The Rundown: Belated Arizona Fall League Roster Analysis
Last week, the Twins announced the seven players that will represent the organization in the Arizona Fall League this year. It’s been a busy month for this guy (hence the first blog post in three weeks), but with the end of the minor league seasons upon us, I thought it would be as good a time as any to weigh in on those seven selections.
Notably, this group of Twins prospects is as talented as any team could have sent. [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]As noted by Baseball America’s John Manuel, teams send players to the AFL for a variety of reasons – as a finishing school for their top prospects, to get extra innings or plate appearances for players that have missed time due to injury, or as a way to evaluate players for 40-man roster consideration prior to the Rule 5 draft in December. As highlighted below, each of these justifications is reflected in this year’s Twins selections to some extent.
So without further adieu, I present my highly anticipated 2013 Twins AFL roster rundown. Players are listed in reverse order of prospect status (as determined by industry consensus), with their rank within the organization heading into this season in parentheses.
- A.J. Achter (NR): Drafted by the Twins in the 46th round of the 2010 draft out of Michigan State, Achter is a 25-year-old right-handed reliever who split this season between AA New Britain and AAA Rochester. Though he posted solid ERAs at both stops (2.21 in 36.2 IP at New Britain, 3.04 in 23.2 IP at Rochester), his peripherals leave much to be desired. Steadily declining strikeout rates combined with relatively high walk rates suggest that he has been outperforming his true talent, as reflected in his FIPs at each level (3.94 and 5.48, respectively). Achter will be entering his fourth full season with the organization, and thus he is likely pitching for a place on the 40-man roster. With a number of good relievers in the majors and several promising power arms in the system, Achter will have another month or so to show that he is worthy of a spot next season.
- Zach Jones (NR): Like Achter, Jones is a right-handed reliever drafted by the Twins out of college, taken in the 4th round of the 2012 draft out of San Jose State University. Jones spent the entire 2013 season with High-A Fort Myers, registering 14 saves while serving as the team’s dominant shutdown closer. In 48.2 IP, he posted a miniscule 1.85 ERA (2.71 FIP) and racked up an impressive 70 strikeouts compared to just 28 walks. Jones is an interesting choice by the Twins, given that he’s at least a year away from having to be added to the 40-man. Obviously the team has liked what it has seen from Jones this season, enough to want to see how he performs against the more talented bats of the AFL. He will likely open next season at AA New Britain, but before then will have one more chance to impress the organization.
- Trevor May (#10): May probably has more to prove in Arizona than any other player on this list. Acquired along with Vance Worley from the Phillies last year in the trade for Ben Revere, May’s 2013 has to be considered somewhat of a disappointment. In his second consecutive full season at the AA level, he put up very similar numbers to his 2012 campaign, posting impressive strikeout totals while again struggling with his control. Still, there were some positive signs. May’s strikeout rate actually increased slightly from the previous year (9.08 to 9.44), and though still way too high, he did manage to lower his walk rate (4.69 to 3.98). The 4.51 ERA is less than impressive, but it was likely due in large part to a .329 BABIP, as his 3.79 FIP is solid (especially considering the number of free passes issued). The right-handed May was promoted to AAA Rochester at the end of the season, and he is currently pitching out of the Red Wings bullpen during the playoffs. As a power pitcher, his arm likely profiles well as a late-inning reliever, but in an organization bereft of starting pitching he will be given every opportunity to start. May is already on the 40-man roster, and he will likely open next season as a starter with Rochester. A solid showing in the AFL would be a nice confidence builder heading into next year, and would be a positive end to an otherwise ho-hum season. More importantly, it would be a welcome sign for the pitching-starved Twins, who are counting on May to be part of the rotation solution.
