The Surprise Saguaros had the best record in the regular season of the Arizona Fall League and featured eight New York Yankees prospects. The Yankees sent a good mix of prospects to the desert, with four pitchers and four position players, they had a real impact on the team offensively, defensively, and on the hill. While the Saguaros lost to the Scottsdale Scorpions in the AFL championship game, they certainly had a very good season, leading the league in runs scored, stolen bases, slugging percentage, and tied for the league lead in home runs. On the mound, no team had more saves, shut out more opponents, or posted a better WHIP than the Saguaros. I was able to take in several Saguaros games, and here is what I saw/learned from the Yankees prospects this Fall.
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Domingo Acevedo, RHP
Stats: 7 G, 1-0, 2.25 ERA, 12 IP, 1.00 WHIP, 11 K, 3 BB, 3 Hold, 1 GF
Domingo Acevedo is known to have a triple digit fastball, but when I saw him he topped out at 96 MPH. Currently he is all fastball and size, standing 6’7” and significantly heavier than his listed 190 lbs. He has a slider and a change that he is working on, with his change clearly his best secondary offering, sitting 82-83 on the day I saw him, but working as high as 86 MPH. He has good deception and the change can certainly become an above average or better pitch. His slider was inconsistent and is a real weakness for him currently. It was routinely clocked at 82 MPH, which is the velocity of a curve but with the shape of a slider. Talking to scouts, his velocities were certainly more impressive on other outings, but from what I saw he was unimpressive. He had recorded all of five outs above short season ball before heading out to the Arizona Fall League, so it can certainly be considered a successful season for him to prove he can compete with elite talent.
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Ian Clarkin, LHP
Stats: 6 G, 6 GS, 2-2, 5.84 ERA, 24.2 IP, 1.95 WHIP, 17 K, 14 BB
Clarkin’s lack of innings was obvious this fall, as he really struggled with his command. He allowed almost as many walks as he recorded strikeouts, and his fastball caught too much of the plate often, leading to him giving up multiple runs in all but one outing this fall. His fastball worked 90-92 and had some arm side run to it. His curve worked between 73-76 MPH and had a good 1-7 break. While it is thought of as his best secondary offering, when I saw him the pitch was easy to read, but did get both swings and misses as well as strikes looking when he was able to drop it into the top of the zone. He got plenty of swings and misses from his changeup, where he showed good arm speed on the pitch that sat 82-85. One promising sign for Clarkin was the fact he was third on the team in innings pitched, showing he is healthy again and should be ready to put in a full season’s work in 2016.
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Chaz Hebert, RHP
Stats: 7 G, 1 GS, 0-1, 4.40 ERA, 14.1 IP, 1.60 WHIP, 12 K, 10 BB, 1 Hold
Chaz Hebert finally got his first start of the fall in the final regular season game of the year, and he really struggled. He did not make it out of the second inning and gave up three of his seven earned runs in that single outing. He did show well enough early in the year to be named to the Fall Stars Game and opened the eyes of many scouts. He has a solid four pitch mix, with his fastball working 89-91. He also has a change that works from 79-83 with plenty of arm side run and dip in it. He has two breaking ball, a curve that sits 77-79 and a cutter sitting 86-87. He has a high arm slot but his fastball gets flat at times. His repeatable delivery and above average command could make him a pitch-to-contact number five starter in the future that can eat innings.
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Tyler Webb, LHP
Stats: 9 G, 2-0, 5.84 ERA, 12.1 IP, 1.60 WHIP, 12 K, 3 BB, 1 Hold, 1 GF
A 6’6”, 225 lbs. pure reliever is usually a hard thrower, but Webb is more of a finesse lefty. He hides the ball well, allowing his fastball play faster than the 89-91 he threw the day I saw him. He mixed in a change from 76-78 and a slurvy breaking ball that worked 76-79. He proved in the fall league, as well as his minor league career, that he is willing and able to go multiple innings in relief. Webb really attacks the strike zone, as reflected in his 4/1 K/BB ratio, but his stuff isn’t dominant enough to make many mistakes and he gets in trouble when his pitches catch too much of the zone. His stuff does make him effective against both right and left handers, so he is not going to be a lefty specialist, but he also doesn’t project to be more than a mid-relief guy.
