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The Arizona Fall League regular season ended yesterday and the Peoria Saguaros, home team for the six Blue Jay players, did not make it to the one game playoff. It was a tough season for the Saguaros as their record of 8-23 indicates. I was in Phoenix last weekend and I spoke with the Jays players, their manager ex-Jay Eddy Rodriguez, and several scouts.

Many of the teams in the AFL were short of pitching this year, but the Saguaros were the shortest of all as their team ERA of 6.90 shows. This years AFL set a record for offense, in part due to very weak pitching. Major league clubs are reluctant to send their top pitching prospects to Arizona for fear of overwork. Most of the pitchers in the AFL are either starting pitchers recovering from an injury that limited their innings in 2005, or relief pitchers. The Jays two pitching representatives, Bubbie Buzachero and Steve Andrade, fall into the reliever category. The hitters in the AFL are the cream of the crop, this years AFL features hitting prospects like Steven Drew, Brandon Wood, Daric Barton, Eric Patterson, Howie Kendrick, Jarod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Garko, Lastings Milledge, Ian Stewart, Alex Gordon, Jeff Clement, Matt Murton, Brad Eldred, Chris Young, Andy LaRoche and Kendry Morales. That is a list of some of the best hitting prospects in the game. Most of these players will appear in the major leagues sometime next year, both of this years rookies of the year were in the AFL last year.

The AFL season runs for just under six weeks. The majority of the players are from the AA level with a few higher level players, and each major league team can send one A level player. Adam Lind is the Blue Jays A level player this year while Guillermo Quiroz is the higher level player. It is important not to read too much into the AFL stats, some players come in to the AFL rusty, and others are tired after a long season. Also remember “small sample size”, the AFL is roughly equivalent to a month in the regular season and even the best players can have a month where their numbers are down.

The first player I met last weekend was Guillermo Quiroz. Quiroz was sent to the AFL to get some playing time as he missed half of the 2005 season with injuries. Quiroz was, as usual, upbeat and told me he will take a week off after the AFL before starting to play in the Venezualan winter league. Quiroz hit .294 in the AFL in just 51 at-bats. Quiroz told me he was more relaxed in the major leagues this September compared to 2004, he didn’t feel as much pressure and he was able to get more into the flow of the game. Eddy Rodriguez, the former Blue Jay coach, is the manager of the Saguaros. Rodriguez managed Quiroz in Queens back in 1999 and notes that “over the years he has got a lot better. His arm was always a plus arm and his bat is better now, more disciplined and he is showing more power.”

Adam Lind is the A ball representative from the Jays. Lind started off very slowly in the AFL going 1-20. Lind felt that he was somewhat unlucky. “I got no cheap hits, I hit the ball OK. The pitching is pretty good here, they say it’s a hitters league, and it is, but the pitching is good, and there are some big leaguers pitching here too.” Manager Rodriguez felt that Lind was rusty when he first arrived. “Some guys take a couple of weeks off, some don’t do much in those two weeks, and Adam had some rust when he came in here but he has turned it around since then and done a nice job.” I asked Rodriguez about Lind’s defense. “There’s no doubt that as a converted first baseman he needs work out there, but he done a good job and is getting his work in.” Lind finished with a .238 average in 84 at-bats. The experienced he gained from facing higher level pitching should benefit Adam when he reports to New Hampshire next April.

Adam said he was very happy with his 2005 season, “It was long but it was fun to play on a winning team”. Lind started strongly, hitting .360 in April, before easing off in May and June. “If you have followed my career that’s how I’ve always been, I go hot and cold.” Adam said that’s the same reason behind his power surge in the second half when he hit ten home runs. “I was hot then, that’s all I can say.” Now Lind is starting to feel the effects of his first full season. “I was fine when I got here, but last week I started to wear down, and I have started lifting for my off-season workouts too.” I asked Adam about his defense. “Every day during the season I would come out early for fielding practice and I think I am 200% better, I am average now, before I was below average.

Video of Lind hitting in batting practice is here. Warning: this is a large file!

Ryan Roberts had the most at-bats of any player on his team with an even 100. Roberts hit .260 with five home runs, but he was a little swing-happy as he had twenty-two strikeouts and only six walks. Roberts showed some nice power during the regular season, hitting twenty-four home runs between Dunedin and New Hampshire. Roberts was happy with his 2005 season, he admitted to some ups and downs and hopes to be in Syracuse next year, but his goal is the major leagues. Rodriguez said of Roberts, “Ryan is a solid player, he had a bit of a defensive slump there for a few games but we just had to remind him of some things he needs to do on defense. Offensively he has put some good wood on the ball and had some fine games, occasional power. He is also learning to work on his discipline, to work the count a little bit better.”

Video of Roberts hitting in batting practice is here. Warning: this is a large file!

Eric Kratz has been the third catcher on the team behind Quiroz and Neil Walker from Pittsburgh. Rodriguez has tried to get Kratz some work, “I have used him at first base some and he has gone in to pitch-hit and catch late in the game and he has probably caught more than his at-bats show.” Kratz ended with twenty-six at-bats, half the number of the other catchers.

