Arizona Fall League Starts Today

Our thoughts on the Nats’ AFL representatives

By now, you’ve read that the Arizona Fall League starts up today. And some 18-year-old named Bryce Harper won’t be playing. So there’s little I can add to that, except for some thoughts on the players I’ve seen…

Adam Carr – RHRP
Carr has been here before, playing in 2007 after his first full season in the minors and looked to be on the verge of becoming a factor for the parent club in late ’08 with a 1.78ERA at Potomac and Harrisburg. Unfortunately, he hit wall the next season, and struggled mightily at both levels. In ’09, he was converted to a starting pitcher in an effort to both salvage something out of a hard-thrower as well as give him a chance to pitch more often and learn more of the finer points of pitching. In ’10 he returned to relieving, mostly as a setup guy and long-man, but was solid and consistent enough to get a callup to AAA where he racked up nine saves in 10 chances and posted a 2.08ERA.

Cole Kimball – RHRP
Kimball is a similar pitcher to Carr, but started for his first three seasons before being turned into a reliever in ’09. Kimball doesn’t throw quite as hard, but can (and does) throw more breaking pitches. Served as the closer for Potomac in ’09 and to begin ’10 with solid numbers. At Harrisburg, Kimball saw his strikeout rate jump from the one-per-inning rate that’s relatively common to a more dominant 12.3/9IP.

Brad Peacock – RHSP
The last of the draft-and-follow picks, Peacock is a perfect example of what the A+ level is — a place where a guy needs to work on one more thing before making the biggest jump in the minors. That one thing? The changeup. Early in the ’10 season, Peacock would rack up double-digit strikeouts but couldn’t get much past the fifth or sixth inning because once folks realized he couldn’t throw anything offspeed for strikes, they’d wait him out and sit on that 94-95 heat. In late June, Peacock started to figure out, resulting in a complete-game shutout in early July. By month’s end, he was in Harrisburg and was a factor in the Sens’ playoff run.

Steve Lombardozzi – 2B
Lombardozzi is often overlooked because of what he is not. He’s not big. He’s not flashy. He’s not a home run hitter. What is he? A steady, reliable fielder (though not the strongest of arms) and a consistent hitter with gap power and slightly above-average speed but terrific baserunning instincts. Arguably the most consistent P-Nat this season and was able to bat anywhere in the top third of the lineup with little change in his production.

Michael Burgess – OF
Burgess was an enigma this season. Early on, it looked like he had finally solved his weakness against lefties and began rapping the ball the other way (in ’09, an opposite-field hit for Burgess was a grounder that went just to the left of the 2nd base bag). But after the league adjusted to him, his well-known weakness re-emerged — the inability to lay off soft-and-away pitches came back. He appeared to be readjusting his approach when a death in his family kept him out for a couple of weeks. In the final analysis, Burgess is still trying to figure out how to hit to all fields without sacrificing power and keeping the strikeouts down. There were times when he did, which is why he’s been given this challenge.

Derek Norris – C
Injuries wreaked havoc on Norris’s season and it was not until late August that he began to look comfortable as a hitter. As mentioned last week, Norris does struggle some with breaking pitches but as many people have remarked, you can close your eyes and pick him out of a BP lineup — the ball has a distinctive sound coming off his bat. The most promising thing is that no matter how low his batting average got, Derek did not press and held his OBP at the .400+ level all season long. Defensively, Norris is still a project, struggling with wild pitches and passed balls, but still threw out 51% of the runners that tried to steal off him.

Sammy Solis – LHP
Solis made just two appearances in Hagerstown, so I did not see him. Here is what the estimable John Sickels wrote about him prior to the draft:

A back injury redshirted Solis in 2009, so he’s a draft-eligible sophomore this year… Sizeable at 6-5, 220, he has an 89-92 MPH fastball, and both his curveball and changeup are major league quality. His command is considered excellent, and there is nothing wrong with his statistical performance this spring: 2.94 ERA with a 52/15 K/BB in 52 innings, 51 hits allowed. He should… interest any team looking for a lefty with polish who won’t need much minor league time.