- Max Kepler (#9): A native of Germany who signed with the Twins as a 17-year-old in 2010, Kepler heads to the AFL needing at bats. After missing the entire first half of the 2013 season due to an elbow injury, Kepler finally debuted at the end of June and spent the entire season at Low-A Cedar Rapids. Not surprisingly, he looked like a player trying to shake off the rust, slashing just .237/.308/.424 over the second half. He did flash impressive power though, hitting nine home runs and 11 doubles while driving in 40 runs in just 61 games. Heading into his fifth professional season, Kepler is a virtual lock to be added to the 40-man roster. Primarily an outfielder throughout most of his career, he is listed as a first baseman on the AFL roster. Given the depth of impressive outfield prospects within the organization and the lack of a clear-cut first baseman of the future, it is worth watching how Kepler handles himself at the corner. His bat profiles well at the position, and he is young and athletic enough that he should be able to make such a transition. If he remains in the outfield, Kepler could also represent a valuable trade chip in the team’s quest to acquire starting pitching. Regardless of which position he plays, how his bat fares against AFL pitching will likely go a long ways in determining where he opens up next season.
- Eddie Rosario (#7): Rosario has generally been overshadowed by uber-prospect Miguel Sano throughout much of his young career, and this year was no different. Still, the 21-year-old has emerged as a top-three second base prospect in all of the minor leagues – primarily thanks to his bat, which continues to hit at every level. After starting the season at High-A Fort Myers, Rosario earned a mid-season promotion by slashing .329/.379/.527 in 52 games. He was not quite as good at AA New Britain, but he still managed to post a solid .284/.330/.412 line over 70 games there (numbers that would have been even better if not for a tough August at the plate). With the surprising emergence of Brian Dozier this season, Rosario’s immediate future is somewhat unclear. If Dozier is able to duplicate his breakout 2013 performance next year, there may not be an immediate opening for Rosario at second base with the Twins. He is a converted outfielder, so there is always the option of moving him back to a corner spot. He has worked hard to become an adequate defender at the keystone, however, and his bat is obviously much more valuable as a second baseman. Assuming he continues to hit, either he or Dozier could be expendable as another asset to be used to acquire pitching. Regardless, it is a problem the organization would surely be glad to have. With a strong AFL, Rosario could be ticketed for AAA Rochester to start next season.
- Alex Meyer (#6): Meyer is the closest thing the Twins have had to a hard-throwing, top shelf starting pitcher since Johan Santana (apologies to Francisco Liriano). Acquired from the Nationals last year in the trade for Denard Span, the 6-foot-9 right-hander was generally as advertised this season, racking up plenty of strikeouts thanks to one of the best fastballs in the minor leagues. After opening the season in the Gulf Coast League, Meyer was quickly promoted to AA New Britain, where he posted a 3.21 ERA (2.73 FIP) with 84 strikeouts in just 70 IP. Sadly, he missed almost two months of the season with a bout of shoulder soreness (!!!), a quick reminder of the fragility of pitching prospects. Fortunately, Meyer was able to return for two short starts at the end of the season, and he looked every bit his dominant self. Meyer heads to the AFL in search of innings. If he can manage to finish the season healthy, he will likely open next year at AAA Rochester. Given the club’s complete lack of quality rotation pieces, Meyer is likely to get a long look by the coaching staff in spring training, and he is almost certain to debut sometime in 2014. Along with Kyle Gibson, he will be expected to lead a rebuilt starting staff on the next competitive Twins team, one that will hopefully make fans forget about the past three seasons.
- Byron Buxton (#2): What is there to say? He went .341/.431/.559 with Low-A Cedar Rapids, winning Midwest League MVP despite playing in just 68 games. Following a promotion to High-A Fort Myers, he struggled to the tune of .326/.415/.472 over 57 games. He combined to hit 19 doubles, 18 triples, and 12 homeruns. He drew 76 walks, drove in 77 runs, and scored 109 times. He added 55 stolen bases and gold-glove caliber defense at a premium position. He is just 19-years-old and is already the consensus number one prospect in baseball. All hail Lord Byron.
The Glendale Desert Dogs play their AFL opener in just over a month. There are only 23 games left in this awesome Twins season. And 2014 is right around the corner. #p2c
Originally published at pitching2contact