Arizona Fall League Preview: 2016 Salt River Rafters

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The Salt River Rafters are filled to the brim with batting prospects worth watching. Likewise, they lack any rotation worth noting. They are similar to the Surprise Saguaros in nature without the obvious ace in Michael Kopech.

The thing that sticks out the most about the Rafters is that two of the four players to watch had slow 2016 seasons. A solid performance in the AFL would add a lot of validity to the prospect stock currently associated with Ryan McMahon and Brett Phillips.

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Team Rankings

  1. Glendale Desert Dogs
  2. Mesa Solar Sox
  3. Surprise Saguaros
  4. Peoria Javelinas
  5. Salt River Rafters
  6. Scottsdale Scorpions

 

Four Players To Watch

Ozzie Albies – SS/2B – Atlanta Braves

Currently ranked as the eighth overall prospect, Ozzie Albies is likely still underrated. The short 5'9" Curacao native is an absolute freakish athlete. He has great range with fantastic first reads on the ball. He can make hard plays splitting the infielders turn into routine outs. He moves similar in nature to that of Andrelton Simmons. At this point, he isn't Simmons but at the age of 19, he could still gain additional quickness.

On the offensive side of things, he is very mature in his contact skills with the potential to be a well above average OBP contributor. Combine his contact skills with lighting quick feet and a smooth power stroke routinely capable of hitting line drives and occasional home runs, and you have an elite athlete.

On the year Albies is hitting .292 with six home runs and thirty steals between Double-A and Triple-A. He is one of three people to log any time at Triple-A being under the age of 20. This age gap should speak volumes to the overall skill level Albies has even if the numbers in Triple-A are much lower than his season total (.248 batting average). With a bit more time and polish Albies will join fellow phenom prospects Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson in what will likely end up as the best infield in the major leagues.

 

Travis Demeritte – 2B – Atlanta Braves

When looking around the web, it seems I am much higher than most on Travis Demeritte. He is currently sitting as my 63rd overall prospect with the potential to end up on the top fifty by the beginning of spring training. He has a blistering power stroke, lightning quick bat speed, a great arm, solid range, and good running instincts.

Since coming over to the Braves in a trade from the Rangers, he has done nothing short of showcasing his raw, still unrefined talent. On the year, Demeritte is hitting .266 with 28 home runs and seventeen stolen bases. Demeritte can struggle with pitch identification. He likes to swing at pitches outside the zone because of the pitch type. He chases the home run way too much instead of developing into a high OBP type of hitter with immense power potential.

 

Ryan McMahon – 3B – Colorado Rockies

Coming into the year it was a matter of when, and not if, Ryan McMahon would make the major league team. That question was always followed up with where? Nolan Arenado is the epitome of elite third basemen and McMahon is also a standout prospect. Well, sadly enough the Rockies no longer have to address that situation as McMahon took a huge step back in 2016. The tone switched from 'when' to 'if' he makes it up.

Coming into the year, McMahon was an advanced hitter with a good power stroke and range at his position. He finished the year hitting below .250 and didn't honestly find his power stroke until the second half of the year.

The AFL will do a world of good for a player like McMahon who has the talent to be a coveted MLB asset but struggled to adjust to Double-A. McMahon needs to show he can handle top flight of competition before he can truly regain his value and big league future. The McMahon we saw this year wasn't worth much speculation.

 

Brett Phillips – OF – Milwaukee Brewers

Similar to McMahon, Brett Phillips came into 2016 as one of the top prospects in baseball. He was expected to outclass his current value. An excellent AFL stint will help reestablish the hype surrounding Phillips. The Brewers sure do need someone of his skill set in the majors as quickly as possible.

Phillips is a true five-tool prospect with a monster arm to his name. Unfortunately, ever since he came over to the Brewers as a piece that sent Carlos Gomez to the Astros, Phillips' hit tool has gone AWOL. His contact skills fell so precipitously that he will finish with a batting average below .230.

 

Four More to Watch

Isan Diaz – SS – Milwaukee Brewers
Dawel Lugo – SS- Arizona Diamondbacks
Dustin Peterson –OF – Atlanta Braves
Christin Stewart – OF – Detroit Tigers

 

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