AFL position wrap: Middle infielders 

November, 12, 2009
Before beginning the second position wrap-up for the Arizona Fall Leagues, here's a quick addition from yesterday's wrap-up of catchers: I was asked to clarify my thoughts on the ability of Los Angeles Angels prospect Hank Conger to stick behind the plate. I had mentioned that some other scouts are still skeptical, but I actually believe he can stay there. He's strong and rugged despite his past injury issues, and though he'll never be better than average at best, it should be acceptable given his offensive potential at the position.


Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs: If there's only one name to highlight from the shortstop position, this is it. Just 19 years old, he already reached Double-A late this year. He's hit .301 in his three-year career in the minors, but remains under the radar to most because he's slugged just .393. I'm betting that's going to start to change. Castro has an advanced bat for his age and should start to add more pop as he physically matures, thanks to a smooth swing, good bat speed and a good approach. He's also a 60 defender on the 20-80 scouting scale with a 70 arm. We'll have to wait a bit for the full package to develop, but get in on the ground floor.

Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants: A fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft, Crawford got off to such a good start at high Class-A this year that he was promoted to Double-A after just 105 at-bats. He struggled there, with a sub-.300 on-base percentage, and he didn't hit for as much pop as his raw strength would indicate. However, one scout told me Crawford was one of his favorites because it's rare to find a shortstop with strength who can hit and play defense, which Crawford can do. Another scout compared Crawford to Todd Walker as a hitter, the type who can go line-to-line. We do need to take into account that Crawford was playing his first full professional season (he got just 16 pro at-bats in 2008 after he was drafted) and spent most of the year at Double-A, but I'm concerned about his relative lack of bat speed and his getting beaten on the inner half. Still, he's one to keep an eye on.

Daniel Espinosa, Washington Nationals: I profiled Espinosa more extensively here.