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Gary Sanchez, C
Stats: 22 GP, .294/.367/.625, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 16 R, 6 2B, 1 3B, 4 SB, 2 CS, 19 K, 8 BB
The Arizona Fall League awards are handed out in a pregame ceremony before the championship game. I set myself up on the third base side of home plate ready to get pictures of Gary Sanchez coming out of the dugout to accept the MVP award, but he was down in left field warming up the pitcher. Adam Engel instead was named the league MVP, and deservedly so as he had a fantastic fall, but much of the media anticipated the award would go to Sanchez. He led the league in home runs and tied for the league lead in RBIs. He finished second in slugging (behind Engel) and had the most total bases in the league.
Sanchez started the season on a tear, but ended the season in a bit of a slump. He hit just .194 with just one home run and four RBI in the final ten games. He clearly showed off his power in the fall league, and impressed with a cannon of an arm behind the plate. If he sticks as a catcher, it will be completely due to his quick feet and strong arm throwing runners out, as he was downright painful to watch behind the plate at times. Pitches got by him at an alarming rate, he had four errors, and his hands constantly jabbed for the ball and he struggles to frame pitches. Despite the struggles with the glove, the power arm and power bat could definitely play at the big league level right now. I think he sticks behind the plate, and the Yankees will just have to live with the below average receiving ability and enjoy the 25+ home run potential from their catcher.
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Tyler Austin, OF/1B
Stats: 21 GP, .272/.344/.444, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 13 R, 5 2B, 0 3B, 7 SB, 2 CS, 18 K, 9 BB
There are plenty of questions regarding where Tyler Austin fits best defensively. He has seen time at both corner outfield and corner infield spots, but played most his games between left field and first base this fall. He looked good in left field, especially in the championship game when he made and incredible diving catch to rob Clint Frazier of an extra-base hit, but he did have moments where his routes were ugly to watch. His best bet to big league success is as an outfielder as I don’t see there being enough power to be a productive first baseman. He has enough pop to develop in to a 15 home run a year player and, while not a burner, he showed great instincts on the bases that allows him to steal more bags than his speed would suggest. He has a bit of a leg kick, and while he shows excellent balance despite spending most of his time on just one foot, he does get caught out in front of quality off-speed pitches. I see Austin developing into a corner utility man who will get exposed if he gets regular playing time, but can be a valuable asset in a utility role where he can let his baseball instincts carry him as he does not have any one tool that is even above average.
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Tyler Wade, SS/2B
Stats: 14 GP, .220/.313/.268, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 SB, 1 CS, 7 K, 6 BB
Wade started the first game of the year for the Surprise Saguaros, and wound up nearly splitting the games at second base with Kansas City Royals prospect Ramon Torres. Torres out-performed Wade, and became the second baseman of preference for manage Carlos Subero down the stretch for the Saguaros. Wade really struggled at the plate, and didn’t look great in the field either. On the first play of the season for Wade, he threw a ball wide to first base, pulling Tyler Austin off the bag and nearly causing a collision for his first of four errors on the season. Despite just stealing two bags, he did show off some good speed when he was on the bases and has very good baseball instincts. His approach at the plate was what really stood out, often working deep into counts drawing walks, which was properly reflected with an OBP nearly 100 points higher than his batting average. He showed flashes of excellent range in the middle of the diamond, but was too inconsistent. His bat is more of a slap hitting, line drive approach and will likely never hit for much power, but that should fit his game well given his speed. In all, Wade just left me wanting to see more.
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Dustin Fowler, OF
Stats: 16 GP, .279/.313/.410, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 14 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 7 SB, 0 CS, 10 K, 3 BB
Starting the year as a taxi squad player, meaning he could only play on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Dustin Fowler earned himself a promotion to full roster status about mid-way through the season. Several of his games played came as a late inning pinch runner to designated hitter Jurickson Profar, when he did get the chance to play all he did was produce. An excellent center fielder that can run, I expected to see a slap hitting, bunt for base hit style batter but, while he did plenty of that, he also flashed some power. He gets the bat through the zone with very good bat speed and, on pitches down and in, he is able to drive the ball for quality home runs, not just wall scrapers. The way he turns on the ball, there is some Johnny Damon similarities to his swing. I am not saying he will become the player Damon was, but there are certainly moments he reminds me of Damon at the plate. Chances are Fowler ends up as a very good number four outfielder, but if he continues to hit and improves his off-speed pitch recognition, he could develop into a solid everyday center fielder.