Fall isn’t just time for post-season play, it can also be an important time for some of the minor leagues’ top prospects. And as the A’s begin Game #3 of their American League playoff series against Detroit at the Coliseum on Tuesday, some of the team’s top prospects will begin play in the Arizona Fall League.
The league has been going strong for 20 years now, and its schedule runs for about 6 weeks from early-October through mid-November. There are 6 teams in the AFL, with each team comprised of prospects from 5 different organizations. A’s prospects play for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, where this year they’ll be joined by prospects from the Rays, Braves, Brewers and Marlins.
The attendance at AFL games typically tops out at around 200 or so, with the crowds comprised of a healthy dose of scouts, agents, and various professional baseball personnel. Most organizations use the AFL as an opportunity to get some of their top prospects a little more live game action to hopefully help advance their development.
This year, it looks like the A’s are definitely doing that with some of their top hitting prospects while giving their top pitching prospects a little time off. Many of you will certainly recognize the names of top minor league position players like Grant Green, Miles Head and Max Stassi, but don’t expect to be seeing the likes of top pitching prospects Brad Peacock, Sonny Gray or A.J. Cole in Arizona this time around…
A’s Prospects in the AFL in 2012
Drafted 2009 – 1st Round
15 HR / .296 AVG / .338 OBP / .458 SLG / .796 OPS
It will be interesting to see where the A’s #1 draft pick from 2009 ends up playing for the Desert Dogs. At Sacramento in 2012, the former USC shortstop made starts in left field, center field, second base, third base and short. After slumping a bit at the plate for Midland in 2011, Green’s offensive numbers rebounded this season at Sacramento. And a strong performance in the AFL could bolster his chances of landing a utility role with the major league club next year.
Drafted 2009 – 26th Round
23 HR / .333 AVG / .391 OBP / .577 SLG / .968 OPS
Acquired along with Josh Reddick and Raul Alcantara from the Red Sox in the Andrew Bailey/Ryan Sweeney deal, Head turned out to be the best hitter in the A’s minor league system in 2012. The majority of his starts came at third base, though he did get a handful of starts at first base as well. The 21-year-old right-handed slugger will continue trying to make his mark with the bat in the AFL while also working on refining his skills in the field.
Drafted 2009 – 4th Round
15 HR / .268 AVG / .331 OBP / .468 SLG / .799 OPS
The former 4th-round draft pick had his most productive season in the system with Stockton in 2012, and his defensive skills behind the plate are considered solid. Once viewed as the A’s catcher of the near-future, injuries have slowed Stassi’s progress a bit, and the team is eager to see him get some extra at-bats in the AFL before giving him a chance to see what he can do at Double-A Midland next year.
Drafted 2006 – 3rd Round
118 IP / 130 H / 67 ER / 71 BB / 79 K / 5.11 ERA / 1.70 WHIP
At age 26, Daley has been bouncing around the minor leagues for 7 seasons now. He struggled in 2012 at Midland and has a career ERA of 5.91 in 605 minor league innings. Lack of control has been the main issue with Daley, as he has averaged 5.7 walks per 9 innings over his extensive minor league career.
Drafted 2008 – 33rd Round
120 IP / 124 H / 64 ER / 47 BB / 104 K / 4.80 ERA / 1.43 WHIP
The 33rd-round draft pick was never considered a top prospect but put himself on the map with a strong 2010 season at Stockton. He struggled mightily at Midland in 2011 though, posting an ERA of 7.08 in 27 starts. The right-hander settled down a bit in his second season at Double-A, but Haviland needs to make a strong impression in the AFL if he really wants to put himself back in the mix again.
Drafted 2007 – 1st Round
63 1/3 IP / 53 H / 21 ER / 22 BB / 50 K / 2.98 ERA / 1.18 WHIP
The former 1st-round draft pick has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness since being drafted in 2007, but he may have re-invented himself this season as a dependable reliever. In 2012 with Midland and Sacramento, the right-hander struck out 7.1 batters per 9 innings, and a strong season in the AFL could help to bolster Simmons’ chances of landing a spot in the A’s bullpen next season.
Drafted 2008 – 7th Round
56 IP / 53 H / 28 ER / 31 BB / 60 K / 4.50 ERA / 1.50 WHIP
Hunter has yet to truly impress since being drafted in 2008. The only thing that really stands out about the right-hander is his career strikeout rate of 10.1 batters per 9 innings over 193 minor league innings Unfortunately, he also has a career walk rate of 6.7 per 9 innings and a 4.99 career ERA. But if Hunter can just learn to harness his stuff in the AFL, he could see his stock start to rise.