Category Archives: Arizona Fall League
The Arizona Fall League has concluded it’s always entertaining season for yet another year, with Surprise surprising everyone and winning by pitching after having spent the previous twenty-five games hammering opponents into submission with their bats. On a day when the Solar Sox’ starter Dallas Beeler was plenty sharp (possibly earning himself a look by the pleasantly busy Cubs, who appear to be rolling in their prospect riches), giving up just one run on two hits and a walk through five innings, it’s a good thing for the Saguaros that they happened to bring their pitching game on Saturday. After scoring in excess of six runs per game on average throughout the AFL circuit heading into the championship, Surprise was expected to give the Solar Sox and their league-best 3.24 ERA an excellent strength vs. strength matchup; the potent Sags offense versus the dominant Sox starters. As is often the case with a championship on the line (even one that doesn’t come with a trophy) the long statistical game of baseball changes dramatically when reduced to a single game. AFL MVP and top dreamy-eyed prospect Kris Bryant went 0-4 with two Ks, the first game in the circuit that he failed to reach base. Orioles prospects came out of the woodwork after posting fairly lackluster numbers through the short season. One-and-done Games, man…
With his team’s season now over in the AFL, Giants catching prospect Andrew Susac has wrapped up another long year. He has played in a hundred games for the second straight season, all as a catcher to the best of my knowledge. Susac was drafted in 2011 in the second round by the Giants out of Oregon State and has quietly been very good in the Giants organization. He finished his second pro season in AA, with a tour of the AFL at the end of an 84 game stint for the Flying Squirrels in the Eastern League. Susac rounded off his season by posting one of the better offensive lines in the Arizona Fall League with a .360/.507/.480 line. I’m always drawn to outlier performances and one of my favorites are players with higher OBPs than SLGs, and with a startlingly unsustainable .507 OBP, I couldn’t ignore Susac any longer. Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs regresses prospects’ performance in various minor leagues to their expected walk and strikeout rates based on their peripheral stats, like an FIP for hitters, and ranked Susac the fourth best hitter in the AFL this year. Does he profile as a future major leaguer? The gist of it is probably. Does he profile as a replacement for the perennial All-Star and Golden Man currently playing his position at the highest level? Not exactly.
Closing their season with a nigh-heroic seven game win streak, the Salt River Rafters marched dominantly into second place to close the AFL season after never quite challenging the also surging Mesa Solar Sox, winning six of their own in a row to keep their half-game lead. It was a tenuous week for fans of either team but a truly awful outcome for the players and fans of the Rafters, who did nothing but win and ‘couldn’t catch a break.’ It seems as if the Rafters were destined to lose, or if one looks at it positively, the Solar Sox were destined to win. This obviously isn’t true; the Sox’ team of top prospects played slightly better baseball earlier in the season and therefore are obviously deserving of their placement in the championship game against the hard-hitting Surprise Saguaros, but the point that I am laboriously making is that it was only slightly.
With three games left in the Arizona Fall League, you could be forgiven for expecting the players to be showing a bit more fatigue. With many of the roster spots going to prospects who played the entire regular season in the minors, it would be understandable to see less hustle and less highlight catches, it must be harder to focus and get the big hit toward the end of such a grind. Watching yesterday’s games play out around the AFL, if there were any tired players out there I would need to have them pointed out.
Trackman is a proprietary system (originally developed for use for the PGA) that uses radar technology to track the movement, speed and spin rate of the balls that zip around a baseball diamond. While proprietary means that it cannot be regularly and accurately transmitted into our brains the way pitch f/x stats have entered the lexicon recently, this does nothing to diminish the amount of useful information can be taken from it’s readings by those who can afford to pay for such info. As a sort of advertising for their product, the Trackman team will publicly release some of their non-major league readings. On the fifth of November the team released the readings they had taken up to that point in the AFL this year. After browsing through the admittedly fascinating numbers they have tracked, one of the things that jumps out at me is that Trackman seems to really like Blue Jays Top Prospect RHP Aaron Sanchez.
Today, the Salt River Rafters will head to Glendale to play the Desert Dogs in the first part of a two-game tilt that could very well decide the fate of the season of either team.
In basketball the athletes chosen in the first round are expected to contribute immediately, meaning that a draft can change the chances of success for a team with a shrewd first round selection. This is not usually the case in baseball, where it often takes a year or two before a draftee is even mentioned amongst an organization’s top prospects, even in weaker minor league systems. The development of pitching and the difficulty of hitting said improving pitching necessitates a slow and gradual build toward the crescendo of the Major Leagues. Cubs 3B Kris Bryant still appears to be waiting for that challenge to present itself, despite the fact that he’s been facing live pitching since January. In the Arizona Fall League last night, Kris Bryant got a single hit in the Solar Sox’ contest against the Surprise Saguaros, bringing his AFL wRC+ up to a Miggian 213. He also kept alive a streak that has reached 20 games spanning back into the regular season, including each of the 17 AFL games he’s played in, where he’s reached base safely.
No-hit performances by pitchers are a bit like throwing a bulls-eye in a game of darts. The difference between a skilled dart-thrower and a non-skilled dart-thrower is great; it is unarguably a skill that is improved by the muscle memory gained via practice. Much like anything in life, skill at darts progresses along a curve; making the same effort to improve will provide diminishing returns as you move up in skill. One cannot practice enough to be able to throw a dart into the bulls-eye every time; it is conceivably possible to comprehend, but the amount of practice that would seemingly be required is prohibitive. This same effect can be seen in most any field where skill plays in; an average Joe has a miniscule chance of beating a master dart-thrower in a standard game of darts, but relative to the gap between their skill levels they have a much closer-together chance of throwing three bulls-eyes in a row. There’s an old expression about how you have to be good to get the chance to be lucky, and baseball offers more glimpses at the elite getting lucky than possibly any other modern entertainment.