Night games are my favorite part of the AFL. Not only do they have the liveliest crowds, but they also provide an opportunity to see four teams play in one day. On Wednesday I saw Salt River, Phoenix, Peoria and Scottsdale. Aside from a late Bryce Harper scratch, I was able to see just about everyone I was hoping to, including two of the AFL's most elite talents.
An good contact hitter with a line-drive approach, Trout has the batting eye, balance and patience to hit 20 or more home runs a season. He also tries to keep pitchers and defenses on their toes by showing bunt pretty often. At the very least, it's a reminder to everyone on the field how fast he is. He's also a smooth, confident defender. It's hard to find holes in his game. The one knock I have on him is that his arm is closer to average than above.
Franklin takes a strong, healthy cut. He's not an imposing physical presence but he's far from scrawny and he maximizes his tools. His opposite field power is impressive and he puts a charge into the ball when he squares up. While he will likely be a second baseman in the big leagues, he makes some impressive plays at shortstop. He just may not be consistent enough to be a guy that a MLB team wants at shortstop.
I liked what I saw from Taveras A LOT. The dude takes a gigantic swing -- seriously, it doesn't look human -- and somehow makes a lot of contact. He achieves this because of a very quick trigger and good balance. Taveras doesn't show up to the park to take pitches but he is familiar with the benefits of waiting for a pitch he can drive. Physically mature yet still projectable he has strong legs and hardly any body fat. I didn't get to see him play defense (he DHed) but his bat alone is well worth following.
An aggressive hitter who takes a big hack and has impressive power for a center fielder, Gose doesn't have the greatest eye. He's not a good two-strike hitter and he doesn't control at-bats. Though he has a strong arm and covers plenty of ground in center field, his bat may still be years away from being ready to respectably face MLB pitchers. Gose isn't as raw as he was when I saw him two years ago, but he hasn't progressed a whole lot either. His upside is as a slightly above average big leaguer. There's also a chance that he is too strikeout prone and inconsistent to hold down a big league job.
Ligares is a tall, impressive physical specimen with good speed and solid contact skills. Hitting from a tall (almost completely upright) stance, he looks the part of a power hitter. His pitch recognition is, however, lacking, which I believe to be -- for any hitter -- more of a genetic disposition than learned skill. His struggles identifying pitches and pitch location lead to poor balance and limited leverage. I saw him take check swings as a number of pitches that were no where near the strike zone. All things considered, what he's able to do on a ball field is impressive. But he's going to hit a wall in the upper minors or, if not there, the majors. I'll be very impressed if he ever works his way into regular MLB playing time and offers replacement-level production.
When I covered the 2007 Draft, Jason Heyward, Michael Burgess and Davis were the three most highly touted high school outfielders entering the year. Davis was the only one of the three to go to college, and he left as a draft-eligible sophomore. He has a short, thick, strong frame that isn't typical of a baseball player. He runs well, has a very strong arm and shows opposite-field power. It's hard to project Davis, given his physically maxed out frame, but he has the skill set to emerge as a No. 4 outfielder.
Gillies is built like an exaggerated action figure. He runs like the wind and is big enough and strong enough to look the part of a NFL tight end. But he hits from a little tiny crouched batting stance, swings the bat like a little leaguer who's afraid of getting hit and takes some embarrassing routes in the outfield. I'm surprised the Phillies haven't forced him to hit more upright. He's a good contact hitter with some patience. It's easy to still dream on his frame and abilities. His .535 AFL OPS (90 at-bats) was the second-lowest in the league.
Nick had an impressive season as a 21-year-old in High-A. He's not physically imposing, thin, lean and likely done growing, but he's a solid contact hitter who has a compact swing, though he will expand the strike zone. It's hard to project Nick adding much power. That said, he doesn't try to be more of a power hitter than he is. Sound when he gets to balls, he has limited range at second base. I see his upside as a utility man who can make decent contact.
We're going to try to put out a detailed report on Bradley's November 16th outing (with video) later this offseason. In short, his fastball sat in the low-90s with a bit of arm-side run. He commanded it well and also mixed in a solid slider that he kept down in the zone. He didn't show much of a changeup. Bradley has a good frame and the lefty advantage. I saw mid-rotation upside.
Scooter Gennett is built like a high schooler. He's an aggressive hitter without a lot of upside.
While Jean Segura has lots of speed, decent power and more defensive ability than his frame might lead you to believe, he gives away a lot of at-bats by swinging for the fences. If he tries to hit line drives and stays healthy, he could quickly surface as a MLB regular.
I entered the AFL without a lot of information on Joe Panik. I left very enthused. He isn't a potential star, but he looks the part of a solid regular who could be ready without a lot of minor league reps.
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