AFL Preview: Surprise Saguaros

The Arizona Fall League kicked off today, and while I’m a little late with submitting this “preview,” the Saguaros deserve their moment in the sun. Of all the rosters I’ve reviewed, this one appears to have the least star potential. They do have a trio of interesting prospects that stand out, though.

*Rosters can be found by clicking on the hyperlink for the team.

Surprise Saguaros (Red Sox, Royals, Mets, Cardinals, Rangers)

Standout Pitcher: J.C. Sulbaran, SP, Royals, 22 years old

Standout Hitter: Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals, 23 years old

Bonus: Bryce Brentz, OF, Red Sox, 23 years old

With a 4.85 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 439.2 professional innings, J.C. Sulbaran probably seems like an odd choice of pitcher to highlight. However, I’ll repeat a point I’ve made in previous Arizona Fall League (AFL) previews, numbers are just a small piece of the prospect picture. Sulbaran was acquired by the Royals at the trade deadline. Kevin Goldstein, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, ranked the dealt prospects after the trade deadline, and included a brief write-up for each. In his write-up, he repeated one word over and over again, inconsistent. Sulbaran is a pitcher who, according to multiple accounts, when he is on, looks like a future starter. Unfortunately, he isn’t consistently “on,” so to speak. His fastball can reach the mid-90s, but can dip back into the upper-80s during starts. His secondary pitches also lack consistency, with his curveball getting plus grades when he’s throwing it well. While with the Reds this year, he was striking out better than a batter per-inning (9.5 K/9), but walked too many hitters (4.6 BB/9). It all fell apart in six starts with the Royals, though, as his K/9 dipped to 8.3, and his walk rate spiked to 7.6 BB/9. He’ll look to right the ship in the AFL.

The most exciting prospect on the Saguaros is second baseman Kolten Wong. He doesn’t have superstar upside, but he brings a lot to the table. The tool that gets the most love is his hit tool, which should excite fantasy owners. Nick Faleris gushed about Wong in the Monday Morning Ten Pack, and he suggests that the youngster could stand out in the hitter friendly environment. He had an outstanding year with Double-A Springfield, hitting .287/.348/.405, making contact at a high rate, flashing some power and speed. I expect the Cardinals to give Wong a long look in Spring Training, and an early season MLB debut could be in order even if he doesn’t break camp with the team.

Most write-ups discussing Bryce Brentz feature one word in particular, streaky. Chris Mellen made mention of that in the September 17, Monday Morning Ten Pack. Take a look at his month-by-month splits as provided by Minor League Central. Brentz opened the season hitting a paltry .216/.266/.318, and followed by slashing .388/.439/.633 in the month of May. That was his biggest gap in slash lines between months, but it basically epitomizes his streakiness. The range of possibilities are wide for Brentz, as he could be a bat first corner outfielder capable of hitting around 25 home runs a year, or he could be a career minor leaguer that doesn’t make enough contact to utilize his plus power. Certainly not a skill set that will carry fantasy teams, but power always has a place on rosters, making Brentz a prospect worth monitoring in the AFL.