2013 Giants Arizona Fall League Preview
Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
I am excited and honored to join the Around the Foghorn team. My first offering to you is the Giants 2013 Arizona Fall League preview. The AFL kicks off Tuesday and runs through the middle of November. That’s six weeks of the best of the best in minor league baseball.
I spent a week as working media in Scottsdale in 2007 covering the AFL and I saw some future Giants stars in the raw down there. I saw Sergio Romo and overheard him tell another reporter that he didn’t understand how to use his slider. “It just comes out at any angle,” he’d said then. I interviewed departed Giants prospects Nate Schierholtz and Manny Burriss (back when he went by Manny). The AFL is a fantastic event and a good way for fans to understand prospects in general.
The Scottsdale Scorpions are represented by five MLB clubs: Atlanta, New York Mets, Pittsburgh, New York Yankees, and of course the Giants.
Later in the fall/winter I want to produce a 2014 prospect ranking list with the assistance of my fellow AtF writers. I will hesitate on ranking guys until then.
I have included a handy chart with basic info for you to follow the guys in the AFL. Under level I put their most recent action to avoid stretching out my columns in Excel. Derek Law for example saw time with three different clubs this summer.
San Jose (Advanced-A)
2011 (1st round)
2011 (19th round)
San Jose (Advanced-A)
2011 (9th round)
San Jose (Advanced-A)
2011 (Free Agent)
2011 (2nd round)
2006 (Free Agent)
2010 (2nd round)
2013 in brief: Crick is the top prospect in the system, with tremendous stuff, great size, and a great attitude. He’s young at age 20 and is committed to working his behind off to improve. This year in San Jose he was the ace of a top flight staff. He had a 1.57 ERA with 95 strikeouts and a .201 batting average against in 68 2/3 innings. An oblique injury knocked him out from late July to early August but he recovered and won his final two starts of the year.
Prospect status: Even as impressive as Crick has been, there’s still a ways to go for him to reach his ceiling. His control has improved a lot since the end of last season. The injury is a bummer for any prospect. Still, Crick is one of the best pitching prospects in the game, one of only two Giants I’d put among the top 100 along with Clayton Blackburn.
AFL expectation: Crick needs more innings to prove his durability and to continue his progress.
2013 in brief: Hall turned in an impressive 2013 season split between San Jose and Richmond but truly shined as the Squirrels closer. He pitched a combined 46 games between the two levels and had 75 strikeouts to 15 walks over 60 innings. He allowed three runs (one earned) in 22 games between May and June in San Jose. As the Richmond closer, Hall was 8-for-11 in save opportunities and he allowed seven runs (six earned) over July and August in Double-A. He showed good control at both levels.
Prospect status: His best role is closer, but in an organization with Sergio Romo at the top and Heath Hembree not far behind, there may not be room for Hall. His best asset is limited wear and tear on his arm; he had a brief college career and hasn’t thrown a whole lot as a professional. It’s hard to turn a blind eye to the 20 saves he put up in Augusta last year. Hall is a sleeper prospect in his own system.
AFL expectation: Get more innings, maintain good control, and force the Giants to consider if the system can support more closers. See Derek Law’s blurb for more on that last bit.
2013 in brief: Law’s season started late with his Arizona rookie league debut in late June, but he hit the ground running. He amassed 61 1/3 innings with 102 strikeouts and 12 walks with 14 saves and a combined 2.31 ERA between the AZL, Augusta, and San Jose. Law took over the San Jose Giants closer role in late July and dominated, allowing seven runs (six earned) over 22 games with only one walk and 45 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings. That’s not a typo. He really only allowed one walk. Law maintained excellent command between the three levels.
Prospect status: I forgot about Law as a prospect due to his less than impressive 2012 campaign. He had good ERA and strikeout numbers, but he was a reliever pitching without save opps. Middle relievers don’t get much attention. As a 9th round pick out of junior college two years ago, Law has always flown under the radar. That won’t be the case very much longer.
AFL expectation: Like Hall, Law needs to prove his ninth-inning skills are sustainable at higher levels. He has more to prove than Hall, but he could push his way to the top of the relief depth chart with a solid AFL season.
