Keep the League environment in mind. This is an offensive friendly league where the ball carries well, and the infields are hard and fast. The AFL hit .283/.357/.431 and scored 12 runs per game in 2010. By contrast, the National League hit .255/.324/.399 and scored 4.3 runs per game. The AFL had a .330 BABIP, the NL .299.
The level of play in the AFL is inconsistent: there are guys who will play in the big leagues, and be impact players in short order, and there are guys who will be below average players in AA.
I'll get to the pitchers later today.
The HittersKai Gronauer6'1" 205 - C - 11/28/86
The question: How would the German born catcher, who turns 24 in a month, respond to his first taste of advanced pitching after a 2010 season in which he split between the two a-ball levels with a .291/.359/.379 line? Light on power, but long on approach, could he hang against more age-appropriate competition?
Verdict: Incomplete.Gronauer hit .222/.286/.333 with three doubles, four walks, and five strikouts over 45 AB in 13 games over two months. So that's about a week and a half's worth of playing time in a full-time role. If you're looking for positives, note that he controlled the strike zone well. Also, his BABIP of .250 was fluky low after BABIPs of .383 in advanced-A St. Lucie and .299 in A Savannah.
Next Step: Barring a Spring Training surprise, Gronauer should break camp as AA - Binghamton's everyday catcher.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis6'3", 210 lbs - OF - 8/7/87
The question: After failing to land a job in a Caribbean League, how would he follow up a strong season at AA, and a weak final month at AAA? With a big fall, could he put himself in the organization's big league plans for 2011?
The Verdict: Mildly disappointing. Nieuwenhuis continued to strike out at a high rate (24%), but the power disappeared. This wasn't a BABIP problem: his .344 was slightly higher than the AFL average, and higher than at any other stop in his last two years. However, playing the best hitting environment of his career, his extra-base hit percentage dropped to its lowest rate of any of his stops in the last two years. Yeah, it's only 90 at-bats, and yes, it's only 90 at-bats. Still, fans hoping for Nieuwenhuis to play a big role early in 2011, need to temper their enthusiasm.
Next Step: Back to AAA to begin 2011.
Josh Satin6'2", 200 lbs - 2B - 12/23/84
The question: Can he keep hitting?
The verdict: Affirmative, but nearly irrelevant. He had 41 AB in the AFL - that's worth a shade over a week in a season. That just doesn't mean much at all. There's a pattern here though. Look at the final columns on this table. His superficially impressive batting lines have been bolstered by unsustainable BABIPs and strong walk rates. The walk rates I believe. The BABIP will come back down. Note also, that he's been striking out in over 20% of his plate appearances, and almost 30% of the time in the AFL.
Next step: AAA utility man at age 26 in 2011.
Jordany Valdespin6'0", 174 lbs - 2B - 12/23/87
The question: Will Valdespin ever learn to draw a walk, get on base and be a top of the order threat?
The Verdict: Tentative yes. His walk rate of 5% was better than at either advanced-A or double-AA in 2010. He still has room to improve in the area. And yes, it was only 76 AB. Again, as with Satin above, even in a league with a high BABIP, Valdespin's was elevated above any sustainable level. No, he's never going to run a BABIP of .413 over a full season ever again. His AFL season ended with a forearm strain. The Mets added him to the 40-man roster so, he's definitely on the organizational radar moving forward and could make his Major League debut as soon as the end of 2011.
Next Step: AA 2B. Assuming Reese Havens and Jordany Valdespin are both healthy coming out of Spring Training in 2011, and that's a dangerous assumption given Havens' track record, the Mets will have a very interesting decision to make.