The Arizona Fall League is in full swing, and on Monday night I went to Scottsdale Stadium to see the Mesa Solar Sox take on the Scottsdale Scorpions. All three of Oakland’s AFL hitters were in the lineup for Mesa and I was able to get a good look at all three on both sides of the ball. I also took video of each Oakland prospect that played that night, which is linked at the end of each section.
Eli White, INF/OF
One of the system’s breakout prospects in 2018, Eli White was perhaps my main focus of the evening, and he didn’t disappoint. White drove in Mesa’s only two runs of the game in the first inning with a line drive single to right field off of top Houston Astros farmhand Forrest Whitley.
Eli White, the @Athletics No. 18 prospect, who hit a career-high .306/.388/.450 for @RockHounds, jumpstarted the Mesa offense with this two-run single. Gameday: https://t.co/3UQlX4H0AF pic.twitter.com/CA6nAzaigI— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) October 23, 2018
I was impressed by White’s approach at the plate all game, especially against some really tough pitching. His two-run single came off an outside fastball that he sat on perfectly and shot the other way. Later in the game he was the only Solar Sox hitter to make contact against Giants flamethrower Melvin Adon, as White hit a fly ball to medium right field off a 100 MPH fastball.
Overall White showed very good plate discipline all game and did not expand the zone despite facing two of the nastiest pitchers in the entire league. He also surprised me with his speed, both when running from first to third on a double in the first inning and by almost beating out an infield single to shortstop in the fourth inning. This leads me to believe that his double-digit minor league stolen base numbers may be legitimate, and not just a product of subpar minor league pitchers and catchers.
White played shortstop on Monday night and only got one real opportunity defensively. In the first inning, he fielded a sharp grounder from Philadelphia Phillies prospect Austin Listi and threw on to first to record the out. While White did everything right on the play, he didn’t look incredibly smooth and reminded me a bit of how Chad Pinder looks at shortstop. White should be capable of playing the position at the Major League level, but probably shouldn’t start there every day.
Overall, what I saw from Eli White impressed me. His 2018 success definitely doesn’t seem like a fluke and, at worst, he seems like he could be a speedy, versatile bench piece. His unimpressive power likely limits his ceiling, but White has a good chance to be a useful MLB piece.
Skye Bolt, OF
In many ways, 2018 was a make-or-break season for Skye Bolt. In 2017 he had been just okay as a 23-year-old in High-A and was really running out of time to prove he was worth the fourth-round pick spend on him in 2015. Unfortunately, he didn’t really answer many questions in 2018. He hit very well in High-A to start the season and earned a promotion to Double-A but was once again just okay at the new level.
This is an important fall for Bolt, as the outfielder will be 25 at the start of next season and is Rule 5 eligible this offseason. As Alex noted earlier on Monday, Bolt has taken advantage of his AFL opportunity so far and has been one of the league’s most productive hitters. However, his performance Monday night was a bit of a mixed bag.
Batting third for Mesa, Bolt began his night by working a walk against Whitley, taking some close pitches. He later scored from second on White’s single. In his next at-bat he hit a weak broken-bat flyout to centerfield, and in the fifth inning he was absolutely carved up by Adon, striking out on five pitches and looking absolutely overmatched.
Bolt had some adventures in right field in the bottom of the sixth inning. With a runner on first, a fly ball was hit into the right-center field gap. Bolt probably should have let the center fielder have it, but instead ranged far to his right and botched the play, clunking the ball off his glove and allowing the runner to reach on the error.
However, Bolt redeemed himself later in the inning. With two outs and runners on second and third, Bolt robbed Listi of a hit with a sensational diving catch towards the right field line. He took a perfect route to the ball and made the do-or-die catch look easy.
In the eighth inning, Bolt crushed a grounder to the right side and was robbed by a diving play by Cincinnati Reds second baseman Shed Long. Bolt also played a double off the wall perfectly in the bottom of the ninth and fired a strong throw back in to White at second base.
Bolt is a frustrating prospect because in many ways he is still raw and toolsy. But Bolt is almost 25 and is running out of time to clean up his game. He should start 2019 in Triple-A but will need to keep performing in the AFL to convince the A’s to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
Luis Barrera, OF
I was very excited when I first saw Luis Barrera’s name included among Oakland’s AFL contingent. The 22-year-old came out of nowhere to put together a strong season in 2018, slashing .297/.361/.426 in 124 games between High-A and Double-A. He hit three home runs and stole 23 bases, getting caught seven times.
In his most recent FanGraphs chat, Eric Longenhagen wrote of Barrera, “He’s not hitting here but I’ve been on his bat up to this point, 7 or 8 run, 7 arm. He’s playing really hard, too.” This was my sentiment from Monday night as well – Barrera’s speed is electric, and he looks very smooth in the outfield. He also put good swings on a couple of hard outs on Monday and was rung up in one at-bat on what looked like ball four.
Barrera seems likely to begin 2019 back in Double-A, but a strong performance should see him promoted to Triple-A and he could even earn a September call-up to Oakland as a pinch runner. He seems like a good bet to become a plus defense, plus speed, fourth outfielder type. His ceiling is probably something along the lines of Mallex Smith.
Jake Bray, RHP
The PTBNL return from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for OF Jaycob Brugman last offseason, Jake Bray doesn’t seem like much more than org filler. He got hit very hard on Monday night, giving up a run on two hits in his inning of work. He didn’t show big league stuff, sitting 89-91 MPH with his fastball and topping out around 93 MPH.
Perhaps Bray surprises me next season, but I don’t have high hopes for the righty. If he makes it to Oakland in 2019, it probably means that something has gone horribly wrong in the bullpen.
Which AFL prospect will put together the best MLB career?
This poll is closed
IF/OF Eli White
OF Skye Bolt
OF Luis Barrera