Arizona Fall League begins

Posted on October 7th, 2008 – 2:59 PM
By La Velle

Whew! Change is good but change can be a pain, too.

Stribbers are slowly getting new PC’s and laptops and migrating to a new email system, and there have been some glitches. I like the new e-mail system, so it’s worth it. And the new laptop rocks.

The Twins’ season is over but the Twins are far from dormant.

1. Florida instructional league is going on now.

2. The Twins will hold their organizational meetings in Fort Myers next week. That’s when the Twins will get everyone – front office, field management, scouts, etc, – together to assess how things have gone and plot a course for the offseason. It’s where the Twins could decide where they will upgrade the club before spring training.

3. But what I want to get into now is Arizona Fall League action – which begins today.

 The AFL is a six-team league for nearly-ready prospects that runs until just before Thanksgiving. Each major league team sends several prospects to fill out rosters. And nearly-ready isn’t a joke. Jed Lowie was in the league last year and is now helping the Red Sox chase another title. Troy Tulowitzki played there in 2006 and was a key player for the Rockies last year. Jacoby Ellsbury, Ben Zobrist and Gavin Floyd played in the league in 2006 and were on playoff teams this year.

 So it’s worth keeping track of the AFL  to see how your favorite prospect is doing.

Here are the Twins prospects in the league this season: All are playing for the Peoria Phoenix Desert Dogs.

Rob Delaney, RHP: Delaney, a reliever, was 1-2 with a 1.42 ERA in 23 games at Class A Fort Myers. He walked four and struck out 34 in 31.2 innings while holding opponents to a .207 batting average. He was bumped up to Class AA New Britain – but his numbers were even better. A 2-1 record and 1.05 ERA in 23 games there. He walked seven and struck out 38 in 34.1 innings. Opp. avg: ,171. Delaney throws in the low to mid-90′s but apparently has a nasty slider and a bulldog mentality to go with it. He should debut with Twins sometime next year – his success at the AA level suggests so.

Anthony Slama, RHP: Slama was Delaney’s teammate at Fort Myers before Delaney was promoted, and the two simply worked over the league. In 51 games, Slama was 4-1 with a 1.01 ERA and 25 saves. In 71 innings, Slama walked 24 and struck out 110. Slama should have been promoted to New Britain along with Delaney, but Slama was caught up in a numbers game and the Twins wanted him to close. He has a good sinking fastball and decent slider. He’ll be 25 in January, so it’s really time to get Slama moving through the system.

Tim Lahey, RHP: Another reliever, Lahey throws hard but his numbers at Class AAA Rochester – 5-5, 5.43, 23 walks in 63 innings – suggests he needs some refinement. The AFL will be a good test for the converted catcher.

Jeff Manship, RHP: The Twins have been fired up about Manship for a couple years now. He throws the basic four-pitch mix, but his curveball has been called one of the best in the organization. He was 7-3, 2.86 in 13 starts at Fort Myers before he was moved to New Britain. But he struggled with the Rock Cats, going 3-6, 4.46 in 14 starts. After not giving up a homer at Fort Myers, he was tagged eight times at New Britain. So the AFL will be a good challenge for him. The experience he’ll gain should help him solve AA ball – then the Twins can look forward to his arrival.

Steven Tolleson, 2B: There are three second basemen and two shortstops listed on Peoria’s roster, so there will be a battle for playing time. Tolleson hit .300 with nine homers and 50 RBI for New Britain in 93 games. While he struck out 74 times, he walked 44 times for a .382 on base percentage (had a .388 OBP in 2007). Tolleson played short, second and a little outfield at New Britain last season and I’ve been told supposed to be a nice little defensive player.

Daniel Valencia, 3B: The Twins believe Valencia is bonafide third base prospect who will hit for power and play good defense, not some undersized stopgap answer or a strong hitter with a stone glove. He hit .336 with five homers and 44 RBI and a .402 on base percentage in 60 games at Fort Myers before moving to New Britain. I remember barking at the Twins for keeping him -and Delaney…and Slama – at Fort Myers so long. Well, the Twins moved him to New Britain – and Valencia promptly hit .186 in his first 12 games. But he figured things out. He hit .319 in July then hit .308 with eight homers and 21 RBI in August to finish at .289-10-32 in 69 games. So I was right! He drew just 18 walks and fanned 70 times after the promotion, which is concern. But it will be interesting to see how he plays this fall. So far, not bad for a 19th round pick in 2006.

Dustin Martin, OF: He’s listed at 6-2, 210. I saw Martin during spring training and he was one physical specimen. But he’s still trying to get his physical gifts to show up on the field. He hit .290 with  10 homers and 72 RBI for New Britain.  He stole 22 bases. He walked 49 times and 125 times in 133 games – not good. I was impressed to see that he made just two errors in 128 games in the outfield. That means his arm isn’t erratic and the 22 steals suggests he can cover ground. This is a good test for him heading into a 2009 season during which he’ll turn 25.

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