My girlfriend goes to ASU and Im on vacation visiting her so when she has class I took the light rail to two buses (a journey of three hours and fifteen minutes each way) to get from Tempe to the home of the Peoria Javelinas to watch some A's and other prospect play Arizona Fall League Baseball.
This is my report. Before reading it you should know that I AM NOT A SCOUT. I have no expertise in the visual heuristic evaluation of baseball players. I don't even know if I have any skills. I don't trust these observations and you probably shouldn't either. Go look at the numbers, they tell a much more true story of performance and aptitude. Im not even sure that if I was a scout I should be trusted. That being said I was able to sit behind some scouts and get a look at some of the numbers.
Lets start first with Michael Taylor. He really looks bad, even when getting on base three times. He made an out in the first ab that I didn't see and then Taylor had dead quail to RF. He had a tendency to drop his hands and his in his swing. By droping his hand he takes an indirect path to the ball which makes him late on low 90s heat. The one solid ball he hit was a line drive off the glove off Ackley at 2b after working the count well. But he still took a poor path to the ball and while it was hard hit he was more serving the ball than dropping the barrel on it. Though it was pretty well hit it might have been caught by a more accomplished second baseman. He also walked where there were some pretty obvious takes.
In RF he didn't look outstanding, with good but not great range. He showed off his arm against an advancing runner by throwing a bullet to 3b... The only problem was that the seat in the second row of the stands didn't have a glove nor did the runner intend on advancing all the way to the hot dog vendor.
Steven Parker looked much better though. In his first at bat coming off the bench in a blow out Parker did not show great plate discipline chasing ball three which was at his head, fouling it off with a check swing. The at bat resulted in a sky high pop up which I was impressed with how he ran it out really hard. Parker is faster than it would appear as evidenced on both him running the pop up out and his doubles. The first of which he hit 410 feet driving a low and inside pitch straight away to cf off of the top of the 410' wall. I really liked his swing as he dropping the bat head on the ball. In his third AB Parker worked the count well and laced a low outside corner pitch into the LF gap for a double. He showed outstanding bat control in this ab staying on the pitch and hitting it with authority to the wall in the gap.
While I was quite impressed with Parker's bat, defensively I was not impressed by his play at 1b. He isn't going to hit enough to play the position so he really needs to be competent at the hot corner. He did not display great range and let an absolute (but potentially catchable) bullet hop past him for a double. He looked fine around the bag and fielded the one routine ball hit his way well. It was one game and the balls hit his way were very very very difficult plays to make. I would like to see him at third base before I make any substantial assessments of his defensive prowess.
As for the other players: Jose Inglesias .... please stop me from drooling all over myself. He made quite possibly the finest play at SS I have ever seen fielding a hard hit ball in the hole by going back into the outfield and instantaneously whirling and firing a bullet to 2b to get the lead runner. So basically this is a terrible explanation of the play that you really just had to see. He made a couple of other tough plays charging in and has the quickest glove to throw transition that I have ever seen. He can also swing the bat a bit, showing gap power and good bat control. Hes kinda a hackintosh but he also laid off pitches that were completely unreasonable and put good wood on a three balls that all were legitimate line drive hits. The scout in front of me (who's paperwork said Boston on the bottom) said that he had gotten a reputation for being soft based on him missing time from getting HBP and from missing time when he got cleated around 2b. Still I would love to have him in my system. I think hes probably a +10 annually player with the glove and maybe -7 with the bat or a 3.2 WAR player at this point. If Im trading Suzuki to Boston I want him.
Ryan Lavarnway, a catcher for the Red Sox at AA would also be a target of mine if you were to trade Suzuki to Boston. He put up great numbers with the bat this year in A+ and AA and you could see why. Easy swing with some power, he worked the count well and hit some hard line drives. He also caught well and showed a good arm behind the plate. I saw a pop time under 2 second on the scouts watch in front of me. He hit a line drive home run to LF on a low and inside pitch. Could be a sleeper type and I would be really comfortable with him as plan B after Donaldson/Powell and before Stassi.
Nate Tenbrick from Seattle had a great game. He possesses a smooth lh swing which sent a 2b off the cf wall then HR which he crushed to RF. He looks like a dangerous hitter as he showed good plate dicipline in the game I saw and moving forward he could continue to refine his tools. If he can play the infield competently watch out.
Dustin Ackley has been tearing the AFL up and I saw him walk and get two hits. One of which was the easiest two strike opposite field homer swing. It was really a thing of beauty. The scount in front of me said he was the most impressive player in the league and just puts the barrel of the bat on the ball. I think hes going to be trouble for the A's for a long long time in the Pacific Northwest.
Off to the game... youll get more later.