The 2016 season is winding down, which means the Arizona Fall League is right around the corner. The AFL is comprised of six squads, each of which is made up of prospects from five different MLB teams. A’s prospects play for the Mesa Solar Sox, along with players from the Cubs, Indians, Marlins, and Blue Jays. Each of those teams sends seven prospects, creating a 35-man roster. The AFL season begins on Oct. 11 and concludes with a championship game on Nov. 19.
The Oakland A’s will be sending a star-studded group to Arizona this year, mostly drawing from players who spent the year for playoff-bound Double-A Midland. Here’s the list:
Matt Chapman, 3B: If you’re reading this, then you know his name by now. Huge power (33 HR this year), elite defense, and should be in Oakland sometime next season. He was just named the MVP of the Double-A Texas League. Not to be overlooked is the fact that he stayed healthy all year, after a series of several injuries earlier in his pro career (one of which knocked him out of consideration for last year’s AFL).
Over at Oakland Clubhouse, Melissa Lockard notes that Chapman will receive Oakland’s one “priority spot.” With 35 players on each roster, the lineups are shuffled constantly and most guys don’t play every day. By being tagged as the priority guy, Chapman will be guaranteed some extra playing time.
Franklin Barreto, SS: The 20-year-old has now played two games since his promotion to Triple-A Nashville. In the first one, he went 0-for-4. In the second one, he went 3-for-5 with a walkoff triple. That’s what we call a positive trend.
Yairo Munoz, SS: Munoz never really got going this year. The 21-year-old received an aggressive assignment all the way up to Double-A, but then got off to a late start due to some nagging injuries. He began slowly at the plate and improved only marginally over the summer, leaving him with an 85 wRC+ through 98 games. That makes him exactly the kind of guy you send to the AFL -- he had a disappointing, injury-shortened year, so now he can get in some more reps and look to end 2016 on a more positive note.
Frankie Montas, RHP: Received from the Dodgers in the Reddick/Hill trade, Montas hasn’t yet pitched in the A’s organization due to injury. Like Munoz, he’ll go to the AFL to replace some of that lost time. He can hit 100 mph with his fastball when he’s healthy. Lockard notes that Montas will pitch in relief in the AFL, which I presume has more to do with easing him back onto the mound than hinting at his 2017 role.
Dylan Covey, RHP: He made six starts for Midland this year, then pulled an oblique in early May and hasn’t been seen since. Again, the AFL will give him the chance to log some innings after basically missing the season.
Sam Bragg, RHP: Not everyone who goes to the AFL is a star prospect; the world needs middle relievers, too. The last several times I’ve mentioned Bragg here, I’ve pointed out that his season stats are ruined by two awful, out-of-role games to begin the year when the team tried him out as a starter. Another reminder of what he’s done if you remove just those first two outings: 2.48 ERA, 58 ip, 65 Ks, 13 BB, 4 HR. Lockard mentions that Bragg can top out at 96 with his fastball.
Trey Cochran-Gill, RHP: He’s the guy the A’s got for Evan Scribner, and his season was up and down but positive overall. Lockard has a great rundown on him, as a “groundball pitcher who features an above-average slider and a heavy sinker ... went through a dead arm period early in the season ... bounced back and his velocity has jumped back up to the 91-93 MPH range.”
Ryan Christenson, MGR: Bonus entry! The RockHounds skipper, and former A’s outfielder, will manage the Solar Sox. Christenson was recently named Manager of the Year for the Texas League, and he’s a rising star in the A’s minor league coaching ranks. (Also: Former A’s reliever Vince Horsman is one of Mesa’s pitching coaches! But he’s representing one of the other franchises.)
Good luck to our guys in Arizona!
Hounds back in the postseason
The Double-A Midland RockHounds won their second-half division title, which means they are going to the postseason once again. They have five regular season games left (including today), and then the playoffs start.
Midland will face the first-half winners, the Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros), in a best-of-five divisional series starting Sept. 7. They’ll play two on the road, and then three at home in Midland if necessary. The Hounds faced the Hooks in the first round last year as well, and defeated them en route to the league title. The winner of this series moves on to the best-of-five championship series.
The Hounds are looking for the three-peat here, having won the title in 2014 and 2015. However, this year they’ll have to do it with a relative skeleton crew, as they’ve recently lost several top performers to promotions -- including Chapman, Barreto, ace starting pitcher Daniel Gossett, and closer Bobby Wahl. On the bright side, as we’ll see in the next section, some reinforcements have arrived to help fill in those gaps.
The A’s farm has been a whirlwind of player movement lately, and the beat kept on going this week.
With Barreto moving up to Triple-A, recent acquisition Max Schrock got the call to replace him. The 21-year-old second baseman had a wonderful year in High-A before being acquired in the Marc Rzepczynksi trade, and he’ll get a quick upper-minors test here at the end of the year. Barreto’s final Midland numbers:
Barreto, AA: .281/.340/.413, 10 HR, 7.1% BB, 17.8% Ks, 30-for-45 SB, 117 wRC+
Meanwhile, another infielder moved up as well: shortstop Richie Martin, the A’s 1st-round pick in the 2015 draft. It’s been a rough year for Martin, who got a late start after tearing his meniscus (knee), but things have been quietly improving. At the end of July, he had a .537 OPS (54 wRC+) through 58 games, but in August he’s batted .292/.385/.453 (129 wRC+). Martin was always supposed to be glove-first, but it’s nice to see him at least work through his offensive slump in a lower-minors hitter’s league.
Richie Martin to AA to close year. Swing overhauled; failed, adjusted and got results. Extremely athletic kid with decent arm and footspeed— Chris Kusiolek (@CaliKusiolek) September 2, 2016
Finally, the starting rotation got some help. With Gossett gone, right-hander James Naile came up to fill in. Naile, a 20th-round pick last year, spent the bulk of 2016 in Beloit and Stockton but made a couple spot starts for Midland (and Nashville) earlier in the year. Unfortunately, fellow righty Heath Fillmyer recently went on the DL (opening up the spot for Martin), so Naile will really have to step up if the Hounds are going to secure their three-peat. I have no idea if Fillmyer is expected back for the playoffs.
Gossett, AA: 16 starts, 2.49 ERA, 94 ip, 94 Ks, 25 BB, 4 HR, 2.55 FIP
Naile, A+: 8 games, 3.76 ERA, 40⅔ ip, 46 Ks, 11 BB, 5 HR, 3.94 FIP
Hitters (thru 135 games)
Most of the guys on that list began in High-A this year. Nice to see so many prospects playing well enough to move up the system!
|... Bullpen ...|
Note that Naile’s two Double-A starts came back in mid-June, so they aren’t his most recent work.
All five affiliates are in action.
Triple-A Nashville: LIVE, Dillon Overton vs. New Orleans
Double-A Midland: LIVE, Corey Walter vs. San Antonio
High-A Stockton: 7:10 p.m., Casey Meisner vs. Bakersfield
Single-A Beloit: LIVE, Angel Duno vs. Peoria
Low-A Vermont: LIVE, Xavier Altamirano vs. Hudson Valley
A few bits of intrigue here but nothing pressing. Meisner bounced back in July but is having an awful August despite solid peripherals.