Corey Wimberly has more experience than most with the minor-leaguers from the Red Sox organization who currently find themselves in the Arizona Fall League. But what the manager of the Single-A Salem Red Sox has witnessed over the last month while coaching for the Peoria Javelinas has left quite an impression. Here are Wimberly's observations regarding five AFL participants with ties to the Sox:
Tanner Houck: "He's really come out here and taken a step forward. He's been a guy who is really working on developing his offspeed more and I think he has made huge strides. ... They've polished up some of his off-speed pitches and he's been outstanding. He's made huge strides. I'm proud of him. ... He's throwing his changeup and his slider more. Most of it was learning how to use it and not giving up on it. Being able to adjust pitch to pitch. He's understanding each pitch serves a purpose even if it's not a strike, what it does to a hitter and how it makes him vulnerable. He's learned that and picked it up well."
Jarren Duran: "He's going to compete no matter what. He's going to find a way. For me, it was just getting comfortable in Portand where guys probably have better command. We worked on some slight mechanical changes in his swing but nothing drastic. It has seemed to pay off. I'm excited for him. He's in a good spot right now ... Ever since I've seen this kid step on a professional field, because I've had him the last two years, he takes every at-bat personal. It's a battle between him and the pitcher. It's serious every time he gets in the box. I don't think him being overconfident or under-confident had anything to do with his struggles. I think he went through a little phase. This was his first full season so he played a lot of baseball this year. I'm excited for where he's at. It seems he hasn't missed a beat.
Bryan Mata: "Mata is opening up some eyes. We've seen a tick up in his velocity. He's been up to 99 (mph) with an electric arm over and over. From my first year of coaching, I've seen him go from 88-91 and now to see him at 99 ... Just sitting sinker at 99 is unbelievable. He's opened some eyes out here for sure. ... I think just being in the bullpen, coming in throwing one inning at a time he has really let it go and hasn't had to pace himself. It's fun to watch him come out of the pen right now."
Yoan Aybar: "He's a lefty who is throwing upper-90's. He's been 95 to 99, showing some electric stuff. He's making great strides. His slider is electric as well. And this is his first full season pitching, as well. He's made some huge strides." (Aybar made the switch from position player to pitcher in 2018.)
Marcus Wilson: "He's just been on a tear ever since the second half of the season in Salem. He's opened up some eyes. He's been a guy if you just take off that first half of the season he's a guy who for sure has big-league ability. It's exciting to watch guys like him be successful." (Wilson was acquired from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Blake Swihart.)
C.J. Chatham: "C.J. has been working on a position change, working at second base quite a bit just trying to get him more versatility. Obviously second base in the big leagues for us, we don't know how Pedey is going to be next year.... He's done well at the position. It's just getting used to all the different turns, especially out of shifts and stuff like that which are coming into play. So we've been working with footwork around the bases a lot. He will be able to transfer into that position pretty easy. I just feel like if you're a shortstop at this level you can kind of play everywhere. It's just about getting comfortable."