up just four runs in the league (in 19 2/3 innings). Even with the bad, his numbers are still very good, having given up just 18 hits and six walks while striking out 20.
Toronto also had one of the most talked about “relievers” in the Arizona Fall League in Marcus Stroman. While having relieving experience (on Team USA and in college at Duke), the 22 year old impressed scouts, landing at #12 on Callis and Mayo’s list of top AFL prospects. Stroman flashed four major league caliber pitches, throwing 11 2/3 innings, walking just three and striking out 13. Most pundits have moved him to #2 on the Blue Jays top prospects lists, right behind Sanchez.
The pitching staff wasn’t all Blue Jays. Tampa Bay Rays prospect Mike Montgomery had a very good showing in Arizona. He struck out 14 and walked only four in fourteen innings and the Cardinals’ Sam Gaviglio had a very good showing, posting a 3.58 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP, 21 strikeouts and eight walks in 27 2/3 innings.
Grading on the Curve’s MVP: Stephen Piscotty. Best Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez.