Every year some of the MLB’s best young talent, and potential future superstars, gather together in Arizona to play a short season’s worth of baseball to prepare themselves for the next step in their professional careers.
The Arizona Fall League is owned and operated by the MLB and mostly consists of players who finished the year in AA or AAA. That said, each club does have the option of sending up to two players who finished the season at a minor league level below AA.
This year’s Mets prospects will once again be a part of the Scottsdale Scorpions team. They will be teaming up with top prospects from the Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants organizations. Some of the most notable guys from those teams include MLB.com’s No. 8 overall player RHP Forrest Whitley (HOU), No. 17 OF Taylor Trammell (CIN), No. 21 RHP Sixto Sanchez (PHI).
The Mets Short-Season Hitting Coordinator, Ryan Ellis, will also be participating this fall as one of the Scorpions hitting coaches.
The 30-game season will begin on Tuesday with the Scorpions hosting the Mesa Solar Sox. For the Mets the following players will be participating this season….
SS Andres Gimenez (MLB.com #55 prospect)
2018 Stats: (AA/A+) .281 AVG, .756 OPS, 6 HR, 46 RBI, 38 SB, 18.3% K, 6.2% BB
After an incredible 2018 season that saw him climb all the way up to Binghamton as the second youngest player in the Eastern League (only behind superstar prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr.), Gimenez will now look to polish off the finishing touches in his development as he prepares for a stint in Triple-A Syracuse and a potential 2019 MLB debut.
Gimenez has excellent bat to ball skills that, when combined with his 30 stolen base speed and his ability to control the strike zone, make him a legitimate candidate to become a future MLB leadoff hitter. While there are multiple other shortstops on the Scorpions roster, he should get the bulk of the playing time at short with SFG’s C.J. Hinojosa bouncing around the infield.
1B Peter Alonso (MLB.com #58 prospect)
2018 Stats: (AA/AAA) .285 AVG, .975 OPS, 36 HR, 119 RBI, 0 SB, 22.3% K, 13.2% BB
Alonso is a legitimate middle of the order solid average, power bat. Instead of being in the MLB during the month of September… Alonso will now get to spend six weeks beating up on AA caliber pitching talents with maybe one or two top pitching prospects mixed in. Based on the current make-up of the Scorpions roster, Alonso is also expected to get a majority of the at-bats at first base this fall with Philadelphia’s Darick Hall backing him up.
C Ali Sanchez
2018 Stats: (A/A+) .265 AVG, .681 OPS, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 2 SB, 11.0% K, 4.3% BB
The light hitting, defensive minded, former international bonus baby made some offensive advances in 2018 posting career bests in home runs, extra base hits, strikeout rate, and isolated power. Given the lack of organizational options at catcher, the improvements were enough to put Sanchez on the prospect radars and the Mets obliged by giving him a chance to face much tougher competition in the AFL.
While he is the youngest guy in the three-man catching unit, there isn’t much experience difference between him, Giants’ Matt Winn (19 games in AA), and the Reds’ Mark Kolozsvary (0 games above A-ball). This could end up being a true playing time rotation between the three unless someone stands out during the first two weeks of the season.
OF Desmond Lindsay
2018 Stats: (A+) .223 AVG, .642 OPS, 3 HR, 33 RBI, 9 SB, 26.7% K, 11.1% BB
Some guys get assigned to the AFL for polishing, others get assigned because they sustained an injury during the regular season and need more playing time. In Lindsay’s case, this assignment seems like a “final chance” situation. The former second round pick has disappointed in back-to-back full season leagues in Columbia and again this season in Port St. Lucie.
Numerous injuries and eyesight issues, which have led to bat to ball issues and high strikeout rates, have all but eroded any remaining shine off of his prospect status. That said, the stuff that made evaluators project him as a potential five tool talent are still there. Playing time wise, he will certainly be behind the Reds’ top prospect Taylor Trammell for games in center and with much more offensively capable guys in the corners, Desmond will likely have to settle with a bench role this fall.
RHP Gerson Bautista
2018 Stats: (AA/AAA) 4-1, 3 Saves, 5.14 ERA, 1.714 WHIP, 12.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9
There is no doubt that Bautista has the velocity to be a late inning high leverage situational weapon in an MLB bullpen, as he regularly touched 100+ MPH with his fastball. The questions are, can he control it? Can he handle the pressure? And can he miss enough bats?
While he posted a very reasonable walk rate in the minors, during his short stint in the majors, Bautista did walk 20% of the batters he faced. In addition, despite posting very strong strikeout numbers, he gave up a whopping 66 base hits in 49 IP. Bautista is the only reliever on the Scorpions roster with MLB experience so it seems logical that with his heat and experience, he could be deployed as the primary late inning reliever for the team.
RHP Matt Blackham
2018 Stats: (A+/AA) 5-3, 2 Saves, 2.70 ERA, 1.180 WHIP, 11.7 K/9, 5.4 BB/9
Blackham has done really well in his career to get this far when considering he was a 29th round pick. While rare, sometimes teams strike gold with late round picks and Blackham certainly misses bats at a high enough rate to possibly contribute in the MLB in the future. That said, there are a ton of right handed relievers on this Scorpions team and a number of them also have strikeout rates in the double digits as well.
Blackham will likely just be part of the mix that bridges the game from the starting pitchers to the late inning relievers.
RHP Stephen Nogosek
2018 Stats: (A+/AA) 1-1, 1 Save, 4.99 ERA, 1.471 WHIP, 10.0 K/9, 6.7 BB/9
Nogosek was having himself solid in Port St. Lucie and earned a well deserved promotion to Binghamton halfway through the year. From there, his season went south fast. In 16 appearances, Nogosek allowed 20 runs in 20 IP with 21 K and 21 BB. How much of it was bad luck though? His swinging strike rate didn’t change from A+ to AA, his strikes thrown % (while not good) held firm at 57% between the two levels, and the line drive rate against him was a measly 11%.
After a few weeks off, Nogosek will be able to show that perhaps all those bad numbers in Double-A were a fluke as the AFL has a talent pool that is similar to the Double-A level. Much like Blackham though, you should expect to see him mostly in the middle innings as a bridge guy between the Starters and late inning relievers.
RHP Joseph Zanghi
2018 Stats: (A+/AA/AAA) 3-1, 1 Save, 3.39 ERA, 1.164 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
Zanghi was a late addition to the Scorpions roster after an injury landed RP Eric Hanhold on the MLB 60-Day disabled list. The 23-year-old righty had himself an amazing season in Port St. Lucie posting a 1.15 ERA across 31 innings and easily warranted a promotion to Binghamton.
However, before he actually went to Binghamton, Zanghi was pressed into service at the Triple-A level due to a lack of arms as the MLB club was cycling through bullpen guys in June. Once Zanghi finally got to Binghamton, much like Nogosek, he ran into some bad luck there allowing 16 runs in 24 innings despite posting a strong strikeout rate, a strong walk rate, and other strong peripheral stats.