Archive for the 'Arizona Fall Leagues' Category

#173: Brett Cumberland

Gil ‘N

Another of the Braves promising prospects is 22 year old Brett Cumberland, a switch hitting catching prospect out of California. Cumberland was chosen by the Braves in the June 2016 Armature Draft as number 76 over-all. He was tapped in the “B” competitive compensation round. Cumberland had played for the California Golden Bears of the Pac 12 and was the Pac 12 Player of the Year in 2016 as a sophomore.

After inking a pro contract with a signing bonus of 1.5 million dollars, he was assigned to Atlanta’s Appalachian League affiliate, in Danville Virginia. While appearing in 45 games the rookie league, he had 189 plate appearances and 162 official at bats. he amassed 35 hits including 11 doubles and 3 home runs. He had 14 walks and 49 strike outs. His slash line was .216 batting average/.317 on base percentage/ .340 slugging percentage/ on base plus slugging of .657. He also hit into 4 double plays and hit by pitch 11 times. Not exactly star studded numbers but not unusual for a rookie.

In 2017 he was posted to lower A Rome of the Southern League to begin his season and appeared in 55 games. In 236 plate appearances he had 175 official at bats. He stroked 46 hits, 15 doubles, 1 triple and 10 home runs. He drove in 48 runs and had one stolen base. He had 61 strike outs and 31 walks. He was also hit by pitch 25 times and only hit into 1 double play. In mid season he was promoted to Advance A Florida Fire Frogs in Florida State League. In 56 games he put up 216 plate appearance and 182 at bats. he had 49 hits, 12 doubles, 1 triple and 1 home run. He had 18 walks and 62 strikeouts. His slash line was .269/.384/.363 and an OPS of .747. He hit into 5 DPs. He was also hit by pitch 16 times.

it should be noted that in 112 games played in A ball in 2017 he was used as the designated hitter in 62 games and caught in 50 games as he split time at the position with Tanner Murphy. Cumberland only threw out 17 of 60 would be base stealers for a 22% success rate. He also had 14 passed balls in his two seasons in minor league ball.

This fall, the 5′-11″ 205 pound catcher was placed with the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball Association. Cumberland has appeared as both a catcher and as a right fielder. It is as a outfielder I believe will be his eventual landing spot if he makes it to the show. He is still two to three years away from the Show but as he fine tunes his game, he has the potential to be a major league ball player.



#172: Alex Jackson – Catcher

by Gil Elliott




In 2014, the Seattle Mariners in the first round and with the 6th over-all pick in the Amateur Draft chose Alex Jackson. Jackson, a kid who had been a catcher his entire amateur baseball career was immediately assigned to the Mariners rookie affiliate in Arizona and move to the outfield to learn that position. The Mariners, who had been impressed by Jackson’s hitting prowess, wanted to move him to a position where his bat could play every day. Needless to say, the experiment was an abysmal failure as Alex’s hitting suffered from the pressure of trying to learn a new position.

In 2014, at rookie league Arizona, Jackson hit a respectable .280 in 23 games and 82 at bats. In addition, his slash line was .344 OBP, .476 slugging and .820 OPS while racking up 23 hits, 6 were doubles, 2 triples and 2 home runs.


In 2015, Jackson only hit .207 in 76 games between class A Clinton Iowa of the Midwest League and short season class A Everett Washington in the Northwest League. In the two minor league stops he hit a total of 56 hits 271 at bats. His slash line was .207BA/.318OBP/.365Slug/.683OPS. In his 56 hits, 17 were doubles, 1 triple and 8 home runs. He had 21 walks and 61 strike outs between the two minor league teams.

Aug 24, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; American catcher Alex Jackson (10) rounds second base during the 2013 Under Armour All-American Baseball game at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports

To say the least, these were not the kind of numbers expected for a first round draft pick who had signed for a tidy $4.2MM dollars. He was traded to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for right handed pitchers Max Povse and Rob Whalen in November of 2016. The Atlanta Braves acquired Jackson plus a player to be named from the Mariners for two pitchers whom the Braves felt were no longer part of their long range plans.

