AFL Hitter Reports: Mesa, Part Three

Kiley shares video and scouting reports on the third batch of hitters from the Arizona Fall League playing for the Mesa Solar Sox, who are made up of prospects from the Cubs, A's, Angels, Tigers and Nationals. This article covers the outfielders, including Cubs standouts Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.

See the AFL content index for previous scouting reports and videos for every team in the league.

Center Fielders

I'll try to refrain from going on too long gushing about Cubs CF Albert Almora as I had him atop my draft board in 2012 (he went 6th overall) and have been bullish on him since the first time I scouted him (also ranking 7th on my mid-season rankings). My first game seeing in the the AFL was vintage Almora, with a huge homer on the first pitch he saw, a masterful lunge at a ball out of the zone on a hit-and-run for a hustle double to the opposite field, a line drive single to center, another single to left and a diving catch in center for good measure.

The tools rundown is impressive but what makes Almora so special are his instincts to maximize those tools. It's a 70 bat and may be an 80 when all is said and done. He has such feel for hitting that he'll likely never walk that much but also won't strike out much, either. He has above average raw power that translates to games and could produce 20+ homers in the big leagues and is a plus defender in center with an above average arm. He's only a solid-average runner but has an uncanny ability to get great jumps defensively and on the base paths. It's an All-Star package, should move quickly now that the hamate injury is behind him and he'll make it very hard to sort out the 2012 prep draft class for years to come: Almora, Addison Russell, Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Max Fried, Lucas Giolito, David Dahl and Corey Seager among them.

Nationals CF Brian Goodwin drew some comps to Carl Crawford before the 2011 Draft, where Goodwin signed in the sandwich round for $3 million out of Miami Dade JC. Goodwin isn't the game-changing 80 runner Crawford was and he also has had a little more experience on the diamond that the raw athlete Crawford had out of high school, but Goodwin certainly looks like him at the plate and in general skill set.

Goodwin has the rare combination of easy plus speed, above average defense in center, quick-twich looseness and the pop for double digit homers but is still too erratic to confidently say he'll reach his potential. His approach has varied year-to-year and he was a little over-aggressive in the two AFL games I saw, trying to play bigger than he was and while flashing the ability to square up plus stuff, not always staying within himself. As you can see in the video, his weird timing hand pumps don't help with consistency as off-speed stuff still gives him trouble and he'll be 23 this year, so the consistency and feel for the game need to come along for Goodwin to reach his upside as an above average regular in center.

Corner Outfielders

I've written about Cubs 3B/RF Kris Bryant in the past, ranking him #2 in my pre-draft rankings and #13 in all of baseball in the mid-season rankings. He's got easy plus-plus power, the expected tempering of the hit tool due to his sheer size, but enough feel to hit and bat speed to project at least a 50 hit tool (.260 average) and I'd put a 55 or 60 on it. As you can see from the homer in the video, Bryant has the unusual trait of his plus-plus power being most natural to the center field to opposite field gap, reminiscent of Mike Piazza.

He's still pretty stiff at third base, even though his plus arm makes up for some of these shortcomings. Bryant is an above average runner once he gets going, but in short order he'll move to right field where he'll be average to slightly above. I see a .270-.280 average, above average walk and strikeout rates, 30-35 homers and solid right field defense, very similar to Bryant's most common comp, Jayson Werth (his 2009 peak with the Phillies: .268/.373/.506, 36 homers), but hopefully without the same injury/inconsistency issues to delay/shorten the length of his peak.

Cubs RF Jorge Soler has also gotten his share of hype after defecting from Cuba, signing a $30 million MLB deal and ranking #21 on my mid-season rankings (that last one being the most important, obviously). Soler is a clear third for me of the Cubs prospects on this team, not because I'm down on him but I think Bryant and Almora are truly elite talents and Soler is just a really good prospect.

First the good: he's 6'4/215, is very loose, has extremely quick hands and easy plus grades on bat speed, raw power and arm strength. The right field profile is an easy one and he actually reminds me a good bit of Sammy Sosa. No two swings of Soler's are the same and, like Mesa teammate Addison Russell, Soler has so much bat speed he can afford to do non-ideal things mechanically like dropping or pumping his hands since he can still square almost anything up. These kinds of players can be tough to project since some go the way of Gary Sanchez, Yankees prospect, who has some of that ability but isn't quite as loose athletically and has hit a bit of a wall developmentally. It's a little lazy given their similarities as players and defecting from Cuba at the same time, but there's some Yasiel Puig here, along with Marcell Ozuna, Javier Baez, Clint Frazier and a number of other tool sheds with all fields power, big bat speed and some consistency issues. All of these players can look awful for stretches and like Hall of Famers for stretches but the hope is they can grow out of it and find a happy medium. I think Soler will hit enough to get to his power but I don't think there's much more than a 50 bat here, so there's some risk, but there's more than enough reward to make it worthwhile.

The other three corner outfielders on the roster are Tigers LF Tyler Collins, Nationals OF Stephen Souza and Angels LF Zach Borenstein and they don't hold a candle to the Cubs boppers. Collins is a squatty left field only fit with fringy raw power, but some feel to hit and a direct, line drive cut. If the bat plays at the upper levels, he profiles as an bench bat in the big leagues, but he went backwards with a .240/.323/.438 line last year as a 23 year old in AA. Souza offers more upside with some projection to his 6'3/200 frame, above average speed and an average arm that could play multiple OF positions. He has a sound righty swing and a chance for double digit homers but has moved slowly up the chain; he'll be 25 in 2014 and needs to build on his successful 323 PA in AA, his first at that level. I didn't get a great look at Borenstein, just one game where he had two strikeouts and a walk. That said, his arm only fits in left field, he showed little power in BP, I didn't love his hitting mechanics and he struggled at times hitting in the game. His draft status (23rd round in 2011 from Eastern Illinois) fits what I saw but his age-22 2013 season (.337.403/.631 with 28 homers in the hitter-friendly Cal League) suggests there could be more there, but I'm not bullish.

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