I’m not sure why, but I love the South Atlantic League. It could be it’s well known moniker of the Sally League that I like so much. Maybe it’s the new and improved packaging? Or, quite frankly it could just be the plethora of talent. Though more than likely, it’s the Sally part. I mean just picture a whole league full of Sallys. Which would either be made up entirely of men your grandfather dismissed as feminine, or it’s a league full of men and women named Sally. Only the best Sally’s need apply. On a personal bias note, I’d like to think that Sally Jesse Raphael is a 20/20 threat with intangibles. I mean her glasses were swagtastic. While we’re on the topic, let’s be honest, the game has really been deficient on swaggie glasses since Chris Sabo stopped trappin’. Wow, I get off topic quicker than a “Town-Hall Style” debate. Don’t worry no locker room talk here, we save that for the comment section. So without further ado, the 2016 Sally League Review (#spitfire).
Yermin Mercedes, C Orioles: A personal favorite of my Podcast co-host Halp. He’s a true A-ball breakout with an interesting back story. Basically unwanted by the Nationals organization after the 2013 season, he went on to play Independent ball in 2014 before getting another shot with the O’s for the 2015 season. Mercedes put up respectable, but unspectacular production slashing .272/.302/.456 at Delmarva. Upon returning to the SAL this season Yermin set the league ablaze slashing .353/.411/.579 with 14 knocks and 60 RBIs before being promoted to High-A Fredrick at the beginning of August. Should be interesting to see what Mercedes does upon promotion to AA Bowie, and if he continues to catch.
Brian Mundell, 1B Rockies: Potential sleepers are few and far between when it comes to the Colorado farm system these days. But the 22 year old corner infielder with developing power, might be one. After all we are talking about a player coming off a record setting season. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about; Mundell set the record for most doubles in a season…..seriously ever!! Granted the Sally is hitter friendly, and so is Mundell’s home park of Asheville. Then again, he’s not the first guy with that setup, and he’s the guy with the record. If some of those doubles start to turn into homers, we could be talking about the power hitting first baseman the Rockies have long sought since Todd Helton retired.
Brendan Rodgers, SS Rockies: When you go with the pick immediately following Alex Bregman and Dansby Swanson you have a high standard to live up to. So far so good for the young Rockies middle infielder. In his first year of full season ball Rodgers slashed .281/.342/.480 with 19 homers, 73 RBIs, and 73 runs. The future is bright, and he’s sure to be nestled comfortably into the top 5-10 of prospects lists all offseason.
Ryan Mountcastle, SS Orioles: Another bat first prep shortstop taken in the first round last year’s draft, Mountcastle has flashed better than expected hitting ability. There’s some swing and miss to his game, but he seems to have reined it in since going pro, keeping his K rate around 20%. 10 homers on it’s face isn’t going to win you any fantasy leagues, but don’t forget power peaks in a player’s mid-late 20’s. Well, unless you’re Jason Heyward… Overall his season was quite impressive for a 19 year old in his first run in full season ball.
Austin Riley, 3B Braves: The 2016 season was a tale of two halves for Riley. After a forgettable first half, Riley repaid dynasty owners patience with a significant power boom in the second half. In his final 72 games (including playoffs) Riley slashed .284/.343/.571 with 18 homers and 61 RBIs. Others may like Swanson, Albies, and even Demeritte more than Riley, but in this prospector’s humble opinion only Kevin Maitan projects better from a fantasy viewpoint.
Luis Alexander Basabe, OF Red Sox: Signed out of Venezuela in 2012 with his twin brother Luis Alejandro, because why wouldn’t you make their names as confusing as possible. Basabe broke out in a major way in 2016 flashing power, speed, and on base skills. At just 20 year’s old, and with plus raw tools, Basabe should find his way onto the back end of top 100 lists this winter.
Eric Jenkins, OF Rangers: A speedy outfield option in a system famous for producing power bats. Led the Sally league in steals this year, but he’s not your typical slap-hitting speedster. With a quick lefthanded swing, Jenkins shows pull power, and could develop into a double digit power threat once he improves his strength and approach.
