Preliminary Arizona Fall League rosters were released yesterday and though these things are quite fluid until the fall season actually gets underway, it looks like the Mets will be sending seven players. The contingent includes OF Cesar Puello, OF Darrell Ceciliani and 2B Danny Muno from the offensive side and RHP Ryan Fraser, LHP Adam Kolarek, LHP Chase Huchingson and RHP Greg Peavey from the pitching side.
The AFL can be an excellent opportunity for guys to face off against top tier competition -- it is generally considered to be between Hi-A and Double-A in terms of talent -- and potentially boost their standing within the organization coming into the winter. Consider that two of last year's Mets representatives in the AFL are now on the club's active Major League roster (Collin McHugh and Robert Carson). Additionally, it provides more reps for players whose seasons may have been shortened due to injury (see, Puello and Ceciliani).
So let's take a look at where each of these guys stands as the regular seasons prepare to come to a close:
OF Cesar Puello (pictured)
Pre-Season Commentary (ranked #8):
"...In terms of ceiling, Puello gives you a legitimate shot for at least four of the five majors tools all from the center field position. Yet he’ll have to show even more with the bat in 2012 as he’s currently more tools than ability and as we’ve seen so many times before poor plate discipline can easily derail a young hitter before they ever hit their stride."
After a very solid Hi-A debut in 2011, it's been a tough follow-up season for the 21-year old Puello as he's battled injuries for much of it. The broken hamate is an annoyance as it will likely sap some power until it fully heals but the balky hamstrings are the bigger concern as this is something he's now struggled with in multiple seasons.
Fortunately, when he's been on the field he's played relatively well. He's hitting at a similar level to last season, with a nice little boost in power (see, .164 ISO) and a lot more success stealing bases. He's still showing the all-around athletic ability that had him in the pre-season top ten, but he'll have to prove he can make some strides with his awful plate discipline if we're ever to believe he can have prolonged success at the highest levels.
Pre-Season Commentary (ranked #26):
"Hamstring injuries bothered him once again (in 2011) but he managed to bounce back relatively quickly. The offensive potential he showed in 2010 paired with the fact that he falls high on the defensive spectrum keep him relatively high on this list. However, we may have to revise his offensive ceiling from Jacoby Ellsbury down to the still respectable Brett Gardner."
Re-read most of what we said about Puello. The 22-year old Ceciliani struggled with hamstrings for the majority of the year (again, a serious long-term concern). When he's played he's been solid. Strikeouts are down, though he's riding the BABIP train again. However, it's hard to really judge based on 20 games so this will be some very valuable time for the young center fielder.
2B Danny Muno
Pre-Season Commentary (ranked #27):
"Though he has a strong arm there are questions if Muno has the lateral quickness to stick at short. Additionally, scouts don't see him developing a ton of power. And so some see him more as a utility infielder with good on-base skills, not unlike Royals utility man Chris Getz. He probably sports a little more power/overall hitting ability and while it's not the sexiest comp, for $10k it'd definitely be a win for Sandy and Co."
The 23-year old Muno also missed time this season, but not because of injuries. The 2011 eighth rounder was suspended 50 games after testing positive for anabolic steroids in May. Regardless, his profile really doesn't change much. He shifted off of short for good and still looks like a solid bet as a cheap, utilityman who makes a lot of contact and can get on base a ton. His true test will come in Double-A as his plate discipline was already advanced beyond Hi-A (see his nearly 1:1 K-to-BB) and his stay in the AFL should give us a taste of that.
RHP Ryan Fraser
Pre-Season Commentary (ranked #50):
"For Fraser, 2011 meant a shift in roles as he went from a dominant Brooklyn closer in 2010 to a mainstay of the Savannah rotation this season...I said that he resembled Bobby Parnell last year and I'll stick with that statement as he will pick up steam and once again profile as a big leaguer if the organization moves him back to his long-term role in relief."
With Fraser moved back to his long-term home in relief the just-turned 24-year old is once again looking more like a potential Major League piece. I will say that the continued low K-rate (~6 for 2012) isn't a terribly good sign, but after keeping his head above water with Double-A Binghamton there's definitely a chance he could play a role in the big league 'pen, albeit in early relief.
LHP Adam Kolarek
Pre-Season Commentary (NR):
"2010 11th rounder LHP Adam Kolarek posted an excellent 2.22 ERA as a power lefty out of the Gnats 'pen in 2011. His low-to-mid 90's heater gives him a chance to climb fast in that same role, as evidenced by a .164 opponent's average against lefties"
The 23-year old Kolarek was downright dominant in his time with Hi-A St. Lucie, posting a 10+ K/9 and going a couple months into 2012 before he allowed his first run. Double-A has proved more of a challenge for the big lefty as his so-so command has been exploited; though his K/9 as only climbed which is a good sign. I like Kolarek's chances as a LOOGY at the highest levels. He possesses a similar, if a little worse, repertoire as Josh Edgin, meaning a good hard fastball as well as a very strong slider from the left side.
LHP Chase Huchingson
Pre-Season Commentary (NR):
"After showing a little promise in his pro debut in 2010, the 22-yr old converted outfielder came out and absolutely mowed down SAL hitters to the tune of a .203 average...Even better he struck out well over a batter an inning and showed very solid command for a 3/4 lefty with a lot of deception in his delivery. What's more, he even posted a 1.77 ERA in eight starts this season and though he was moved to the 'pen to limit his innings, expect him to get a full season in the rotation come 2012."
The 23-year old one-time undrafted free agent did get his rotation spot, but with the Hi-A St. Lucie instead. And as such he didn't have quite the same success he showed in 2011. The biggest problem being his BB/9 (4.25), which has nearly doubled compared to last year. In turn this has made the big lefty far more hittable as he doesn't have any plus offerings to lean on. Regardless, 6'5" lefties who are new to pitching with solid stuff will always get chances and that's why Huchingson appears on this roster.
RHP Greg Peavey
Pre-Season Commentary (ranked #42):
"Peavey may be the rare case of a pitcher who throws too many strikes -- at least hittable ones. For someone with a definite lack of swing-and-miss stuff, it would behoove Peavey to work around the fringes of the zone more and perhaps accept an additional walk here and there. Either way, he seemed to show improvement down the stretch with St. Lucie and if he can continue to make adjustments, he has enough secondary stuff and pitching smarts to continue to profile as a strictly back of the rotation starter."
Double-A has proven to be quite the speed bump for the 2010 sixth rounder out of Oregon St. as Eastern League batters have batted nearly .300 against him. Basically his so-so stuff makes him too hittable, which really hurts his chances to make an impact at the Major League level. At this point I'd say a move to the bullpen is his last chance -- though I don't really see that working with his stuff -- and perhaps we'll see that transition begin out in AZ.