While not the most polished of catching prospect, Jackson never the less was assigned to the Braves’ Advanced A affiliate, the Florida Fire Frogs as a catcher. It was a position where the Braves felt he had the most potential and the Braves had the greatest need. With the Fire Frogs, Alex played in 66 games, amassing 70 hits in 257 at-bats. Of those 70 hits, 17 were doubles and 14 home runs. He also drew 13 walks and struck out 74 times. He had a .272 batting average and an OBP of .333, a .502 slugging percentage and an OPS of .835.

In July of 2017 he was promoted to AA Mississippi where he appeared in 30 games. In 110 at bats he posted a .255 batting average and delivered 28 hits, 4 doubles and 5 home runs. His on base percentage was .317, a .427 slugging percentage and a .744 OPS. As I stated earlier, he is not the most polished defensive catcher and in the minors, his fielding percentage is .979 with 7 passed balls and 16 caught stealing to go with 61 stolen bases against. These are not stellar stats but he is only 21 years old and a work in progress.

This fall, the Braves assigned Jackson to the Peoria Javalinas in the Arizona Fall League to play against some of the best minor league talent in the game. He put up good numbers in the AFL batting .263 in 20 games with 80 at bats. Among his 21 hits were 2 doubles and 5 home runs to go along with 23 strike outs. This translated to a .813 slugging percentage and a OPS of .826. These numbers were pretty much in line with his 2017 minor league stats of a .267 BA.

One of the things I have noticed about Jackson is the consistent numbers he has put up in all of his stops along the way. Those being strikeouts equal to the number of games he has played in and decent OPS numbers. He does draw his walks but his strike out totals are high but not unreasonable for a slugging catcher.

Alex Jackson still has work to do before he can be considered a major league catcher. His defense is a concerned but it is likely that it will be his bat that will get him to the Show. While he may not be considered spectacular prospect as a catcher, he is a very solid player. He is one of many young prospective catchers now working their way through the Braves minor league system. I expect for him to be assigned to AA Mississippi to begin the 2018 season but if his success continues at that level, look for him to be promoted to Triple A Gwinnett by the All-star break.




[Editor’s Note:  my car is a year older than Jackson is. :/ ]

#171: Austin Riley

Gil from Mechanicsville

Another of the Braves stable of wunderkind is 20 year old Austin Riley. Austin is listed as being 6-3 and 220 pounds officially and was drafted 41st overall in the 2015 MLB Amature Draft. He is a product of DeSota Central High School in Southhaven, Mississippi. Austin is another young prospect in the Braves long search for a permanent replacement for Hall of Fame bound Chipper Jones. The road to Atlanta is littered with “can’t miss” prospects who fell short. However, Riley is built like a prototypical third baseman and he has been described as having light tower power.

This fall, Austin was assigned by the Braves organization to play for the Peoria Javalinas of the Arizona Fall League. Against top flight minor league competition he slashed a tidy .300/.364/.657 with a sparkling OPS of 1.021. In 70 at bats, Riley posted 21 hits including 5 doubles, 1 triple and 6 home runs. He struck out 21 times and coaxed 4 walks. While the number strikeouts is a bit disconcerting, he is after all, a power hitter and still is only 20 years old. Coming into the fall league, he reputation was his defense at the hot corner was suspect but he showed good quickness at the hot corner and a strong arm.

After being drafted by the Braves in June of 2015, Riley split time with the Braves’ Gulf Coast League affiliate and the short season rookie team in Danville. He posted a combined .304/.389/.544 and an OPS of .993 in 60 games and 217 at bats. In 66 hits, he slugged 14 double, 1 triple and 12 home runs striking out 65 times. If you are paying attention, you will note he seems to have equaled his hit totals with strike outs.

Austin Riley

In 2016, Riley was promoted to Rome of the A class Sally League. He appeared in 129 games and had 543 plate appearances amassing 134 hits, 39 doubles, 2 triples and 20 home runs. He also struck out 147 times and drew 39 walks, scoring 68 times while driving in 80. His line for the year was .271/.324/.479 and an OPS of .803.

