Arizona Fall League Preview: Scottsdale Scorpions
I’ll come right out and say it. This is my favorite team in this year’s Arizona Fall League. Most teams in this league have a strong infield, dynamic outfield, or solid pitching staff. Perhaps they even have two of those three, but not all three like Scottsdale has. On paper, this looks like the most well-rounded team in the league. I know, I know, paper teams don’t mean squat. Trust me, I’m a Red Sox fan. With plenty of thump in the middle and speed at the top of the lineup, Scottsdale figures to score plenty of runs which will be more than enough most days when you see the trio of high-upside arms heading this rotation. If I were a betting man, I’d bet every dime I own that Scottsdale isn’t finishing last again this season.
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Arizona Fall League – Scottsdale
MLB Team Affiliations: Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants
Already 25, Aramis Garcia is stuck at a crossroads. Currently blocked by Buster Posey in San Francisco and Joey Bart coming up strong as Posey’s successor behind the plate. He’s begun to play some first base as well but doesn’t profile as anything more than a bench bat.
If you’re a fan of defensive catchers, let me introduce you to Ali Sanchez. The 21-year-old Venezuelan with the rocket arm could win a gold glove if given enough playing time, but his lack of offensive abilities will likely keep that from happening. He has been able to put the ball in play and keep his strikeouts down, so becoming a starting catcher shouldn’t be totally ruled out though.
Peter Alonso (NYM), Arquimedes Gamboa (PHI), Andres Gimenez (NYM), Darick Hall (PHI), C.J. Hinojosa (SF), Shed Long L-R (CIN), Alfredo Rodriguez (CIN), Abraham Toro-Hernandez (HOU), Luke Williams (PHI).
This infield has it all. Power, speed, defense, Peter Alonso. See, everything you could want in an infield unit. And of course, we’re going to start with Alonso.
Coming into 2018, Alonso was a solid power-hitting first base prospect with upside, but wasn’t high on many prospect lists. Five months, 36 home runs, and 119 RBI later and Alonso has entered the elite prospect discussion, and rightfully so.
I was able to see him live back in April when he was in Double-A and was thoroughly impressed. His frame and swing just ooze power potential. Alonso has a strong lower half which he incorporates into his swing with solid back leg load and weight transfer. Combine that with enormous raw power and a swing that generates plenty of loft and hard contact to all fields, and you have a 40 home run masher waiting to happen.
One of the great things about Alonso is that he’s much more than just a masher. Alonso has displayed the ability to maintain a strong batting average and OBP at every minor league stop thus far while keeping his strikeout rate respectable. For his minor league career, he has a .290/.381/.560/.940 slash line, 10.5% walk rate, and 20.3% strikeout rate.
Alonso’s lack of speed and so-so defense will limit him to first base long-term, but his bat has more than enough thunder to become an All-Star caliber player at the position. This stint in the Arizona Fall League should serve as a final tune-up for an early-2019 debut.
Joining Alonso from the New York Mets system is shortstop, Andres Gimenez. The 20-year-old Venezuelan had his finest season to date, slashing .281/.347/.409/.756 with 40 extra-base hits (six home runs) and 38 steals in 52 attempts. But due to the explosion of Mr. Alonso, Gimenez mostly flew under the radar. That needs to stop right now. Gimenez is a legit All-Star caliber shortstop at the highest level.
The two tools that stick out are his plus speed and hit tool. Gimenez had better success on the basepaths this season, upping his stolen base conversion rate from 63.6% to 73.1% and has the speed to steal 35 top 40-plus bases annually in the Majors. On top of that, he’s a .290 career hitter in the minors thanks to plus bat speed and a direct swing path through the zone. His swing is more geared for gap shots right now, but in time, he should grow into 15-20 homer pop.
Defensively, Gimenez has all the tools to be an above-average defender at short for a long time. His range, footwork, and arm are all above-average to plus. However, with Amed Rosario also in the mix (and a decent defender in his own right), it remains to be seen who will be the Mets long-term shortstop. Gimenez would be a strong defender at both second or third base as well.
Long has always been and likely will always be one of those hitters that flies under the radar. Why? He doesn’t do any one thing at a high level. While he might not have that one plus tool, Long does have enough offensive upside to become a solid Major League starter. With a quick left-handed stroke, Long generates plenty of bat speed and hard contact which translates into more power than you’d expect from someone his size. The speed is merely average and fluctuates year to year, but overall, Long should rack up SB totals in the teens most seasons. Defensively, he’s never going to win any gold gloves and doesn’t have the arm or size to play anywhere other than second base in the infield.
Turning double-plays with Long will be the Greek God of shortstops, Arquimedes Gamboa. Okay, maybe that was a bit much, but doesn’t his name sound like Greek God’s name? Gamboa isn’t one to impress on the stat sheet, but does have some upside and projectability. Long story short, he’s the anti-Shed Long. A strong defender with some speed, but will never be a big contributor with the stick. All the makings of a solid Major League backup middle infielder.
Man, I love me some Taylor Trammell. He has everything you could want from an All-Star caliber outfielder. Okay, maybe his throwing arm stinks, but outside of that, I dare you to find something to complain about with Trammell. His elite speed is what got him on the map as a prospect. Through his first 300 minor league games, Trammell has swiped 90 bags in 119 attempts. That’s around 49 over a 162-game season. And then we have this beautiful swing you see below. Ain’t it purdy?
