This was a fun trip. On Wednesday, October 11th, I left my cold and rainy part of the country to travel over three thousand miles via two plane rides (Boston to Arizona with a connector in Fort Lauderdale… Figure that one out) diagonally across the country to Phoenix, Arizona. And why else would I be in Phoenix than for the Arizona Fall League and First Pitch Arizona baseball conference? The conference, in general, was phenomenal. I met a lot of great industry people out here, watched plenty of baseball with them, and shared a beer or two with some. Big thanks to BaseballHQ for putting the conference on and to Chris Blessing of BaseballHQ for showing me around while out here.
But of course, I had to get as many Arizona Fall League games in as I could in my short time out here. Both Thursday and Friday brought two games each, while Saturday was the annual Fall Stars game, showcasing some of the best prospects playing out west this year. The notes below aren’t necessarily brand new schools of thought or anything that is going to surprise the ‘you know what’ out of you (Or maybe some will). But rather just thoughts and observations I had from my time here, encouraging notes, confirmation of prior beliefs, and just general notes.
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2019 Arizona Fall League Notes
Royce Lewis Looked Really Damn Good
Coming into the 2019 season, Royce Lewis was a universal top prospect and even top-5 on some lists. The former #1 overall pick had shown 50-grades or better on all his tools with some grading out as plus, more than deserving of a lofty prospect ranking. Then 2019 happened. You can look at his .661 OPS and plate discipline regression between the High-A Florida State League and Double-A Southern League and end up feeling a tad discouraged. Don’t be. This is still one of the top 10 or so prospects in the game and Lewis made sure everyone remembered that notion out in the Arizona Fall League.
Royce Lewis Arizona Fall League Mix Tape.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) October 15, 2019
Basically every time he came to the plate in my stint out there, Lewis was driving the ball with authority or showing off his plus hit tool and going to the opposite field. The Royce Lewis mixtape I made above is a nice little synopsis of my live looks at him last week. At the time I’m writing this, Lewis is still hitting over .400 out in Arizona with seven doubles and three home runs. It’s important to remember that Lewis is still barely 20 years old and was young for both of the levels he was at this season. The Arizona Fall League has given him extra time to iron out his mechanics and get back to what has made him one of the top prospects in the game.
I’m expecting a big rebound season for Lewis in 2020. The time is now to send out some buy-low offers for him in dynasty formats.
Another bit of info to keep in mind is that Lewis has been getting time at other positions defensively. He hasn’t even played an inning at shortstop, making 10 starts at the hot corner, one at second base, and three in center field. I’m still projecting him as a shortstop for now, but the defensive flexibility is key to his arrival in Minnesota after the emergence of Jorge Polanco at shortstop who is under team control through 2025 at a very team-friendly AAV of $5.15M.
Vidal Brujan Has Sneaky Power
Everyone that owns Vidal Brujan in dynasty leagues knows about his hit tool and elite speed. But that’s not all you have to look forward too. There’s also some sneaky-good raw power in Brujan’s bat as well. As Chris Blessing pointed out, it is mostly to his pull side, but if Brujan can continue to develop his power stroke, it will go a long way for his offensive profile. A .280-.300 average and 30-plus steals look a lot better with 10-15 home runs added in.
Another note is that his power is exclusively from the left side, which is by far his more advance side as a hitter. All 19 of Brujan’s minor league home runs have come from the left side.
Can he get there? I sure believe so. From what I’ve seen in videos and my live looks, the raw power is right around 45-grade for me. What will be key for Brujan reaching the power that I believe he can get to will be adding loft to his swing. Now, I’m not suggesting he suddenly ascends to the 40% range after being under 30% for each of the last two seasons. That would be looney tunes of me when his two best assets are his hit tool and speed. But if he can just get into the low to mid 30% range, that should allow Brujan’s power to poke it’s head out more frequently.
Jo Adell Has Elite Power
I’m not going to ramble on about Jo Adell here. You all know how special of a talent he is and how highly literally everyone on the planet has him ranked. But I’d be foolish to not mention his power here, especially since it was maybe the most impressive non-game action I saw out in Arizona. Seriously, if you’re at a game and have the opportunity, sit down and watch Adell take BP. It’s truly a thing of beauty and a spectacle to behold.
The power isn’t just to his pull side either. Adell finished one of his BP rounds before the Fall Stars game hitting back to back to back home runs to left, then center, then to right. These weren’t just squeaking out either. All three were absolute blasts. Everyone and their crazy uncle know that Adell has power, but this is truly elite raw power that I have no problem throwing a 70 grade on.
And after gushing about his power, here’s Adell stealing second base and advancing to third when the throw from the catcher skipped into center field.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) October 11, 2019
Shane Baz and Daniel Lynch on The Rise
The below tweet wasn’t just me blowing hot air. Shane Baz is one of the most talented pitching prospects in the minor leagues and his ranking in prospects lists will soon reflect that. You can be damn certain that it will in mine.
People will be talking about Shane Baz in 2020 like they did Nate Pearson in 2019. #MiLB
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) October 14, 2019
If you look at Shane Baz’s numbers in the AFL, you might think I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Well, I’m not a big cereal guy and prefer a more hearty breakfast of Coffee, Eggs, and Bacon. Not every day, don’t worry, except for the coffee. What you need to keep in mind with Baz is that he already throws two pitches that are plus at a bare minimum. His four-seamer sits in the mid to upper 90’s and can touch triple-digits with a ton of arm-side life that is simply unfair to lefties. Then he’ll offset that with a sharp, darting slider with two-plane break in the upper-80’s and sometimes will get into the low-90’s with it. A few I saw in his inning during the Fall Stars game were in the 91-92 mph range with sharp break. Good luck trying to hit those.
