At the opening of the Arizona Fall League season, there was no team with more star power than the Glendale Desert Dogs. They had J.P. Crawford, Austin Meadows, and A.J. Reed, all top 100 prospects according to MLB.com, as well as two additional players in the top ten at their position, Reese McGuire at catcher and Trey Michalczewski at third base. In the end, Glendale finished with a losing record of 13-15, passing the Peoria Javelinas for second place in the West on the final day of the season and had the league MVP, Adam Engel.
Only Mesa was a worse pitching team than Glendale, but Mesa had more players stand out despite the poor numbers as a whole. Of the five regular starters for the Desert Dogs, only two had an ERA under 3.75, with the best season belonging to Brian Holmes with an ERA of 1.13 and allowed just seven hits in his 16 innings of work. He will never be a highly touted prospect, but he does a good job of keeping hitters off-balance. His fastball topped out at 93 MPH but typically sat 88-91. He has an average change to go along with a curveball and a cutter than he could run up to 87 MPH. There were a few times he let his emotions get the better of him and he showed some poor composure on the mound when he didn’t agree with at strike/ball call, which was quite often. Holmes struck out 14 batters, but given he is a softer throwing lefty, one would like to see far fewer than 13 walks.
Tom Windle looked solid in his ten relief outings, something he has been transitioning to and has looked good. His fastball sat in the low 90s but his slider is his best pitch. It can flatten out at times, but when it is on it can be a true wipeout pitch that plays up when coming out of the bullpen.
Edubray Ramos had an outing where he gave up seven hits and six runs while just recording two outs which completely blew up his WHIP and ERA. Outside of that he went nine innings and allowed just two runs. He was impressive, outside of that one outing, with a fastball 93-95 and two solid breaking balls, a 12-6 curve and a slider with both run and drop at 85 MPH. The most impressive thing for a guy who is a pure reliever, is the fact he struck out 12 batters while not allowing a single free pass.
The most impressive numbers for any pitcher on the Desert Dogs belong to Chris Cotton, but he put in just 7.2 innings. He, like Ramos, did not give up a walk and struck out 12 allowing less than a runner per inning and was saddled with just one earned run. He worked primarily with a fastball-change combination, with the fastball sitting 87-89 while the change was 81-82 but with good arm speed and some dip in the pitch.
I heard good things from scouts about Jharel Cotton of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the day I was scheduled to see him the field was too wet and sloppy so the game was cancelled.
No player in Minor League Baseball had a better year at the plate than A.J. Reed, hitting 34 home runs and driving in 127 while hitting .340, so he came into the Arizona Fall League with the bar set high. Unfortunately, he seemed to have hit a wall and struggled in Arizona. He hit just one home run and put up an average of .231 in 39 at bats.
J.P. Crawford only played in five games, but his replacement on the roster from the Philadelphia Phillies, Drew Stankiewicz, did nothing but hit in his time with the Desert Dogs. He had 14 hits in his 29 at bats and came through with four doubles. He did not show any great tools except for the ability to put the bat on the ball and the balls just seemed to fall where the defenders were not.
The Pittsburgh Pirates sent out a couple of their higher touted prospects in outfielder Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire. Meadows struggled at the plate, hitting just .169 and one home run, but he was successful on all three of his steal attempts and played a very good center field.
McGuire impressed behind the plate as well as with the bat in his hands. He showed very good receiving ability and quickly adapted to catching pitchers he had little-to-no experience catching in the past. He also showed off his strong arm, even throwing runners out from his knees. At the plate, he does not possess much power, he is a left handed hitter that has an all-fields approach and gets the bat to the ball well. His defense will be his calling card, but his bat will be above average, especially for a catcher.
Two players raised their stock immensely this fall, outfielders Adam Engel and Jacob Scavuzzo. Engel was awarded the Joe Black MVP Award after leading the league in all three triple slash categories (.403/.523/.642) while finishing second in doubles (9) and steals (10). His speed is definitely his greatest tool, and he plays a very good center field, but this was clearly his best stint with the bat. He has a career .266 average and has hit seven home runs each of the past two seasons. This fall he started to show some pop in the bat, hitting 12 extra-base hits.
Scavuzzo is coming off his first season in full-season ball, but finished second in the league to Engel in average and OPS, and third in the league in slugging behind Engel and Gary Sanchez. Scavuzzo hit four home runs, and connected on line drives all over the field with good bat speed and a mild uppercut swing. His big leg kick and lack of plate discipline still leaves him susceptible to off-speed pitches, as he struck out 23 times and walked just twice. He may be able to use his solid fall to give him a solid chance at breaking camp next spring with the Double-A club and could develop into a solid everyday corner outfielder.