Results tagged ‘ Arizona Fall League ’
Prospect Flashback: Angels’ Mike Trout Way Back When He Was Swinging for Cedar Rapids, Arkansas and Salt Lake
I had the opportunity to interview Mike Trout (MiLB career stats) before his 2012 call-up, and the best quote I was able to pull out of the five-tool, old-school ballplayer was most indicative of his playing style:
“We’re having a blast,” Trout told me. “I just go out there, do my thing.”
Now everyone gets to see him do his thing.
Here is a gallery of then-prospect Trout in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 wearing variety of uniforms, including those of Class A Cedar Rapids, Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Salt Lake. Click on any picture to begin the slideshow. For all past editions of Prospect Flashback, head here.
Starlin Castro spent just two seasons with full-season Minor League affiliates and didn’t register his first 100-game campaign until he became a Cub for good late in 2010.
Here is a gallery of then-prospect Castro in 2009 and ’10 wearing a variety of uniforms, including those of Class A Advanced Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. Click on any picture to begin the slideshow. For all past editions of Prospect Flashback, head here.
In case you missed it Wedneday, the No. 1 Marlins Major Leaguer, slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, was struck in the helmet by a pitch from No. 1 Marlins Minor Leaguer, right-handed starter Jose Fernandez. (See the video with MLB.com’s article.)
Things move so fast here in 2013 that it’s easy to forget that Stanton was, like Fernandez is now, a top prospect — but an unproven one at that — as recently as three years ago. Stanton, who went simply by Mike back then, played just 324 games in the Minors and all below the Triple-A level. He hit 81 home runs as a farmhand, or one ever 14.75 at-bats, portending his MLB power potential.
Here is a gallery of Stanton in every Minors uni he donned 2007-2010. Click on any picture to begin the slideshow. For all past editions of Prospect Flashback, head here.
If you read my reaction to the release of MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list, you might think I was down on Twins pitching prospect Kyle Gibson. But just because I don’t believe he is the 49th best farmhand in the Minor Leagues doesn’t mean I’m skeptical that he’s going to be a quality Major League starter. Quite the opposite. I first wrote about Gibson in April 2012, detailing his comeback from Tommy John surgery. But you can go back further. How about June 2009, when Minnesota made the 6-foot-6-inch right-hander the 22nd overall selection the Draft? In the four years since, Gibson has pitched for three Minor League teams (not counting the Gulf Coast League Twins, whom he rehabbed with briefly this past year) and one in the Arizona Fall League. I expect him to return to Triple-A Rochester this spring but wouldn’t be surprised to see him north-bound by summer. Here is a gallery of Gibson, in every uni he’s donned to date. Click on any picture to begin the slideshow.
Seven Prospect-related Things I Learned During The Arizona Fall League, An Inconclusive Wrap-Up on Championship Day Saturday
The first thing that should be said about how MLB.com produces its Arizona Fall League coverage is that, well, MiLB.com produces it. Yours truly is on a Minor Leagues-focused staff of about 15 editors, producers and reporters that shifts its focus to AFL action in October and November. We manage the official site of fall ball and about eight of us are the ones interviewing Saguaros or Desert Dogs or Javelinas postgame for the recaps you read with such delight. We make those calls and writes these stories from New York, about 2,500 miles east of the six participating teams and their homes, but we still have the pulse of the league and its developments.
Will all that out of the way, here are, in no particular order, seven prospects-related things I learned this fall:
1. THAT the clubs with the best prospects don’t win the most games. Nick Castellanos, Jonathan Singleton, Javier Baez, and George Springer (all ranked 48th or higher among MLB.com’s Top 100) led the Mesa Solar Sox to a league-worst 10-20 record. Who led the Peoria Javelinas to their league-best 19-13 mark? One Nate Roberts!
2. THAT Roberts, who batted .446 in 19 games, maybe, kind of, sort of deserves to be called a prospect at this point.
3. THAT, despite my speculation, Billy Hamilton, did not in fact break another league’s stolen base record this calendar year. He racked up 10 steals in 17 games, one fewer than league leader Carlos Sanchez (Reds) and 14 fewer than the all-time record.
