First AFL notes: Murphy making transition

October, 13, 2008
If you haven't checked it out already, read my recap of a weeklong scouting trip of Hawaii Winter Baseball, which includes analysis of a bunch of recent first-round picks.

For some additional Arizona Fall League notes, check out Keith Law's blog, as he had two updates from his time here and saw a couple of different games than I did.

I'll provide updates twice a week with the latest happening from the AFL. Things do change over the course of the next month, especially as players get back up to speed after having not played competitive games for more than a month. Most starting pitchers haven't been stretched out beyond 2 or 3 innings yet. For example, in last year's AFL, the Braves' Charlie Morton barely topped 90 mph in his first outing and didn't look like much of anything. A few weeks later, he was hitting 94-95 mph consistently through six innings of work and had established himself as a player to watch.

With that in mind, some quick notes from the first week:

• Eric Young Jr., normally a second baseman, has been playing center field here, and anything that increases his versatility is helpful for fantasy owners. Young swiped 46 bags with a .391 on-base percentage in the Texas League this season, a nice follow-up to his 73-steal season in the California League in 2007. He's a completely one-dimensional player, but that dimension is intriguing, and we know the Rockies are totally willing to start such players, as Willy Taveras has demonstrated. Many speedsters' Double-A on-base percentages evaporate as they move up the ladder, but Young's speed demands attention. He has shown the expected range at his new position, while also taking good routes to the ball. He could be an option in center down the road if Dexter Fowler eventually moves to a corner outfield spot.

Ross Detwiler, the Nationals' first-round pick back in 2007, wasn't that impressive in the Carolina League this year, posting a 4.86 ERA. He did strike out 114 in 124 innings and kept the ball in the park, but we expected more out of a polished college lefty at that level. Detwiler worked between 91 and 94 mph in an extended relief outing, and showed a mid-70s curve that was slurvy and lacked depth. The velocity was easy, but his command was shaky, and he had problems getting pitches to the arm side of the plate.

Daniel MurphyMike Zarrilli/Getty ImagesThe Mets may want to find room in the lineup for Daniel Murphy, who hit .313 in 49 games last season.
Daniel Murphy's bat is going to play at the big league level, but the question is finding a position for him. As many know, the Mets have him playing second base exclusively here to see if he can handle the position on a full-time basis, and things are encouraging thus far. He hasn't been tested too much, but he also hasn't seemed out of place turning the double play. Murphy has good reactions and adequate footwork, and though his actions are somewhat stiff, he has been making the plays. So far, so good.

• The Mets are also trying to get Eddie Kunz back on track after their potential future closer struggled at the end of the season in 10 late appearances at Triple-A and the big league level. Kunz was throwing 91-93 mph in his first two outings, but that's down from the 95 mph we saw last season, and at times he has had to back off all the way down to 89 to throw a strike. He still has the good sink and fade on his heater, but he has been lacking both command and control with his fastball. His slider is still a good pitch at 82-86 mph with tight, late bite. He's still opening his front side too early at times, and his ability to get left-handed hitters out is in question, so he's still very much a work in progress.

• Matt Wieters? All systems go, as he continues to look like a star both offensively and defensively, drawing universal praise from scouts and cautious offerings from opposing pitchers. He's hitting from both sides of the plate, is living up to his billing as the best catching prospect in the minors and is arguably the best offensive prospect, period.

• Astros outfielder Brian Bogusevic is trying to make the Rick Ankiel transition from pitcher, and he generated buzz with a .371 average in 41 games at Double-A after making the switch. That small sample size aside, the jury is still out. He has shown length in his swing, stiffness at the plate and a tendency to jump early and get too far out in front of off-speed pitches. Granted, it is still early in the transition, but he hasn't been overly impressive thus far.

• Sleeper name to file away: Marlins reliever Tim Wood has spent the past couple of seasons battling injuries, but the 25-year-old is healthy here and is throwing 94-95 mph with a nasty 86-88 mph slider. In other words, he has prototypical power-reliever stuff, with an ability to get the ball inside on right-handed batters. With a relatively unsettled Marlins bullpen, a healthy Wood could make an impact as early as next season, as Florida has never been afraid to push prospects to the majors quickly.

Next edition: Updates on Max Scherzer, Phil Hughes and Brett Wallace, among others.


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