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Arizona Fall League + LIDOM Recap: 10/19/23
Chris and Beck breakdown everything you need to know from the Arizona Fall League and Dominican Winter League.
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Today Chris is covering the Dominican Winter League, Salt River, Scottsdale, and Surprise. Beck has Peoria, Mesa, and Glendale.
Dominican Winter League
With LIDOM(Dominican Winter League) kicking off last night, I figured it would be a good to at least discuss a couple of the top performances.
Blaine Crim, 1B, TEX, 26
Crim mashed the only home run of the day yesterday, with it being his lone hit in five at-bats. Last season in Triple-A, he hit 22 home runs while slashing .289/.385/.506 in Triple-A. Yes, he is a bit older, but I’ve always been a fan since his days at Mississippi State.
Yadiel Hernandez, OF, N/A, 36
Hernandez spent time in the Nationals org from 2017 to 2023, playing in the Majors in 2020 through 2022. This year, he played just ten games in Triple-A before being released. It looks as if Hernandez wants to prove he still has something left in the tank, as he reached base five times on Thursday, three of then being hits and two by the virtue of walks.
Junior Caminero, 3B, TB, 20
We would be remiss if we did not mention the top prospect in baseball, Junior Caminero, after he collected two hits on Opening night, which included a double and a single. He mashed 32 home runs in the regular season, making it to the Majors in his age-19 season(yes, I know he turned 20 in July). Expect Caminero to have an incredible LIDOM.
Salt River (Braves, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Rockies, Tigers)
Ivan Melendez, 1B, ARI, 23
Melendez collected just one hit and a walk on Thursday, but he did score both times he got on base. He cracks the writeups today because his single registered the hardest-hit ball of the Arizona Fall League, coming in at 115.5 mph.
There has never been any questioning of the power that Melendez brings to the table as he hit 30 home runs this season and posted one of the highest 90th-percentile exit velocities of any player in the minors. The larger issue is that he struck out 34.4 percent of the time and had just a 64.5 percent contact rate this season. Some power hits can make those contact rates work, but you certainly want to see that number trend closer to 70 percent.
David McCabe, 3B, ATL, 23
McCabe made my list of fantasy players in to invest in before the Arizona Fall League began. He got off to a slow start but has continued to put together a strong performance where a two-hit night with two RBI pushed his batting average to .314 to pair with an .881 OPS. McCabe has hit the ball with authority all AFL, which is no surprise considering he posted strong power metrics all season. Both batted balls last night left the bat with exit velocities of 102 mph and 108.5 mph. Before the AFL, I wrote:
McCabe was a player I saw several times this year, and at first glance, he is just one of those who looks like he has the it factor when he gets off the bus. Standing at 6’3”/230 lb, McCabe may seem like he is fully a power over hit type, but you might be surprised that he ran an 80 percent contact rate that jumped to 84 percent in the second half.
He does hit the ball hard despite the 17 home runs, maybe feeling a bit disappointing in the 123 games he played this year. McCabe was hamstrung by the fact that 81 of the games were spent in High-A Rome, where his home park was one of the worst-hitting environments in the Minors. If he carries the contact skills to Arizona with him, you can expect the power to be there.
Keshawn Ogans, SS, ATL, 22
Ogans is a player I saw quite often this season as he spent the entire 2023 season in Rome where he hit .265/.360/.397 with nine home runs and ten stolen bases. Ogans is a bit smaller, listed at 5’8”/180, and I honestly thought he looked shorter than his listed height/weight.
He brings strong contact skills to the table, as shown by a 76 percent contact rate during the season, and shows strong plate discipline as well. He collected three hits on Thursday night, driving in two runs and scoring twice. Ogans finished just a triple shy of the cycle, collecting his first home run of the fall, and had batted balls of 102.3 mph, 82.9 mph, and 100.3 mph.
Justice Bigbie, OF, DET, 24
Bigbie collected a single and a double on Thursday night, but the more impressive feat might have been his four hard-hit balls last night, registering 95.5, 100.5, 106.6, and 107.6 mph. It is a real possibility we see Bigbie in the Tigers lineup for the majority of the 2024 season and though he has just a .250 batting average and a .700 OPS so far in the Arizona Fall League, his performance has been much better in my opinion.
I would consider investing this offseason as a player you could get contributions from at the Major League level soon.
