AFL Recap: House, Monsalve, Haley Impress
Thursday night marked the final game action for the Arizona Fall League's Scottsdale Scorpions, and with it ended the journey for the eight Cleveland prospects taking part in the league.
The specific statistics from these AFL games do not mean much, as many of the best pitchers have already been shut down for the season and players often are working on improving specific parts of their game, not looking for such work to show in immediate results. However, larger trends and growth patterns can be taken away from AFL games and that is what we will be looking for here.
At the end of each capsule, you will find a link to each of IPI's Spotlight pieces on the AFL participants. Tony talked with each of them while he was out in Arizona in October, gaining insight into each player's approach to the AFL and what they are working on this offseason.
Shawn Armstrong, RHP
5 G, 0-0 W-L, 5.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 4.79 FIP, 2 H, 4 BB, 3 SO, .105 AVG
It is too bad that Armstrong had to leave the AFL early with mild shoulder soreness, as he was dominating out of the bullpen for the Scorpions. Armstrong has his issues with control, as he owned a 4.92 BB/9 in the regular season, but that is his only real flaw.
Hitters simply cannot seem to square up on Armstrong and he routinely overwhelms batters with his power arsenal (.191 AVG, 10.37 SO/9 in the regular season). Time will tell if he can limit the walks, but for now, Armstrong is one of the highest profile arms in the organization.
Assuming Armstrong's shoulder issues are nothing offseason rest does not fix (no guarantee after the cases of Austin Adams and Matt Packer this past year), he should continue his rise in 2013. Cody Allen blazed a path to the major leagues in 2012 and Armstrong is hot on his tail. AFL Spotlight: Shawn Armstrong
Trey Haley, RHP
8 G, 0-0 W-L, 11.0 IP, 1.64 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 2 H, 4 BB, 3 SO, .065 AVG
2012 is proving to be a good year to Haley, as he has gone from potential bust to high-end relief prospect. Haley's surgery in June to correct his sports hernia seems to have given him the comfort needed to harness his electric arm and turn himself into a real option for Cleveland, possibly as soon as late-2013.
The strikeout total was low for Haley in the AFL, but he was working on implementing different pitches into his repertoire. More importantly for Haley's development, he was able to keep the advanced hitters of the offense-friendly AFL off-balance, only allowing two hits in 11.0 innings.
If he can manage to sustain that dominance in 2013 while also kicking his strikeout totals back into high gear, Haley will have no problem. He is definitely someone to pay attention to next season. AFL Spotlight: Trey Haley
Tyler Holt, OF
17 G, .300/.353/.300 line, 79 wRC+, 8 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 5 BB, 10 SO, 4 SB
Holt did not have the best of seasons in 2012 (.258/.340/.320 line between High-A and AA), but he was able to turn it on in the AFL. Holt hit .300 and got on base at a higher rate than in the regular season, fulfilling his role as tablesetter for Scottsdale.
The big issue with Holt is the lack of power. In the regular season, Holt only had 24 extra base hits, no home runs and a .062 ISO (also known as "Jamey Carroll" range). In the AFL, Holt did not manage any extra base hit, seeing all 18 of his hits go for singles.
Power will never be a large part of Holt's game, but he must be able to keep teams honest. Without any threat of power, Holt will have a hard time advancing to AAA, let alone the major leagues. Holt will be 24-years old in 2013 and will need to show some more pop if he wants to stay relevant.
T.J. House, LHP
6 GS, 3-1 W-L, 27.0 IP, 3.00 ERA, 2.39 FIP, 20 H, 9 BB, 26 SO, .208 AVG
Each team is allowed to choose one pitcher to start in the AFL and Cleveland made a wise choice in picking House. The left-handed starter was dominant in his 27.0 innings, taming the offense-heavy AFL with his 26:9 SO:BB, 3.00 ERA, and 2.39 FIP.
House's stuff was improved in 2012 after he got himself into much better shape and he is now harnessing that into great results. There is a chance that he will be put on the 40-man roster next week and, with another strong showing in 2013, could be a September callup to Cleveland.