Jose Pujols, OF Phillies: After being ranked as one of the top 20 players in the 2012 International class Pujols took some time to find his footing in the pro ranks. After a strong camp in 2015 an early season hand injury derailed his progress. With a clean bill of health in his age 20 season, he took the next step in his development, flashing impressive power, slugging 24 homer runs to lead the Sally. Should spend some time in Clearwater of the FSL next season, but look out for the power numbers once he reaches Reading. We could be looking at the next Dylan Cozens, meaning a player to benefit from Reading’s extreme hitting environment.
Josh Ockimey, 1B Red Sox: The way Austin Riley’s 2016 is the tale of two halves so is Ockimey’s, only reversed. After starting the year like gangbusters, Ockimey tired out, and stopped using the whole field and tried to pull everything. Teams adjusted and began to implement the shift, ultimately Ockimey paid the price slashing just .158/.293/.335. While the batting average is disconcerting, he did continue to hit for power and take walks in the second half. It also should be noted that some bad luck was at play as his second half BABIP sat at an absurd .184, though I’m sure that’s shift deflated. Look for Ockimey to rebound next season at High-A Salem.
Two For the Tank: Rhett Wiseman, Sam Hillard
Mitch Keller, RHP Pirates: A tall projectable righty, Keller was one of the top breakout players of the 2016 Minor League season. Coming off a forearm strain that kept him from doing much in 2015, Keller flashed increased velocity, excellent control, and groundball tendencies during his first season with a full workload. With a three pitch repertoire that features a plus-plus sinking fastball that sits in the low to mid 90’s, an 11-4 curveball that he can spin, and a developing change he’s starting to show feel for, Keller is flashing the promise of a front of the rotation type pitcher. Fresh off being dubbed the Pirates minor league pitcher of the year, Keller heads into 2017 with huge expectations.
Mike Soroka, RHP Braves: The 2015 first round is full of ballyhooed hitting prospects, a few that have already made their big leagues debut, but the pitching specs of the first round have been disappointing to say the least. Enter Soroka and his workhorse profile. While the K/9 numbers were underwhelming Soroka flashed the ability generate groundballs and throw strikes in his first full season. Also handling a solid workload of 143 innings for a 19 year old.
Touki Toussaint, RHP Braves: Yes, the Rome rotation was disgusting, and yes Touki made significant strides in his first year in the Braves organization. Taken with the 16th overall pick back in 2014, Toussaint is big, raw, projectable righty. At times he struggles to control his pitches, but an increase in his K/9 was a very encouraging development. The fastball and curveball both grade out as 60’s on the 80 grade scale, though there is a significant amount of growth to go before he’ll be ready for the big leagues.
Franklyn Kilome, RHP Phillies: A giant righty with a nasty 70 grade fastball, and blossoming curve, Kilome might be the highest ceiling pitcher in the Sally League. His 6’6 frame filled out over the course of the season, and he uses it to generate mid 90’s velocity with ease. He occasionally touches 97, and keeps hitters off balance with a breaking pitch that sits 79-80. If you remove his first three starts of 2016, where he allowed 19 earned runs in 9.2 innings, his numbers look ace like, 2.57 ERA, 10.61 K/9, 3.38 Bb/9, 1.21 WHIP, and a BAA of .224. He has some control issues, so a low WHIP might not be part of the package, but his stuff is nasty, and he has all the makings of a frontline starter.
Luke Leftwich, RHP Phillies: Made 12 starts in the Sally, before being promoted to High-A Clearwater. Had a huge jump in K’s during his time in the Sally. Scouts don’t seem overly impressed with Leftwich, despite the very good results. There’s a lot of bullpen risk with Leftwich, as he struggles to get deep into games.
Joan Baez, RHP Nationals: What you didn’t know Joan was a 21 year old Nationals pitching prospect out of the D.R.? What are the chances Joan had never heard of Joan Baez till he came here, and now has to listen to people ask if he’s named after her. If I knew any Joan Baez songs I’d make a witty joke, but I remembered I’m not a 73 year old woman with topless memories of Woodstock.
Ray-Patrick Didder, SS/OF Braves: Out of all the players in the name game Didder is the only player I almost talked about in the actual “useful information” section of today’s post. Led the Sally in runs with 95, while stealing 37 bases. He also wins the award to be a late 70’s serial killer/mythical character in an Irish drinking ballad.
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