4. THAT Hamilton, speaking of the Stolen Base King, can make a catcher (in this case, Yankees farmhand Austin Romine) say Goddamn after stealing second base on a foot-first slide — then make that same catcher just stare down at dirt after stealing third base on the catcher’s post-pitch toss back to the mound. (Fast-forward to the 00:31 mark of this video for that doozy.)
5. THAT the Yankees’ Slade Heathcott, while not nearly as fast as Hamilton, plays ball the hard-nosed, bull-headed way — the right way.
6. THAT if a Fall Leaguer is traded by his Major League organization to another Major League organization, he will switch teams almost immediately. In the case of A’s-turned-D-backs-turned-Marlins infielder Yordy Cabrera, however, he went from the A’s-affiliated Phoenix Desert Dogs straight to the Marlins-affiliated … Phoenix Desert Dogs. He didn’t even have to change ballcaps!
7. THAT, speaking of fast things, I wasn’t wrong (perhaps) to write that Heath Hembree owned the fastest fastball in the Fall League. I saw him hit a radar gun at just 90 mph in one appearance, but he appeared to be throwing much harder in the Rising Stars Showcase, no?
There is one thing I have noticed about you since I started carving out this prospects-focused beat at MiLB.com. Well, not you in particular, but prospects-focused readers like you.
The one thing I have noticed? Patience is at a premium. Whenever I am answering — and soliciting questions — from the MiLB.com audience, I find that I am most often asked Why isn’t Jonathan Singleton up to Triple-A yet? or Gary Brown is going to be in the Majors next month, right?
My response is almost always positively negatory — but not because I don’t understand the anxiousness. You hear about a top young player in your team’s system and you wonder OK, when is this guy going to star in the bigs? And the measured response, Two or three years from now, can be sobering. I get that. I’m a baseball fan, too. But good players take time to develop. Lots of time.
Which brings us to Billy Hamilton. I interviewed the Stolen Base King in February before he became the Stolen Base King in September. He was just coming off a 103-steal 2011 season at Class A Dayton, so he was no unknown. In retrospect, though, the timing was great.
We spoke (me at a desk in Manhattan, Hamilton at his home in Mississippi) not long before he embarked upon his amazing 155-thefts campaign this year at Class A Advanced Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola. Talking in his quiet but quick Southern twang, Hamilton told me about the wisdom he picked up from the likes of Joe Morgan and Delino DeShields. But his most telling comments came when I asked him about his secret to not getting caught on the basepaths:
“If you draw an imaginary line [in the dirt], you can get to that spot every time [you take a lead], so you don’t have to think about getting back or not. You have to get to a point where you are thinking forward and not thinking backward, and then it’s pretty easy stealing bases [because] you’re not worried about getting back. If you make a false step and you’re able to get back, you know you’re good, so the only thing you think about is going forward.”
Which brings us back to you. OK, not really you, but a reader perhaps not unlike you. There was one comment on that Hamilton Q&A, and it said succinctly Not even in advanced a yet? can’t be that much of a stud.
Six months later, we can all agree, Hamilton is a stud.
Which brings us to another offseason and another question for the Minor League’s fastest man. Hamilton is slated to play in the Fall League for the first time — he is in Arizona working on his defense in center field, not in Mississippi fielding interview requests about his struggles at shortstop.
And I’m the one wondering: Will he break yet another league’s stolen-base record before the calendar year ends?
Yeah, I’m the impatient one. Hamilton is, after all, the most exciting player in the Minors (at least, according to his peers). So it’s almost a letdown when he’s not, you know, doing something exciting.
So indulge me. To estimate the possibility of an eventful October and November over there on the West Coast, let’s do some math. An AFL official told me the other day that one Rickey Holifield stole 24 bags for the 1994 Peoria Javelinas. That is the record on the books.
Coincidentally, Hamilton is also playing for the Reds-affiliated Javelinas, though he sat out the club’s first two games of the season. Let’s say Hamilton plays in 25 of the remaining 30 games (including their afternoon tilt with Phoenix on Thursday). He would need to average one theft per game to eclipse Holifield’s two-dozen total. (In the Minors this year, Hamilton averaged 1.17/game.)
