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Dylan Covey, Frankie Montas lead Mesa Solar Sox to Arizona Fall League title

Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The Mesa Solar Sox won the 2016 Arizona Fall League title on Saturday behind the pitching of a couple Oakland A’s prospects. Right-handers Dylan Covey and Frankie Montas combined for eight innings of one-run, two-hit ball to lead Mesa to a 6-1 victory over the Surprise Saguaros.

Staked to an early lead, Covey only needed 59 pitches to get through five frames, and he didn’t allow a baserunner until the fifth. Jim Callis of MLB.com offers the following scouting report on Covey’s outing:

He lived down in the zone with his 88-93-mph fastball and struck out three Saguaros with changeups that featured splitter action.

Montas followed and struck out five batters over three shutout innings. Callis had this to say about Montas’ performance:

He sat in the upper 90s and reached 101 mph with his fastball and worked in the upper 80s and touched 90 mph with his slider. Three of his whiffs came on sliders, and (Twins prospect Nick) Gordon nearly fell over trying to catch up to a 99-mph heater.

This isn’t the first time Covey and Montas have teamed up for a big performance in the AFL. A few weeks ago, they tossed eight hitless innings en route to the third no-hitter in the league’s 25-season history.

As for the future, these two hurlers are in different places. Montas, 24 next season, is a highly regarded prospect who is already on the 40-man roster, and he should be fighting for a spot in Oakland before long. Ryan Christenson, manager of both Mesa and the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, noted that Montas will be a starter in 2017.

Meanwhile, Covey is more of a fringe prospect who is further away from the bigs. He was left off the 40-man roster before Friday’s deadline for protection from the Rule 5 draft, and although he’s probably a long shot to get picked, that gives an idea that there are a lot of names ahead of him. He’s barely pitched at Double-A after missing most of last season, so presumably he’ll repeat that level at age 25 and try to force his way up the ladder.

On the other side of the ball, SS Franklin Barreto batted leadoff for Mesa in the title game. He reached base twice in four trips, on a hit and a HBP, and scored on one of the team’s three homers.

Stats

Includes title game

Max Schrock, 2B: 15-for-54, 6 XBH, 1 BB, 2 Ks, .711 OPS
Yairo Munoz, SS: 20-for-74, 5 XBH, 5 BB, 17 Ks, 3 SB, .677 OPS
Franklin Barreto, SS: 24-for-91, 6 XBH, 2 BB, 21 Ks, 3 SB, .632 OPS

XBH = extra-base hits

Frankie Montas, RHP: 0.45 ERA, 20 ip, 12 Ks, 9 BB, 8 hits
Trey Cochran-Gill, RHP: 1.84 ERA, 14⅔ ip, 14 Ks, 2 BB
Sam Bragg, RHP: 1.98 ERA, 13⅔ ip, 12 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR
Dylan Covey, RHP (7 starts): 4.25 ERA, 29⅔ ip, 20 Ks, 9 BB

It was a positive AFL season overall for the A’s contingent. The hitters were a bit overmatched, but Munoz is 21, Barreto is 20, and Schrock has barely played about High-A, so it’s not too big a deal. The best news on that front was that Schrock kept up his high-contact ways with only two strikeouts in 56 plate appearances. But it was the pitching staff that made this a successful campaign.

First and foremost, Montas and Covey came back healthy after missing most of 2016. Secondly, Montas dominated, looking every bit like the effective flamethrower we hoped Oakland had acquired. Bragg and Cochran-Gill served as icing on the cake, and they are each emerging as legit relief prospects. The A’s upper minors pitching depth is going to be absolutely stacked next season.

* * *

Other Winter Leagues

Venezuela: 3B/1B/LF Renato Nunez is still hitting the snot out of the ball. He has now homered in four straight games, putting him third in the league in dingers (7) and tops in OPS (1.126). His success is a welcome sight after a tough season in the minors. On the other hand, 1B Rangel Ravelo has cooled off and seen his OPS fall to a more pedestrian .782 (4 HR, 21 BB, 16 Ks). On the pitching side, RHP Carlos Navas is posting a dominant line in 13 relief outings: 1.69 ERA, 21⅓ ip, 26 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR.

Mexico: 2B Joey Wendle continues to impress abroad, with a .311/.350/.515 line buoyed by 17 extra-base hits in 33 games. He’s keeping the strikeouts low (12.1%), he’s swiping a few bases (5-of-6), and defensively he’s seen time at each of 2B, SS, and 3B.

Dominican Republic: OF Tyler Marincov and C Beau Taylor have left the D.R. Marincov never started hitting, posting a .452 OPS and failing to crack an extra-base hit in 16 games (55 PAs). Taylor went 12-for-30 in sporadic time.

Click here for a full list of all the A’s players participating in winter leagues.