The Peoria Javelinas had a rough season at the plate, finishing last in the league in just about every offensive category while their pitching staff was mediocre, saddling them with a 12-15-1 record, worst in the West Division. The tie was against the Surprise Saguaros as a result of the Robinson Rule, which ends any game tied after 11 innings so as not to overwork any pitcher’s arm.
While the pitching staff as a whole was mediocre for Surprise, there were certainly some standouts. Nick Travieso and Lucas Sims finished fifth and sixth among starters in ERA and both had a WHIP of 1.00 or better.
Sims got the honor of starting the annual Fall Stars game where he was able to crank up the velocity, hitting 97, but he typically sat 93-94 during the year. He really whips his arm through a three-quarter slot with good arm extension, allowing his fastball to play even better. His curveball is his best secondary offering right now, sitting 79-81, but he also has a changeup that flashes above average at times with some dip at 84-85 MPH. Simes is a real competitor, and often gets fired up while showing plenty of emotion on the mound.
Travieso features a fastball that sits at 93-95 along with a change that is still very much a work in progress and a slider that he can throw at different speeds. He gets on top of the ball well, creating a very good downward plane on his fastball, and has a slight pause in his windup that can keep hitters a bit off balance. His slider has two variations, one is a true slider while the other works more as a cutter. The short, sharp breaker that works more as a cutter sits 87-88 while the slower, larger-breaking slider works 79-82. It can play above average, but flattens out too often to be useful at the big league level at this time.
James Paxton was also one of the starters for Peoria, but he focused purely on his fastball and changeup while not using his curveball, so hitters took advantage of that and hit him around to the tune of a 4.60 ERA.
Tanner Scott and Mauricio Cabrera were two pitchers that really sparked my interest out of the bullpen. Cabrera has outstanding velocity, regularly hitting triple digits. At one point I saw one gun flash 103. The problem for Cabrera is he has little clue as to where the ball is going, and his fastballs are very flat, making it a surprisingly hittable pitch despite the great velocity. He also features a slider in the mid-80s that showed glimpses of being a viable second pitch, but is too inconsistent. He also has a changeup, but it is certainly not a good pitch right now.
Scott is a rare lefty that can flirt with tirple digits. I saw him a few times, and the highest he touched was 98 and sat 96-97. The only semblance of a secondary offering he has is the makings of a slider, which is very much a work in progress, but it did flash enough to be a pitch that could become something. It was at its best when he would throw it on the inner third of the plate and let it run at a right-hander’s back foot, but it is still far too inconsistent.
Offensively, they Javelinas had only one league leader, and that was Connor Lien tied for the most strikeouts at the plate.
The best player at the plate for the team was Tyler O’Neill, who finished up his Arizona Fall League after just eight games to play for Canada in the Premier 12 tournament, tied for the team lead in home runs, was one double shy of the team leaders, and had the third most hits on the team. While this does highlight how poor Peoria was at the plate, he was very good in his own right. He has a very strong frame despite being under six feet tall. O’Neill has plenty of strength. He has a smooth swing and possesses good bat speed, but can muscle the ball into the gap even if he is fooled on a pitch. He played some in right, but his arm is only average for that position. He does not cover much ground and still has some questionable routes in the outfield, so he will have to rely on his bat to carry him.
The Cincinnati Reds duo of Phil Ervin and Alex Blandino was a pair I was really looking forward to seeing, but left with mixed feelings. Blandino, a college third baseman who has seen a lot of time at short in the pro ranks, played almost exclusively at second base this fall. He does not have the speed to give him great range, but his glove is very good as is his arm, and his baseball instincts could make him a very good second baseman. At the plate, his swing seemed long and was beat often by even average pitching. He hit just .175 and had four extra-base hits in 19 games. The ball did jump off the bat pretty well when he made solid contact and could develop into a very good doubles hitter.
Ervin was fun to watch. He plays a solid center field with good reads, a strong arm, and plenty of speed. On the bases his speed really plays well, stealing eight bags and only getting caught once all fall. At the plate, he has very little wasted motion in his swing allowing his bat to play well even if his bat speed is just average. His frame looks more like a player that will hit for power than be a base stealer, 5’10” and 205 lbs., but I don’t see much more than 15 home runs in the bat.
The player that really impressed me was Adrian Marin of the Baltimore Orioles. Marin has played short his entire pro career, but played second and third in the fall. He looked very good at second base, and has enough of an arm to get by at third. There is not really any power in his bat, and he is a career .250 hitter, but he hit .278 in the fall and looked very comfortable. He has a short, quick swing that allows him to use the whole field and a swing plane that leads to a lot of line drives. He projects as a very good utility infielder, which may sound like a knock on him, but he could certainly carve out a solid role on the big league club come 2017 if not this September.