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Arizona Fall League Check-In

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Let’s take a look at the Cardinals prospects down in the desert.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-All Star Game Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to another look-in at all that’s been happening down in the greater Phoenix area. We’re now four weeks into the Arizona Fall League, with two weeks left to play. If you missed previous recaps you can find the first week here and the second week here. Week 3 didn’t happen, and I apologize for that, but life got in the way of my writing schedule. The rest of the recaps will continue without interruption.

Fortunately, now is as good a time as any to zoom out and take a big-picture gander at the AFL narrative. You see, yesterday the East took on the West in the Fall Stars Game, the annual AFL All-Star Game. It’s like an off-brand Futures Game, with rosters stocked full of name-brand prospect as well as guys that probably wouldn’t sniff the Futures roster. That’s to say that prospect pedigree doesn’t play into the Fall Stars rosters quite as much as it does for the Futures Game, thanks in part to the fact that there’s a smaller player pool to choose from. The Cardinals had only one representative in the game, left handed starter Evan Kruczynski. Andy Young was, well, snubbed and there’s no other way around it. Such is prospecting, sometimes.

Andy Young - 2B

Previous 2 Weeks: 7 G, 7-26, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 5 BB, 9 K

AFL Total: .319/.421/.553

A .974 OPS. That’s good for 5th in all o the Arizona Fall League. Heck, that’s also good for 1st on the Surprise Saguaros, a roster that includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr. And yet, Andy Young didn’t receive the nod for the Fall Stars Game. Fine, I get it. His tools don’t jump off the page, he was a 37th round pick, and being 24 years old doesn’t exactly make him new and shiny. But man, how much is he going to have to hit before getting the recognition he deserves?

There must’ve been players more deserving of the spot then, right? Isn’t the Fall Stars Game just a meritocracy within the meritocracy that is the AFL? Here’s some other players who made the West roster: Cole Tucker (.811 OPS), Lucius Fox (.829 OPS), Cavan Biggio (.869 OPS), Evan White (.785 OPS), Estevan Florial (.525 OPS!). Now I’m not saying that OPS is the end all be all stat when it comes to all-star game selection. But please, please try to tell me that Young wasn’t more deserving than at least one of those players listed above.

Alas, there’s nothing we can do except shout into the computer screen. Jokes really on the rest of the prospect world, I think. Andy Young will come up, hit, hit some more, and incite screams of “Cardinal Devil Magic”. Or he won't. Prospects break your heart. But he will. I have a feeling about this one.

Lane Thomas - OF

Previous 2 Weeks: 7 G, 9-24, HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 8 K, 2 SB

AFL Total: .239/.333/.304

Peachy. That’s not a word that describes Lane Thomas’s AFL stint. It’s been particularly tough sledding for the outfielder, who came into the fall on the heels of a possible break-out campaign. The strikeouts have been a major issue, and the power hasn’t shown up in a way that makes them palatable. He has still displayed promising speed, swiping six bases against zero caught stealings.

Things look a little better if you zoom out to the last ten games. Since October 18, Thomas is slashing .290/.342/.387. I said it looks a little better, not that it looked great. His absolutely dreadful 5-game start is dragging things down, and probably will for the rest of the small sample that is this season. If he can eek out an average overall line, a future as a bench outfielder is still in play.

Tommy Edman - 2B/SS

Previous 2 Weeks: 4 G, 2-14, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 SB

AFL Total: .231/.417/.269

When I previewed the AFL, I noted that Edman was auditioning to take over Greg Garcia’s role somewhere down the line. Well, since the last time we talked Greg Garcia has become a Padre. Edman doesn’t slide right into that spot, but he’s moved up a notch on the utility totem pole.

He’s seen irregular playing time in the last two weeks, and his production has slumped a bit. The good news is that none of this moves the needle on his projection too much. Edman is what we thought he was when he was drafted out of Stanford - a switch-hitting utility infielder with contact skills and speed, but no power to speak of. He’s still only 23, and has plenty of time to make incremental improvements in Memphis to shore up his skillset.

Jeremy Martinez - C

Previous 2 Weeks:

AFL Total:

So Tommy Edman is who we thought he was when he was drafted. Martinez, on the other hand, is decidedly not who we hoped he was coming out of USC. The shine of his debut campaign has faded and now it’s looking more and more like the real Jeremy Martinez is the one we’ve seen in 2017 and 2018.

He still wields enviable plate discipline skills, and still plays catcher, but the list of positives ends there. He’s shown no ability to impact the ball, and his contact skills aren’t nearly good enough for him to conceivably morph in Willians Astudillo. The needle is pointing down.

Evan Kruczynski - LHP

Previous 2 Weeks: 2 GS, 9.2 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 K

AFL Total: 4 GS, 15.2 IP, 19 H, 7 BB, 14 K’s, 1.72 ERA

Here you have it folks, the Cardinals lone representative in the Fall Stars Game. Kruczynski handled the second and third innings of that contest, allowing one hit and allowing no runs. He was deserving of the roster spot and certainly showed why.

In the final two weeks, Kruczysnki could put up a total clunker of a start and it wouldn’t matter all that much. No matter what, the AFL has put the finishing touches on his 2018 mini-breakout. He’s left-handed, he’s durable, he wield an average to slightly above arsenal, and he pounds the strike zone. It’s an Austin Gomber-esque profile that could see spot-starts in the majors sooner rather than later.

Connor Jones - RHP

Previous 2 Weeks: 4 G, 6.2 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 5 BB, 6 K’s

AFL Total: 6 G, 11 IP, 14 H, 5 BB, 11 K’s, 5.73 ERA

The last two week shave been a mixed bag for Jones. Two of his appearances, each two innings a piece, were scoreless outings. The other two, well, were a bit of a dumpster fire. Between two appearances on October 22 and October 30 he let up six earned runs in less than three innings of work. The good news in all of this? He’s struck out more batters than normal in the AFL and his ground ball rate is still eye-poppingly absurd. I’ve never been a big Connor Jones guy, but his AFL stint has left a better taste in my mouth.

Conner Greene - RHP

Previous 2 Weeks: 3 G, 3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 1 K

AFL Total: 6 G, 6.1 IP, 11 H, 13 BB, 4 K, 12.79 ERA

I used the term dumpster fire to describe two of Connor Jones’s outings. I don’t like repeating words, especially in the same piece, but I went to the thesaurus and “dumpster fire” doesn’t seem to have any entries. So that’s how I will frame Greene’s AFL stint. A complete and utter dumpster fire.

He can’t find the strike zone, he can’t hold runners and he can’t strike guys out despite his high octane stuff. He was a nice lottery ticket bet when he was picked up from the Blue Jays, but it looks like a losing bet at this point. Barring a big step forward with his command, he’ll likely bounce around the minors for the foreseeable future.

Will Latcham - RHP

Previous 2 Weeks: 4 G, 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K’s

AFL Total: 7 G, 8.1 IP, 10 H, 8 BB, 4 K’s, 12.96 ERA

Anyone who read the recaps from Week 1 and Week 2 know just how dreadful Latcham’s start was. Thankfully, things have been much rosier for the righty reliever over the last two weeks. He only got dinged in one of his four appearances, and tightened up his command a bit to limit the free passes. Latcham will never jump off the page of prospect sheets, but I like him going forward as a potential fastball-slider middle relief piece.

That’s all for this week. Four down, two to go. Who will finish strong? Who will fall off a cliff? Will the dumpster fire continue to burn red-hot? Tune in next week to find out.