Arizona Fall League: 2013 Season In Review


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Yesterday was the final day of the 2013 regular AFL season, and since they didn’t make the championship game, it was the final game for the Scottsdale Scorpions. Here are the lines from yesterday’s game:

  • Robby Hefflinger – 1-4, 2 K
  • Kyle Kubitza – 1-2, R, BB
  • John Cornely – 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, BS
  • Juan Jaime – 1 IP, 1 K

Here is a quick review of how each of Atlanta’s prospects performed in the 2013 Arizona Fall League.

HITTERS

Tommy La Stella (2B) – .290(18-62)/.436/.468/.904, 6 runs, 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 16 BB, 4 K, 1/2 SB — La Stella was by far the most talked about Braves prospect this season in the AFL, and for good reason. Tommy started off on fire and was walking a ton while hitting anything that wasn’t a ball really hard. While he did slow down a bit towards the end of the season because of a strained lower back, La Stella still finished second in the AFL in walks, only one behind the league leader. He also had the LOWEST strikeout rate in the AFL season among regulars. La Stella was also in the league top-10 in on-base percentage and OPS.  Everyone knows La Stella can hit, but it is his fielding that is the concern. He wasn’t bad, but did make a couple of errors.  If he can stay healthy, which has been a huge issue for him, and shore up that second base defense, then he could possibly see Atlanta this season.

Kyle Kubitza (3B) – .305(18-59)/.431/.458./.888, 11 runs, 2 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 13 BB, 22 K, 1/2 SB — Kubitza has been a pleasant surprise for me.  He hit really well and was coming on very strongly towards the end of the AFL season. Kubitza also showed a lot of patience with the bat by walking 13 times. He ended up having the highest average of the four Braves prospects, hitting .305, which put him in the top 15 of the league.  He was also in the top 15 in on base percentage and OPS.  It was a nice coming out party for Kyle, and I will be keeping an eye on him a little closer in the upcoming season.

Robby Hefflinger (OF) - .189(14-74)/.244/.284/.528, 8 runs, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 30 K, 0/0 SB — To say Robby Hefflinger struggled in Arizona would be an understatement. He hit under .200 and struck out the second most times in the league, only 2 Ks behind a guy with 23 more at bats than him. Also disappointing was the lack of power from Heff.  He is supposed to have one of, if not the best, power tools in the Braves system and he only managed four extra base hits and one home run the entire season.  I’m sure Robby is as disappointed in his season as we all are and is ready to get back out there in the spring and hit bombs.

Elmer Reyes SS – .256(11-43)/.347/.349/.696, 6 runs, 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 5 BB, 8 K, 0/0 SB — For whatever reason, Elmer Reyes was kind of the forgotten Brave in the AFL.  I would assume it’s because he plays the same position as Andrelton Simmons and won’t see shortstop in a Braves uniform anytime soon. Reyes also got the least amount of playing time of the 4 Braves position players that were sent out there.  He had a decent AFL season hitting for good contact and showing a good eye at the plate, but nothing really stood out about his AFL performance.

 

PITCHERS

Aaron Northcraft  - 7 Starts, 1-5 record , 8.00 ERA, 7 GS, 18 IP, 23 H, 16 ER, 2 HR, 15 BB, 19 K, .307 BAA — Northcraft was the only Braves starter that made the trip out to Arizona for the fall league. It was not a good AFL season for Aaron. There was only one start in which he didn’t allow runs, and in all others, he allowed multiple runs. For a normal game, that doesn’t sound too bad, but remember that the starters only pitched a few innings per start and you will understand how poor that is. For the season, Northcraft allowed 31 baserunners in his 18 innings, which is also pretty poor. He did average more than 1 K/IP which seems to be the only positive for him.

Shae Simmons – 9 G, 0.90 ERA, 10 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 HR, 7 BB, 13 K, .182 BAA — Simmons was the most effective Braves pitcher in the AFL this season and it wasn’t even close.  He only allowed 1 run the entire season and struck out more than 1 batter per inning.  I’m sure he would like to get his walks down a bit, but that is just nitpicking at this point.  If Simmons keeps this path up, he is a definite major league bullpen candidate.  On a side note, he was the Braves representative in the AFL Fall Stars Game but did not get to pitch.

Juan Jaime – 10 G, 6.10 ERA, 10.1 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 1 HR, 7 BB, 15 K, .268 BAA — Out of the four pitchers sent to the AFL, Jaime was the guy I most wanted to see the results of.  It was a mixed bag for him in an up and down season.  What everyone wanted to see was that 100+ MPH fastball and he didn’t disappoint in that area.  He struck out 15 hitters in only 10.1 innings, which is outstanding.  Unfortunately, if he didn’t strike them out, it usually resulted in something negative for him. Despite all the strikeouts, his WHIP was almost 2.00.  He still has a bright future and if he can work some more on those secondary pitches to add to his A+ fastball, he will have a future in the back-end of a major league bullpen.

John Cornely – 11 G, 4.63 ERA, 11.2 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 1 HR, 13 BB, 16 K, .213 BAA — Just like the other 3 Braves pitchers that went out to the AFL this season, Cornely kept is K/IP ratio over 1.0, which is very good.  The bad news for Cornely though was that his BB/IP ratio was also over 1.0, which is very bad.  He did pitch well for the most part, holding hitters to only a .213 batting average against him, but those walks killed him.  John gave up less than a hit per inning, but because of the ridiculously high walk rate his WHIP shot up over 2.0.  He is going to have to control the walks in the future.  He is a strikeout pitcher, so I expect to see those strike out numbers to be good going forward.

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Overall, it was a pretty good season for a few guys (La Stella, Kubitza, Simmons), a decent season for most, and a forgettable season for others (Northcraft, Hefflinger). Ultimately, these guys still are who they are and the AFL season was just a good place for them to learn and grow as younger players. I wouldn’t get too high or too low about any of these performances, but they are fun to look at and throw into the mix.

Tags: Arizona Fall League Atlanta Braves Kyle Kubitza Shae Simmons Tommy La Stella