Pre-AFL, I wrote this about investing in him sooner than later:
A 19th-rounder in the 2021 MLB Draft out of Western Carolina, Bigbie does not get a lot of respect in prospect circles despite having an incredible season. After moving from High-A all the way to Triple-A this year, Bigbie slashed .343/.405/.537 with 19 home runs and 45 extra-base hits in 485 plate appearances.
Bigbie makes respectable contact despite being an aggressive hitter and hits the ball with authority. Arizona seems like an ideal hitting environment for Bigbie to look impressive and improve his dynasty stock.
Surprise (Blue Jays, Brewers, Rangers, Reds, Royals)
Cam Cauley, MI, TEX, 20
If I am not mistaken, this is Cauley’s first time making the list, and he is doing it with a bang. He is certainly better than he has shown this far because even after Thursday’s performance, he is still hitting just .178 with a .638 OPS. But he mashed his first two home runs on Thursday traveling 441 feet with an exit velocity of 108 mph. The second was much like the first, traveling 427 feet with a 109 mph exit velocity.
The former third-round pick in 2022 spent time between Single-A and High-A, slashing .245/.333/.411 with 12 home runs and 36 stolen bases. He accounted for all five of Surprise’s runs on Thursday with three RBI and two runs scored.
Eric Brown Jr., SS, MIL, 22
Brown has been swinging a hot bat, making the sheet every day this week, and had another two-hit game on Thursday, which included a double and brought hit batting average up to .340 to pair with a .911 OPS. Brown also stole his seventh base of the AFL, putting him toward the top of the leaderboard in that category.
Brown has been a favorite of mine for some time, especially since he was a local here in South Carolina, playing his college ball at Coastal Carolina. His data was off the charts from a contact and power standpoint, but the performance has not materialized in pro ball. But this creates a great buying opportunity for Brown in dynasty leagues.
CJ Van Eyk, RHP, TOR, 25
Van Eyk was drafted twice in his career, with the first being out of high school and the second being in the second round out of Florida State in 2020. Tommy John Surgery in September of 2021 set him back in a huge way, and after missing the entire 2022 season, Van Eyk logged just 34 innings this season.
On Thursday, he logged his best AFL start in five nearly-perfect innings, allowing just one hit and zero walks while striking out five. He was highly productive, needing just 52 pitches to complete the five innings, landing 36 of those for strikes. Van Eyk still has a long way to go to get back to any fantasy relevance, but this was a good start.
Scottsdale (Angels, Cardinals, Giants, Nationals, Phillies)
It was a very slow day for the Scorpion bats on Thursday as they collected just three total hits, all singles, and had five total base runners on the night, with none of them coming across to score. It is somewhat of a surprise that they have a 9-6 record considering the struggles on the batting side.
Christian McGowan, RHP, PHI, 23
After a 4.1-inning start on Thursday, McGowan is a third of an inning shy of the Arizona Fall League high. The cool thing is that in every start this fall, he has exceeded high innings high from 2023 after topping out at four innings during the regular season. He tossed 81 pitches on Thursday, allowing five hits, two earned runs, and three walks while striking out two.
The former seventh-rounder out of Eastern Oklahoma has a big fastball that gets to the upper-90s while also mixing in a hard-to-pick-up slider. McGowan missed nearly all of 2022 with Tommy John and only pitched 25 innings during 2023, so it is just encouraging to see him on the mound.
Glendale (Dodgers, Mets, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox)
Glendale walked away from this contest with a thrilling 10-9 victory over Salt River. In very fitting fashion, JT Schwartz had the decisive hit with a ninth inning RBI double to take the lead. It’s always great to have one of my teams on the rundown playing at Salt River as they’re the only home park with Statcast enabled!
JT Schwartz, 1B, NYM, 23
Schwartz ended his day with two doubles, three RBI, and a run in four at bats. His doubles left the bat at 100.9 mph and 103.1 mph, not necessarily showing off high-end power but certainly proof he sees the ball well (as if the box scores weren’t already telling that story). He’s been on a tear, seemingly appearing on the sheet daily, and has improved his line to .342/.381/.605 after a torrid stretch of games.
Tyler McDonough, OF/2B, BOS, 24
We’ll pause briefly for a round of applause. Please congratulate Tyler on his first sheet appearance and a well-deserved one at that! He collected a three-piece of doubles in a 3-4 effort that included a walk and three runs scored.
