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Arizona Fall League Preview: Position Players

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An interesting group to say the least, with a good mix of speed, power, and contact ability. Note: If you missed the pitcher's preview on Saturday, here's a direct link.

mwltraverler.com

While the pitchers that the Cardinals are sending to Arizona might be a more exciting overall crew in terms of talent, the position players here have a similar amount of potential, at least in terms of possibly helping the big league club in the medium term.

Charlie Tilson, CF

2014 (A+/AA): 547 PA, .287/.331/.387, .100 ISO, 12/10 SB/CS, 19% K, 5.5% BB

Still just 21 and having missed an entire year due to injury in 2012, if you're a fan of Tilson's you've got to be pretty happy with him reaching AA this year, even if he didn't hit all that well when he got there (just a .282 wOBA in 145 PA's). He tore up the Florida State League, a pitcher's paradise, while playing above average defense in CF and showing a bit more power than he had at any point in his minor league career so far, clubbing 5 home runs in A ball and another 2 in the Texas League.

The trouble is that even with those homers, he still managed just a .100 ISO, which wouldn't be so bad if Tilson gave a club any value on the bases at all.  For a guy with his straight line speed to be successful on just 12 of 22 attempts to steal is a real concern for his development as it signals that he's just not a very good baserunner, lacking the instincts and ability to read pitchers and potential base hits to take the extra base now and then.

My assumption is that the Cardinals want to see Tilson against good pitching for another month as they'll have some decisions to make on other minor league outfielders during this offseason, Rafael Ortega among them. Tilson will likely start the 2015 season in the Texas League, but a good showing in the AFL would do wonders for his progress in the organization.

Cody Stanley, C

2014 (AA): 433 PA, .283/.340/.429, .146 ISO, 15.7% K, 8.1% BB, 13/2 SB/CS

This summer was Stanley's coming out party, and it couldn't have happened at a better time for the organization. Since his first full season in pro ball back in 2011, which showed a lot of promise, Stanley had struggled with injuries and the ability to make hard contact, watching his ISO plummet in each of the last two seasons. He turned that around this season, with no small assist from Hammons Field (.181 ISO in home games there), but also posted a .346 wOBA on the road as well so his season wasn't just a cozy home park mirage.

I've always got a soft spot in my heart for left handed hitting catchers (those not named Pierzynski, of course) mainly because they're a really are commodity. Stanley is a good athlete, as evidence by his ability to steal a base here and there, and has the tools to be solid, though not spectacular, defensively behind the dish. If he can continue to put up above average offensive output, he's certainly a player that could be auditioning for a backup role in St. Louis next spring, and having a left handed bat with some pop to spell Yadi on occasion would not be the worst thing in the world.

Jacob Wilson, 2B

2014 (A+/AA): 283 PA, .302/.362/.460, .158 ISO, 16.6% K, 8.1% BB, 3/1 SB/CS

Wilson is pleading everyone to not make the obvious comparison to Daniel Descalso, but given the boost in power upon his move to Hammons Field (.099 at Palm Beach, .214 at Springfield) it's awfully tough not to make that comp. Of course, Descalso has gone on to 3+ seasons of relative replacement level play with big league club, so perhaps Jacob Wilson would welcome that comparison as it means he'll likely have a big league career.

Thing is, Jacob Wilson doesn't bat left handed, which makes his bump in Springfield a lot more impressive.

Hammons Field plays pretty neutral to right handed hitters overall, and Wilson hit .329/.397/.643 in 78 PA's there this season. Considering his ability to play multiple infield positions (although he's mainly a second baseman), suddenly there's some real talent barking up Greg Garcia's back door as the utility man in waiting for the Cardinals.

The organization clearly wants to see more from Wilson against some of the top arms in the minors and they'll get that chance in the AFL. With a good month in Arizona, his stock should rise enough to get him a non-roster invite in the spring.