Arizona Fall League (and other leagues) Update

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Several of the Tigers prospects are currently playing in various fall/winter leagues across the globe. The most notable of these leagues is the infamous Arizona Fall League, where the much-heralded Nick Castellanos is currently playing. Along with Castellanos, guys like Aaron Westlake, James McCann, Bruce Rondon, Hernan Perez, Eugenio Saurez, and many more are all currently playing.

As we're all aware, the crowned jewel of the Tigers organization, Nick Castellanos, is playing the Arizona Fall League for the Mesa Solar Sox. He's been playing LF out there, which says a lot to me, namely that the Tigers are pleased with Avisail Garcia's progress in RF, and that if Castellanos is going to stay in the OF, he's going to play LF. I'm currently working on a Nick Castellanos scouting report, and it includes how I think he projects at 3B, RF, and LF, respectively.

Arizona Fall League-Mesa Solar Sox

Positional Players-

LF Nick Castellanos (20):

Stats: .239/.300/.391/691/11 Games. 46 AB, 11 H, 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 7 R, 4 BB, 17 K, 2 SB.

Thoughts: Obviously, Castellanos is scuffling a bit, most notably with the strikeouts. It's somewhat disheartening because the AFL is traditionally a hitters league, but at the same time, this is to be expected, seeing as he's still adjusting to playing the OF, he's probably dead tired/worn down from playing so much baseball this year, and at the same time, I'm sure he's facing a lot of top end talent in terms of pitchers. I've actually been in contact with a scout who has seen him play twice out there, and he's told me that while his obvious plus-plus hitting skills shine through, he'd struggling some with commanding the strike zone, and is more content (at this point) with going down swinging instead of taking walks. He's incredibly young, still very raw, and learning a new position, so I have no issues reading nothing into his performance so far in the AFL. Also, it's important to remember that this is through only 46 AB's, so it's smaller than a small sample size.

1B/3B/DH Aaron Westlake (23):

Stats: .179/.179/.359/.538/9 Games. 39 AB's, 7 H, 1 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R, 0 BB, 10 K

Thoughts: Westlake came out of the gate horrendously, but has picked it up in recent days, leading to an upward trend in his overall stats. He's been playing mostly DH for Mesa, but has the ability to play 1B and even 3B to some degree. He underachieved this year at WMI, and will assumably move to Lakeland in 2013 and be the everyday 1B or DH, seeing as Dean Green will probably go to Erie. He'll have to mash at Advanced-A, however, because as someone who will begin 2013 at 24 years old without any real defensive value to speak of, his prospect status hinges on his ability to hit. Right now he's an org guy for me, but there's some offensive value there if he can pick it up in 2013.

C James McCann (22):

Stats: .278/.316/.278/.594/7 Games. 18 AB, 5 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

Thoughts: Obviously this is an extremely small sample size being only 18 AB's, but it's good to see McCann making decent contact and getting solid results, especially after being significantly overmatched at AA in 2012. He's the Tigers best catching prospect in my view, and profiles as a defensive-minded backup catcher. He could make it to Detroit in 2014 based solely on defense. He profiles as a 55-60 defender with a 50-55 arm, solid athleticism behind the plate, and outstanding leadership skills. For me, the bat will never play anywhere above average, but if he can hit .250 with decent pop as a backup catcher, that's an incredibly valuable commodity, especially if Avila continues to struggle against LHP, which he probably will. I'd expect to see McCann begin 2012 back at AA, ideally with Castellanos, Collins, Fields, Perez, Saurez, and Green as positional players, making Erie an excellent place to scout. /adds Erie, Pennsylvania to list of Summer 2013 road trip locations.

Pitchers-

RHP Luke Putkonen (26):

Stats: 0-1, 4.50 ERA, 10 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1.30 WHIP, 2.00 GO/AO

Thoughts: Putkonen has been starting for Mesa, which confuses me to some degree. I wrote up a scouting report on Putkonen a few weeks back, which you can find here, where I profiled Putkonen as being able to have moderate success as a reliever, but that he shouldn't go anywhere near starting. Simply put, his stuff plays significantly better as a 1-2 innings reliever than as a starter. Regardless, he's been OK as a starter in the AFL, the strikeouts are down but the groundballs are up, which is always a good sign for a pitcher who throws a heavy sinking FB like Putkonen does.

RHP Tyler Clark (23):

Stats: 0-0, 19.64 ERA, 3 2/3 IP, 8 H, 8 ER, 5 BB, 5 K, 3.55 WHIP

Thoughts: Clark was absolutely dynamic as a Lakeland Flying Tiger this season, and his performance earned him a late season promotion to Erie, where he got hit around a little bit. He was somewhat of a surprise send to the AFL, but considering his success at Lakeland, I'm assuming the Tigers wanted to see if the late-round pick was for real. Clark is a guy who profiles as a middle reliever at best, but could be valuable. He's getting absolutely punished in the AFL, but it's only been 3 2/3 IP so I'd take his performance with a grain of salt.

RHP Michael Morrison (24):

Stats: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 0.75 WHIP

Thoughts: Morrison had a pretty solid year at Erie, showcasing a fastball that can reach into the mid 90's with solid life, and a slider that has the ability to generate swings and misses in the low 80's. He has command issues, which are evidenced by his walk totals both at Erie in 2012 and now in the AFL. He's a Tommy John survivor, who is showing great strides as he works his way back. Profiles as a potential 6th-7th inning reliever, and we may see him in Detroit as early as 2013 if some things fall into place.

