The Arizona Fall League is also known as “prospect finishing school”. You need only to look at the past couple of MLB All Star games and you’ll find each team is packed with AFL grads. As a rule, the dry air of Arizona makes for a hitter’s league, and for Cardinal players, the rule stuck. Let’s give out the grades.
Making his triumphal return to the Copper State, the former Sun Devil seemed to be perfectly comfortable in his old surroundings of the painted desert. The Walrus hit for a .422 wOBA over 104 plate appearances. He started off a little slow, but finished strong and helped cap his status as the best pure hitter in the system. If there was a downside to his season, it was that he struck out in 25.7% of his plate appearances, but for someone just a few months removed from college, I gotta like the results. Grade: A and voted most likely to succeed.
Tyler Greene needed to have a good showing, and a good showing he had. The GM took notice, stating at one point that Greene could possibly make the big league roster with a good spring training. In order to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, he was added to the 40 man roster. Greene has been an enigma wrapped in tools, and here’s hoping the 25 year old former 1st rounder is a late bloomer. On the surface it looks like he may have turned the corner, posting a .400 wOBA against the advanced competition, but I can’t say his peripherals changed dramatically. Over a 100 plate appearances, his walk rate was 8% and he struck out in 29% plate appearances, about right around his norm. If he could just get some sort of semblance of pitch recognition skills…Right now his upside looks a little like Bill Hall, only I think he will stick as a middle infielder. Grade: B. Voted best athlete and biggest flirt.
Steve Hill is the lord of the taxi squad. Or you can simply call him T-Bone. Splitting time between catching and DHing, Hill hit for a .436 wOBA over only 55 plate appearances. It’s a small sample, but a .305 isolated power is impressive, even playing in thin air. If he is halfway serviceable at catcher then he’s a pretty nice prospect. I think he’ll end up splitting catching duties with Arnoldi Cruz next year for Springfield. He’s definitely a favorite sleeper of mine, if he can still be classified as a sleeper. Grade: A. Voted most likely to beat the living snot out of you.
Shane Robinson got everyone’s attention when he hit around .400 for his first couple of months in AA, but once he moved up to Memphis he struggled at the plate and with injuries and seemed to fall off the grid. In 129 plate appearances as the Saguaros lead off hitter, Robinson posted a .351 wOBA. He led the team in runs scored (27) and stolen bases (8). His 12.9% walk rate is hopefully a sign of progress and if he can keep it up in AAA next year it will certainly boost his stock as a potential lead off hitter. While he had a decent AFL, he didn’t really do anything to separate himself from Rasmus, Mather, Jones and Jay in the depth chart, and still looks like a 4th OF to me. If he could only play 2B…Grade: C. Voted most scrappy. (Natch)
Adam Ottavino‘s prospect status took a few body blows this past season in AA, and I was hoping he’d take a whiff of the smelling salt and come out swinging in the AFL. Instead, he hit the mat again, with a .344 average against and a 6.17 ERA. His fielding independent numbers aren’t too bad though, he struck out 25 batters in 23.1 innings and had a 4.28 FIP. Grade: C+. Voted friendliest classmate.
After sitting on the sidelines most of the season with a strained left shoulder, Tyler Norrick was sent to the AFL to make up for lost time. Maybe a more tropical setting would have been more appropriate, as Norrick was tagged to the tune of a 7.88 ERA in 16 innings pitched. Like Ottavino, there was a pretty big discrepancy with his ERA and his FIP-4.83. He struck out 20 batters but struggled to keep the ball in the yard, yielding 5 homers. Grade: C-. Voted most likely to end up on the back of a milk carton.
Brad Furnish and his fly-balling ways surprised me by managing to not allow a homer over 15.2 innings in Arizona. The same malady that Ott and Norrick suffered plagued Furnish as well, his ERA was 7.47 but his FIP of 4.35 is respectable. Opponents hit .323 against him. Meh. Grade: C-. Voted Coolest Hair.
From the Indy leagues to the AFL, it’s been quite a ride for the soft-tossing Justin Fiske. Fiske looked like the most likely of the three lefties to get a look in spring training as a potential LOOGY. Over 11 innings he struck out 8, walked 5 and allowed 6 earned runs. FIP- 4.56. Meh again. C-. Voted most likely to join a German death metal band.