The ’10 AFL Crew
A couple weeks back, the Mariners announced the seven players they’ll be sending to the Arizona Fall League starting October 12th, and this year it’s going to be 2B Dustin Ackley, RHP Maikel Cleto, RHP Dan Cortes, RHP Josh Fields, RHP Josh Lueke, 3B Matt Mangini, and OF Nate Tenbrink. I hadn’t exactly thrown my two cents in on this one yet, so guess what happens next?
Ackley will be getting his second tour after going at it as a center fielder last year. After a rough start to the season, he’s been hitting pretty much like everyone thought he was going to all along, with more walks than strikeouts at the double-A level and little to no time needed to adjust to the competition in Tacoma. There are only a few flaws that he displays at this point, one being a little bit of weakness against southpaws, against whom he hasn’t even managed a .700 OPS. The defense, however, is cleaning up. Where he made thirteen errors in 292 chances in West Tenn, he’s only made three in 173 chances for Tacoma. The Mariners are putting him in a difficult situation as he’s basically been playing non-stop since last October with only a brief break before spring training, but being the type of player he is, Ackley probably doesn’t mind that much, as it could set him up to win the second base job in spring training.
The other hitters representing the M’s for the Javelinas are also fairly interesting in their own right. Mangini will be auditioning for a 40-man spot after turning in what has been his best statistical season so far, and at the highest level of the minors. He’s hit fifteen home runs now and added thirty doubles, eclipsing his previous season high of eighteen. The knocks against him are that he has a noticeable platoon split, with some trouble squaring up when facing lefties, and his defense is well below-average at third. He may be the type of player that has more value to a National League team in the long run, but he’s ours for now.
Tenbrink possesses a different set of issues because he has all the tools defensively, his performances are just erratic and he’s just as likely to make a flashy play as he is to botch a routine one, prompting a move to the outfield once he landed in double-A. Comparing the two, Tenbrink probably has more of a future in the organization because even though he doesn’t have as much power, he’s a more OBP-oriented type and can theoretically play multiple positions. Where he ends up spending most of his time with the Javelinas is hard to say, and depends on who else ends up on the team. Mangini’s presence may mean less time at third for him.
The pitching selections feature an array of arms that could be in the M’s bullpen in short order. Cortes has been getting a lot of press lately as he’s been hitting triple digits on the radar gun since moving to relief. The switch has also helped mitigate the command problems that plagued him throughout his tenure as a starter, as he’s cut his walk rate in half and then some while punching out over twelve per nine innings.
Lueke is a newcomer from the Lee trade, but he’s quickly earning himself a reputation in the organization as a strike thrower, with fourteen Ks and just four hits in 7.1 innings with the Diamond Jaxx and now a 14/3 K/BB in 13.0 IP for the Rainiers with an average against of around .200. As stuff goes, Lueke isn’t quite on the level of what Cortes has to offer, though his command, as one can see, is pretty darned good. Shawn Kelley with better velocity is one comp that has been thrown out there recently.
Suffering various nicks, strains, and scrapes, Fields has been off to a slow start in the org, hampered by oblique problems last year as well. This year, he’s only pitched 4.2 innings since May, though his April was fairly promising. The injuries have meant his mechanics have been off, and the fall tour will try to help him sort some those out and get back to offsetting his hard fastball with the devastating curve. Lueke and Cortes probably have passed him on the depth chart at this point, but he’s one more strong arm for the future.
Cleto will be entering the fall hoping to get back on track. Through April and May, he had 18 Ks in 16.2 IP and just three walks. Since then, he’s had a 57/35 K/BB in 75.0 IP, which is nowhere near as impressive. He may be feeling lingering issues from the arm troubles he was having earlier in the year, which is bad because like Lueke and Mangini, he’s auditioning for a spot on the 40-man going into the offseason.
Overall, if you’re looking for guys who could actually help the M’s in the near-term, the Arizona Fall League is going to be worth watching this year.