Last week I previewed the Mesa Solar Sox here. Next up is the Phoenix Desert Dogs. The most intriguing pitching prospect represents an organization he joined at the trade deadline. Meanwhile, the outfield of the Desert Dogs is well represented in this preview.
*Full Rosters can be found by clicking on the hyperlink for the team.
Phoenix Desert Dogs (Braves, A's, Marlins, Brewers, Rays)
Standout Pitcher: Johnny Hellweg
Standout Hitter: Christian Yelich
Bonus: Khris Davis
At the trade deadline, the Brewers sent Zack Greinke to the Angels, and in return received a collection of prospects that included Johnny Hellweg. Hellweg is an imposing presence on the mound standing 6-foot-9 and weighing 210 pounds. He also brings a heater to the table that one would expect someone of his size would unleash. He parks his fastball in the mid-90s, and can hit the upper-90s. He throws a breaking ball that John Sickels called a curveball in The Baseball Prospect Book 2012 write-up for Hellweg, and Kevin Goldstein wrote that the pitch flashes plus in a Transaction Analysis piece at Baseball Prospectus in late July. His change-up gets a below average grade. His current arsenal screams late inning reliever, but it was a move from the bullpen to starting last year that caused Hellweg's stock to rise dramatically. From 2008-2010 Hellweg made just three starts out of his 101 games pitched. Last year, he pitched in 28 games, starting exactly half of them. As a reliever he struggled mightily with his control, and while he won't be confused with Greg Maddux starting, he did make huge strides in his walk rate after moving to the rotation. After joining the Brewers, he started his first two games for Double-A Huntsville, before finishing the year with five relief appearances, each two innings. It will be interesting to see how the Brewers choose to develop him. His ceiling is high, but he has a ways to go in order to reach it.
When the Marlins selected Christian Yelich in the first round of the 2010 draft, every report I read lauded his sweet lefty swing and pure hitting ability. That stroke has helped him hit a robust .322/.395/.497 in over 1,000 professional plate appearances. He's shown patience, walking in over 10 percent of his plate appearances, and has demonstrated strong contact skills striking out in under 20 percent of the time. He has flashed some power, and could best 20 home runs annually in his peak seasons. Yelich has also been an astoundingly efficient base stealer, stealing 53 bases in 64 chances (82.8 percent success rate). His potential for a well rounded stat line make him a future fantasy baseball asset. He spent the entire year in the High-A Florida State League, and the AFL will award him exposure to many pitchers that have spent significant time in the upper minors (Double-A and Triple-A).
Yelich will be joined in the outfield by Khris Davis. Davis had one of the less talked about outstanding season's at the plate. Part of the reason for the lack of chatter was that Davis missed significant time with a leg injury this year, and compiled just 316 plate appearances. Another culprit for the lack of noise about Davis's fine year is that it was split primarily between Double-A and Triple-A, with 22 plate appearances at the Rookie-Level sprinkled in as well. Across the three levels he had a combined slash of .350/.451/.604 with 21 doubles, 15 home runs, and a .254 ISO. His walk-to-strikeout ratio of 42:67 is nice on the eyes as well. His detractors worry about the length of his swing and think he'll struggle with strikeouts because of it. Goldstein is one of the most vocal supporters of his bat, and in his Monday Morning Ten Pack from July 30, he gushed about how he can “really hit.” In fantasy baseball, the name of the game is offense, which makes Davis a player worth keeping tabs on in the AFL.