Arizona Fall League Update 10/15: Holy Munson.

Yeah, you try coming up with a better title involving the name "Munson."

Anyways, with a few more games under the belt in the AFL schedule, it's time to take another look at how Arizona's prospects are faring in the AFL with the Salt River Rafters now that each of Arizona's representatives have seen a few games worth of action.

Pitchers

RHP Charles Brewer - 2 GS, 5.2 IP, 10 H, 8 R (6 ER), 9.53 ERA, 5:3 K:BB, 2 HR, 1.75 GO/AO.

As we covered in the previous Fall League report, Brewer's Pitch f/x readings have looked fine in the AFL, with his sub-standard results coming largely as a product of the absurdly hitter-friendly environment.  Brewer improved his numbers in his second outing, working three innings and allowing five hits - including a home run - and three runs (two earned) while striking out three and walking just one.  At this point, all we're looking to see is Brewer get in some more innings after he missed much of 2011 due to injury, and hopefully put up some good strikeout and walk peripherals against some more advanced hitters.  He's been a tad wild, but there's really nothing to complain about here.  Hopefully he'll be able to extend his outings some as the AFL goes on, although with the slew of pitchers on each roster who need work, that seems, sadly, unlikely.

 

RHP Kevin Munson - 4 G, 4 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0.00 ERA, 9:0 K:BB, 2.00 GO/AO.

If you want an idea of how hitter-friendly the AFL is, just take a look at Munson's hit rate.  Over a hit per inning despite striking out nine batters in four innings?  That's a BABIP of .625.  Absurd.  According to Keith Law, Munson sat at 92 mph in one of his relief appearances, though if he's able to get on top of the ball a bit more, there could be reason to expect an extra mile per hour or two and more downward movement.  The scouting report on Munson hasn't changed much since he was drafted: low-to-mid 90's fastball, plus slider, control problems.  Because of this, seeing Munson able to keep the walks down in the AFL while facing some of the best hitters in the minors is nice, particularly since he's been able to do so while missing bats at a phenomenal rate.  Sure, sure, it's way too small of a sample to make any real conclusions, but this is a dominant four-game stretch against the best hitters Munson has ever faced - give the guy credit for that, at the very least.  One immensely fun note: Munson retired arguably the top two prospects in the minor leagues - Mike Trout and Bryce Harper - in the same inning in a scoreless ninth on October 13, striking out both Trout and Wes Middlebrooks swinging (although he did give up a triple to Anaheim's Hank Conger) for his first save with the Rafters.

 

RHP Eric Smith - 3 G, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R (1 ER), 1.69 ERA, 3:4 K:BB, 1.17 GO/AO.

There were two things I was hoping to see Smith do in the AFL: walk fewer batters, and give up fewer hits.  Smith has the hits part down so far, although this was the less important goal in my view because of the craziness of the AFL and the small sample sizes.  Unfortunately, he hasn't gotten the "not walking people" part down, as he's already given up four free passes in three appearances.  He's wiggled out of his messes so far, but if he keeps walking people like this, he won't make it past Double-A (and might not even make it to Double-A).  Good arm with good sink on his fastball, but he has to control it.

 

RHP Bryan Woodall - 4 G, 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R (3 ER), 4.50 ERA, 8:0 K:BB, 4.00 GO/AO.

Woodall will never light up a radar gun - reports I've read have him mostly in the upper-80's and dipping into the low-90's - and isn't hugely tall at just 6'1", but he's now put up phenomenal numbers in the minor leagues his entire career since being selected in the 21st round of the 2008 draft.  At this point, it looks like he deserves an opportunity to make it as a big-league middle relief type.  In 157 relief appearances in the minors (more at Double-A Mobile than any other level; not counting AFL), Woodall has worked 230.2 innings, posting a 3.24 ERA, a 257:63 K:BB ratio (10.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9), and allowing just 13 home runs (0.5 HR/9).  His lack of velocity will likely keep him out of the late innings, but he gets heavy sink on his fastball and throws a ton of strikes, showing the ability to miss bats with his off-speed stuff.  He's continued his sterling work in his second trip to the AFL, striking out a lot of batters, throwing a lot of strikes, and getting a lot of ground balls.  The ERA isn't shiny, but with the environment, that's perfectly okay to me.  Looks like a nice AAA-MLB swingman at least.

 

2B David Nick - 7 G, 10-24 (.417), 1 2B, 2:3 K:BB.

Nick had a breakout year at Visalia, showing solid hitting ability and good defense at second base, while earning several projections as an everyday second baseman in the major leagues.  He was an aggressive assignment to the AFL, but is more than holding his own in the league.  While his batting average certainly looks flashy, I would advise people to not get over-their-heads excited about it, as a) I believe I've mentioned a couple of times that the Arizona Fall League is hitter-friendly, and b) if you want proof of that, Nick's absurd batting average is just sixth-best in the league, and second on his own team behind Houston's Kody Hinze.  The K:BB ratio is certainly nice, although I would certainly like to see a bit more thunder in Nick's bat.  Still, SSS, and since my hopes for Nick were simply "keep head above water," I can safely say so far, so good.

 

3B Ryan Wheeler - 7 G, 12-31 (.387), 5 2B, 3:1 K:BB.

Sure, Wheeler's line of .387/.406/.548 sure looks nice, but keep in mind that Wheeler's slugging percentage ranks just 20th in the league, while his on-base percentage is 26th.  That fits with the expectations of Wheeler that I've come to develop from his season at Mobile: solid hitter, but not good enough at the plate to play first base.  With Keith Law saying in a recent ESPN.com chat that he doesn't see Wheeler being capable of sticking at third base defensively, I don't see Wheeler fitting as an everyday player in the big leagues.  Still, if Wheeler can handle first base, third base, and the corner outfield positions on a reserve basis while providing a decent bat off the bench, he could provide nice value off the bench in the major leagues.

 

OF Adam Eaton - 6 G, 10-24 (.417), 1 2B, 1 3B, 7:4 K:BB, 4:0 SB:CS.

Eaton's line of .417/.517/.542 gives him the best OPS among Arizona's three AFL bats, and Eaton just continues to hit at every stop he makes in his pro career.  Eaton has struck out a surprising amount in the AFL, but with just 76 strikeouts and a .318 in over 500 plate appearances in the minor leagues this year, I'm hardly worried about Eaton's contact abilities.  It would be nice to see a bit more thunder from Eaton as well, but the Rafters have regularly put him in the lead-off spot in the lineup, so Eaton's job is to get on base in front of the big bats on the Rafters roster, Tim Wheeler and Nolan Arenado of Colorado.  Needless to say, Eaton's been doing a pretty fine job of that.  He likely isn't a center fielder long-term, but I'm actually not willing to completely count out his bat playing in a corner outfield spot, particularly with plus defense and a fantastic throwing arm from the outfield.  It truly is a shame that Eaton isn't a right-handed thrower, because he would be a sure-fire top-100 - and maybe top-50 - prospect in all of baseball if he could play in the infield at third base or second base.  At the very least, Eaton looks like a better option as a fourth outfielder than Collin Cowgill by 2013, in my opinion.

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