Arizona Fall League Preview: Mesa Solar Sox
So close, but so far away. Last season, Mesa made it to the Arizona Fall League championship game against Peoria. They even raced out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first before Peoria scored the last eight runs of the game and were crowned league champions. That was a damn good Mesa team, too, highlighted by a pair of top-10 prospects in Victor Robles and Kyle Tucker, amongst others. This year’s roster might not have the same elite talent, but will pack a punch offensively, led by a very strong infield and a dynamic outfield prospect on the rise.
All of our Arizona Fall League Team Previews
|Surprise Saguaros||Peoria Javelinas||Glendale Desert Dogs|
|Mesa Solar Sox||Scottsdale Scorpions||Salt River Rafters|
Arizona Fall League – Mesa
MLB Team Affiliations: Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics.
P.J. Higgins (CHC), Jhonny Pereda (CHC), Jake Rogers (DET).
Lets hit on Jake Rogers before we get into this jam-packed infield that Mesa will roll out there. As much as I want to say that Rogers will become a starting catcher in this league, I don’t believe he’ll hit enough to warrant being in the starting lineup 100-plus games a season. That’s not to say he doesn’t bring a valuable skill set to the plate. Rogers has above-average raw power and is one of the best defensive catchers in the minors with a rocket arm. He very well could blossom into a starting catcher for Detroit, but the more likely scenario is a strong backup backstop.
Roberto Baldoquin (LAA), Michael Chavis (BOS), Bobby Dalbec (BOS), Trent Giambrone (CHC), Nico Hoerner (CHC), Jahmai Jones (LAA), David, MacKinnon (LAA), Josh Ockimey (BOS), Daniel Pinero (DET), Eli White (OAK).
Remember how excited I was about the Glendale outfield? Well, here’s the infield equivalent. Surprise might have had Vlad and Bo, but as a whole overall unit, Mesa has arguably the best infield in the Arizona Fall League. Let’s start with the trio of Red Sox farmhands on the roster. As a Red Sox fan and Maine native, I got to see Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, and Josh Ockimey numerous times this season for Double-A Portland. Between the three of them, the one common theme is plus power.
As I update my prospect rankings, I’ve gone back and forth on which I like more, Chavis or Dalbec. And there’s really no wrong answer here. Get out that quarter and get to flipping.
Let’s start with Chavis. After missing the first 80 games due to suspension, Chavis started slowly after returning to Portland, only to finish his stint there on an absolute tear. Over his final 21 Double-A games (76 AB), Chavis hit .395 with five doubles, four home runs, and 18 runs scored. Yeah, that will earn you a promotion to Triple-A as long as your name isn’t Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
He’s not the biggest guy around, but Chavis packs quite a punch in his right-handed swing, generating plus bat speed and solid loft from the slight uppercut swing path. Basically, his swing is geared for 25 to 30-plus home run seasons. That power has always been his calling card. Chavis has little to no speed to speak of and doesn’t have the greatest hit tool around. However, he’s shown improvements there to the point where he should hit in the .250-.280 range more often than not.
For a short period of time, Chavis played a little first base to allow Dalbec to continue playing third after his promotion to Double-A. His arm is strong for the hot corner, but his range and footwork could use some improvement. He should see time at both infield corner positions during the Arizona Fall League.
Speaking of Mr. Dalbec. If you’re a fan of immense raw power, you’re going to like Dalbec. After socking 26 dingers in 100 games for Salem in the high Single-A Carolina League, Dalbec wasted no time announcing his arrival to Double-A. Within a week of arriving in Portland, Dalbec crushed a mammoth 451-foot blast that looked like it could’ve been 500-plus. This is a very strong individual. At seasons end, Dalbec had played 29 games with Portland, finishing with eight doubles and six home runs at the level, and 35 and 32 for the season, respectively in 129 games.
Alright, we’ve established Dalbec is strong. But it’s not just one big batting practice display out there from him. There’s PLENTY of swing and miss to his game. Enough swing and miss for me to give his hit tool a 40-grade. Dalbec struck out in 37.1% of his plate appearances in Double-A and 32.4% overall for the season. Ouch. He can get a tad long with his swing at times and struggles with breaking pitches and pitch recognition in general. All things he’ll surely be working on during the Arizona Fall League.
First baseman Josh Ockimey will join his fell Red Sox prospects in the Arizona Fall League as well. There’s plus raw power here but the hit tool needs work. One common theme I noticed with Ockimey this season was very little (basically none) lower half movement. His swing was all arms. That will get you by in the lower levels of the minors, but not very far in the Majors. I’d love to see what kind of power hitter Ockimey could be if he incorporated his lower half more and loaded onto his back leg.
The more and more I see Jahmai Jones, the more I think that he’s going to become an erratic, but exciting fantasy asset. One year he’ll go 20/25 with a .250 average, the next he’ll hit .290 but go 12/15. All the raw tools are there, but the consistency hasn’t quite been there for Jones. Just look at his batting averages year to year.
