2007 Arizona Fall League PreviewBy
I just wanted to quickly introduce myself as a guest contributor to River Ave Blues. I’ve been a longtime reader of the guys at RAB since the days of ‘In George We Trust’ and ‘Off the Façade’ so I’m really looking forward to providing some write ups during the AzFL season. I’m a techie by trade, but I’m a huge fan of the Yankee minor league teams and hopefully I can bring you first hand recaps and photos from the games. Hope you enjoy…
2007 Arizona Fall League Preview
The Arizona Fall League opens its season on October 9th this year with seven players (Gardner, Miranda, Corona, Ohlendorf, Whelan, Jackson, and White) from the Yankees minor league system playing for the Peoria Javelina’s. With the emergence of many new faces in the farm system, the Yankees decided to send six new players to the AFL, with Brett Gardner being the only returning player from last years group.
Brett Gardner didn’t have great stats to show for it last year but he’s the type of player that can make things happen whenever he’s on the field. He’s a constant threat on the base paths and he’s capable of making great plays on defense. He’s an extremely selective hitter that can work deep into counts but sometimes that patience also leads to a high number of strike outs. He needs to be a little more aggressive at the plate to take full advantage of his speed.
Juan Miranda will make his first trip to the AzFL this year and could be the type of player that benefits the most by playing in Arizona. The AzFL is well known as a hitter’s league because of the high elevation (over 1200ft above sea level) and extremely low humidity, so it’s possible that many of Miranda’s XBH’s could turn into home runs in the thin air of the desert. The AzFL stadium dimensions are relatively large (especially the 40ft batters eye in Peoria, above), but if the ball is hit well it usually goes out, presumably because of a phenomenon similar to the Coors effect.
Reegie Corona worked his onto the prospect scene during the 2006 season after adding about 20 lbs of muscle to his 5’ 11 frame during the off season. His likely position in the AzFL is shortstop but he’s also a very versatile play and could even see a few games at 3B, 2B and the outfield if needed. If he keeps progressing at this pace, he could be an option as a super utility player in the next few years. The AFL should be the good opportunity for him to build some confidence going into a full season at AA. I’ll have more on his transformation of Corona Light™ during the season.
The pitchers are an interesting selection by the Yankees. Most of them started the ’07 season in the starting rotation before making the move to the bullpen. Steven White is the lone exception to that group but it’s very possible that he could be working out of the bullpen during the AFL as well. The Yankees most intriguing pitcher in the AFL is Ross Ohlendorf. He has a heavy fastball along with a four seamer that can pound the strike zone in the upper 90’s now that he’s in the bullpen. The fall league should give him some time to adjust to the BP and hopefully develop an off speed pitch. The pitcher with the most upside in the group is Kevin Whelan. His main focus in Arizona should be to improve his command of the strike zone. If he can locate his pitches well during the AFL, he should have a decent chance to make the 25 man roster out of spring training next year.
The AFL doesn’t always draw the attendance that it deserves but that also has its benefits. One of best things about the AFL is that you can show up just about anytime during a game and still get the best seat in the house. On a typical day there’s usually only a couple of scouts behind home plate and maybe a few
office slackers hard core fans that make the trek out for the 12:35 games. The other unique aspect of the league is that prospects wear the parent team’s uniform along with the AFL team hat. So hopefully this will be an early look at Miranda in Pinstripes before he makes his debut in Yankee Stadium. He could fill an important role on next year’s team if he has a strong showing in the AFL this year.