Author: Luke Erickson

Since 2009, Luke Erickson has been chief writer, editor, and bottle-washer of Potomac is his home base as a season-ticket holder, but he has visited every affiliate north of Florida at least once, with multiple trips to Hagerstown and Harrisburg.

11 thoughts on “Arizona Fall League Starts Today”

  1. Thanks for the rundown.

    Carr – I still like Carr as a reliever, the way the mitt pops when he throws is impressive, he could be a 6th or 7th inning guy in the majors in the near future.

    Kimball – I think the AFL will be a BGI challenge for him, not sureif he will pan out or not.

    Peacock – Very interested to see if his late season adjustments can fool AFL talent.

    Lombardozzi – The second coming of Jamey Carrol, hopefully he can prove his worth in the AFL. His only disadvantage is the youth in the infield at the major league level will keep him at utility man at best to start.

    Burgess – This is definitely a challenge for Mike and a challenge is what he needs. The Nats need to see if he has a future in their young OF.

    Norris – Hopefully Derek can get some meaningful innings behind the plate in the AFL so the Nats can see if he is really a catcher or if there should be a position change for 2011, especially with the acquisition of Ramos and the surprising return of a svelt Jesus Flores in the FIL.

    Solis – I have not seen him but can only hope that he goes after the AFL hitters and shows why he was a high draft pick.

  2. I see this years’ AFL list as a test / showcase oportunity for each of the players.

    Peacock is being tested to see if he’s worthy of a 40-man spot (& Rule-5 protection).

    Lombardozzi is there to prove he’s ready for the next step as a hitter; His glovework is solid.

    Burgess is getting some additional ‘eyes-on’ work to get past his weak spot as a hitter (outside junk).

    Norris gets some extra innings behind the plate – His eye at the plate is already proven.

    Solis needs some extra innings, to let the FO get a feel for the proper starting level for 2011 (HAG/POT/HAR).

    Carr & Kimball are the hardest to gauge – Carr is a 2nd-timer in the AFL; Rizzo might be showcasing him for trade value. Kimball strikes me as this years’ Josh Wilkie; Decent stuff, but not overpowering. Was the improved K ratio a fluke, or can he sustain it?

    1. That’s pretty spot-on. I think less trade bait than whom to protect. Kimball was exposed last year and he’ll have to be lights out to get the nod over Carr. The Wilkie comparison is actually a really good that I should have thought of since I’ve seen both pitch in a similar role. Good call.

  3. Wonder if they will protect Bradley Meyers from the rule 5 draft? You hardly ever hear his name mentioned anymore.

    1. I suspect with his injury history, he’ll be made available. That seems to be the M.O. for most teams nowadays. In fact, I’ve always secretly suspected Flores was made available because the Mets had an inkling that he was fragile.

  4. Sue – thx. It just felt like a natural association between Wilkie & Kimball (different builds, but same style, imo).

    So now they’re tossing Harper into the AFL mix as well, on a limited basis. I’m still concerned, but he’s blown through every other challenge – Toss him into even deeper water & see how he handles it. The FO can always re-scale expectations in the spring if he struggles, but if he succeeds in the AFL as well… then Yea Buddy, we signed a real ballplayer. The next month just got a lot more interesting for the franchise.

  5. BinM – Look carefully at what they’re saying regarding Harper and Randy Knorr. I think this is less about Harper being exposed to top-notch competition and more about Harper being given a few weeks to be mentored by one of the best baseball men the organization has.

  6. I guess Cole Kimball panned out! Closed out the championship game and kicked ass in the league. 0.75 ERA. 15 K in 12 inn. Nice job. Now him a litle personally and think he is a focused hard worker. He lives and breaths baseball. Look for him on the 40 man roster this spring.

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