Archive for ‘AFL’

Monday: 11.15.2010

AFL Scouting Report – Brandon Belt, SF

I remember seeing Brandon Belt (1B) here at the University of Texas in a handful of games I attended across the 2008 and 2009 seasons.  My thought coming away was always, “How is he not better?”  He definitely looked like a ballplayer and he would have good plays here & there, but terribly inconsistent. He hit a pedestrian-for-college .321 in 124 games but showed exceptional plate discipline (67 BB to 74 K) and a modicum of gap power.  The only thing that really jumped off of the stat page was his 15 steals in 2009.  You just don’t expect 6’5”/195 first basemen to run much at all let alone swipe double digit bags.

To be 100% honest, I kind of forgot him once he left.  It wasn’t until early this summer that I saw he was in the San Francisco system putting together a solid beginning to the season.  Earlier this month I saw him at the Arizona Fall League in Phoenix and came away with a completely different outlook on him.  I learned from some scouts that the Giants completely reworked his swing from the ground up in hopes of better utilizing his plate discipline and extracting the power locked up in that sizable frame.

The results were amazing as he raked through three levels in his first professional season with the majority of his time with San Jose in High-A where hit posted a .383/.492/.628 line in 77 games.  That earned him a promotion to AA where stayed hot to the tune of .337/.413/.623 in 46 games.  He was again promoted, this time to AAA and though the batting average dropped he still went .229/.393/.563 in 13 games.  Be wary of the tiny sample as 3-4 extra hits would’ve taken his average up to the .290-.310 range so the .229 is very misleading.

He has stayed hot this fall (.392/.449/.658 w/14 XBH out of 31) and looked very sharp in the three games I saw him play.  He took what the pitchers gave him whether it meant blooping a ball over the shortstop’s head for a single or smashing a mistake into the gap for a double or working a walk.  His approach is very crisp.  Here is a look at the swings from his at-bats slowed down:

As for Belt moving forward, I see him with a Joey Votto-lite ceiling.  I’m not sure he can consistently hit .320 like Votto, rather closer to .290 perhaps sprinkling a .300+ season in as his luck fluctuates, but he will likely manage .400 on-base percentages with his plate patience.  For power, I have him more in the low 20s while I see Votto capable of stringing together some low 30s seasons together (his high 30s 2010 had some favorable luck behind it).  And the two meet in the road the speed as they are both adept at swiping bags despite their looks suggesting otherwise.

Barring a huge spring, Belt will likely start 2011 at AAA and get some more seasoning, but he can’t be long for the minors if he keeps raking as he did in 2010.  He is primarily a first baseman, but he played a little rightfield in his AAA stint.  If he can adequately play either position, his chances to reach the majors sooner increase as the Giants are far from locked in at first or either corner outfield spot.

Here is another video of his whole at-bats. It is a bit sped up which I didn’t do on purpose, but it happened three different times when I uploaded it so I just left it:

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Sunday: 11.15.2009

Grant Desme at AFL Rising Stars Game

The hottest name going this fall was that of Oakland A’s prospect Grant Desme. Desme played three years of college split between San Diego State and Cal Poly. He did nothing of consequence the first two seasons hitting a whopping .280 (84-for-300) with nine home runs and 50 RBIs. You can hit .280 in the majors and make millions of dollars. Heck, even .280 in the minors will at least garner some attention if you’re the right age or below for the class you’re in. But .280 in college is utter trash. It’s like .280 in softball.

His final year of college got him drafted. He nearly doubled his power (from eight to 15 home runs in the same 195 at-bat sample), raised his average 118 points to .405 and struck out less while walking more (from 2.6 to 1.4 in K:BB rate). He was drafted in the second round (74th overall) by the A’s. He played a bit in short season that year, but then lost almost the entire 2008 season to injury after just two games. It was a combination of shoulder and wrist injuries that felled him. So basically 2009 served as the team’s first real look at their second round pick. Splitting time between A and A+, Desme had a solid season hitting .288/.365/.568 with 31 home runs, 89 RBIs and 40 stolen bases. But he was also 23 years old so he was a man amongst boys.