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) July 16, 2018
Trammell’s swing is very balanced with fluidity to his swing. His quick wrists and clean swing path through the zone generate plenty of hard contact and his raw power is beginning to peak out of its shell more and more in batting practice and in games. As you can see above, Trammell can really get behind one when he wants to and should develop 20-plus HR power. Throw in solid contact and on-base skills and you have a star outfielder in the making. Trammell is just scratching at the surface of his enormous potential.
Okay, now that I’ve cleaned up my puddle of drool, let’s talk about how freaking fast Myles Straw is. How does 50 steals sound? Great? Well, Straw got 20 more than that this season. That’s right, 70 steals for Straw while only getting caught nine times. That’s an 88.6% success rate. Getting on base hasn’t been an issue for him either. Straw has a career .302 AVG, .394 OBP, and 12.9% walk rate thanks to plus bat to ball skills and an advanced plate approach. Straw knows he has no power and uses his speed to his advantage by putting the ball in play and forcing the defense to try and throw him out, which certainly isn’t an easy task.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a spot for him in Houston and he has some guy named Kyle Tucker vying for time in the Astros outfield as well. A strong showing in the Arizona Fall League might force the Astros hand or add to his trade value.
Another prospect of note in this Scottsdale outfield is Heath Quinn of the Giants. His minor league numbers look phenomenal until you remember that he’s now 23, been in the minors for three seasons, and has yet to advance past high Class-A ball. But hey, at least he’s hitting very well. Quinn has plus raw power from the right side of the plate that should lead to some 30 HR seasons, but I question how much average he’ll hit for against higher competition. A good showing in the Arizona Fall League should finally get Quinn the bump up to Double-A to start next season.
Melvin Adon (SF), Gerson Bautista (NYM), Matt Blackham (NYM), Ty Boyles (CIN), J.B. Bukauskas (HOU), Chase Johnson (SF), Luke Leftwich (PHI), Seth McGarry (PHI), Stephen Nogosek (NYM), Austin Orewiler (CIN), Erasmo Pinales (HOU), Alex Powers (CIN), Sixto Sanchez (PHI), Wyatt Strahan (CIN), Trent Thornton (HOU), Tyler Viza (PHI), Forrest Whitley (HOU), Garrett Williams (SF), Sam Wolff (SF), Joe Zanghi (NYM).
Holy freaking pitching staff. If you recall, I mentioned in my Glendale preview that their outfield was a “baby making outfield” that you would tell your grandchildren about or be the reason why you had grandchildren in the first place. Well, if that’s a baby-making outfield, then this Scottsdale pitching staff is the birth control aiming to keep all the loving from turning into anything more than that. When you have the trio of Forrest Whitley, Sixto Sanchez, and J.B. Bukauskas heading your staff, it has to be a damn good feeling if you’re manager Willie Harris.
So, where the heck do we start? How about with arguably the best pitching prospect around? Yeah, that sounds like a good place.
Between suspension and injury, Whitley was limited to only eight starts in 2018, all for Double-A Corpus Christi. After dominating and reaching Double-A in 2017, this was supposed to be the season where we saw Whitley in Triple-A by the All-Star break and potentially in Houston by season’s end. We’ll just have to put that on pause until 2019. Armed with an electric high-90’s fastball, three plus off-speed pitches, and solid control, Whitley is arguably the top minor league arm in the game. After a nearly lost season, this time in the Arizona Fall League will be big for his development.
Eight is the magic number for this pitching staff. Like Whitley, Sanchez only made eight starts this season due to injury. He was on a roll early in the season before reporting the dreaded “elbow soreness” following his start on June 3rd. When that news broke, the F-word was a commonly used response. You know, that four-letter word that your damn phone always corrects to “duck” or “ducking” Seriously, when would anyone want to say ducking? Anyways. Coming off the heels of a strong 2017 showing, Sixto’s 2.51 ERA and 1.07 WHIP through those eight starts was creating plenty of excitement. Thankfully there was no major damage in his elbow and he just needed to rest it. Pitching in the Arizona Fall League is a great way to make up the lost time.
— Jason Woodell (@JasonAtTheGame) May 6, 2018
Sanchez isn’t quite as polished as Whitley, but the ace upside is very apparent. He features an electric 95-97 mph fastball with life that he can add a tick or two to when needed and mixes in a hard sinker as well. His secondary pitches consist of a curve and a change-up, both of which have plus potential. His strikeout numbers aren’t off the charts yet, but he figures to miss more bats with further development of his off-speed pitches.
Summing up Bukaukas is quite easy. Electric stuff, electric delivery. Bukauskas can light up a radar gun but it’s not easy gas. There’s added effort to his delivery which is a slight red flag when it comes to his future as a starter. Coming out of the bullpen, this isn’t a big deal. That’s why you see a lot of maximum effort deliveries in the bullpen. I really don’t want to see Bukauskas have to take that route. This is a high upside arm with considerable strikeout potential thanks to a dynamic fastball/slider combination. If he wants to remain in the rotation long-term, he’ll need to continue to tone down his delivery and develop his changeup. He’s one pitcher I’ll be keeping an especially close eye on this Arizona Fall League.
The rest of the pitching staff doesn’t have the same zing as the above trio, but there are a few names to watch. Melvin Adon is a flamethrower whose future looks to be in the bullpen. He has the upside of a high strikeout middle reliever if he can develop more tilt on that slider. Stephen Nogosek has back-end starter upside if he can better his control and changeup. Trent Thorton is knocking on the door to Houston and could make his Major League debut in 2019, though, it could be out of the pen. His upside isn’t great, but he has solid control and three average to above-average offerings. He could stand to work on his change-up.
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.