Nov 22nd, 2009

Retherford Keys AFL Title, Morel Wins Batting Crown

By Dan Santaromita

The Arizona Fall League ended Saturday with the Peoria Javelinas taking the league crown. White Sox prospect C.J. Retherford was the spark plug in their 5-4 win in the title game over the Phoenix Desert Dogs on Saturday.

Retherford had 3 RBI including a 2-run HR in the 8th inning to give the Javelinas the lead for good in the final. However, overall, Retherford’s AFL didn’t go as well though. He got off to a hot start, but slumped the rest of the way to finish with lines of .246/.333/.348/.681 (not including the title game) in 69 AB. On the upside, he had seven walks and just nine strikeouts. Obviously, the AFL isn’t long enough for a healthy sample size, but it is encouraging to see C.J. walk more than normal and still have a good contact rate. He didn’t show a lot of power, but his two HR came against Stephen Strasburg and in the title game. He’s been getting more attention as he nears the Majors, but a projection as a utility man (possibly even an above-average one) still remains reasonable and likely.

The highlight of the AFL from the Sox standpoint has been Brent Morel. Morel captured the league batting title after hitting .435 (27-62). Before everyone gets too excited, he only had four extra base hits and four walks. He’s not likely to be a star hitter, but he plays good defense and makes contact. What more could you want out of a third baseman? The question becomes what his ETA is. Morel is more than likely going to start in AA to start 2010 putting him 1-2 years away still. Mark Teahan’s arrival probably puts the Sox in no rush to move Morel through the upper levels of the system.

Meanwhile, Jordan Danks finished in the top five in hits, walks and OBP and led the league in runs scored (31). Danks plays good center field and the scouts agreed in various reports out of Arizona. He had a great walk rate (20 in 99 AB) and hit .343, but the concern has been contact rate and he did nothing to change that. He struck out in almost 22% of his plate appearances in Arizona, staying in line with his 2009 numbers in Winston-Salem and Birmingham. He doesn’t project to hit for big power so he will need to improve that to be a successful hitter in the Majors. At the same time, a good defensive center fielder that can get on-base will always have a job.

On the pitching side, no one made a big impression. Kyle Bellamy pitched well, but joined the league late and only pitched 5.2 innings. Matt Long continued the success he had with the Barons late this year, but his high 80s fastball makes him only a fringe prospect. Sergio Santos showed his usual (high velocity, lots of strikeouts and no control) and Justin Cassel and Jacob Rasner had tough times in the fall league.

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