Here is what he’s up against: Only one ballplayer since 2005 has racked up 20 steals in the AFL (a league more for slugging than stealing) since 2005 — Eric Young swiped that many in 31 games for the Desert Dogs in ’08.
So will Hamilton do it? I don’t know.
And before you ask when Hamilton will be in a Reds uniform, I don’t know that for sure either. Maybe another year, maybe half of one.
I do know this: He’ll be running as fast as he can on his way there.
Something tells me that way back in April or May, Heath Hembree imagined that, by September or October, GIANTS would be spread across his chest — not SCORPIONS.
Something tells me. Hembree doesn’t tell me. No, the Giants’ fire-balling prospect speaks in a low, South Carolina rumble and isn’t prone to statements like that one. I clearly am.
Here is why Hembree will be in Scottsdale (for the Arizona Fall League, which begins Tuesday) and not San Francisco (for the NLDS, which begins today): He was unable to repeat his amazing 2011 in 2012.
’11: 1.86 ERA, 38 SV, 78 K, .188 OPP .AVG in 53 1/3 IP spanning 54 G split between Class A Advanced San Jose and Double-A Richmond
’12: 4.74 ERA, 15 SV, 36 K, .207 OPP .AVG in 38 IP spanning 39 G at Triple-A Fresno
Straining the flexor tendon in his dynamite pitching elbow didn’t help matters. That cost him all of July and most of August. (Was he ever feeling good? He pitched on consecutive days just once before going down.)
When I spoke with him, Hembree, who was back to being lights-out in seven appearances between August and September, was pumped about his ability to bounce back from injury. He’s going to the AFL, where he will pick up some (not all) of the innings he would have accrued in the Pacific Coast League.
So what can you expect to see from Richard Heath Hembree in baseball’s “finishing school” for top prospects? Expect him to finish hitters with the league’s fastest fastball. Don’t be surprised, too, to see an occasional slider or changeup. That will be the second most important reason for his presence there.
“I’ve always been a guy that’s really been confident in my fastball, so it takes some people getting on me to say, ‘Hey, quit throwing your fastball.’ Not that I can’t get away with just my fastball to get out, but that I’m going to need my other pitches as I move up,” Hembree told me. “Developing my secondary pitches is what’s going to make me an even better pitcher.”
Blog: How do you grip your fastball?
Hembree: Four-seam. It’s how I have held it my entire life.
Blog: What purpose do you have when you throw it?
Hembree: It’s my go-to pitch, my out-pitch, so I go to it a lot. I try to keep it down and be aggressive and attack the hitter. I have always had the mentality of attacking hitters. When I feel like I get timid or back it up a little but, that’s usually when things don’t go as well.
Blog: What’s an ideal speed range?
Hembree: 94-95 mph. (Here’s where some of that South Carolina modesty kicks in: Hembree can get his fastball up to 98-plus with ease, though it’s more straight the speedier it is.)
Blog: When did you learn your breaking pitch?
Hembree: I picked it up when I got to college and have been throwing it ever since, just something I had to get a feel for over time.
Blog: Some have said it’s not dissimilar from Sergio Romo’s cutter — that accurate?
Hembree: Mine is more of a slider than a cutter. It has a little depth to it.
Blog: How do you grip it?
Hembree: I grip it like a four-seam, with my index and middle fingers, but off-set.
Blog: What purpose do you have when you throw it?
Hembree: It’s another out-pitch for me. I want to show hitters that I can throw it for strikes and try to get them to chase it later in the count.
Blog: Ideal speed range?
Hembree: Around 85 mph.
Blog: When did you learn your change?
Hembree: I’m still learning it actually. It’s a pitch-in-progress . I haven’t thrown it too much in games. I’m trying to develop it, knowing I’m going to need it in the future. I messed around throwing it before I got to pro ball, but the Giants really harped on it when I got to pro ball.
Blog: In what ways are you still learning it?
Hembree: Just to get a feel for it, to know the right situations when to throw it. Just keep throwing it, have to throw and keep working with it. I feel like I am doing a good job with it here lately.
Blog: How do you grip it?
Hembree: Four seams.
Blog: Ideal speed range?
Hembree: 85 mph.