Defensively, in 1045.1 innings played, he had 355 chances recording 92 put outs and 213 assist. He committed 30 errors and posted a .910 fielding percentage. He also had range factor of 2.63. To give a point of reference, the major league average range factor for third baseman(a saber metric stat) is 2.70. Unknown to me are how many of Riley’s errors were fielding miscues verses the number of throwing errors.

In 2017, Austin again split time in two levels of minor league teams. He began the season with Advanced A Florida Fire Frogs and was promoted after 80 games to the AA team in Mississippi. Between the two levels, he hit .275 in 129 games with 542 plate appearances. He scored 71 runs and drove in 74 slugging 19 doubles, 2 triples and 20 homeruns. He also walked 43 times and struckout 124 times. If you compare his numbers for the two seasons he has spent in the minors to date, you will notice his numbers are pretty consistent. His over all fielding appeared to improve with a .932 fielding percentage in 1093.1 innings. He handled 326 chances registering 91 put outs and 215 assist while committing 20 errors at the hot corner. His range factor was 2.52 for the year.

Excerpts from a March 2017 article by Mark Bowman:

“I looked at his first-half numbers and thought, ‘He’s better than that,'” Jones said of Riley, ranked as the No. 13 prospect in Atlanta’s farm system by  “Then you saw the second-half numbers and it was obvious something clicked. So when I saw him this year, I asked, ‘What was the deal?’ He said, ‘Breaking balls for strikes and 2-0 changeups.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Welcome to the three-hole, buddy. That’s the way it is. When they come to the ballpark, what they’re saying is we can’t let Austin Riley beat us.'”

Though he is not a part of this year’s big league camp, Riley made his second start of the Grapefruit League season during Thursday’s 8-7 loss to Yankees. He recorded a pair of hits against the Marlins on Saturday, but he has gone hitless in the four at-bats that have followed.

As Jones has spent time with Riley over the past week, the two have traded offseason hunting tales and discussed those mental aspects that could help the 19-year-old Riley develop a better plate approach as he prepares to begin the upcoming season at the Class A Advanced level.

“Austin Riley could be Freddie Freeman’s protection in the lineup within the next two to three years,” Jones said. “That’s what we’re shooting for. So, I’m really trying to talk the mental side of hitting as opposed to the fundamentals because the fundamentals are there.”

Just two years removed from high school, Riley garnered the attention of Bobby Cox during the 2015 Instructional League and then ended up with an .803 OPS despite experiencing a disappointing first half of his first full pro season last year. He also committed 30 errors, but as he moves closer to ending his teenage years, he has started to grow into his big frame and gain the mobility he’ll need to serve as an adequate defender at third base.

“Chipper and I have talked about last year’s first half and how I could have done things better,” Riley said. “It was all about how I could have simplified things. He gave me some feedback and it all made sense about why the first half went bad and the second half went good. During the first half, I was looking offspeed. In the second half, I was hunting the fastball and it went a lot better.”

At age 20, Austin appears to be right on schedule to make his debut in Atlanta by the end of 2019 or 2020. Short term, the organization will want to see how he fares against stiffer competition at Triple A Gwinnett. I am unsure if Riley will begin the 2018 season at double a Mississippi or triple a Gwinnett. A lot will depend on what organizational moves are made in the off season by the new regime of Alex Anthopoulos. Currently, the Braves have three possible choices to play the position in Adonis Garcia, Rio Ruiz and Johan Carmargo. The word is the Braves want an upgrade to play third base and will look outside the organization to bridge until Riley is ready to make his appearance in Atlanta.


#170: A Report On Two Braves Prospects

November 19, 2017

Gil ‘N



With the conclusion of the 2017 edition of the Arizona Fall League last Saturday, the Braves “Answer to Everything”, Ronald Acuna capped off what has been a pretty eventful year for a 19 year old phenom.

