In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Kyle Peter has found a groove and an offensive environment he apparently loves. Peter finished the HWB season with an outstanding .370 average in 27 games (92 at-bats). That mark was good enough for second in the league, behind Honolulu outfielder Dominic Brown and his .389 mark. In a recent conversation, Peter indicated he was aware he was around the top of the rankings, but wasn't quite sure where he stood; that he was just focused on going out and playing hard. Peter also swiped eleven bases this fall, rounding out his resume and improving his prospect status.
Also turning in a solid Hawaii performance at the plate was catcher James Skelton. Though he faded down the stretch, he still managed a nice .281/.405/.391 line in the fall circuit. Despite being left off the 40-man roster last week, Skelton's prospect stock is still high, and his fall performance may be enough to garner interest from teams around the league in the Rule 5 draft.
After a promising season in the Midwest League, right-hander Andrew Hess continued to pitch well in Hawaii; making eleven appearances for the CaneFires. Over that span, he notched a 3.51 ERA and one save with a .247 batting average against. Working exclusively in relief for West Oahu Manager Mike Guerrero, Hess has likely solidified a spot in the Lakeland bullpen for 2009.
The offense in Arizona went absolutely crazy this fall, led by the insanity displayed by outfielder Casper Wells. Once in the lineup regularly – playing both outfield and first base – Wells went on a tear, finishing the season with a .321/.424/.705 line that belies just how hot he actually was down the stretch. Over his final ten games, Casper hit .361 with six of his eight home runs, and 14 of his 23 RBI. Mesa Manager Rocket Wheeler doesn't think there is anything special about this run, just hard work by Casper; ‘He's been going to the cage with Ryne Sandberg. He goes down there every day. He gets his cuts in. It's really been great.'
While he is still considered an outfielder from a prospect perspective, Wells has increased his versatility by showing well at first base this fall. "He looks pretty nice over there. He's an athlete for one thing. He fits in very well," said Wheeler.
Joining Wells on the offensive hit parade, Jeff Larish has really done wonders for his prospects of making the big league club out of spring training. Larish tied for the AFL lead in RBI, with 29, while also ripping nine doubles and six home runs in 30 games. "He [Larish] did go crazy. He's been tremendous playing first and third," indicated Rocket Wheeler.
It hasn't just been Larish's stick that has impressed Wheeler; as his leadership and defense have also been positives. "When he got here he was kind of quiet and reserved, but I tell ya, he's one of the leaders on are team as far as humor and keeping guys loose. I also like what I saw at third. He still needs a little work over there. Sometimes he gets his feet too close together, but its something that can be worked out. He's worked at it, and time will tell."
Impressive feats were not limited to the batter's box, as Casey Fien managed to avoid walking a batter during the entire fall league. In 14 2/3 high leverage innings for the Solar Sox, Fien had a miniscule 1.84 ERA, two wins, and two saves, to make him one of the teams more valuable relievers. His virtues are exactly what the Tigers will need in 2009, "He's a strike thrower. He comes in and challenges you. That's what I like about him," remarked Wheeler.
Zach Simons is another pitcher that was solid for Mesa, pitching well despite some control problems at times. "He's got some things to get better at, but as far as his stuff goes, it's there," said Pitching Coach Ray Burris. Burris went on to indicate that Simons needs to work on keeping the ball down and working his stuff around the knees to be most effective. Simons addition to the 40-man roster last week is a clear indication that the Tigers like him, and fans shouldn't be surprised if his name surfaces in regards to the Detroit bullpen sometime in 2009.
After a very rough start to his fall season, Luis Marte settled in and dominated down the stretch. Over his last four outings for the Sox, Marte allowed only two runs in 13 innings, while striking out twenty AFL opponents. Burris worked with Marte to alleviate some trouble in his delivery that may have been the cause of both his summer elbow strain, and his shoulder soreness this fall; "We got it to a point where there are no restrictions in his mechanics that were causing those issues. We just freed it up so he's not coming across his body."
Right-hander Rudy Darrow and second baseman Will Rhymes both turned in solid performances this fall as well. After being amongst the team leaders in hitting for much of the season, Rhymes slumped to a still shiny .287 average with a double and a home run for the fall. Though Darrow only saw action in 12 1/3 innings, he posted a 2.92 ERA with 18 strikeouts. One of the big things for Darrow this season and this fall, was the improvement Burris saw in his slider; a pitch that is now a ‘solid two-plane pitch.'
Moving on to those leagues outside the States, one of Detroit's probable catchers for 2009, Dusty Ryan is having a rough go of things in Puerto Rico. In eleven games for Ponce, Dusty has hit just .111 with six walks and just one extra-base hit. While it is still a small sample, there has to be some concern over his true readiness for the big leagues next season.
In Venezuela, right-hander Guillermo Moscoso has continued to make his case for addition to the 40-man roster. In six games for Caracas, Guillermo is 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 11 2/3 innings of work. His strikeout and walk rates have both gone in the wrong direction from this past season, but there is still promise here for a pitcher with solid stuff and the moxie to succeed at the big league level.
Playing for Aguilas de Mexicali, outfielder Matt Joyce is doing what he does best; hit for a decent average, draw a few walks, and slug the ball. In 19 games in the Mexican Pacific League, the 24-year old outfielder has hit for a .262/.324/.554 line with four doubles and five home runs. Joyce is a veritable lock for the Opening Day roster in 2009, but a strong performance this fall and winter, may give the Tigers cause to create more at-bats for their young slugger.
While outfielder Wilkin Ramirez continues to struggle (.125/.263/.313) for Licey, fellow outfielder Brent Clevlen is doing a slightly better job at staying afloat in the Dominican. Hitting .255 in 18 games for Escogido, Clevlen's on-base ability and defense have been his greatest assets. As has been mentioned before, Clevlen is out of options and he will have to show he is ready to be on the big league roster to start next season. A stronger performance this fall would go a long way in helping make that case.