AFL Hitter Reports: Mesa, Part One

Kiley shares video and scouting reports on the first 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 features the catchers and corner infielders, led by Angels 1B C.J. Cron.

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


Angels catcher Jett Bandy struck me as an org guy in the short look. He's a 6'4 catcher whose frame is a little long to stick behind the plate defensively or make consistent enough contact to profile and he doesn't have the big raw power to overcome those issues, though he has some bat speed and a solid-average arm.

A's catcher David Freitas is a big guy at 6'3/225 and is a 20 runner with a solid approach that makes the most of his modest bat speed by being short to the ball, though this approach saps the raw power his strength can create. He's a solid receiver with a good arm and made it to AAA this year, which is likely his ceiling, short of an emergency MLB need.

Nationals backstop Adrian Nieto has the most draft pedigree of the group, along with the best numbers and tools. He's a fine receiver and athlete with an above average arm and while he doesn't have a lot of power to offer, he does have a simple game swing, enough pop to punish mistakes and solid approach for the highest offensive upside of this group. I only saw one game of Nieto, but he looks like a big leaguer of some sort, though likely a backup.

Corner Infielders

Angels 1B C.J. Cron is the big name of this group as he went 17th overall out of Utah in 2011. He's backed into a corner profile-wise as a 6'4/235 all bat prospect that's just okay defensively at first base. He'll show you plus raw power in BP, mostly to his pull gap but isn't a slam dunk to hit 25 homers in the big leagues as this grade suggests. Cron creates this power with some bat speed and strength but also by loading his hands high and deep and finishing high, creating a steep angle in and out of the hitting zone.

He's looser than most all-bat prospects that are his size, so he can make more of this bat path than your typical 4A slugger. He made a lot of contact in my two-game look at him, including some extra base hits and some feel for game power to the opposite field, but his approach was just okay and he can be fooled by advanced breaking stuff.

I saw a glimpse in games of what Cron's numbers show: a low walk, low strikeout power hitter. He's got the feel to hit and make this work, but he'll be well below average runner with no defensive value and a body that won't age well that's very dependent on BABIP luck. I see an solid-average bat with plus power and an approach that's aggressive enough to undermine both of those tools. The aforementioned issues and a right/right first base profile can't allow me to grade him higher than a low-end everyday bat (50 OFP on the 20-80 scale) that has no margin for error before falling into the wrong side of a first base platoon.

The other two corner infielders on the Mesa club don't have anywhere near the potential of Cron: Oakland's Max Muncy and Washington's Matt Skole. I didn't get a great look at Muncy, but what I saw was an undersized, fringy defensive first baseman with below average power and speed. He made some contact and had a solid approach while his numbers show historically that his approach is even better than what I saw in my look. I didn't see enough to have a really strong opinion here, but it looks like a bench bat at best and likely more of solid AAA guy with a chance for short MLB career.

Skole is a big lefty bat at 6'4/220 that missed 2013 with Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow but in 2012, clubbed 27 homers with a 21% walk rate as a third baseman, garnering some prospect attention. He's a perfect example of how scouting the box score can be misleading, as you can see from the above BP video.

Skole is upright and a little stiff at third base, but his plus arm can make up for some shortcomings. He profiles as a corner utility guy for me and his average raw power (15-18 homers annually) and late count approach that should draw some walks is enough to be a solid 45 OFP versatile bench bat if he hits, but he won't.

Skole will turn 25 during the 2014 season and has only 75 AB above Low-A. He's exactly the kind of hitter that will see his performance (.286/.438/.574 in 2012) take a dive at upper levels: a high-maintenance swing with an uphill swing path as a pull-happy hitter that feasts on deep counts against less experienced competition more prone to mistakes. He's an emergency MLB fill at best and I've got him as an upper minors filler.

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