Ronald Acuna

Beginning with a stint in the Australian Baseball League with the Melbourne Aces, the young Venezuelan hit .375/.446/.556 with an OPS of 1.001 in 20 games and was named to the Australian All Star team. After returning home to Venezuela for the league’s Christmas break, he encountered visa problems and was unable to return to Melbourne for the conclusion of that season.

Undeterred, he rejoined the Braves for spring training and was assigned to the Florida Fire Frogs in the Advanced A Florida State League. He played in 28 games for the Fire Frogs slashing .287/.336/.478 and an OPS of .814. He was promoted to AA Mississippi for 56 games and improved with .326/.374/.520 stat line and an OPS of .895. Upon his promotion to Triple A Gwinnett where he continued to improve on his average with a line of .344/.393/.548 and OPS of .940. in 54 games.

Along the way, he has garnered both All Star honors as well as MVP awards while playing with teammates older than himself. To be fair, he is not a one trick pony but a true five tool player playing all three outfield positions with a plus throwing arm. He has plus speed and has shown the ability to steal bases and hit for power. While lacking polish, which only comes for experience, it is anticipated he will start the season in the Atlanta outfield in 2018. The only question is which of the Braves current outfielders will be moved.

Max Fried

While garnering most of the ink, Acuna was not the only Braves prospect to shine in the AFL this fall. Soon to be 24 years old Max Fried also showed why the Braves are so giddy to have this young man in their fold.

Fried, who came to the Braves as part of the package acquired from the Padres for outfielder Justin Upton, Fried was a first round draft pick (over all #7) by the Padres in 2012. Max was sidelined for Tommy John surgery when the Braves acquired him in 2014 but their foresight may well have been spot on. Fried made his return from Tommy John surgery in 2016 with A class Rome. His record with the Rome Braves was 8/7 with an ERA of .393. In 21 games and 103 innings pitched he had 112 strikeouts and 47 walks and a whip of 1.301.

In 2017, he began his season with AA Mississippi appearing in 19 games and 86.2 innings. His stat line with Mississippi was fairly unimpressive with a record of 2-11 and an ERA of 5.92 with 85 Ks and 43 walks and a whip of 1.512.

Fried’s march toward Atlanta came with a promotion to AAA Gwinnett where he appeared in two games for a total of 6 innings. He registered 6 strikeouts with 2 walks and a whip of 0.500. This might be proof positive where wins and losses are not relative to a prospect’s potential.

Max Fried’s promotion to Atlanta on August 5th was somewhat unexpected but when a team is in full bore rebuild, opportunities are abound. Fried appeared in 9 games in the show, 4 as a starter and 5 in relief. He had a 1-1 won loss record and amassed 22 Ks and 12 BB with an ERA of 3.81 and a whip of 1.615. Perhaps more impressive was the poise and mound presence of the 23 year old rookie lefty. He did not give any indication of being over matched and showed glimpses of why he was considered the Padres #1 pitching prospect after he was drafted.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Braves assigned Fried to the Peoria Javalinas of Arizona Fall League following the end of the MLB season. Perhaps the Braves saw it as an opportunity to further evaluate the development of their prized lefty in a controlled environment where Braves minor league manager Luiz Salazar was slated to manage the Javalinas. He did not disappoint, appearing in 6 games and accumulating a total of 26 innings and posting a 3-1 record with an ERA of 1.73 with 32 strikeouts, 8 walks. His only snafu was in his next to last appearance against the Glendale Devil Dogs when he gave up 5 runs, 4 earned in 4 innings pitched. Fried has definitely made his case to be included in Atlanta’s plans for their starting staff in 2018.

All totaled Max Fried pitched 144.2 innings in 2017, a good number for a player only 2 years removed from Tommy John. Fried perhaps will be the top prized returned from the Padres accompanied by Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson and Mallex Smith in exchange for Justin Upton.


#159: Arizona Farm League Prospects: Update Part II

Gil Mechanicsville, VA

Mechanicsville, VA

My last update profiled three of the six Braves prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League. This edition will provide some insight to those omitted last week.