As I mentioned earlier, he’s now tearing up the AFL hitting .344/.438/.740 with 11 home runs and 27 RBIs. The question is where will he start 2010? Will he skip AA completely and go to AAA? For now, I would temper my expectations for Desme as all of his big time production has come in very favorable surroundings. I want to see how he performs when he isn’t in an extreme hitter’s league or when he isn’t the oldest of the bunch. In the meantime, I hope he keeps hitting home runs.

He is a quick breakdown of him swinging and missing badly at a pitch before bouncing back within the at-bat and getting a base hit.

Saturday: 11.14.2009

Chris Heisey at AFL Rising Stars Game

I didn’t know a lot about Chris Heisey when I reached Arizona a week ago. I had heard the name a bit before and knew he was something of a prospect for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds outfield prospect I was always most interested in was Texas Longhorn Drew Stubbs. And since Heisey never turned up ahead of Stubbs on prospects lists, I assumed he wasn’t anything to write home about.

In fact, a scan of the preseason prospect lists for Cincinnati shows Heisey rated rather low, if at all:

Baseball Prospectus – unranked
Redlegs Baseball Blog – unranked (listed in the Notables)
John Sickels – 14th
Baseball-Intellect – 14th

Heisey’s biggest assets were his ability to hit for a solid average and a strong batting eye, the latter obviously helping the former. In 2008, he hit .291/.375/.447 in 515 at-bats acquired mostly in High-A with nine home runs and 32 stolen bases. He walked 60 times while striking out just 84. I guess the lack of power and the fact that at 23, he might’ve been a bit old for High-A were what kept him from drawing much attention on the prospect lists.

In 2009, he obliterated AA with a .347/.426/.572 line including 13 home runs, 13 stolen bases and even 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (34 each) in 314 at-bats. That earned him a promotion to AAA where he fell off of his AA pace, but still hit .278/.323/.465 in 271 at-bats. The power held up though as he had 27 extra-base hits (nine of which were home runs). That just about equals the pace he had in AA (33 XBH in 314 at-bats), he just had a few more doubles than home runs after the move up.

His 2009 season coupled with his hot AFL performance will likely move him up on Reds prospects lists. Not to mention the graduation of other players who were on the lists this year. I only saw him for two games so I’m not going to make sweeping judgments, but he did hit a pair of bombs when I saw him and I really like his approach at the plate. He’s been projected as a 4th outfielder in most of what I’ve read, but I think he can be an everyday big leaguer with his all-around tools.

Slow-motion look at his All Star game home run:

Friday: 11.13.2009

Dustin Richardson at AFL Rising Stars Game

Headed into the weekend, I want to start sharing the AFL videos I’ve promised more of since posting the one of Tanner Scheppers. Today, let’s look at Boston’s Dustin Richardson. Richardson is a 25 year old (turns 26 in early January) lefty with a very live arm. As is often the case with huge arms in the minors, he also struggles with his control. He was a reliever when he first got to the Red Sox organization in A-Short Season before moving to the rotation for all of 2007 and 2008. Despite a better than 9.0 K rate, he was destroyed once he left the comfort of A-ball, posting a 6.33 ERA in 22 starts at AA-Portland.

This facilitated a move to the bullpen in 2009 where he pitched 74 innings, 63 of which came at AA-Portland. With Portland, he struck out 11.4 per nine innings while walking 5.7. He held a 2.70 ERA, but his WHIP was 1.30 because of all of the walks. He got a quick stint in AAA-Pawtucket where he continued to blow batters away (13.5 K/9) and cut his walk rate down to 1.7 BB/9. Of course, a 10-inning stint tells us next to nothing so I wouldn’t put a lot stock in it. Walks have been the culprit in his 10-inning stint in the Arizona Fall League, as well. He has 14 strikeouts against seven walks resulting in a 6.52 ERA and 1.97 WHIP.

Check out his interesting delivery:

Monday: 11.9.2009

AFL Video: Tanner Scheppers

I’m still recovering from my trip to Phoenix for the Arizona Fall League and BaseballHQ.com’s First Pitch Forums so I’ve got just a quick post before bed. Football and baseball will be back in full swing tomorrow. More refinements to the NFL week-in-review piece and even more AFL videos. For now, enjoy the artistic stylings of Texas Rangers prospect, Tanner Scheppers.