LHP Matt Hoffman (22):

Stats: 0-0, 4.76 ERA, 5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 7 K, 1.94 WHIP

Thoughts: I see Hoffman as a LH Michael Morrison, with a fastball that can be dialed up to the mid-90's but is better thrown in the low 90's to maintain command, a potential plus breaking ball that can generate swings and misses, and a 6th-7th inning ceiling as a prospect. Being left-handed, Hoffman has a higher upside than Morrison, and being that he pitched all of 2012 in AAA at only 22 years old, he will probably find himself in the top 30-35 of most Tigers prospects lists. Like Morrison, we could easily see Hoffman in Detroit in 2013 if certain things fall into place, and quite frankly, it wouldn't blow my mind if Hoffman makes the team out of spring training.

Other Prospects in Various Fall/Winter Leagues

RHP Melvin Mercedes (21) (Dominican Winter League):

Stats: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, .50 WHIP

Thoughts: Do I have any thoughts? He's thrown 2/3 of an inning. Had a great year at West Michigan, earned a late season promotion to Lakeland, and will presumably start 2013 in Lakeland's bullpen. 2012 was his first season back from Tommy John, and the results are very encouraging. From what I saw (I saw him for 1 inning at WMI) he has a legitimate late innings ceiling. His fastball on that day sat 93-94, and he hit 96 once (by my radar gun), with a very easy delivery that has some deception, allowing it to seem significantly faster to hitters when combined with the late life on the pitch. I only saw 2 sliders, which were 80 and 81 MPH respectively, but they both showed solid two-plane break with the potential to be a plus pitch.

OF Justin Henry (27) (Venezuelan Winter League):

Stats: .271/.373/.354/.727/13 Games. 48 AB, 13 H, 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 9 R, 7 BB, 3 K, 1 SB

Thoughts: Henry is your prototypical 4A/5th OF type. He plays solid D in the OF with the ability to play 2B or 3B, runs pretty well, makes good contact, doesn't strike out that much, has little to no power to speak of, etc. He could see some time in Detroit if injury takes its toll (a la Quintin Berry) but I don't think he's in any danger of making a roster out of Spring Training. Overall, a very good guy to have in the organization that has the potential for the occasional cup of coffee in the show.

2B/SS Niuman Romero (27) (Venezuelan Winter League):

Stats: .308/.351/.408/.755/13 Games. 52 AB, 16 H, 5 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 8 R, 4 BB, 10 K, 1 SB.

Thoughts: Romero is a great guy to have in the system, but he's a non-prospect or "org guy" if you prefer. There have been glowing reviews of Romero's leadership and coaching ability, so I'm almost sure we'll see him make the transition to the bench once he decides to hang up the cleats. May see him in AAA in 2013, considering he tore up AA in 2012, especially since a few legitimate prospects will be fighting for playing time at 2B and SS in AA.

2B/SS Hernan Perez (21) (Venezuelan Winter League):

Stats: .313/.353/.313/.665/8 Games. 16 AB, 5 H, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB

Thoughts: Perez is playing somewhat sparingly this fall, but is making his limited at bats count, even if it's with no power at all. We saw him in Detroit for all of 2 AB's in 2012, where he showcased his good speed by beating out an infield single. He profiles as a utility guy for me, but if that bat comes alive at all, he may end up being our 2B of the future. He brings a plus glove and a plus arm to 2B, to go along with above-average range and speed. His bat is the issue, and I'm not sure he'll ever hit enough to play everyday. I guess think of him as a significantly more valuable Ramon Santiago, someone who plays sparingly and is used as a late-innings defensive replacement or pinch runner, but still belongs on a major league roster. I'd assume we'll see him at 2B in Erie in 2013, seeing as he did pretty well at Lakeland. Ideally, he'd be paired with Dixon Machado while Saurez marinates at Lakeland for awhile, but knowing how the Tigers like to push their prospects, I certainly wouldn't be shocked to see Perez and Saurez as the keystone combination to start 2013 at AA Erie

SS Eugenio Suarez (21) (Venezuelan Winter League):

Saurez hasn't played much at all so far, recording only 2 AB's. Not sure as to the reason, but I won't speculate. Saurez has been dubbed by some as the Tigers SS of the future, but I'm not entirely convinced that he will hit enough to play everyday. He had a great year at WMI in 2012, and I'd like to see him start 2013 at Lakeland, but I think he'll end up at Erie. Either way, he's a top 10 Tigers prospect for me, and I'm excited to get the opportunity to watch him.

RHP Victor Larez (25) (Venezuelan Winter League):

Stats: 0-0, 1.00 ERA, 9 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 1.00 WHIP

Thoughts: Larez had a very good year at Advanced-A Lakeland in 2012, but at 25, he was playing as an older guy. Probably a solid org arm with minimal middle relief upside

RHP Bruce Rondon (21) (Venezuelan Winter League):

Stats: 2-0, 2.25 ERA, 4 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1.00 WHIP

Thoughts: Everyone has heard of Rondon right now. He's the Tigers "closer of the future", the large RHP with a rocket launcher attached to his right shoulder. Lights up radar guns to the tune of 102-103 MPH, consistently sits 97-99, promising off speed pitches, and the potential to be an absolute shutdown closer. Pitched his way through High-A, AA, and AAA in 2012, and was knocking on the door to Detroit in August. I see him pitching in Detroit in 2013, maybe even making the roster out of spring training, but not closing yet, seeing as the Tigers philosophy has been to go with the "established closer" mantra. Rondon has reported attitude issues, so hopefully those have been cleaned up, since I'm pretty sure Leyland won't tolerate that kind of crap (presuming that Leyland is back in 2013).

And that's it for me. Hope you all found this informative. As a reminder, please, PLEASE don't read much into these numbers. They are all ridiculously small sample sizes, and don't really mean much in the grand scheme of things. Hope you're all as excited about our merger with Bless You Boys as we are.

As always, feel free to comment on this post, contact us on twitter @TigersProspects, or contact me directly on twitter @B_Sakowski.

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Go Tigers!!!!

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