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Fall League Underway

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on October 10, 2006

Tonight, down in the desert, the Arizona Fall League began their season and the Peoria Javelinas dropped the opener to the Grand Canyon Rafters due to poor pitching.

The 12-6 defeat, however, means absolutely nothing, as fall ball is all about individual performances.  The Javelinas house a few interesting Mariners farmhands, including OF/DH Mike Wilson, 3B Matt Tuiasosopo and lefthander Bobby Livingston.

Second baseman Michael Garciaparra, righthanders Craig James and Stephen Kahn and southpaw Ryan Rowland-Smith round out the M’s representatives, but only three bats got the call on opening day.

Wilson, Tui and Garciaparra went a combined 2-for-12 with one RBI and two runs scored, as the Javelina fell 12-6.

Wilson, 23, doubled in the ninth and Garciaparra, 23, reached on an infield single to account for all the hits for the M’s trio.  Tui started at third and did not make an error (yay!).

If you are following the fall league and want other talents to pay attention to, the circuit is filled with future major league players such as Troy Tulowitzki, Luke Hochevar, Scott Elbert, Troy Patton, Fernando Martinez, Hunter Pence, Yunel Escobar… and the list goes on and on.  The AFL rocks.

This is a challenge for Tuiasosopo, particularly due to the level of pitching the league boasts this year and the advanced approach of most of the starters.

If he finds a way to slug .420 or better, it’s probably going to be considered a major success for the 20-year-old infielder.

I’m very interested to see what Kahn can do after struggling mightily with his command this past season, and because, apparently, he’s working on a two-seamer.

I will have an update or two from Bobby or Michael as the season goes on, and will certainly pass along any observations along the way.

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10 Responses to “Fall League Underway”

  1. The AFL is definitely a great time to get a look at future players and a great league to watch during the MLB offseason.

    Just curious about one of the non-Mariners you mentioned, Troy Tulowitzki. I was impressed with his performance during the end of this season, though none of his numbers were extremely impressive. How do you think he projects as an MLB shortstop?

  2. T2 is a terrific athlete and he will hit in the bigs, with plus power. There isn’t much question about his offensive skills and since he’s an adequate shortstop, too, that makes for a great value in a guy like Tulowitzki.

    I do, however, have a little doubt as to how long he can stay at short. He’s already 225 pounds at 22 years of age and with a 6-3 frame, he could reach a natural healthy weight in the 240 range as he skates past his mid 20s.

    I’m betting that unless he develops the ability to position himself perfectly and stay as fleet of foot despite the weight, he’ll end up at third base by the age of 28.

    But he may have the bat for third, too, so it’s not that big of an issue. While he’s cheap, he’s a shortstop with the ability to post .900+ OPS’s in ANY ballpark.

    In his peak, he may very well be the tweener that is A-ROD-meets-Bobby Crosby.

    Most scouts have never mentioned any long-term position issue… that’s just my own thoughts. But the Rockies don;t even need to think about that, that’s a ways off.

  3. marc w. said

    As long as we’re discussing AFl’ers who aren’t necessarily in the M’s system…
    Jared Saltalamacchia, a teammate of the M’s guys in Peoria, made 3 errors in the first game on Tuesday. Is it time to just be done with it and move him to 1b? McCann is a great young catcher, and unless they want to use him as trade bait, it seems Salty’s best shot with the club may be at 1b. But obviously that entails a huge drop in value, and after his year in 2006, it may not be crystal clear that his bat will play at first. Your thoughts?

  4. The problem with moving Saltalamacchia to first is the Braves already have Adam LaRoche there, and I doubt they’ll be excited about Saltalamacchia’s bat at first base, which is considerably worse power-wise than LaRoche’s.

    Saltalamacchia does have an edge on McCann: he’s a better athlete. Saltalamacchia runs better and throws runners out better — though you couldn’t tell that by his performance in the opener. McCann’s great potential at the plate will block Salty’s chances at Catcher however, so he may become trade bait for pitching, which the Braves need a seemingly endless supply of since Mazzone’s departure.

  5. I think Salty needs another full year in Triple-A whether he moves to first or not, though LaRoche is not a roadblock, as long as Saltalamacchia rediscovers his stroke, which may or may not happen.

    LaRoche is arby eligible this offseason and will start getting more and more expensive. He’s prime trade bait once Salty proves ML ready with the stick.

    But Saltalamacchia has a long ways to go and a lot of work to do. One scout’s report this past summer said that he’s a big mess at the plate, trying to pull everything in one AB and trying to force the ball the other way in the next. He was also mismatching his approach; patient one day, too aggressive the next.

    Confidence can do a lot for an athlete, but for baseball hitters, it means you dont have doubt yourself doing the toughest thing to do in sports… hit a baseball thrown by someone who doesn’t want you to hit it.

    As far as his position goes… I haven’t seen Salty catch in person, only a few innings on video, so I can’t say much on that subject, but most scouts think he’s done as a catcher, while a few believe, as do the Braves, that you let it ride with catchers and shortstops as long as it takes or until it’s clear that the team either A) has another player to play that spot as well or better, see Betancourt, Yuniesky/Adam Jones; or B) is 100% convinced the player will never be adequate at the position.

    Neither is the case with Salty, though the latter has to be coming shortly. It appears the Braves will catch him to start 2007 and go from there. But i bet he plays some first before the first half is over.

  6. J said

    Mike Wilson has grand slams in two consecutive games.

    That is all.

  7. Greatest. J. Post. Ever.

    What’s funniest is, apparently he called BOTH.

    More on that later.

  8. Jerry said

    Could this be a coming out party for Mike Wilson?

    It is tough to get excited about AFL stats, since most of the Javelinas games are football scores.

    By the way, I love this picture:

    http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/news/article.jsp?ymd=20061014&content_id=138029&vkey=news_milb&fext=.jsp

    Not even the faintest hint of a neck.

  9. killa3312 said

    Jason, what are your thoughts on Jeff Niemann? Thanks.

  10. All Wilson has done is gone from useless to potentially useful. He’s not a high-rated prospect and the chances of him gaining that status are very, very slim.

    Re: Niemann

    I haven’t seen much of him since college, but he’s got the stuff to be a No. 1. Health issues are holding him. Mid-90s heat, nasty slider and a useful change, plus he’s supposedly got a split in his rep.

    We’ll see.

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