An AFL update and an ALCS open thread

 

More Arizona Fall League hijinks have ensued since last we were disappointed by Zack Cox's sombrerified debut. Good news: He didn't strike out four times. He struck out one time, which would be bad news if he didn't also double and drive in a run. It's difficult to get much out of AFL numbers, but I'm hoping to see Cox do well enough that the Cardinals have an excuse to be aggressive with his promotion schedule.

Of course, they don't necessarily need an excuse. Pete Kozma, who was moved to AA as a 21 year-old with a career OPS under .700, has gone 1-4 in each of his first two AFL games, with what was apparently a fielder-aided triple.

Kozma—well, he improved last season, but it's hard for me to see his path to the Major Leagues given his career to this point. He showed off a little power last season, but not enough to make anybody forget he's a career .243 hitter who doesn't walk especially often. He's a good baserunner and a rangy but impressively error-prone shortstop. 

As was stated when he was drafted, no one tool of Kozma's stands out, but the tool baseline, to date, has been significantly lower than was expected, and now that purported all-around competence is his problem; when Tyler Greene appeared to have busted just as totally he always had the tools to wish on. HPGF members could always look to his throwing arm, or his outstanding speed, or his surprising home run power, but Kozma doesn't have anything to show for not playing well. He'll be 23 next season, no longer young or inexperienced for AA. The Cardinals didn't him wrong by promoting him so aggressively, but it doesn't matter whose fault it was—he'll have to make a drastic improvement in 2011 to get back on the prospect radar. 

The other interesting AFL prospect is outfielder Adron Chambers, who has probably angled himself toward a 2011 cup of coffee after beginning his career as a 38th rounder in the Kozma draft. Chambers found his way into my heart in perhaps the purest way a prospect can do it—by throwing a gaudy, fluky stat into his career line. In 2009 Chambers, to that point a one-tool speed guy, hit just one home run but managed to push his slugging percentage (in the pitcher-happy Florida State League) past .400, thanks to 17 doubles and 16 triples.

17 doubles, 16 triples, one home run. Is there any line more deadball than that? Actually, the Dead Ball Era might be too late, because by then the ballparks had grown fences and the fielders had decided that gloves were a good idea. That's the kind of line The Freshest Man On Earth, fellow one-tool speed guy Arlie Latham, would have put up—check out his 1884 stint with St. Louis's American Association Browns, which is a dead ringer if only the American Association hadn't required nine "unfair balls" to draw a walk. 

Adron Chambers needs only four to draw a walk, and he's pretty good at it, which is why he stuck around even after his triples total fell to six in 2010 (which he finished in AAA.) He's strangely mediocre as a baserunner—54-84 in his career—and a slugging percentage hovering around .400 in the minors isn't going to keep Major League pitchers very honest, but Chambers is 2-9 with a walk and a stolen base through two games; his persistent climb up the minor league ladder and this AFL stint suggest the Cardinals might see some Major League role in his future, after all.

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