Monday, November 23, 2009

Looking Back On The Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League finished up Saturday with the Peoria Javelinas taking the Championship Game. All the Yankee prospects played for the Surprise Rafters, who finished two games behind Peoria in the West Division.

Seven Yankee farmhands took part in the league:
Colin Curtis, OF: .397/.472/.731, 19 R, 11 BB, 7 doubles, 2 triples, 5 HR
Brandon Laird, 3B: .333/.406/.633, 18 R, 10 BB, 9 doubles, 6 HR
Austin Romine, C: .400/.438/.400, 2 R, 1 BB

Ian Kennedy, SP: 4.25 ERA, 28 K, 5 BB, 1 HR, in 29.2 IP over 7 starts
Zach Kroenke, RP: 5.28 ERA, 14 K, 4 BB, 2 HR in 15.1 IP over 11 appearances
Mike Dunn: RP: 4.35 ERA, 20 K, 10 BB, 2 HR in 10.1 IP over 10 appearances
Grant Duff, RP: 2.89 ERA, 4 K, 5 BB, 0 HR, in 9.1 IP over 10 appearances

Traditionally, the AZFL has been a very offense-friendly league. Curtis led the league in SLG and OPS, finished second in AVG and OBP, and tied for fourth in HR and TB. Laird finished sixth in SLG, seventh in OPS, second in HR, tied for third in 2B, and tied for fourth in TB. Romine played in just four games due to a finger injury, but it isn't considered to be serious.

For the pitchers, Kennedy led the league in IP and tied for the lead league in starts. His 28 Ks trailed the league leader by one and he had the fifth best WHIP amongst starters. With 59.2 Major League innings to his credit, Kennedy was one of the most seasoned players in the league and it likely contributed to his sterling performance. Still, Kennedy's performance in such an offense-friendly league is an encouraging sign as he continues his comeback from aneurysm surgery in May. The mere fact that he got another 30 innings in after missing nearly the entire season is great for him.

Dunn finished tied for seventh in Ks, despite throwing at least eight fewer innings than all those ahead of him. Of course, as we addressed in September, the problem with Dunn is the number of free passes he issues. He had the eleventh most walks in the league despite working exclusively in relief. In his defense though, a handful of pitchers ahead of him on the BB leader board had walk rates similar to or worse than Dunn's 8.71 per 9.

We've seen both Kennedy and Dunn before, and at least Kennedy - if not both - figure to see time in the Bronx in 2010. Romine is amongst the Yankees' top three or five prospects, won the Florida State League Player of the Year in 2009, and figures to be about two years away. Laird is the younger brother of Tigers' catcher Gerald Laird. He's just completed his third pro season with high A Tampa, and may be moved to first base.

Curtis, Duff, and Kroenke are all Rule 5 eligible and none were protected when the Yankees made their roster moves Friday. Despite his strong showing, Curtis is considered a non-propsect, who like Kennedy, may have been so successful because of his level of experience relative to the league. Duff throws gas, but walks a lot of batters, didn't make it above A ball until this year, and will 27 by year's end. Kroenke has promise and was taken and returned in the Rule 5 last year, but the Yankees already have four other lefty relievers on their 40 man roster.

I don't have a particular problem with leaving any of them exposed, but I don't see much difference between them and the lower tier players that were added to the 40 man. Still, I do find it odd that the Yankees thought enough of them to use three of their seven Fall League allotments on them, but not enough to protect any of them.

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