Without much depth in the upper minors, players like House need to continue succeeding. If House is able to keep improving next year, he may be able to give Cleveland the left-handed starting pitcher Terry Francona and company are currently lacking. AFL Spotlight: T.J. House
Carlos Moncrief, OF
11 G, .167/.271/.286 line, 49 wRC+, 6 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 6 BB, 19 SO, 3 SB
It is arguable that no prospect in the organization has more tools and ceiling than Moncrief. Yet, with that high projection comes a very low floor, as Moncrief is about as unpolished as they come.
That lack of polish showed itself quite clearly in the AFL, as Moncrief struck out nearly 40% of the time. The high AFL strikeout rate should not come as much of a surprise, as Moncrief struck out 31% of the time in the regular season.
The key for Moncrief is games like his second AFL effort, when he went 2-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base, a double, and a home run. If he can put his entire package together, that kind of all-around line is what Moncrief is capable of achieving. In order to do that, however, the 24-year old will need to gain quite a bit of consistency in AA Akron next year. AFL Spotlight: Carlos Moncrief
Alex Monsalve, C
13 G, .340/.360/.447 line, 110 wRC+, 8 R, 5 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 8 SO, 2 SB
Since Holt was the only Cleveland position player with real experience above A-ball, any struggles for the others are understandable. This makes what Monsalve was able to accomplish in the AFL all the more impressive.
In 13 games, Monsalve showed some decent pop (five doubles) along with a very nice .340 batting average. As Monsalve only appeared in 34 games with High-A Carolina in 2012, the strong showing is all the more impressive.
It would be smart to temper extreme excitement, however. The AFL is a very small sample size and Monsalve was very lucky on balls in play (.400 BABIP). Yet, it is very true that Monsalve held his own when he was essentially thrown in the deep end. Monsalve improved his stock with his AFL showing, but he will need to maintain that momentum in 2013.
Matt Packer, LHP
8 G, 0-1 W-L, 13.1 IP, 4.05 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 16 H, 5 BB, 10 SO, .327 AVG
Normally Packer is a starter, but he was used as a reliever in the AFL due to how the league is set up. Relieving was also a way for Packer to get some work in while not overtaxing the pulled rotator cuff muscle that kept him out of the first half of the season.
The AFL competition knocked Packer around a bit, but he was still his typical groundball-inducing self (2.57 GO/AO). It would have been nice to see Packer limit his walks, but there is only so much we should take away from 13.1 innings.
The important thing with Packer is that he seems to be healthy again. His six starts in Columbus this year did not go so well (5.50 ERA, 23:14 SO:BB) and he will need to do much better in 2013 if he hopes to make it to the major leagues. With a little extra work in the AFL, Packer may be able to make the improvements necessary. AFL Spotlight: Matt Packer
Ronny Rodriguez, 2B/SS
18 G, .239/.257/.373 line, 57 wRC+, 8 R, 3 2B, 3 3B, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 17 SO, 6 SB
There is no denying that Rodriguez showed off some of his flash out in the AFL. After breaking out for 19 home runs in the regular season, the middle infielder went homerless in Arizona, but did add three doubles and triples. He also showed off his speed, stealing six bases - not Billy Hamilton numbers, but impressive nonetheless.
Rodriguez needs to work on his consistency, as his .257 on-base percentage in the AFL (and .300 mark in the regular season for that matter) are simply not good enough. He also has some issues with strikeouts (17:2 SO:BB in the AFL, 88:19 in the regular season), but the talent is certainly there.
As before, it is important to remember that Rodriguez is very young for the AFL. The fact that he was even considered for the league is a showing of how talented he is and how highly he is thought of in the organization. He should be a treat to watch in Akron next year as he gets one step closer to the major leagues. AFL Spotlight: Ronny Rodriguez
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That said, I'm impressed with House probably more than anyone right now. 2.88 K/BB ratio is really good to see, especially in an offense-friendly league. I feel like House could potentially end up as 2013's version of Zach Mcallister