by Bryce McRae
on December 19, 2008 @ 01:00:01
Every year some of the top prospects from around the majors take part in the Arizona Fall League. With the quality of the players involved, it provides a chance to see how certain players stack up against quality opposition. It's worth noting that offensive numbers are inflated because most pitchers there are less refined.
It isn't often a breeding ground for players with immediate fantasy value, but a few players have been known to make the jump from AFL standout to fantasy option in the same season. It is even more crucial for dynasty leaguers to pay attention.
McKenry swung a hot stick with the Phoenix Desert Dogs, hitting .369 with nine homers and 25 RBIs. There are few questions about his defense; he was one of the top defensive catchers this past season. However, Chris Iannetta sits in front of him. He hasn't played above advanced Class A yet, so don't expect much opportunity fantasy-wise from McKenry until at least 2010.
Morrison continued to display a sweet stroke in the AFL after a solid 2008 campaign. He hit .404 (40-for-99) with 23 runs and 29 RBIs in the AFL. He also displayed good defense at first base, though he possibly has enough athleticism to shift to a corner outfield spot. Mike Jacobs is gone, but the 21-year-old Morrison will have to be patient while Gaby Sanchez gets his turn.
Nelson, 23, put his dismal 2008 minor league campaign behind him with a .321-6-17 line in 84 at-bats in the AFL. However, what could help his fantasy value most is a move to second base. Still, don't look for him to make a fantasy impact this year, and he should only be considered in dynasty leagues.
Sutton's versatility helps his fantasy value it could mean a quicker trip to the majors. He posted a solid .315-7-24 line in the AFL, though his speed disappeared a bit. He likely won't be anything more than a utility infielder, giving him little fantasy value outside his speed.
Murphy finished off his AFL campaign with a .397 average and 22 runs. He reached the majors last year and adapted quite well, hitting .313 with 17 RBIs and 24 runs in 131 at-bats. He is expected to platoon in left field this year. The 23-year-old has developing power and speed; in NL-only formats, look to him for a potential boost as a reserve.
Some question whether he has the athleticism to handle third base, but he showed enough to put some of those doubts to rest. His bat has few questions, though; he hit .309 with 24 RBIs and six dingers in the AFL. He's a natural hitter with plus power. Wallace may get a crack at some point in 2009, but he probably won't be worthy anywhere but NL-only formats at first.
The versatile infielder (he can play three positions) raked in the AFL with a .407 average (37-for-91), 23 runs and a 1.223 OPS. His single-year fantasy value is practically zero, although if either second baseman Chase Utley (hip) or third baseman Pedro Feliz (back) endures a setback, that could change quickly.
In 100 at-bats for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, Young led the AFL in batting average (.430), runs (37) and stolen bases (20) while cranking five homers. The Rockies' crowded outfield limits his single-year fantasy value this year. When he makes it to the majors, he should contribute heavily in the speed department, but he may be nothing more than a one-trick pony.
He only stuck around for 33 at-bats before a hand injury forced him out of the AFL, but Raynor hit .364 with 10 RBIs and four stolen bases. He showed some power in the minors and could make his major league debut sometime in 2009; one might look for him to contribute across the board, except his contact rate suggest that he may struggle to hit for average.
A converted pitcher, Bogusevic adapted quickly to batting. He hit at a .338 clip with 14 RBIs in 74 AFL at-bats. He plays good defense, but the soon-to-be 25-year-old may need to continue developing at a rapid pace to have a legit shot with Houston. Avoid him in single-year leagues, but he still makes for an intriguing case down the line.
Finishing up his second year of professional ball, Cousins hit .297 with six homers and 33 RBIs in 101 at-bats in the AFL. He displayed considerable power with a .624 slugging percentage. Florida doesn't appear to have many long-term roadblocks, but Cousins isn't necessarily a successor. This spring he'll compete with Raynor and Brett Carroll for a backup job, but that may be all he's ever good for.
Cain hit .333 and posted an impressive .635 slugging percentage, cranking five homers in just 63 at-bats. He's known more for his some speed (four steals), though. Milwaukee's current outfield is pretty crowded. Cain may not have the tools to be more than a reserve anyway.
The AFL MVP, Hanson was lights out during his AFL stint, posting a 0.63 ERA with 49 strikeouts in just 28 2/3 innings. He can throw three pitches for strikes and is close to major league ready. Hanson could be a mixed-league fantasy option this season, although he's a late-round flier at best.
Jeffress only made three appearances in the AFL and posted a 12.86 ERA. However, he demonstrated excellent stuff, hitting triple digits with his fastball. Milwaukee's rotation and bullpen have glaring needs, but Jeffress, who lacks control, isn't close to ready despite efforts to fast-track him. His long-term potential gives him value in dynasty leagues, though.
West managed just a 6.21 ERA during eight AFL starts. However, he looked good at times; he threw five shutout innings twice in his last four starts. One of the Marlins' top prospects still needs time to develop; he hasn't pitched above Class A. He has a high ceiling, buoyed by his mid-90s fastball. He may not be too far from his debut, but stay away in single-year leagues.
Pucetas might be one of San Fran's most intriguing prospects. He threw the most innings in the AFL (35 1/3) and recorded 28 strikeouts on his way to a 4.33 ERA. He has yet to pitch at the Double-A level, but he exhibits excellent control. He isn't dominant and therefore doesn't profile as a potential fantasy ace, though.
Parnell put up 20 strikeouts, along with a 3-1 record and a 2.25 ERA, in 20 innings in the desert. He worked as a starter in the AFL, although his future might lie in the bullpen. He was once considered a potential closer of the future. If he were to earn the last reliever spot on the Mets' 2009 roster, he might be a waiver wire pickup in NL-only setups.
The 23-year-old hurler threw 19 innings in the AFL, posting a miniscule 1.89 ERA while striking out 20 batters. He is projected as a setup man or closer and has the power arm to work in that role, throwing in the high 90s. Norris will compete for a bullpen job in spring training, perhaps making him a very deep NL-only sleeper.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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