Bryce Harper| OF| Scottsdale Scorpions (Washington Nationals)
AFL stats: .260/.333/.520, 50 AB
Last 10 games: .333/.405/.694, 36 AB
Because quoting myself is incredibly fun, here is what I wrote about Harper last week after a poor start to his Arizona Fall League (AFL) season: “In such a hitter-friendly environment, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Harper go on a home run binge and find himself here once again with a glowing update next week.” Lo and behold, the wunderkind appears this week having raised his batting average 49 points and having hit a home run in two of his last three contests. He’s doing nothing to diminish his superstar future projection.
Derek Norris| C| Scottsdale Scorpions (Washington Nationals)
AFL stats: .361/.457/.583, 36 AB
Last 10 games: .400/.512/.667, 30 AB
Harper’s Scorpions teammate and fellow Nationals prospect Norris is scorching the ball. He may not have made the Top-100 Fantasy Baseball Prospect List, but he wasn’t far off. Norris is a patient hitter with good pop. In 334 Double-A at-bats he hit 20 home runs and had a 77:117 walk-to-strikeout (BB:K) rate. Thus far in the AFL his patient ways have resulted in eight walks. He has also shown off his power hitting two home runs. The biggest question surrounding Norris is whether he’ll be able to hit for enough average to take advantage of both his power and his ability to work ball fours. He hit just .210 this year, and .235 in 2010, so it will take more than a 36-AB sample to shed that lingering question, but it’s at least promising. If everything comes together, he could provide J.P. Arencibia-like fantasy value with good power tied to a poor average. Keep tabs on this three-true-outcomes poster child.
Mikie Mahtook| OF| Surprise Saguaros (Tampa Bay Rays)
AFL stats: .311/.373/.422, 45 AB
Last 10 games: .316/.381/.447, 38 AB
The Tampa Bay Rays used one of their many early picks, No. 31, to select LSU outfielder Mikie Mahtook. John Sickels considered him a top-20 talent and praised the pick at Minor League Ball. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said before the draft that he has power to all fields with average to above-average speed. None of his tools get glowing reviews, but the total package is that of a player who could be a fantasy contributor down the line. He has two extra base hits, a triple and home run, in his 14 AFL at-bats as well as four stolen bases in five attempts. His 3:9 BB:K is respectable in his pro debut. It will be interesting to see where the Rays send him to begin next year. High-A is probably the likeliest destination, but if he continues to play well, as a college draftee, Double-A may not be entirely out of the question.
Robbie Grossman| OF| Mesa Solar Sox (Pittsburgh Pirates)
AFL stats: .370/.469/.642, 81 AB
Last 10 games: .395/.520/.737, 38 AB
After I completed last week’s article, an e-mailer asked me my thoughts on Grossman. His question prompted me to scour the web for updated scouting reports on the Pirates prospect. What I found was mixed reviews on a player who showed a ton of patience walking 104 times in High-A. Keith Law said in an ESPN chat on Oct. 20 that he would rank Grossman among the top 100 prospects. On the other side of the coin, Jim Callis views him as a tweener who doesn’t quite profile for center field or the corner. He’ll need to hit for more power than he did in High-A if he hopes to see his high walk rate translate to the higher levels. His power has taken off in the AFL, having hit six home runs and four doubles, so it is possible he could be unlocking some of his raw power. If nothing else, his stock is up, but don’t go overboard with projecting special things from Grossman just yet. He is a perfect example of why scouting reports need to be taken into account along with statistics when grading a prospects future outlook.
Jean Segura| SS| Scottsdale Scorpions (Los Angeles Angels)
AFL stats: .356/.388/.489, 45 AB
Last 10 games: .400/.405/.550, 40 AB
Segura played in only 52 games in the minors this year because of hamstring injuries that dogged him all year. He’s an up-the-middle infielder working on transitioning from second base to shortstop. In his time at shortstop, he has shown enough to convince most notable onlookers that he can stick there. He projects to hit for average power at his physical peak. He has above-average speed (stole 50 bases in 2010), and can hit for average, too. That total package would make him quite appealing at an offensively devoid position. He’ll need to prove he can stay healthy, but his strong AFL performance nearly assures him of a Double-A assignment to begin 2012.
Matt Purke| SP| Scottsdale Scorpions (Washington Nationals)
AFLsStats: 1 start, 2 relief appearances, 3.1 IP, 2 BB, 1 K, 29.70 ERA, 3.60 WHIP
Uh oh, not the start the Nationals were hoping for from their third-round selection this year. There were many questions about Purke’s health entering the draft after he struggled with his velocity most of the year at TCU and had to visit Dr. James Andrews. Both Law and Goldstein say that he’s throwing in the upper-80s to low-90s, but struggling mightily with his control. His slider and change-up haven’t been particularly good either. Purke’s got a long way to go to get back to being viewed in the same light he was when made the 14th pick in the 2009 draft by the Texas Rangers.
Aroldis Chapman| SP/RP| Phoenix Desert Dogs (Cincinnati Reds)
AFL stats: 2 relief appearances, 2.2 IP, 2 BB, 2 K, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
The Reds have sent their flame-throwing southpaw to the AFL to begin the process of stretching him out. Chapman will be starting winter league games, and I looked at the potential fantasy repercussions elsewhere earlier this week. According to Law, he mostly threw at 93-95 mph early in his first appearance Oct. 24, but flashed more velocity before wrapping things up. Working a longer appearance his second-go-round Oct. 27, he sat a few ticks lower at 91-94 mph. Chapman’s control remains a work in progress, as just 13 of his 27 pitches went for strikes in his second appearance. His secondary offerings, slider and change-up, didn’t get good reviews from Law, and he’ll need both to be truly successful as a starter. Though he’s not a prospect, he is still raw and the AFL is a good environment for him to work on his craft before heading to winter ball.