Every fall, baseball’s future stars assemble to play in a league chock-full of top prospects. Some shined and some slipped in this pressure-filled environment, nevertheless, let’s take at look at Grading on the Curve’s Week 1 Arizona Fall League Stock Report, starting with the position players.
Brandon Nimmo, OF NYM: Brandon Nimmo is showing his breakout 2014 season was no fluke: he’s hit .381 with a 1.076 OPS during his first week in the Fall League. If Nimmo can keep this up, look for the 21 year-old to crack the Triple-A outfield possibly by midseason.
Greg Bird, 1B NYY: Bird battled injuries throughout the 2014 season, but still managed to produce pretty solid numbers (.253/.379,.558) between High-A and Double-A. Sent to the Fall League to make up lost at-bats, the 21 year-old has done nothing but impress, hitting .360 with a 1.007 OPS and 15 Total Bases in just six games. He looks like a potential Mark Teixeira replacement as early as 2016.
Rusney Castillo, OF BOS: After impressing with the Triple-A Portland Sea Dogs and subsequently the Red Sox, Castillo was assigned to the Arizona Fall League to hone his skills heading into the 2015. The 72 million dollar man looks pretty polished so far against the competition, batting a cool .350 with a .409 OBP in his first four games.
Peter O’Brien, C/1B/3B: Peter O’Brien did nothing but hit home runs during the minor league season, finishing 2014 with 34 bombs and 74 RBI. The Flordia-native has continued that trend in first 6 AFL games, as 3 of O’Brien’s four hits have left the yard. If O’Brien continues to display his immense power, the Diamondbacks will have to find a spot for the 24 year-old sometime during the 2015 season.
Matt Olson, 1B OAK: Olson recently concluded a stellar 2014 campaign, where the young first baseman smacked 37 home runs and knocked in 97 RBI with High-A Stockton. His performance was enough for MLB.com to add Olson to their end-of-season Top 100 list, and so far the former-first round pick is living up to the hype. In his first five games with the Mesa Solar Sox, Olson has 3 home runs and 1.174 OPS.
Kaleb Cowart, SS LAA: Ranked as the Angel’s #4 prospect by MLB.com, shortstop Kaleb Cowart offers some promise in a Los Angeles organization starved for talent. But the former-first round pick has to hit better than the abysmal .095 average and .232 OPS he’s put up in his first 21 AFL at-bats. A strong Fall League could lead Kowart into a big-league role as soon as 2015, but he has to figure it out at plate for that to happen.
Raul Mondesi, SS KC: Consistently pushed by the aggressive Royals, Raul Mondesi is struggling against the advanced competition. After hitting only .211/.256/.354 with Double-A Wilmington, the young shortstop has sported an even worse .125/.125/.188 line in his first 15 AFL at-bats. Mondesi is only 19, and the 2014 season is a small sample size, but the young prospect needs to bounce back in the AFL to prove he can handle the upper-levels of the minors.
Dante Bichette Jr., 3B NYY: After two straight subpar seasons, Yankees’ prospect Dante Bichette Jr. finally turned things around at the plate in 2014. The 22 year-old third baseman hit .271/.352/.410 with High-A Tampa, earning a promotion to Double-A by midseason. But after hitting only .224 in his first 67 Double-A at-bats, the Arizona Fall League offers a proving ground for Bichette Jr.’s comeback season. Thus far, the Orlando-native has not matched up, hitting only .143 with no extra base hits during the first week of action.
Daniel Carbonell, OF SF: Signed out of Cuba for $1.4M, the Giants made a big investment in speedy outfielder Daniel Carbonell. However, after batting a combined .336 in his first attempt at pro ball, the 23 year-old righty has hit a wall against the tougher pitching in Arizona, managing only 3 hits in his first 17 at-bats. Carbonell has time to turn it around with the Scottsdale Scorpions, but the Cuban outfielders looks a few years away from making a big-league impact.
Bubba Starling, OF KC: After being selected fifth overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, Bubba Starling has free-fallen off every top prospect list. The center fielder simply is not adapting to professional ball, and the Arizona Fall League provides yet another example. After a poor .218/.304/..338 showing at Double-A Wilmington, Starling has opened up his time in the AFL batting .167 with a .211 OBP. If the Kansas City prospect can’t rebound from a sluggish start in the desert, Starling will be written off before his 23rd birthday.