In fairness to Tyler, it’s his first appearance because he’s only appeared in four games and compiled 17 plate appearances. He was the third-round choice of the Red Sox in the 2021 draft out of NC State, where he had a career .332/.414/.540 slash to pair with 23 home runs and 30 stolen bases over 632 plate appearances. He is incredibly versatile, appearing in games at all three outfield positions in addition to second base, third base, and shortstop throughout 2023.
The performance hasn’t totally been there for him despite relatively glowing reviews come draft time, but that can take some time when you’re moving all over the diamond and switch-hitting.
Bryan Mata, RHP, BOS, 24
If you’re not familiar with Bryan Mata, take a gander at the top pitch velocity leaderboard from last night’s game:
Not new news for Mata, who is a certified fireballer and has been a known entity in Red Sox circles since his signing in 2016. He’s had a meandering career with the Red Sox that included re-working his pitch mix, missing a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and then undergoing Tommy John that kept him out of game competition until 2022.
He threw just 27 innings in 2023 spread over nine appearances, seven of which were starts, but I think it’s fair to say it’s unclear whether he has a future in the rotation or out of the bullpen. He’s struggled with both command and durability.
Mesa (A’s, Astros, Cubs, Orioles, Yankees)
The Solar Sox handed the Javelinas their third loss of the week, which is puzzling to me for reasons we’ve covered at length here – namely their loaded lineup. Mesa had seven hits including two home runs and two doubles to go with nine walks. They won by a final of 8-3.
Billy Cook, OF, BAL, 24
Back-to-back sheet days for Cook who took Ryan Webb deep with organization-mate TT Bowens on the bases in the second inning. It was his second of the fall, demonstrating the game power he showed off during the regular season by depositing 24 baseballs over the fence in 501 plate appearances.
He flew pretty under the radar given the counting stats he compiled – the aforementioned 24 home runs and 30 stolen bases – and could be a good option to keep an eye on in deep leagues.
Max Muncy, SS, OAK, 21
Muncy has cooled off significantly since being one of the top performers during the first week of AFL action. This is his first appearance on the sheet since 10/5, and his line has crumbled to .209/.277/.395 after his two-week slump.
Last night, he hit his second home run of the AFL with his own two-run homer off of Ryan Webb in the third inning, following in the footsteps of teammate Billy Cook. I’m pulling for him to turn it around for the remainder of the fall – just 22 calendar days left on the schedule.
Caleb Durbin, 2B, NYY, 23
Durbin has been a frequent flier on the list over the last week or so, logging his third appearance since 10/16. He lands here with a 2-4 night that included a double and an RBI, raising his fall OPS to 1.084. He’s been among the most productive hitters in Arizona, trailing just seven batters in OPS (Dunn, Triantos, Marsee, Hicks, Thompson, Clarke, and Rincones).
The carrying tools in his profile are speed (36 stolen bases in 2023, 31 in 2022) and contact ability (88% contact). That combination could make him an interesting player to follow in deep formats, especially coming off of a breakout campaign.
Peoria (Guardians, Marlins, Mariners, Padres, Rays)
There wasn’t much cooking for Peoria in this one as they had just five hits, one for extra bases in the form of a Graham Pauley double, and ultimately plated just three runs in an 8-3 loss to Mesa. Their entire staff struggled to keep the basepaths clean, both in the form of hits (seven conceded) and walks (nine).
Graham Pauley, 3B, SDP, 23
Pauley is the proud owner of the only extra-base hit Peoria could muster off of five separate pitchers who appeared for Peoria. He finished the day with two hits in four at-bats and struck out once.
I last wrote about Pauley on 10/10 with this to say, none of which has changed:
“Pauley’s 2023 spanned three levels, with him ultimately finishing the year at AA. He demolished baseballs at every stop, putting together a very encouraging .308/.393/.539 line to go with 23 home runs and 22 stolen bases. He makes plenty of contact and has a knack for the barrel, with some of the best barrel rates across all of the minor leagues.”
Jakob Marsee, OF, SDP, 22
Marsee didn’t do much swinging the bat, but he did reach on two walks and let his wheels turn to the tune of three stolen bases. I’ve been perhaps a bit skeptical of whether his superlative performance to-date is sustainable, and he’s cooled off a bit lately, but he’s still impacting games in a variety of ways. He’s going to find his way into a lot of top-100 lists released over the offseason.
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