2015: .244 in 160 AB
2016: .302 in 258 AB
2017: .282 in 518 AB
2018: .239 in 482 AB
The one constant for Jones has always been his plus speed, averaging 31 steals per every 500 at-bats in the minors. He improved his success rate in 2018 too, converting on 85.7% of his 28 attempts. The power lags behind his speed and hit tool but Jones has enough bat speed and strength to sit in the 15-20 HR range more often than not.
Offense isn’t the reason why Jones is partaking in the Arizona Fall League. After playing exclusively in the outfield from 2015-2017, the Angels moved him to second base in 2018. Jones finished with 26 errors and a .946 fielding percentage this season and could certainly use the extra reps before 2019.
Lastly, we have Chicago Cubs 2018 first-rounder and shortstop prospect, Nico Hoerner. It’s not often that you see a player that was drafted in June playing in the Arizona Fall League. But Hoerner is an advanced bat with an outside shot at playing in the Majors later on in 2019. Horner has two plus tools (hit/speed) and gets rave reviews for his poise at the plate. Striking out is an end result not often seen with Hoerner, as evident by his four strikeouts in 60 plate appearances this season.
I’m sure wherever he is right now, Mike Cameron is one proud papa for how his son Daz has played over the last couple seasons. Cameron has flashed tantalizing tools both offensive and defensively that has his future looking incredibly bright. In center field, Cameron has the upside of a gold-glover thanks to his speed, range, and plus arm strength. His skills at the plate, while a little rawer, and becoming equally as promising.
First off, Cameron has incredible bat speed. His swing has come a long way over the last couple years and is now more level through the zone. While he makes hard contact, his swing is geared more for line drives than over the fence power.
And don’t forget his plus speed.
Daz Cameron's first Double-A hit, a double in game one of tonight's doubleheader. pic.twitter.com/s8BHkWd5ec
— Erie SeaWolves (@erie_seawolves) June 19, 2018
Assuming he continues to learn how to read pitchers movements better, there’s 30-plus SB potential in these legs. Cameron is developing into a very exciting player to watch and is one to watch during the Arizona Fall League this season.
The rest of this Mesa outfield will be made up of mostly prospects that have the upside of a 4th outfielder. Skye Bolt has an awesome name and possesses some modest power and speed, but struggles to hit for a high average. His defense and arm are solid, however, which should allow him to settle in as a decent backup outfielder. Another to keep an eye on is D.J. Wilson of the Cubs. A defense-first prospect, Wilson also possesses plus speed but is a work in progress at the plate with little to no power upside.
Sandy Baez (DET), Jake Bray (OAK), Jesus Castillo (LAA), Bailey Clark (CHC), Ryan Clark (LAA), Angel Duno (OAK), Brett Hanewich (LAA), Darwinzon Hernandez (BOS), Grant Holmes (OAK), Eduardo Jimenez (DET), Erick Leal (CHC), Daniel Procopio (LAA), Manuel Rondon L-L (CHC), John Schreiber R-R (DET), Sam Sheehan (OAK), Gregory Soto (DET), Teddy Stankiewicz (BOS), Justin Steele (CHC), Josh Taylor (BOS).
There are several guys I want to discuss on this pitching staff, but I’ll keep it brief with some quick hits.
Sandy Baez: Destined for the bullpen. Throws a mid-90’s heater, but lacks the command needed to be a starter longterm. Secondary pitches need some serious refinement. Baez got a cup of coffee with Detroit this season and will compete for a bullpen role next spring.
Darwinzon Hernandez: Man, do I love the name Darwinzon. Why? I don’t know. Just do. Beyond that, I liked the way Hernandez looked on the hill this season. The 21-year-old Venezuelan right-hander posted a 3.53 ERA and 11.3 K/9 across 107.0 innings pitched. Unfortunately, those were accompanied by a 1.42 WHIP and 5.6 BB/9. Hernandez’s fastball sits in the mid-90’s with life and has a slider that has flashed plus. The biggest things he needs to work on in the Arizona Fall League and beyond are his changeup and overall command of his arsenal. If he can, the upside here is of a #4 or #5 starter.
Grant Holmes: A former first-round pick by the Dodgers, Holmes has a strong sinker/curveball combination that he uses to get plenty of ground balls. Changeup and command have been inconsistent, but shouldn’t be a big problem moving forward.
Gregory Soto: Like with Baez above, Soto is likely going to end up as a bullpen arm. Plus fastball, but secondary offerings and control are all below average. Walked 70 batters in just 113.1 innings this season.
Justin Steele: A southpaw with a low to mid-90’s sinking fastball and a curveball that has flashed plus at times. Steele has also made solid progress with a fading changeup. Control used to be a hindrance but has gotten better over time. Back-end starter upside.
Eric Cross is the lead MLB writer and prospect analyst here on FantraxHQ. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.