Bubbie Buzachero had a 5.30 ERA in 18.2 innings, sixth best of the 16 pitchers on the roster, and better than the league ERA of 5.40. Rodriguez talks Bubbie: “Guys like Bubbie were sent here to work on pitching to real good hitters. The pitchers here face better competition, some real good hitters, and they have to try to better themselves by learning how to pitch to them. Bubbie has good stuff, he just needs to work on his control. A lot of young pitchers are like that, you just have to remember what to do and work to correct your mistakes.” As Eddy noted Bubbie allowed just over a hit per inning, but walked 13 in his 18 plus innings. Encouragingly Bubbie had 17 strikeouts in his 18.2 innings. As Rodriguez noted Bubbie has to improve his control to succeed at the higher levels.

Steve Andrade was one of the better pitchers for the Saguaros. Most impressively Andrade recorded 23 strikeouts in 13 innings. Andrade had 71 strikeouts in 50 innings at New Hampshire this season. His final AFL ERA was 4.15, better than the league average of 5 plus. I suggested to manager Rodriguez that Andrade was probably ready for AAA. “Well he has pitched very well here, and I am not privy to what happened with the Angels, but the Blue Jays probably sent him here to see how he handles these good hitters, and that’s good for him.”

Scout’s Perspectives

I spoke with some scouts about several of the Jays players. One scout was cautious on Quiroz, he felt he had not progressed much since his big season at AA. Injuries have played a part but he wants to see a solid AAA season from him before he will believe in Quiroz at the major league level.

Scouts like Adam Lind’s hitting but don’t think his defence will allow him to be a major league outfielder. If Lind has to make it as a first baseman or DH he will need to hit with power and the scout has not seen much power from Lind yet, just one home run in the AFL. Lind did hit ten home runs in the Florida State League in the second half and will have to continue to develop his power to succeed as a hitting specialist.

Ryan Roberts is projected by scouts as a utility player. One scout described Roberts as an upgrade on Frankie Menechino. Scouts feel Roberts still has work to do on his defence and might be swinging a bit too much for the fences.

Arizona Fall League Final Report | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 09:51 AM EST (#131818) #
Thanks, Gerry, for the fine report and for the video footage of Lind and Roberts. Lind doesn't look like he's going to develop significant power soon, but I have been fooled before and I will be fooled again.
Ron - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 03:40 PM EST (#131857) #
I wonder if Steve Andrade will get a look with the Jays sometime next season, assuming he performs well at AAA. He's not a young pup, but his minor league line is pretty solid.
Chuck - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 03:48 PM EST (#131859) #
but I have been fooled before and I will be fooled again.

So we can scrap this as your theme song?

Mike Green - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 03:54 PM EST (#131863) #
Great tune...I haven't had a boss in about 25 years; that has worked out well.
greenfrog - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 03:59 PM EST (#131864) #
From Joe Sheehan's AFL report on BP:

"Guillermo Quiroz: Looked absolutely horrible in the game we saw, with three passed balls and a botched play at the plate that allowed the winning run to score. Supposedly has good defensive skills, but on this night, he looked like a position switch waiting to happen."

"Jeff Clement: Mentioned here because I want to reiterate two points: I don't think he'll remain a catcher much into his MLB career, and the Mariners taking him instead of Troy Tulowitzki was a mistake. See also 'Blue Jays,' 'Ricky Romero.'"

Does this mean this Jays overdrafted Romero (and should have taken Tulowitzki), or that the Mariners should have taken Romero? It sounds like the former--does Tulowitzki look that much better than Romero at this point?
Gerry - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 04:29 PM EST (#131873) #
Tulowitzki looks better at this point. Scouts were saying that Tulowitzki was better in college than his teammate Bobby Crosby, who himself is pretty good. Romero hasn't had much time to show his stuff yet, but if the draft were held today the Jays might take Tulowitzki instead.
Mike Green - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 04:43 PM EST (#131876) #
I don't know. Tulowitzki didn't exactly light up the California League in his trial there after signing. It seems to me that not much has changed between Tulowitzki, Romero and Maybin, except that Maybin has signed.
Jdog - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 04:47 PM EST (#131877) #
Check Out Adam Loewen's numbers in the AFL league.
Pistol - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 06:47 PM EST (#131885) #
"does this mean this Jays overdrafted Romero (and should have taken Tulowitzki), or that the Mariners should have taken Romero?"

He's saying both teams should have taken Tulowitzki instead of Clement or Romero.

The Jays said after the draft they had both rated the same but decided pitching was more valuable.
Pistol - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 06:50 PM EST (#131886) #
And nice job Gerry. Must have been rough spending time in Phoenix.
Gerry - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 08:16 PM EST (#131891) #
I suffer for Da Box, what can I say?
R Billie - Friday, November 11 2005 @ 09:05 PM EST (#131892) #
Pitching is more valuable IF it turns out. Even the highest pitching draft picks have a significant rate of washing out or not reaching expectations.

I gave the Jays the benefit of the doubt in Romero but I would have leaned towards a hitter. Having a Bobby Crosby sure does seem just as valuable as having a #2 starter.
Arizona Fall League Final Report | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.