Outside of those two offerings, the rest of the arsenal and command need work, but the upside is here for Baz to be one of the top-5 pitching prospects in the game by this time next year.
Not to be forgotten after my Baz ramblings, Daniel Lynch is blossoming into one of the top-5 left-handed pitching prospects in the game already. For southpaws, I would take MacKenzie Gore, Jesus Luzardo, Matthew Liberatore, and A.J. Puk over him, but then the conversation really gets interesting. He’s right there with DL Hall, Tarik Skubal, and others in that 2nd tier.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) October 13, 2019
Lynch checks off all the boxes for a guy that can slot in as a strong #2 Major League starter. His arsenal runs four pitches deep with his fastball, slider, and change all potentially being plus pitches. Lynch usually sits in the mid-90’s but was pumping it in at 98-99 during the Fall Stars game, albeit, in a shorter stint. His prospect stock is firmly on the rise and will likely be within my top-50 by mid-season if he keeps this up. Buy now or pony up the big(ger) bucks later.
Adrian Morejon’s Secondaries Are Impressive
It’s not often you get to see a Major League pitcher in the Arizona Fall League, so catching Adrian Morejon’s start Thursday afternoon was a treat after the Padres assigned him to the AFL last week. On one hand, you could say that a Major League pitcher is a little too advanced for the Arizona Fall League. But remember, Morejon was plucked from the Double-A ranks, completely bypassing Triple-A. It was a shocking move at the time, and Morejon just might begin the 2020 season at Triple-A for more seasoning.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) October 10, 2019
One thing is for certain though. The entire arsenal from Morejon is impressive, especially the secondaries. Both his curveball and changeup are plus offerings and dare I say the changeup is a borderline 70-grade offering with both fade and tumble along with good velocity separation. With three plus pitches and above-average command and control, Morejon has the ceiling of a #2 starter. It’s even scarier when you realize he might be just the Padres #3 longterm behind MacKenzie Gore and Chris Paddack. This is going to be a scary rotation for a long time. Enjoy it Padres fans.
Jared Oliva Approaching Top-100 Consideration
If you don’t know the name Jared Oliva yet, you better familiarize yourself real quick. All he’s done in his minor league career is produce. Not necessarily eye-popping numbers, but definitely numbers that Mom and Dad can hang proudly on the fridge. Out in the Arizona Fall League, Oliva has been one of the best hitters in the league. You see his name near the top of nearly every offensive category as I pointed out below. This tweet was nearly two weeks ago and Oliva is still plugging along and stealing bases in bunches. With an average to above-average hit tool and raw power, along with his plus speed, Oliva is approaching top-100 overall consideration and just might sneak into my top-100 in my next rankings update.
Jared Oliva AFL ranks…
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) October 12, 2019
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see that I tweeted out “For dynasty, Oliva > Ke’Bryan Hayes.” I’ve thought it for months and now I’m ready to shout it from the rooftop. Agree, disagree, it doesn’t matter. Oliva is coming.
Forrest Whitley Making Gains
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to see Forrest Whitley’s start live when I was out here and he wasn’t on the Fall Stars roster either. However, if you own Whitley in dynasty leagues, you should be very encouraged with how he’s pitched in the Arizona Fall League. Especially after the rough season he just endured. Rough isn’t even a strong enough word to use either. Unless you equate it to using sandpaper as toilet paper rough. Whitley has made five starts in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.14 ERA and only 3.0 BB/9. It’s hard to read too much into AFL numbers as everyone out here is gassed from a long minor league season, but it’s definitely a welcome sign to see better command out of Whitley. The upside hers is still massive.
Josh Lowe Deserves More Love
The Rays drafted Josh Lowe in the first round back in the 2016 draft as a high-upside prep bat. And until 2019, Lowe didn’t really produce to the level many thought he could. But hey, some guys take a little longer to develop and tap into their raw tools. Lowe did just that in 2019, cranking 18 home runs and swiping 30 bags in 39 attempts with an OPS approaching .800.
As a bigger prospect (6’4/210), Lowe is very athletic with plus speed that has consistently shown up both on the bases and in the outfield where he plays solid defense. Somewhere in the 25 stolen base rage is a fair projection and 20-plus home runs could accompany it if Lowe’s power continues to develop. He’s not quite ready to break into my top-100, but he’s not too far off either. His price in dynasty leagues is likely still fairly reasonable, so he’s one I’d highly recommend targeting in trade offers.
Personally, I Have A Lot To Learn
This is more of a personal part of this but it ties into what I do here at Fantrax. While I consider myself knowledgeable and confident in the work I’m putting out there, there’s always room for me to improve. This comes on both the prospect scouting side and the fantasy baseball side of what I do. While out in Arizona, I learned a ton on both facets from others in the industry that I feel confident will make me a better analyst all around. Now, I knew coming into this conference that I could always learn new things and finally getting to talk to others in the industry, some new, some old, really was a phenomenal experience. It’s all about putting out the best product I can and this week certainly will contribute to that.
Photo/Video Credit: William Boor (Featured Image). All other tweets and videos are my own.
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