I missed this when it first came out yesterday, but the Yankees announced their MiL representatives for the 2014 Arizona Fall League season and it's quite the group. Via Josh Norris, the players selected were Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Eric Jagielo, Tyler Austin, Caleb Cotham, Branden Pinder, and Alex Smith. The pitching reps aren't all that sexy, but that's a top crop of hitting prospects. Some random thoughts on the picks and what it means for each player. - As far as Bird, Austin, and Cotham are concerned, this is a way to get back some of the at-bats and innings they lost due to injury this season. Austin battled some wrist problems again and has hit .275/.336/.419 in 437 PA for Trenton. Bird missed a lot of time early in the season as he worked back from his latest back issue. He's swung the bat well (.272/.374/.479) in 414 PA split 75/25 between High-A and Double-A. Cotham has pitched 52.0 innings spread across multiple levels this season, I believe dealing with some kind of arm injury. For these 3, it's about the reps.
- For other guys, I think there's more to it than that. Pinder and Jagielo each missed time with injury as well, but they have a little more to prove. Pinder is Rule 5 eligible this winter and the Yankees need a better idea of whether he's worth protecting. He's pitched as high as Triple-A this season, but the sample size is limited and they need to know if his solid results (3.78 ERA in 16.2 IP) are legit. Makes sense to toss him into a notorious hitters' league and see how he fairs.
- Jagielo needs to come out the AZ to put some polish on his game. He was regarded as a pretty well-balanced prospect when the Yankees drafted him, but that hasn't translated to his on-field performance. He's hit for a low batting average this season (.252 in Tampa), he strikes out a lot (26.3%), and his defense hasn't been as good as advertised (17 errors). I have to think the Yankees are looking for him to start improving his hitting approach and working on his defensive game while he gains ABs in preparation for a ST invite and Double-A assignment next year.
- It should be fun and informative to watch Judge play in this league. He's been a beast this year, but this will be a step up in competition. If he comes out and mashes again in the AZFL, he could be looking at a jump to Trenton in 2015 too. If he doesn't, maybe he gets ticketed back to Tampa for a little more seasoning.
- I honestly don't know much about Alex Smith, other than he shares a name with a small-handed quarterback. But he's had a good year in the High-A bullpen (2.40/3.29, 57 K/19 BB in 63.2 IP), so he seems like a good type of mid-tier reliever to send to see how good he really is.