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November 18, 2016

Notes from the Field

Arizona Fall League

by Matt Pullman

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Yoan Moncada, 3B/2B, Boston Red Sox

Arguably the best prospect left in the minor leagues, Moncada absolutely looked the part of a future star early on in the AFL. On Opening Day, he went 3-5 with a home run and a double, both to the opposite field (batting left-handed), and an RBI single he laced up the middle. He played through a thumb injury for a few games, depressing his stat line, but offensively, Moncada’s upside was clear as day. There are question marks regarding his defense, at both second and third base. He seems to have the arm for third, but he may lack the instinctual reflexes necessary to not be a liability. But then again, Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols both played third base at one point in their respective careers, and Moncada is a significantly better athlete than either.

Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Alford has shown some serious power in the AFL, launching a home run into the cactus-laden batter’s eye at Salt River Fields during the first week. The former college football player has a potent combo of potentially average power and double-plus wheels, but he still struggles with pitch recognition. He has a noisy, deep load with a high leg kick, and a lot of moving parts to his swing.

Greg Allen, OF, Cleveland Indians

Allen looks the part of your prototypical top-of-the-order center fielder. He has plus-plus speed which translates on the basepaths and in the outfield, and he’s a switch-hitter with a short stroke from both sides. He has an above-average eye at the plate, a capable arm from center, and even flashed some home run power, hitting two dingers in one game. I don’t expect the long ball to ever be a core facet of his game, but his speed will definitely pump up his slugging percentage. His realistic role is probably a solid fourth outfielder or a low-ceiling starter on a second-division team.

Gleyber Torres, SS/2B, New York Yankees

The centerpiece in this summer’s Aroldis Chapman deal, Torres is the type of player many organizations would’ve deemed untouchable. Alas, the current Cubs double-play tandem is all but a combined 45 years old, making Torres expendable in a win-now move. He’s everything I expected plus some—both physically and in performance. He’s well-developed for a 19-year-old, making 22-year-old counterpart Mauricio Dubon look like he’s still trying out for JV. Early on, Torres was hitting the ball like he knew what was coming. He showed power to all fields, featuring a high leg kick, lightning-quick bat, and more loft than I ever expected from him at this age. He’s been feeling for it more recently, signaling he’s probably exhausted—physically and mentally. He waved at curveballs from Josh Staumont (who throws in the mid-to-upper-90s) in consecutive at-bats on Monday, and finished the day 0-4. But the Torres I saw early on in the AFL is a future All-Star. He’s seen time at both shortstop and second base this fall, and some scouts believe he’ll stick at shortstop. Personally, I think he’ll grow off of the position. His present range is average at best, but he has the instincts, footwork, hands, and arm to handle either the keystone or the hot corner.

Yefri Perez, CF/2B, Miami Marlins

Perez is an interesting player, serving primarily as Mesa’s leadoff man. To start, he’s a switch-hitter and he has wheels—easy 65 speed. He has some on-base skills, and he’s played center field and even some second base for the Solar Sox. I didn’t see him tested in the infield, but he displayed mechanics on par or better than many of the AFL’s other second basemen during the only two routine groundballs hit his way. He has the speed for plus range at second base, but I wouldn’t bank on it until I get a better read. He’s a line-drive hitter from both sides of the plate, with a linear stroke but no better than average bat-to-ball. He’s got some deceptive strength on his lean frame, and has a reasonable chance to settle into a super utility role with the big-league club at some point in the next couple seasons.

Ramon Laureano, OF, Houston Astros

A 16th-rounder out of an Oklahoma JuCo in 2014, Laureano is a compact center fielder with deceptive strength and plus-plus speed. His has the hit tool to bat .260+, and he’ll earn additional hits with his wheels. He has a selective approach at the plate, a quick bat, and a short stroke with mild loft. He’s a strong kid, and looks like he’s probably a gym rat, but right now it’s more gap-to-gap power. I could definitely see that short porch in Houston enticing him to utilize more of his pull power.

Yu-Cheng Chang, SS, Cleveland Indians

Chang is a Taiwanese shortstop who is on the taller side for the position, but has pretty close to a prototypical build. He’s lean and athletic, has quick feet and good range, an above-average arm, excellent hands, and fluid motions. He stands tall at the plate, creates solid leverage, and swings with a fairly pronounced uppercut at times. It translates to interesting pop, particularly for a 21-year-old shortstop, but he will have to make major strides for the hit tool to come around. All things considered, it’s easy to see why Milwaukee targeted him in the nixed Jonathan Lucroy deal.

Dawel Lugo, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks

It’s not hard to see why Lugo was converted from shortstop, but it’s equally as easy to see why he lasted at shortstop so long. He’s displayed impressive glovework, making a diving play down the line and popping up to make a very strong throw across the diamond, and he instinctively charges ground balls to cut out the short hop. However, he has a pretty thick build all around, and it looks like he’ll only continue to get bigger. He has plus bat-to-ball skills and an extremely aggressive lack of plate discipline. The profile will hinge on just how good his contact rates will play against big-league arms and their accompanying defenses, and whether or not he can hone that aggressiveness and become more selective at the plate.

Yairo Munoz, 3B, Oakland Athletics

Similar to Lugo in many ways, Munoz is also a free-swinging converted shortstop. His bat-to-ball doesn’t seem to be quite as good as Lugo’s, but it’s above-average; the problem being he makes contact on bad pitches too frequently to be anything better than a reserve infielder right now. His glove plays well at third base, and he’s flashed some impressive range to both sides, but without average or better work ethic, he stands a chance to grow off the hot corner sooner than later. His arm is also plus, so I think he’s capable of adding value defensively, but without some serious development in the patience department, Munoz does not project as a major-league regular.

Nick Gordon, SS, Minnesota Twins

Half-brother of Dee, and full-son of Flash, Nick is a natural shortstop with an interesting left-handed swing. I’m not sold on the arm being any better than fringe-average at the moment, which could relegate him to being a premium defender at second base. He’s skinny and he displays impressive body control, instinctively sliding on one knee to make plays when necessary. He has explosive hips, quick hands, and the ability to spray the ball around the field. He’s also shown more leverage and loft than I expected, but I’m not sure it’s beneficial to his game. He has plus speed, and with additional development, could profile as a future big-league leadoff man. Regardless of how the bat plays, the speed/defense combo should carry him to a lengthy career.

Brian Anderson, 3B/OF, Miami Marlins

Tall and strong, Anderson has hit some of the furthest home runs of anyone this fall. I’m not completely sold on his glove sticking at third long-ter —it isn’t like he’s been out here making errors, I just haven’t seen the lateral quickness that makes me confident he’ll be any better than an average defender in the short-term. He certainly has the arm strength for third, but with a long, over-the-top release, his throwing motion is better suited in the outfield, where it would play as average or better in right field.

Travis Demeritte, 2B, Atlanta Braves

Athletic infielder with a slight frame but outstanding bat speed. He’s made some really impressive plays while I was in attendance; flashing plus glovework, plus range, and general baseball instincts to make plays. His arm is more than enough at second, and looks about league-average at third. What makes him really fun is the raw power. He has holes all over his swing, but more plate discipline than I expected.

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