Chris Ellis

Chris Ellis

First is right handed pitcher Chris Ellis. Chris is a 24 year old, 6’5″, 205 lbs, who was drafted in the third round (88th overall) by the LAX Angels in 2014. He was part of the return package for Andrelton Simmons which also netted Sean Newcomb and Erick Aybar. Ellis spent the better part of last season as part of the Gwinnett staff pitching after beginning the season in double A Mississippi. His record of 8 wins and 2 losses earned him a promotion to Triple A where he found the sledding a bit tougher. After promotion to the IL, his record sagged a bit to 3-7 with an ERA of 7.04 in 14 games and 62-2/3rds innings.

So far in the AFL, he continues to struggle with the strike zone with 11 walks and 10 strikeouts while giving up 15 hits and 14 runs, 11 earned after only 4 games and 12 innings pitched. Not exactly the kind of numbers one would hope to see from a top tier prospect. Perhaps he is tired, maybe he has an ailment he is not revealing or maybe he is trying to prefect a new pitch but whatever, it does not look good for the young righty from Mississippi. I think he is still growing into his body. Until he is able to command his pitches better, he will remain a prospect and not see the major leagues.

Evan Phillips

Evan Phillips

Next up is Evan Phillips, 6’2″, 215 lbs, a 22 year old right handed reliever who played college ball at UNC-Wilmington, NC. Drafted in the 17th round by the Braves, Phillips is one of those rare gems every scout dreams of and every GM looks brilliant for finding them and then taking them at a low cost low risk high reward situation. Phillips has shined at every stop in his professional career. While he has not put up the eye popping numbers of Jared Miller, a Diamondback prize, he was chosen as the Braves lone representative for the AFL All-star game. So far, he continues to record outs while pitching in a relief role. To date, he has appeared in six games, hurling 7.2 innings with 10 Ks and 5 walks. Aside from his first appearance, he has been solid in relief for the Salt River Rafters. While he has given up three earned runs, he has a .143 BA against so far in the AFL.

Evan is currently listed as the Braves #99 prospect but I suspect that number will rise as he continues to progress in the Braves system. His good work in Arizona will likely earn him an invite to the Braves’ spring training camp with the big boys to continue evaluate his potential against top flight hitters. Phillips works with a three-pitch mix, featuring a fastball in the 91-94 range, touching as high as 96. He also features a hard slider and a hard curve as his third pitch, both in the mid-80s in velocity. The knock on Phillips has been his lack of control but since moving to being used strictly as a reliever, his control has improved. Don’t be surprised to see his name linked in one of the many trade rumors we are likely to hear about this winter.

Kade Scivicque

Kade Scivicque

Lastly, in this trio, is cajun catching prospect Kade Scivicque (pronounced Siv-EEK) 6’0″, 225 lbs.  Kade was acquired from the Detroit Tigers organization in exchange for Erick Aybar at the trade deadline. The 23 year old native of Baton Rouge, LA, was a lightly scouted player out of LSU, taken 340th overall by the Tigers in 2016. He was not highly touted but his coaches all praised his leadership skills. He has been a little slow to develop his offense but has shown flashes of late in getting the bat on the ball. He is considered a “project” and potentially a backup candidate for the major leagues but then, you never know when a guy will finally have the lights turned on and he will “get it”. After the disappointment the Braves experienced with Bethancourt who we all heard was the next Johnny Bench, the Braves could use some over-achievers at the backstop position. I expect he will begin the 2017 season at Pearl Mississippi but if his bat continues to heat up, he could find himself at Triple A a couple of seasons ahead of schedule. He is currently batting a respectable .317 for the Rafters but it is a truly small sample size.

Next time I will preview the current Braves plying their trade in the other winter leagues.



#158: Arizona Farm League Prospects Update



by Gil in Mechanicsville, VA

The Braves sent their allotment of six players to the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League this month.   The league consist of six teams which are stocked by the 30 major league teams. It was conceived by the major league teams so they would have a way to monitor the progress of their young prospects without them having to leave the country. It also allowed the parent clubs to have tighter control on their prospects playing time as well as their diet and health.

