An Early Check on Nationals Prospects and the Arizona Fall League

The primary thing to understand about the Arizona Fall League is that it is a hitter’s league. Teams don’t send their best prospect pitchers unless they were drafted that season. Hitters aren’t likely to be facing the Dylan Bundy’s or Alex Meyer’s of the world. They will end up facing prospects that have a much lower ceiling and may not be anywhere close to the level of hitting talent that is on display.

Last season the Scottsdale Scorpions alone had Harper, Trout, and Middlebrooks. Three elite prospect hitters on the same team. The Arizona Fall League is a league for elite hitters and barely prospect pitchers. The second thing to understand about it is that it is a small sample size. It last from the beginning of October until the middle of November. It is just over a month of a sample of elite hitters teeing off against lesser pitching.

None of this means the stats are meaningless. It tells us how we should think of the stats. While batting .400 in any league is impressive it becomes less so when it is players with major league talent doing it against mostly pitchers that at best will be riding the shuttle between AAA and the majors. Now let’s get to how some of the Nationals hitters are doing. These numbers are impressive, but again it is in a very small sampling as it is still early in the AFL.

Matthew Skole who this season tore the cover off the ball at low A and the high A Carolina League has picked up exactly where he left off. In 8 at bats Skole is hitting .500/.600/1.000. That is only a two game sampling, but when a guy thought to be nothing more than organizational talent has the year Skole does and then earns a trip to the AFL a hot start is still going to look good. It will be fun to see if he can continue it and how it all translates to next season and if he can, like Tyler Moore, go from being organizational filler to a young major leaguer.

More notable prospects Brian Goodwin and Anthony Rendon have gotten slightly more playing time, but have impressive stat lines in their own right. In 12 at bats Goodwin is hitting .333/.429/.833 and in 9 at bats Rendon is hitting .333/.538/.444. Both stat lines look good but are nearly meaningless. It is good to see what could be two key players for the Nats in the future off to good starts, but it would be better to see them continue and what they can do at AA or AAA next season.

The greatest cure for a heart breaking loss in baseball is tomorrow’s game, but with the loss against the Cardinals the Nationals have no more tomorrow’s in 2012. That means it is time to turn our eyes to 2013, and it is not an outside possibility that both Goodwin and Rendon could contribute to the 2013 Nationals. While their stats in the AFL don’t mean much seeing them succeeding in a league they should excel in is.

When it comes to ceiling and what to expect from Goodwin and Rendon. Goodwin is a five tool player who has excellent speed and range in the outfield with a strong throwing arm. He can hit for both power and average as well as steal bases when needed. Think of what Harper did this year and that is what Goodwin will be like in his prime. Rendon is a different player. He might be what one calls a pure hitter. He is going to hit for a high average with the occasional long ball. Early in his career he is going to be more of a doubles machine with about 20-25 homer power. To go along with his ability to hit for average Redon has very good plate discipline and knows the strike zone better than some minor league umpires. 

Both Rendon and Goodwin could join the Nats in 2013, and in both cases it could be as early as May or as late as a September call-up, but they both have high ceilings and are on the fast track to the majors. How much the existence of either effect the Nationals off-season plans is undetermined if not a concern at all as either or both could be leveraged in a trade for a high level major leaguer. Whatever their future is with the Nationals or in baseball it is good to see them having no problem adjusting to the Arizona Fall League. Remember to check back in from time to time as we will try and keep you informed of the goings on in the AFL and other Winter leagues.          

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