It’s Time for Fall Ball in Arizona!

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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 playoffs unfortunately continue on without us, some of the A’s top prospects like Grant Green, Miles Head and Max Stassi all began play in the Arizona Fall League this week. I’ve been keeping tabs on all the AFL doings on my Athletics Farm blog, but read on to find out what some of the A’s top prospects have been up to while you weren’t looking…

Some of you might know that the Arizona Fall 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 averages around 200 or so, with the crowds comprised of a healthy dose of scouts, agents, and various pro 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. Here’s a little preview of the A’s prospects currently doing their time in the desert and an update on what they’ve accomplished so far in the first 5 games of the AZL season…

Grant Green

Infielder-Outfielder / Age: 25 / Drafted 2009 – 1st Round

It was bound to be interesting to see where the A’s #1 draft pick from 2009 would end up playing for the Desert Dogs. And so far in his first 3 AFL games, he’s started 2 at second base and 1 as the designated hitter. 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.

Sacramento 2012:
524 AB / 73 R / 28 2B / 15 HR / 75 RBI / 33 BB / 75 K / .296 AVG / .338 OBP / .458 SLG / .796 OPS

AFL 2012:
12 AB / 2 R / 1 2B / 0 HR / 3 RBI / 1 BB / 2 K / .333 AVG / .385 OBP / .417 SLG / .801 OPS

Miles Head

Third Baseman / Age: 21 / Drafted 2009 – 26th Round

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 hopes to continue making his mark with the bat in the AFL while also working on refining his skills in the field. But in his first game, he injured his wrist while swinging and missing and has yet to return to the Desert Dogs’ lineup.

Stockton/Midland 2012:
480 AB / 82 R / 32 2B / 23 HR / 84 RBI / 39 BB / 130 K / .333 AVG / .391 OBP / .577 SLG / .968 OPS

AFL 2012:
3 AB / 0 R / 0 2B / 0 HR / 0 RBI / 0 BB / 2 K / .000 AVG / .000 OBP / .000 SLG / .000 OPS

Max Stassi

Catcher / Age: 21 / Drafted 2009 – 4th Round

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. And so far, he’s gotten off to a hot start at the plate in Phoenix.

Stockton 2012:
314 AB / 48 R / 18 2B / 15 HR / 45 RBI / 27 BB / 83 K / .268 AVG / .331 OBP / .468 SLG / .799 OPS

AFL 2012:
7 AB / 3 R / 1 2B / 1 HR / 4 RBI / 0 BB / 2 K / .429 AVG / .429 OBP / 1.000 SLG / 1.429 OPS

Gary Daley

Starting Pitcher / Age: 26 / Drafted 2006 – 3rd Round

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.

Midland 2012:
118 IP / 130 H / 67 ER / 71 BB / 79 K / 5.11 ERA / 1.70 WHIP

AFL 2012:
2 IP / 3 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 4 K / 4.50 ERA / 1.50 WHIP

Shawn Haviland

Starting Pitcher / Age: 26 / Drafted 2008 – 33rd Round

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.

Midland 2012:
120 IP / 124 H / 64 ER / 47 BB / 104 K / 4.80 ERA / 1.43 WHIP

AFL 2012:
3 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 4 K / 0.00 ERA / 0.67 WHIP

James Simmons

Relief Pitcher / Age: 26 / Drafted 2007 – 1st Round

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.

Midland/Sacramento 2012:
63 1/3 IP / 53 H / 21 ER / 22 BB / 50 K / 2.98 ERA / 1.18 WHIP

AFL 2012:
1 2/3 IP / 0 H / 1 ER / 2 BB / 1 K / 5.40 ERA / 1.20 WHIP

Brett Hunter

Relief Pitcher / Age: 25 / Drafted 2008 – 7th Round

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.

Midland 2012:
56 IP / 53 H / 28 ER / 31 BB / 60 K / 4.50 ERA / 1.50 WHIP

AFL 2012:
1 IP / 0 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 0 K / 0.00 ERA / 0.00 WHIP

You can check out my blog - Athletics Farm - for updates on the A’s minor league teams and all the top prospects down on the farm.

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