Teams also wanted a winter ball league which would be convenient for both the players and for talent evaluaters. Their games are played in the Spring Training stadiums used by the Giants, Mariners, Padres, Cubs, A’s, Royals, Rangers, D-backs and Rockies. All of these stadiums are within 15 minutes of each other and the climate is conducive to late season baseball.

In all, 180 players are selected to play in the league with each major league holding a position draft to select the players who will play for each team. The players in the Arizona Fall League are good. The 2014 All-Star Game in Minneapolis featured 36 AFL alums. Nearly 60 percent of all AFL players make a Major League roster, with an incredible 212 All-Stars, 12 MVPs, four Cy Young Award Winners, three World Series MVPs, 66 Silver Sluggers, 58 Golden Gloves, and 25 Rookies of the Year.

dustin-allen-petersonFirst up is Dustin Allen Peterson, a 22 year old outfielder who was acquired from the San Diego Padres for outfielder Justin Upton. Peterson is currently playing left field for the Rafters. Drafted in the second round (50th overall) by the Fathers, he hales from Gilbert, Arizona, so he gets to visit his parents this fall.

Currently ranked as the 18th best prospect in a loaded Atlanta farm system, he batted .282 with 88 RBI and an OPS of .774.  Peterson hit 12 home runs but struck out 100 times in 578 plate appearances. While in the Padres farm system, he played 3rd base but the Braves moved him to the outfield after he was traded and in 2016, he started 5 games in center field and 125 games in left. Evidently, the Braves feel his best path to the show is as a right handed power hitter.

He is still a couple of years away from the big leagues and his fortunes will be tied to his ability or inability to make consistent contact with the ball. While the prevailing Sabermetric wisdom is that strike-outs don’t matter, you still need to hit at least .250 if you are going to play in the major leagues. Currently he is batting .308 in 26 at bats with a double, a triple and 4 strikeouts. I know, that is a very small sample size so take away what you will. He has shown some speed on the base paths but he is 6’2″ and 210 pounds. He still has some growing to do.


Next is Travis Demeritte, a former Texas farmhand who was the number one pick (30th overall) for the Rangers in 2013. Travis was acquired from Texas in exchange for right-hander Lucas Harrell and lefty reliever Dario Alvarez. Harrell you might remember was signed off the scrap heap by Atlanta and rehabilitated by the Braves. He actually pitched well for the Rangers before breaking down after two games. Sort of reminds me of the used car that lasts until just after the 30 day warranty expires, but I digress. Travis Demeritte does come with a bit of baggage, serving an 80 game suspension in 2015 for testing positive for a banned substance.

Demeritte is projected as a second baseman and has a bit more power than the prototypical second sacker. The Georgia native out of Winder-Barrow High School has shown the ability to put the ball out of the park but says his goal in the AFL is to make more consistent contact and work on plate discipline.

The Braves current number 9 prospect was actually added to the Braves contingent to Arizona after 19 year old Ozzie Albies broke a bone in is elbow on the final game of the season at Mississippi. It’s my belief that Travis profiles more as a third baseman and will likely play that position at double A Mississippi in 2017 as well as 2nd as Albies advances to Gwinnett.


The last of this year’s crop I will profile in this blog is Dylan Moore, a 24 year old shortstop, a California native who played college ball at the University of Central Florida. Dylan has only progressed to advanced A ball at Carolina until September 8th when he was assigned to Mississippi this season. Originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 7th round of the 2015 draft. He is a bit old to still be considered a top prospect but he is still an interesting case. The Braves evidently have seen some potential in him. Currently he is hitting .368 with two home runs for Salt River. He came to the Braves as part of a three way trade with the Florida Marlins which saw Jeff Francoeur moved to the Fish. Officially, he was acquired for “other cash considerations” specifically International slots going to the Rangers.

Dylan is listed as a shortstop and will likely start the 2017 season as the starting SS for Mississippi but he has also logged time at both second and first base. I suspect he will not be a starting shortstop in Atlanta with phenom Dansby Swanson blocking him but you just never know what the future could hold. After all, one of these guys could be converted to catcher…



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