WTNYOctober 21, 2003
News on the Horizon
By Bryan Smith

In yesterday's article I said today would be devoted to writing about the Mets, and the job Omar Minaya and Jim Duquette will have. Instead, I have an announcement that will allow me to postpone it. Next monday I will begin running a set of articles entitled "Organizational Meetings." In these, myself and one of the web's best team bloggers will be answering detailed questions about the upcoming months of their club. I will be putting the teams in order of regular season standings, so the Atlanta Braves will start, followed by the Yankees. Stay tuned, as Wait 'Til Next Year will be your central source for the offseason.

So instead of writing about the Mets, I thought I'd check into the Arizona Fall League. I'm still gathering data on my big AFL project, in which I'll make a generalization about whether or not the AFL helps a prospect, and whom it will help. This will be done after the Organizational Meetings, sometime around when the AFL season ends. I will also have predictions based on my research about which players will breakout in 2004. Whew.

AFL midseason hitting report

Last season big Ken Harvey dominated the AFL, to the tune of a 1.287 OPS. This year's Harvey is Jonny Gomes, an outfield prospect for the Devil Rays. But unlike Harvey did this season, Gomes will spend the majority of 2004 in the minors, further refining his skills. Early research suggests that players whom go from the AFL to the Majors aren't helped or hindered dramatically. Gomes is a very toolsy player, 5 tools to be exact, whom hasn't quite put it together yet. He started to at the end of the season, and seems to be carrying it into the AFL.

A pair of Oakland 1B are doing very well, both Dan Johnson and Graham Koonce. Johnson leads the AFL in hits, RBI, and is 2nd in OBP. He dominated the Texas League in 2003, and seems to be heading down a similar path that Justin Morneau did. Koonce isn't playing in the AFL, but plays for team USA, whom has played games vs. AFL teams. He is hitting over .500, and proving that the Oakland re-signing of Scott Hatteberg rivals the bad decisions of signing Terrence Long and Chris Singleton. Yes, I really do believe Beane is overrated.

A pair of Cubs hitters, Jason Dubois and Brendan Harris are having very good first halves. Dubois is looking to follow the Todd Linden or Terrmel Sledge path, while Harris is trying to be 2004's Chase Utley. Texas hitters Adrian Gonzalez and Ramon Nivar are also having good seasons. Gonzalez will also try to follow the Morneau model, although he may get throw into the mix like Hee Seop Choi did. Nivar is similar to Jermaine Clark, putting up good numbers but isn't ready for the Majors.

More predictions when the season ends...

AFL midseason pitching report

Jerome Williams led the AFL in WHIP in 2003, and subsequently had a very solid rookie season. The Devil Rays are very enthused by this, as former top-five overall draft pick Dewon Brazelton is dominating for the Mesa Solar Sox. His WHIP is well below 1.00 in 14 innings, and he looks very rejuvenated. The Devil Rays are looking more and more bullish everyday, as a Gonzalez, Zambrano, Gaudin, Switzer, Brazelton rotation is looking mighty fine. Interesting note that Devil Rays players would win both the MVP and Cy Young if the season ended today.

Not many pitchers are having success yet, which is common in the AFL. Another that is jumping out is Neal Cotts, whom had a bad first experience with the White Sox this season. He's rebounded well in the AFL, only walking two men so far, but the ChiSox would be smart to shut him down cery soon. A good comparison may be Horacio Ramirez, whom had a very good 2002 AFL.

Jason Frasor is a good example of why numbers tend to lie in pitching this time of the year. In 2002, the great triumvrate of Brent Hoard, Ryan Larson, and Phil Seibel were in the top 10 in WHIP. Bad pitchers can succeed here, and it doesn't necessarily translate to future success. But Frasor did strike out 50 in 38 AA innings while in relief, so he may be a good Rule V pick. Note: Dan Carrasco of the Royals had a sensational 2002 AFL.

The only other pitchers truly succeeding thus far are Chris Young and Ben Fritz. Young had a sensational 2003, after being dealt to Montreal for MATT HERGES. He's 6-6, and very projectable. He reminds me of Jeremy Griffiths, the Mets farmhand whom had a good AFL, and a solid 2003. Expect some of the same from Young next season.

I'm very excited to look more into the AFL and the mysteries behind it. If you don't check back for the Organizational Meetings, be sure to come back when the AFL closes.