On a separate note, Hall and Law could be the title of an awesome buddy cop show.
2013 in brief: Mejia threw well in 92 innings, most of them in San Jose–where he had a 3.31 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 23 walks in 87 innings. He made a spot start in Triple-A Fresno and allowed two runs with two strikeouts and two walks in five innings. Mejia gave up a lot of home runs, tired down the stretch, and missed most of May and June. His season was still good enough to earn a nod from Baseball America as one of the top 20 California League prospects.
Prospect status: I cannot say enough about Mejia. He’s one of the most advanced Latin American prospects I’ve ever seen. He made his pro debut the same year he signed with the Giants, a rarity for a Latin American teenage signing. He was fantastic in 2012 with Augusta pitching as a 19-year-old. He’s poised, athletic, and consistent and he has good stuff, even if his velocity is a tick below guys like Crick and Blackburn. He’s the best left-hander in the system since Mike Kickham‘s flop in San Francisco this year. Mejia is my favorite Giants prospect right now.
AFL expectation: Mejia needs to stay consistent and get more innings. He also needs to prove me right. The last time I stanned this hard for a Giants prospect was Eugenio Velez and that didn’t turn out so well. In my defense, that was after Velez won the South Atlantic League MVP in 2006.
2013 in brief: Susac performed well in his bounce back year in Richmond, hitting .256 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs. He showed a good walk rate and posted a .362 OBP. He only played in 84 games and went on the DL on July 31, effectively ending his season. His 2013 season was much better than 2012 in San Jose, where I felt he was in over his head. This season he repeated the hallmarks of his game: good power and good hitting. He also played a little first base in Richmond…a sign of things to come?
Prospect status: He’s the lone catcher remaining in the system and could be a better long-term option than Hector Sanchez, if just for the fact that Susac is consistent. Although with Buster Posey, why do you need catching prospects anyway?
AFL expectation: Susac needs to stay healthy and keep improving.
2013 in brief: Villalona had a lot to prove this season, and he made significant strides after three years out of the game. His batting average was low at .231 and strikeouts were high at 136–two things we’ve always known about him. However, he maintained good power with 22 home runs and 27 doubles between San Jose and Richmond. It was his second season after returning from his long layoff and his first in the States. Villalona was also more fit all year. I saw him earlier in the year in San Jose and he looked thinner and more muscular.
Prospect status: He’s the only first baseman out there for the Giants. Villalona made himself relevant as a prospect again by working hard on his comeback. I admit to cheering for him at the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in San Jose this summer, and I want to see him succeed. Villalona is 23 and hopefully wiser about all things in life, including baseball.
AFL expectation: He needs to work on his plate discipline and show he’s for real. Dominican prospects get hammered hardest on the age per level debate, so Villalona will need to prove he’s not over the hill at 23.
2013 in brief: Parker performed at the same rate he always has, this time in Richmond. He hit .245 with 18 home runs, 18 doubles, 57 RBIs, and a .355 OBP. He moved up a level after playing the last two seasons in San Jose. Parker is extremely consistent. He strikes out a lot but walks almost enough to balance it out. He hits for decent power. It’s too bad that he’s average at best in his consistency. He played mostly right field for the Squirrels with a few appearances in center, and he suffered through a mid-season slump where his power decreased.
Prospect status: With Hunter Pence and Angel Pagan signed to long-term deals, there’s little room for any outfield prospect to break in. Left field would be Parker’s best bet, but I expect Roger Kieschnick to have that on lock after his comeback 2013 year. He’s also a step behind Gary Brown–a player I’m hanging onto by a thread.
AFL expectation: Parker and Villalona had the most playing time of any Giants prospect on this list. The two starting pitchers missed time, and Law didn’t get into game action until June. Parker has the most to prove of the Giants prospects in Scottsdale and will need to impress to stay relevant as a prospect.
I will be posting weekly Winter Leagues digests including AFL action starting next week! The Dominican and Venezuelan leagues are starting up soon as well. I’ll bring you all the action from the Caribbean, Australia, and Central America.