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Astros AFL Review

Hey, the AFL ended over a month ago, but lets do this anyway.  As Evan pointed out before the AFL season even started, this wasn't exactly what you would call an exciting group of prospects that were heading out to the desert.  Sure, they were a group of players that I liked and have some upside, but they weren't what the prospecting community gets giddy about. 

In my preview, I wrote about what these guys needed to work while they were out west and what to expect from each of them.  For the most part, they did what I expected.  Like many of you, I was impressed with a few and disappointed in others.  But anyway you slice it, these guys helped the Javelinas to a championship game, so thats something to be proud of.

So lets analyze all of these participants performances individually after the jump...

JB Shuck OF-I doubt that anyone of these guys improved their stock than good ol' Shuckers.  Although, I wrote not long ago that I doubt he has a future in Houston, but that I do think he has a major league future.  Shuck had some of the better numbers on this Peoria roster before his injury and had to have been improving his stock.  Sure, the sample size is VERY small, but it was against top competition.  He was working on what he needed to, defense in centerfield and baserunning.  Based on the gamedays, he was improving on the basepaths but I couldn't tell you anything about his defense.  Interestingly enough, Sickels didn't mention Shucks AFL performance in his Astros top prospects, but that is probably because of the sample size.  Still, its disappointing that Sickels didn't give him more love.

Koby Clemens 1B-The younger Clemens really had a shot at pushing himself up a lot of peoples charts during his time in Arizona...but he didn't.  An .800 OPS isn't anything to sneeze at, but when your calling card is a power bat an you play first base, you need to do more, especially in an off-season league that is nearly a hitters league as the California league.  Unfortunately, Clemens didn't put up the kind of numbers he did during his stay in the Cal League.  The strikeout rate is still alarming and is looking more and more like the facet of his game that will keep him from the majors.

Brandon Barnes OF-Let me be the first to apologize for being slow to get on board of Barnes' AFL taxi cab.  The man who benefited the most of Shuck's injury was Barnes because he was able to get upgraded to full time in the AFL and he didn't disappoint.  He ended up being the only Astros position player to get on the field for the championship game.  He outpowered Clemens with four homeruns and a higher SLG% but he didn't hit for a high average which when combined with his high strikeout rate is limiting his OBP.  He's a lot like Jonathan Gaston in many ways with his raw power, high strikeouts and solid athleticism to go with a strong arm. I don't think he'll be a star, but he's rising up my own personal board and I think he might start out in OkC this year.

Jay Austin OF-Can I skip this one please?  It just hurts so much looking at his stat line.  In the preview I said he could be over-matched in the AFL, and to be honest, he was.  He couldn't hit for average and he couldn't steal bases, which is what he does best.  He didn't hit any doubles, triples, or homeruns.  He stole only two bases and was caught four times.  The .425 OPS is just bad.  I think the FO made a big mistake by sending him out there.

Kyle Greenwalt-Kyle is a mixed bag or results.  He limited runs which is evident by his outstanding ERA of 2.35 but digging deeper into his numbers is where you get the mixed bag of results.  He was hitable and his strikeout rate still left something to be desired.  Although, his walk rate was solid.  Looking at his pitch data from gameday (still haven't found any actual pitch f/x data from the AFL) his fastball is mostly at 89-90 and works off of it a lot.  That easily could have been because he was told to work on his fastball more.  If he can keep his numbers here through AA and AAA, he could have a chance as 5th starter eventually, but the pen looks more likely.

Patrick Urckfitz-Out of nine outings, Urckfitz pitched six scoreless.  Two outings had two runs and one only had one run.  His strikeout rate wasn't terrible.  He was used as a reliever which is where his future likely lies.  If he keeps up his numbers, he could be a LOOGY at the big league club as early as late next season.

Matt Nevarez-I used to be really high on Nevarez because of his potential with his big arm.  Looking at his numbers, the command has always been suspect and that was the target area for improvement in the AFL.  Early on, it looked like whatever mechanical tweek that needed to be made was done and he pitched very well.  He was also given the first save opportunity of the season, which he did pick up.  But he fell apart in his last few outings.  Looking at the gameday data, the fastball isn't as big as we were led to beleive.  Yes he does run it up to the mid 90's but he throws it at 89 just as much, if not more than, at 95-96.  Low 90's fastball is really what he throws consistently.  That could be a lot of his mechanical issues, at least lets hope so.

David Carpenter-David has forced me to switch him and Nevarez on my personal top reliever prospects list.  He's actually the one with the bigger fastball.  He may be a little more hittable at times but his strikeout numbers are better.  I think he can move quite fast next year.  He's still raw as a pitcher given his pitching age and could really be coming into his own next year.

As a whole, we learned a lot more about several prospects because of the AFL, but as with any off-season league, you have take it with a grain of salt, especially with statistics.  Overall, I was most impressed with Shuck and Carpenter.  Sure, Barnes did a good bit to help his stock, but a sub .800 OPS doesn't do quite enough for me.  What are your thoughts on the AFL performances.