While most baseball fans are focused on the drama of postseason play in the fall, it's also an important time for some of the minor leagues' top prospects. And starting today, some of the A's most promising young prospects will begin play in the Arizona Fall League.
The league has been going strong for the past couple of decades now, and its schedule runs for about 5-6 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 will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox this year, where they'll be joined by prospects from the Blue Jays, Angels, Nationals and Cubs, including one particular prospect by the name of Addison Russell.
Attendance at AFL games typically hovers around 200 or so, with the crowds comprised mostly 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.
Some of the A's top young hitting prospects will be seeing action in Arizona, including first baseman Matt Olson, shortstop Daniel Robertson and outfielder Boog Powell, while the team's AFL pitching contingent this year will be comprised of right-handers Drew Granier, Tanner Peters, Ryan Doolittle and Austin House.
--A's Prospects in the AFL in 2014--
37 HR / .262 AVG / .404 OBP / .543 SLG / .947 OPS
Olson had perhaps the best overall season of any A's prospect this year. The 6'4" slugger led all A's minor leaguers in home runs, walks, RBIs and total bases while playing for Stockton in the hitter-friendly California League. He'll have the chance to prove his true power potential next season for Double-A Midland, where the hitting conditions for power-hitting prospects have historically been far more challenging.
15 HR / .310 AVG / .402 OBP / .471 SLG / .873 OPS
With the trade of Addison Russell to the Cubs this summer, Robertson has now taken over as the A's shortstop of the future. And he certainly earned that billing this year, leading all A's minor leaguers in hits while putting up a healthy .310/.402/.471 slash line and playing solid in the field for Stockton. Robertson also got in a little postseason time with Double-A Midland, where he should be the team's starting shortstop next season.
Beloit Snappers / Stockton Ports
3 HR / .343 AVG / .451 OBP / .435 SLG / .886 OPS
Powell was perhaps the A's best minor league hitter in the first half while playing for Beloit. About a week and a half after being promoted to Stockton, he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for amphetamines. But the speedy center fielder still hit well for Stockton before and after his suspension and ended the season with the best batting average and on-base percentage of any player in the A's system.
Midland RockHounds / Sacramento River Cats
130 1/3 IP / 143 H / 71 ER / 76 BB / 94 K / 4.90 ERA / 1.68 WHIP
A 32nd-round draft pick for the A's in 2011, Granier has earned his way up through the system with solid performances on the mound. The 25-year-old right-hander started and ended the 2014 season with a few rocky outings but was very dependable for Midland for most of the year. He'll use the extra innings he'll get in the AFL to try to gain greater command of his secondary pitches, which he'll need to do if he hopes to climb the next rung on the ladder.
Midland RockHounds / AZL A's
28 IP / 36 H / 17 ER / 8 BB / 17 K / 5.46 ERA / 1.57 WHIP
Peters had a solid season for Stockton in 2013 but was sidelined by shoulder issues after just three starts for Midland last year. The 24-year-old southern California native came back to get in a few outings in the Arizona League in August but can use some extra innings in the AFL as he looks to get himself back on track and ready to compete again in 2015.
Midland RockHounds / Stockton Ports
57 1/3 IP / 53 H / 19 ER / 21 BB / 60 K / 2.98 ERA / 1.29 WHIP
After being drafted back in 2008 and missing significant time due to injury, Sean's little brother will return to the A's system for one more season. "Little Doo" struck out 60 in 57 1/3 innings for Midland and Stockton last season and could potentially pitch well enough in the AFL to help put himself into a position to be considered for a bullpen spot next to his big brother sometime before the end of next season.
Stockton Ports / Sacramento River Cats
61 2/3 IP / 50 H / 21 ER / 23 BB / 82 K / 3.06 ERA / 1.18 WHIP / 19 SV
After starting 9 games for Beloit in 2013, House led all A's minor league relievers with 19 saves while striking out 82 in just 61 2/3 innings last season. The 6'4" right-hander should have the chance to close out a few more games in the AFL as he gets ready to serve as the RockHounds' closer at Midland next season.
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.