People handle adversity in different ways—comfort eating, comfort drinking, comfort bath salts—but I choose to look to the future. Specifically, the future of a Reds organization that I love dearly and just spent inordinate amounts of energy and time rooting my little heart out for. That’s why I decided to take a look at the Reds farmhands who’ve been sent packing to Peoria, Arizona to take part in the fabled Arizona Fall League. The 2012 AFL is heavy on big name position players, and in general, I’d take AFL pitcher stats with a grain of salt, as lots of these rosters are stacked with high upside hitters. The Reds’ affiliate, the Peoria Javelinas, for example, have a Futures-Game-worthy lineup behind Billy Hamilton, with Nick Franklin, Rymer Liriano, and catching phenom Mike Zunino batting [presumably] behind our speedster. Let’s take a look at who the Redlegs are sending, shall we?
BILLY HAMILTON, OF
Highest 2012 Level: AA (155 total SB [!]; .789 OPS in AA; .852 in A)
Current AFL stats (2 games): .500 / .500 / .500 1 SB, 1 CS. 0 errors.
There isn't much to be said about Billy Quix that hasn't already been said. Dude is fast. Like, fast fast. Fast like if Usain Bolt was the main character in Crank fast. And you were watching Crank on fast-forward after freebasing 5-Hour Energy fast. Hamilton broke Vince Coleman's minor league stolen base record last season, finishing the year with 155. 'Nuff said. One interesting thing about young Billy is that he's officially listed as an outfielder--a move many saw as inevitable, though by no means a sure thing.
Keep an eye on Sir Quix-a-Lot continuing to hone his plate approach as a switch hitter, and his timing as a base stealer, while learning the intricacies of fly balls and cutoff men in the outfield. Not that it'll matter, since his team could play with 5 infielders and Billy in the outfield and still have a similar defensive efficiency rating as the Tigers, give or take.
Ultimate Dream Ceiling Level: Sistene Chapel. Oh, the possibilities...
DONALD LUTZ, 1B
Highest 2012 Level: AA (22 total HR; .704 OPS in AA; .886 in A+)
Current AFL stats (4 games): .438 / .471 / .625 2B, 3B. 0 errors
The Knockwurst has captured the hearts of Red Reporters everywhere, thanks mostly to this:
but also because he mashes kartoffels and seems like an all-around good dude. Lutz struggled a bit after leaving the hitter-friendly Cal League, but should start next season back in Pensacola to continue his quest to become the first German citizen to make it to the majors. The Knockwurst needs to be a bit more patient, and continue to utilize his big power potential to find gaps as well as the long ball.
Ultimate dream ceiling level: Converted luxury loft space. I suppose he could be Russell Branyan if everything goes well.
Highest 2012 Level: MLB (6-20 in his brief call-up; .715 OPS in AAA; .717 in AA)
Current AFL stats (4 games): .429 / .438 / .500; 3 errors
Orange Julius got a cup of coffee in September, and acquitted himself well in a small sample. He turned in some flashy defensive plays, and by all accounts projects to be, at the very least, a major league backup. However, his ability to make solid line-drive contact leaves room for some offensive upside, though he could stand to take a few more walks. Regardless, I'd love to see more of this:
Didi needs to continue to work on his plate discipline and keep up the good contact. Look for inflated power numbers from him, as the baseball flies around the AFL almost as much as it does in the Cal League. Despite a solid arm, Didi does tend to make a decent amount of errors (3 in 4 games already), but that's most likely because his range allows him to get to so many balls and he forces the throws.
Ultimate Dream Ceiling Level: Neighborhood basketball gym. With improving contact skills, Gregorius could conceivably settle in as a solid-hitting, super-rangey SS for years to come. That million-dollar-smile doesn't hurt, either.
TIM CRABBE, RHP
Highest 2012 Level: AA (4.80 FIP in 86.1 IP at AA; 3.03 FIP in 57.2 IP at A+)
Current AFL Stats: 2.1 IP 4H 2R 1ER 3:1 K:BB
Tim Crabbe isn't a sexy name, due in part to his relative lack of upside, but mostly because "Crabbe" is kinda gross-sounding. Here's what John Sickels over at Minor League Ball had to say about him before the season, when he (surprisingly) ranked Crabbe as the #14 prospect in the Reds' system, attaching a C+ grade to him:
Overlooked prospect, posted solid ratios in difficult California League, 3.41 ERA with 123/46 K/BB in 111 innings, 97 hits. Above-average fastball and slider. Needs a third pitch, but there are things to build on here.
So there's at least something to like there, right? Well, those solid ratios went down the poo toilet once the 2009 14th-rounder was promoted to Pensacola, where he proceeded to walk 66 guys in 86.1 innings. Needless to say, he was demoted back to Bakersfield, where he regained some semblance of control. Crabbe's strikeout rates stayed relatively consistent, hovering around 9.5 per 9 across both levels. His biggest issue is obviously control, so hopefully he can get those walks under...um...control.
Ultimate Dream Ceiling Level: Special NCAA dorm room for basketball players. Like, maybe one that Logan Ondrusek could fit into.
DREW HAYES, RHP
Highest 2012 Level: AA (3.69 FIP in 63.1 IP out of the bullpen)
Current AFL Stats: 3.0 IP 1H 1R 0ER 4:1 K:BB
This 2010 11th-rounder out of
KMiB U Vanderbilt is probably nothing more than org filler due to his age, though he has done well in his 3 years in the organization as a bullpen guy. Hayes boasted high K/9 numbers in his first two years, with a high mark in 2011 at 13.35 (down to 9.09 this past year). He's never had a great control, walking 5.4 guys per 9 last year in Pensacola. Keep an eye on his K numbers, especially considering the competition, as I suppose there's an outside shot he could make someone's bullpen as a late-bloomer, though doubtfully with the Reds.
Ultimate Dream Ceiling Level: I dunno...Jared Burton? That's probably a stretch.
CURTIS PARTCH, RHP
Highest 2012 Level: AA (4.25 FIP in 70.1 IP at AA; 2.53 in 12 IP at A+)
Current AFL Stats: 2.2 IP 3H 1ER 4:1 K:BB
JOSH RAVIN, RHP
Highest 2012 Level: AA (5.62 FIP in 24 IP at AA; 3 poor innings at A+ before his promotion)
Current AFL Stats: 2.1 IP 4H 4ER 3:1 K:BB
We're really getting into org filler here, though Ravin was a 5th rounder in 2006 out of high school that scouts liked due to his frame and repertoire (low 90s fastball with late life, a curve, and a change). His trouble was always command, and that didn't ever really seem to improve. Partch was a 26th-rounder and looks like it. The other Big Ginger (he's no Bryson Smith, kids) has been mediocre, and has little to no chance of making it to the bigs with the Reds, and only slightly more of a chance with anyone else.
So there you have it. Some interesting storylines to follow, but I'm most intrigued by Billy Hamilton's first steps in his march to usurp Drew Stubbs. What are you looking forward to?