This marked the first season for the Reds rookie affiliate in Arizona. I'm sure players had a better time of it there than in tired old Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, especially the hitters. The AZL league is the opposite of the Florida leagues, in that it is extremely hitter friendly. Still, there were some promising performances on both sides from our guys this year.
The team had a reasonably successful first season, finishing with a record of 31-24 and making the (really short) playoffs, where they lost to the Brewers in the title game. Hopefully this league isn't like the FSL and more than 9 people were there to witness it.
David Vidal was 5th in the league with an .892 OPS, and Robert Maddox was 10th at .855. The two were 3rd and 4th in the league in SLG as well, at .538 and .525 respectively. Jaren Matthews and Maddox were tied for the league lead (with 3 other guys) in homers with 7. Matthews was especially impressive since he hit those in only 100 ABs. Vidal and Junior Arias were tied for 2nd with 6 homers apiece. Maddox led the league with 46 RBI, and Vidal was 4th with 34. Maddox certainly had an impressive season, but keep the counting stats in perspective, as he had the 6th most PAs in the league as well.
On the pitching end, Ismael Guillon was 10th in ERA at 3.32. The 18 year old was also 7th in IP at 57. Most impressively, he led the league in strikeouts with 73. That's a rate of 11.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. For good measure, Guillon was also 5th in the league with a 1.09 WHIP. Very impressive indeed.
'creds: David Vidal
BK: Jonathan Correa
Baseball America rated Vidal as the best pure hitter the Reds took in this year's draft, and his display in Arizona validates that choice. In about 160 PAs the 20 year old posted a line of .297/.354/.538 with 6 homers. There are questions about where he fits defensively, but the bat looks legit.
Correa received a promotion to Billings about half-way through the year. Why? How about 8 starts totalling 39.1 innings in which he struck out 49 and only walked 9. That kind of dominance led to an ERA of only 2.06 in an extreme hitter's league. He was only 19 this season, and spent the two previous years dominating the Dominican Summer League. Definitely a name to remember.
'creds: Ronald Torreyes
BK: El'Hajj Muhammad
Ronald Torreyes is another name to remember. Only 17 this season, Torreyes was signed out of Venezuela and spent most of the year in the Venezuelan Summer League before getting a call to the AZL. The Reds must see something they really like in this kid, because after just 18 games in Arizona he got an end of year call up to Dayton. His combined line between the 3 levels was .370/.434/.564, which is impressive enough. Now, one might be tempted to think he was just lucky with an average that high, but here is the most amazing/unbelievable part of his stats: In 373 plate appearances Torreyes struck out a mere 19 times (he walked 24 times). That's a K rate of 5.1%, an almost impossibly low number. A 17 year old with that kind of contact ability is incredibly rare, and while he doesn't have much home run power (yet), he's fast enough to have knocked 29 doubles and 12 triples on the year. Why is he a surprise? Because a year ago not a single Reds fan in the world had ever heard of him.
El'Hajj Muhammad had a fantastic rookie season, pitching 33 innings out of the pen, striking out 44, and posting an ERA of 1.38. Why is this surprising? He was the Reds 49th round pick this year. Good luck naming one former 49th round pick currently in the majors. I hope this is a sign of more good (and surprising) things to come from my main man Muhammad.
'creds: Juan Silva
BK: Juan Silva
Both of us had pretty high hopes for Silva after his positive scouting reports and promising rookie year in 2009. But a line of .230/.322/.371 while repeating a level is certainly disappointing. His BB and K rates are almost identical to last year's, and he only hit 1 homer each year. This means either he was lucky last year or unlucky this year. I hope it's the latter.
'creds: Jaren Matthews
BK: Ismael Guillon
Matthews was this year's 32nd round pick out of Rutgers. He was drafted in the 17th round out of high school by Boston but turned it down. He seemed to regress in college, and there were rumors that he didn't take coaching well and wouldn't change his approach. He seems to have figured something out, because this year he posted a line of .290/.427/.590 with 7 homers. It's only 100 ABs, but he's certainly a guy who could turn into a legit prospect if the power continues even as he leaves the hitter friendly leagues.
Guillon combines with Correa to make an exciting young pair of pitching prospects. An 18-year old out of Venezuela, Guillon was signed and immediately underwent TJ surgery. Since the surgery the Reds have tweaked his mechanics and he now throws 91-93 with a good changeup. He's a projectible 6'3", 185, so he should be able to maintain or even add to that velocity as he fills out. There may not be any high-ceiling arms in the high minors, but there are certainly a few to watch as they advance out of rookie ball.