The Arizona Fall League is well underway, and there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that the Mesa Solar Sox are absolutely terrible. They're literally the worst, with a 1-9 record that ranks dead last in the six-team league. The good news is that the team's overall performance isn't that important to us, because only one-fifth of it is made up of Oakland A's prospects and only about half of them are truly key youngsters. Furthermore, the best of the A's prospects are doing pretty well.
Since Renato Nunez's monster Monday performance, in which he swatted three home runs, here is a quick rundown of how everyone did this week.
Tuesday: Nunez singled in the go-ahead run in the 9th inning to secure Mesa's only win of the season so far. Jaycob Brugman had tripled in the 8th with the score tied, but was stranded.
Wednesday: The entire A's contingent played in this one, with mixed results. Sean Manaea started and threw four innings (that's a normal length for an AFL start). In the 1st, 2nd, and 4th he faced the minimum, eliminating his only hit with a double play. In the 3rd, however, he hit the leadoff batter and eventually allowed four singles and a walk and uncorked two wild pitches; when all was said and done, he'd given up three runs. He struck out four batters overall, all swinging, including one to end the nightmare 3rd when he really needed it.
Manaea was followed by all of the A's relievers, one after the other. Aaron Kurcz, Kris Hall, and Brendan McCurry each threw a 1-2-3 inning, they each struck out one batter, and they all did so in 12 or 13 pitches. Oakland's arms accounted for the following combined line: 7 ip, 3 runs, 5 hits, 1 walk, 7 Ks. And then, some muppet from the Angels' system came in and gave up a home run to lose the game for Mesa.
Unfortunately, the good news didn't extend to the lineup. Nunez, Brugman, and Chad Pinder all started, and they held three of the top four spots in the lineup, but they combined to go 1-for-12 in a 5-3 loss.
Thursday: Nunez is the only one who played. He went 1-for-4 in a ho-hum loss for Mesa.
Friday: Brugman went 1-for-4, and Hall had his second straight positive outing with a quick 1-2-3 inning featuring a pair of strikeouts. Sadly, the Solar Sox lost.
Saturday: Nunez went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and an RBI! And Kurcz threw a scoreless 7th with a pair of strikeouts to hold a close lead! Ahh, dangit, but then McCurry came in for the save and blew it by allowing a pair of hits and then a triple to knock them both in. Mesa lost again, and for the fourth game in a row their opponent scored exactly five runs to beat them.
The Big Picture
The key guys here are Manaea, Pinder, and Nunez. Brugman is a neat pet project for those of us who watch the minors a bit too closely, and I'm a massive fan, but let's remember he's still a longshot. The relievers each have chances to be good, but they're still just relievers, even if one of them has the best last name ever.
Manaea (LHP) has made two starts, and they've each been fine. Both lasted four frames and included four strikeouts, and only one of those eight total innings turned out particularly poorly. Bottom line, he's got eight strikeouts to one walk, which is fine with me.
Nunez (3B) has played eight games and hit safely in six of them. He had his one huge day on Monday, but he's also provided consistent production in his other games as well. He wasn't originally scheduled to play in this league, but he's certainly making the most of the opportunity.
Pinder (SS) has only played four games, after stepping away for personal matters last week. He's been great in those games, though, hitting safely in three of them and recording multiple extra-base hits in two of them. He's walked once against four strikeouts, so the contact and discipline questions will continue to follow him, but you've gotta love the damage he's doing when he does make contact.
Of the four lower-profile prospects, Kris Hall is the one who has stood out the most to me. Sure, he's given up some runs, but I'm more focused on something else. A look through his MiLB stats shows that lowering his walk total is an absolute necessity if he is ever to sniff the Majors, and he has made it through four innings spread over four games and he hasn't yet walked a single batter. Giving up a ton of hits en route to a run-per-inning average isn't necessarily an improvement, but I really hate walks.
Here are the total numbers for the AFL guys, as well as some other A's prospects playing in various winter leagues. This is not a comprehensive list, as some players (Seth Frankoff, Jake Sanchez, Parker Frazier, etc.) aren't of particular interest to me due to their ages and/or generally low prospect stocks. I've selected a few of most important and/or encouraging numbers to highlight in bold.
Click here to view the full table of A's winter league stats.
Arizona Fall League
(Oct. 13 to Nov. 19)
Renato Nunez: 9-for-32, 3 HR, 2 2b, 3 BB, 9 Ks, .968 OPS
Chad Pinder: 6-for-17, 2 HR, 2 2b, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 1.212 OPS, SB
Jaycob Brugman: 6-for-28, 3b, 2b, 2 BB, 7 Ks, .588 OPS
Sean Manaea: 2 starts, 8 ip, 4 runs, 8 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR, 7 hits, 4.50 ERA
Aaron Kurcz: 3 games, 3 ip, 2 runs, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 2 hits, 6.00 ERA
Brendan McCurry: 4 games, 3⅓ ip, 3 runs, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 6 hits, 8.10 ERA
Kris Hall: 4 games, 4 ip, 4 ER, 5 Ks, 0 BB, 1 HR, 7 hits, 9.00 ERA
Venezeulan Winter League
(Oct. 7 to Dec. 29)
Franklin Barreto: 5-for-33, 2b, 3 BB, 7 Ks, 2 SB, .398 OPS
Rangel Ravelo: 17-for-38, 4 HR, 4 2b, 13 BB, 7 Ks, 2 SB, 1.432 OPS
Jose Torres: 4 games, 3⅓ ip, 1 run, 5 Ks, 3 BB, 2 hits, 2.70 ERA
Carlos Navas: 1 games, 1 ip, 3 runs, 4 hits
Jesus Zambrano: 1 game, 2 ip, 2 runs, 1 K, 1 HR
Victor Veliz: 8 games, 4 ip, 2 ER, 1 K, 2 BB
Those are two of Oakland's bigger hitting prospects, having opposite results. Remember that Barreto is still 19 years old, so it's a big deal that he's even in this league at all; I'm not worried that he's overmatched. (In the comments, danmerqury describes the Venezuelan League as a "slightly weaker Triple-A." To put that into context, Barreto is yet to play in real-life Double-A.) Ravelo, however, is showing that he's healthy and ready for a bigger test. He has absolutely crushed the ball, and in 13 games he's driven in 15 runs, gotten on base over half the time, and slugged nearly nearly .900. I'm tellin' ya, this guy will be in Oakland sometime in 2016.
The four pitchers listed are all young, low-minors guys. Torres is the name you might know if you follow the prospect world, as he reached High-A Stockton this year after an impressive campaign in Single-A Beloit, but Zambrano and Veliz each briefly appeared in Tripe-A Nashville in 2015. Navas did the same as Torres did (Beloit, then Stockton to finish the year) and even performed similarly well, but he's a year older and right-handed, which helps explain Torres' higher stock.
Mexican Pacific League
(Oct. 9 to Dec. 29)
Max Muncy: 8-for-25, HR, 2b, BB, 6 Ks, .850 OPS
You do your thing, Max.